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Capitol Ministries’ Ralph Drollinger Neuters the Proverbs 31 Woman

Capitol Ministries’ Ralph Drollinger Neuters the Proverbs 31 Woman June 28, 2018

In writing my post on the White House Bible study group earlier this week, I came upon an article in which Capitol Ministries’ Ralph Drollinger defended himself against a number of allegations. I found Drollinger’s defense against the allegation that he argued that mothers should not serve in politics of particular interest, because it highlights something I’ve long pointed out—a willingness to read what one wants into the Bible.

Have a look at this:

Drollinger on Women in Office

Drollinger has been criticized by the media for suggesting that four days a week is too long for working mothers to be away from small children.

Thirteen years ago Drollinger suggested that female California legislators who have young children at home temporarily interrupt their political careers to raise their children and resume their careers when the children are older. He wrote:

“It is one thing for a mother to work out of her home while her children are in school. It is quite another matter to have children in the home and live away in Sacramento for four days a week. Whereas the former could be in keeping with the spirit of Proverbs 31, the latter is sinful.”

The Proverbs 31 wife lives at home and cares for her family and children and also finds time to be a businesswoman.

While the word “sinful” may sound harsh, the literal translation of “sinful” from the Greek New Testament means “missing the mark.”

Drollinger believes that: “If you are pro-life in the womb, it follows — in order to be consistent — that you would be pro-children in the home.”

As a pastor to the Capitol Community, Drollinger must think of and represent the best interests of not only the elected public servant, but all the members of his or her family.

Each person must discern what God’s will is for his or her life, so what female legislators decide to do about their careers is up to them.

However, in keeping with the pastor’s responsibility to teach the whole purpose of God, Drollinger is obligated to teach what the Bible says about a mother being away from small children for extended periods of time. The apostle Paul instructed Pastor Titus to teach the younger women to be workers at home (Titus 2:4-5).

The Los Angeles Times published that Drollinger said: “Mothers do not belong in state office.”

This is false.

In reading this, I was struck by Drollinger’s reference to Proverbs 31. Let’s repeat his specific comments on Proverbs 31, for sake of reference:

“It is one thing for a mother to work out of her home while her children are in school. It is quite another matter to have children in the home and live away in Sacramento for four days a week. Whereas the former could be in keeping with the spirit of Proverbs 31, the latter is sinful.”

The Proverbs 31 wife lives at home and cares for her family and children and also finds time to be a businesswoman.

Curious, I went straight to Proverbs 31 and scanned it. I found that my memory was correct—children are not mentioned. No, really! The only reference to children comes 18 verses in, when the text states that “Her children arise and call her blessed.” There is no other mention of children or childcare in the passage. 

Have a look for yourself:

10 A wife of noble character who can find?

    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;

    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff

    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

According to Drollinger, “The Proverbs 31 wife lives at home and cares for her family and children and also finds time to be a businesswoman.” Serving as a state legislator and spending four days of every week in Sacramento during the legislative term, he says, violates “the spirit of Proverbs 31” and “is sinful.”

But there’s nothing in the text about caring for children—or about staying at home while children are young.

The Proverbs 31 woman buys fields, plants vineyards, engages in trade, partakes in charitable work, spins and makes cloth, and sells the garments she makes. Yes, she “watches over the affairs of her household,” but the text does not specify that doing this requires being at home constantly, or engaging in childcare. Indeed, her work tending to the affairs of the household is framed in business-like ways.

This is not a woman who “lives at home and cares for her family and children and also finds time to be a businesswoman,” as Drollinger claims. This is a woman who is a businesswoman. Proverbs 31 does not state that the woman’s business affairs come in second to her childcare responsibilities. Instead, her business affairs are simply part of her overall contribution to the running of the household—just as is any job outside the home today—and it is part of, or even the whole of, what her children praise her for.

Of course, at the time Proverbs was written, there was less of a distinction between business and the home—for both men and women. If Israel was anything like of the rest of the world at the time, shops frequently operated out of homes, and farm work intimately involved the home. Work and home were not separated in the artificial way we separate them in our modern world today—something ignored by men like Drollinger.

 

Drollinger is engaging in proof texting. He has an idea in his head of what the Proverbs 31 woman is and is not, but the idea in his head reflects his preconceived notions and not what the text itself says. What the text actually says does not seem to interest him. He’s far more interested in using it as a clobber passage to chuck at those who violate his preconceived notions of what woman should be.

And this is the guy, remember, who currently runs the influential White House Bible study program and has the ear of the president’s cabinet. Lovely.

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