Proud to be a Tent Peg

Proud to be a Tent Peg October 29, 2012

By Vyckie Garrison

Holy sugar … I should know better than to actually read the Above Rubies magazine from which I have been too lazy to cancel my subscription.  But this morning I couldn’t resist skimming through the pages to catch up on Colin & Nancy Campbell’s ever-growing stockpile of Holy War ammunition … er, quiver full of arrows.

Whereas, every AR article used to inspire and motivate me to fight the good fight, now it all reminds me of how my desire to love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly was twisted and exploited to scam me into embracing and supporting the Patriarchy.

Take this brief article by Esther MacDonald for example:

Proud to be a Tent Peg

A tent peg is a lowly object. It is not made out of fancy material or decorated with fancy designs. Its job is to bore into the dirt and stay there as long as needed.  But here is a wonderful truth about tent pegs and other humble implements.  God accords them just as much significance as He does golden altars, fragrant incense, and beautifully embroidered linen.

When the Israelites had completed all the components of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, Moses had them present their work before him to be inspected.  He didn’t just ask to see the ark of the Testimony and the pure gold lampstand; He asked to see every last piece of this most important structure.  Aaron’s priestly garments had to be perfect, but so did the tent pegs. (Exodus 39:32-43)

In God’s eyes, and therefore in the eyes of Moses, His servant, each item had an important job to do and each was infused with value and significance.  Sometimes you may not feel like anything more than a tent peg, holding down the flapping tent of your home.  But in God’s eyes it is not important whether you are made of bronze or gold.  What is important to Him is whether or not you are carrying out, to the best of your ability, the function for which you were designed.  That quality is what passes the inspection of our Lord and gives glory to Him.

Okay … I suppose that if tent pegs were self-aware, the lowly wooden stakes might find comfort in the thought that God cares as much about their quality as He does about the perfection of the priestly garments.

But … so what? Why should the significance of a tent peg in God’s eyes make devoted Christian women feel inspired to carry out the function for which they are designed to the best of their abilities?

Just in case it needs to be said, that function, according to Above Rubies, is to serve their husbands and produce babies.

The beguiling message of this quaint little bible study is fraught with truly insulting presuppositions, not the least of which is that while purporting to encourage women “in their high calling as wives and mothers,” comparing a submissive help meet and prolific mother to a lowly tent stake betrays the author’s underlying view that stay-at-home-moms are more appropriately related to tent pegs than to golden lampstands. Supposedly in the Quiverfull economy, being a wife and mother is a woman’s crowning achievement – so why does the author not write something less belittling like this:

Sometimes you may not feel like fragrant incense, unreservedly burning yourself up to fill your home with a delicious aroma which is pleasing to the Lord.  But in God’s eyes it is not important whether you are made of bronze or gold. … blah, blah, blah …

Here’s what I think. For all their talk about the eternally paramount value of motherhood, Quiverfull women don’t really believe it.  Deep down, fundamentalist Christian women feel inherently inferior … very much like a lowly tent peg.

In reality, we all know instinctually that wooden stakes were not worth as much as beautifully embroidered linen. Great care was taken to ensure that fine linen was preserved in pristine condition and if the cloth should be stained or torn, you can be assured that those responsible for the great Tabernacle would take pains to repair the damage.  But a broken tent peg?  Ha! Who cares, right? Toss it in the fire!  I’m sure Moses could send any random Hebrew kid to chop down an Acacia tree and carve out all the stakes he needed. The fact that Moses (and therefore, his God) insisted on inspecting the tent pegs says nothing about the value of sticks … it only proves that patriarchs are micro-managing nitpickers.

At heart, Quiverfull women know they are expected, like a tent peg, to be metaphorically (sometimes quite literally) pounded deep into the dirt in order to support and uphold the whole grand spectacle of privileged male dominance, and like lowly tent pegs, they are expendable.  How many times have we witnessed a widowed or abandoned patriarch quickly find himself a new, young replacement bride to raise his quiver full of arrows?

If Above Rubies women truly believed that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, self-justifying pep talks like this would not be necessary.  Ironically, it is only within the narrow little world of fundamentalist patriarchy that women are in fact so thoroughly overused, taken for granted, and devalued. In the grown-up world in which men do more than pay lip-service to the value of wives and mothers, women are not so desperate that they will feel proud to be considered as significant as tent pegs.

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Vyckie Garrison started No Longer Quivering to tell the story of her “escape” from the Quiverfull movement. Over time, NLQ has developed into a valuable resource of information regarding the deceptions and dangers of the Quiverfull philosophy and lifestyle. Several more former QF adherents are now contributing their stories to NLQ and our collective voice makes these Quiverfull warnings impossible to dismiss or ignor

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  • Phatchick

    🙂 And here I thought THIS was what she was referring to:
    Judges 4:21-23
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    21 Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. 22 And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple.

  • Lolly

    That is the best context ever.

  • Erm, it is actually not God who decide who is made for a lowly and who for a high function:

    “2 Tim 2:20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

    If the believer cleanses him- or herself, so we are taught, (s)he is meant for special use. Don’t believe that God just ordained for some to have a more special purpose than others. It is not in the Bible.

    [sarcasm on] A mis-application of the Bible? By the patriarchy crowd? Who knew?[/sarcasm off]

  • Amen! I also thought of that tent peg. In the hand of a woman, it was one of the more unusual “Biblical womanhood roles” a woman engaged in…

  • I say that to disagree with Esther MacDonald, who implied women have a low function.
    Women do not have a low function, and God does not dish out low functions to some of his faithful – apparently whoever cleanses her- or himself could have a high function.

  • With regards to women viewing themselves as “lowly tent pegs” even while believing they are fulfilling “woman’s highest calling”– and yet that women and men are “equal in God’s eyes”– I have discovered an inherent self-contradiction within patriarchal teachings, relating to the “God is our Father; God is not our Mother” doctrine. I examine this in detail on my blog. Here’s a quote.
    Proponents of this doctrine say that theologically, we need to discard the idea that being Father means God is male; but the nature of God is Fatherhood, and all fatherhood on earth springs from God’s very essence. “Father” is what God is called– one of God’s names– and therefore describes the nature of God. But since God is not called “Mother” in the scriptures, the motherhood images of God are merely metaphors– word pictures to help us understand something about God, just as referring to God’s “feathers” (Psalm 91:4) does not make God a bird. God is Father, not Mother– and indeed, some who teach this insist that it is actually blasphemy to refer to God as Mother.
    There are problems with this teaching, however. . . .
    In fact, there are certain implications of the idea that the nature of God is fatherhood and not motherhood, which the teachers of this doctrine may not have anticipated nor even desired.
    1. If fatherhood is directly derived from God’s nature and motherhood is not, then what this would mean is that fatherhood is not only a biological thing, but a spiritual, divine thing, while motherhood is a biological thing only. This would mean that only fatherhood, and not motherhood, can have a spiritual dimension.
    2. This wreaks havoc with the idea (which is often also believed by those who accept the doctrine of God-as-Father-only) that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling. If motherhood is not spiritual and does not partake of the Divine Nature, how can it in any sense be a high calling?
    3. This view degrades motherhood and thus womanhood, for if this necessary function of women does not reflect the nature of God, while the corresponding necessary function of men does reflect the nature of God, then women do not reflect God in one of the main aspects of the very nature of womanhood. (“Necessary” here is used in its meaning in logic– not that it is necessary for women to be mothers, but that the potential to be mothers and not fathers is “necessary” to the definition of womanhood.) However, the holders of this doctrine usually believe men and women are both made in the image of God and are equal before God; that they just have different “roles.” But tying these roles into the nature of male vs. female humanity, and then saying the female role does not reflect the nature of God, contradicts the assertion of equality.
    4. To find it insulting to God, or blasphemous, to think of God as having a mother’s nature as well as a father’s, smells of misogyny. Why should the Motherhood of God be blasphemous, unless there is something unholy about motherhood/womanhood?
    5. If only fatherhood, and not motherhood, can have a spiritual dimension (see point 1), then women must also, being made in the image of God, be able to partake of this spiritual, divine thing called Fatherhood, so women must be able to be spiritual fathers. To say otherwise is to say women are not as much made in God’s image as men are. And yet the idea that women as well as men can be spiritual fathers is distasteful to those who believe this doctrine– most likely because they associate “fatherhood” with authority that they believe women were never intended by God to have.
    So, given that one way of testing an idea is to follow it through to its implications– the implications of this idea seem to end up in a very self-contradictory place!

    If anyone wants to read my refutation of this doctrine (from a Christian egalitarian standpoint), here’s the link:

  • Laura

    I immediately thought of that story too.