LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A group of conservative Christian women is seeking 100,000 signatures on a "True Woman Manifesto" aimed at sparking a counter-revolution to the feminist movement of the 1960s.
Introduced at a gathering of more than 6,000 women in early October, the document calls not for equal rights, but instead proclaims that men and women are created to reflect God's image in "complementary and distinct ways."
That includes the idea that women are called "to honor and support God-ordained male leadership in the home and in the church."
"That is very explosive stuff," organizer Mary Kassian described the campaign Nov.25 on a radio program hosted by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "It is countercultural, because the world would be screaming at us, women would be screaming at us: 'What are you doing? All those rights that we fought so hard for, how can you say 'Just give that up and say that men are to be the heads of the homes?'
"The basis on which we do that is because we believe that is taught in dcripture," Kassian said. "And we believe that is a blessing for women and not a curse against women, and that actually when we live according to God's design, we find blessing and peace and wholeness in our lives."
The idea for the True Woman '08 Conference held Oct. 9-11 and webcast from Schaumburg, Ill., came as Kassian — an author, speaker and distinguished professor at the Louisville, Ky.-based seminary — and Christian radio broadcaster Nancy Leigh DeMoss discussed how feminism revolutionized women's lives.
Recognizing that revolution began with a meeting of only a few women, they asked why there couldn't be a similar movement sparked by a meeting of women driven not by feminist ideals, but by teachings of the Bible.
"We are believing God for a movement of reformation and revival in the hearts and homes of Christian women all around this world," DeMoss said in the conference's closing address. "I just believe there is a massive women's movement of true women in those millions of women who are able to capture all kinds of battlefronts for Christ."
DeMoss said there are "a lot of truly desperate housewives" in homes and churches, who are not finding fulfillment in what God intended for them to be.
Kassian told the gathering that women have come a long way in the last 50 years, but not always in the right direction. While they may not have been able to identify the source of their values, she said, the idea of complementary roles for men and women was part of the social landscape until after the 1950s.
In the 1950s, for example, the Cleaver family in TV sitcom "Leave it to Beaver" exemplified the ideal suburban family. In contrast, she said, during the last decade media images overwhelmingly portrayed women as being in charge, while men were "marginalized and de-masculinized" into characters that are whiny, needy, not-too-bright and totally unreliable.
Kassian said even Christian women have been influenced more by feminism more than they realize, including the idea that patriarchy — the idea of submitting to male authority — is the source of all their heartache and problems.
Kassian told radio host Al Mohler the solution is not going back to the 19th century but to scripture. Instead of "wimpy women," she said the movement is out to recruit women who are "doctrinally strong and theologically strong" and who will "study and search scripture and come to scriptural conclusions."
"I believe part of the reason the feminist movement was so successful throughout the '60s was that you had a whole culture that was just living by (a) Judeo-Christian framework in the '50s, without really thinking about (it). And then when feminism came in with these new ideas, a lot of Christian women even began to embrace them," she said.
"We are interested in a countercultural movement," Kassian said, that looks nothing like "Leave it to Beaver" or the 1950s.
"True Woman is taking the Bible and God's plan for womanhood and applying it to my life today in this millennium, in this year, and for what that looks like for single women, for married women, for women at all stages of life," Kassian said.
Mohler, along with Kassian a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, termed the manifesto "a very important document."
"These are shots that ought to be heard around the world." Mohler said.
The effort has a long way to go before reaching its goal of 100,000 signatures. As of midday Dec. 10, the number of online signers stood at 2,667.
(EDITORíS NOTE —Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)