Thursday, February 15, 2007

Recent Bumper Sticker



I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, "Well-behaved women don't make history." I got to thinking about it, after my initial highly negative gut reaction, and discovered that that simple statement has quite a few underlying assumptions, depending on how you look at it. Incidentally, I'll just keep talking about women in this post since that's what the sticker said. However, it generalizes to men just as easily. So to head off any charges of male chauvinism, I'll just assert that everything I say about women in this post can also be said about men. Some people may laugh that I'm even giving this much consideration to a bumper sticker. I wouldn't, except that I rather think the sticker represents a decent cross-section of thinking in this postmodern America. Hence, I feel no compunction about subjecting it to the hammer of what I hope to be biblical analysis.

Of course, the statement itself is quite simply plain wrong. I rather think Sarah, Ruth, Abigail, and Mary were well-behaved women, generally. They are immortal, literally. Hehe.

Why is the statement wrong in its assumptions? Here's one assumption the statement makes: this world is all there is. Going on the basis of that assumption, you could conclude that whatever makes the biggest splash in this world makes the biggest splash period. However, while history has a beginning and an end, there is a life after this one; in that life what counts is what God thinks of you, not what other people think of you. And, of course, God likes well-behaved women (good behavior being defined as adherence to the law of God), though they don't exist apart from salvation in Christ. There must be the grace of Jesus' perfect obedience being imputed to the believer, before that believer can turn around and, with God's strength, start obeying the law. And we also know that perfection doesn't occur in this life, either; the obedience will be imperfect until glory. Only such "well-behaved" women make it into heaven. In heaven, I rather think people will not remember much the deeds of ill-behaved women. Therefore, the bumper sticker is actually the reverse of true: it is the well-behaved women (as defined above in relation to law and grace) who will "make history", not the ill-behaved ones.

For the next assumption of the sticker I'll deal with, I need to make a distinction between history and history books. History is what actually happens, period. History books are the automatically biased, selective record of what some people think happened. Quite a difference. In fact, it should be clear that the sticker ought to have read, for the purposes of its author, "Well-behaved women don't make it into history books." That would have been a much truer statement in any case.

The next incorrect assumption the sticker makes is about the inherent nature of man. You see, history books tend to record aberrations, not normalcy. Therefore, in order for ill-behaved women to make it into history books, the normal thing has to be that women are well-behaved. However, the Bible teaches that this is not the case: all men and women intrinsically tend toward all evil. We are totally depraved, understood as meaning not that everyone is as bad as they might be, but that every aspect of our being is tainted by sin such that we cannot please God in any of our actions, no matter how "good" they might be.

To anthropomorphize the sticker, I disagree with the way it breathes; hopefully I've convinced you from Scriptural principles that it is wrong. So if the bumper sticker is so wrong, why does it even exist? This is just a guess, but I would say it probably exists because the owner of that vehicle is suffering from guilt feelings, maybe a little, and wants to encourage others to be as bad as she is. Then she won't feel so bad, see. What she needs, like anyone else, is the gospel. The loving thing to do would be, at the appropriate moment, to give her the gospel, to show her God as He has revealed Himself (not as we imagine Him to be). Then, if the Holy Spirit regenerates her, she can turn from her ways and come to know Christ.

In Christ.


 
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18 Comments:

At 2/18/2007 02:22:00 PM , Anonymous MG said...

I don't think I would have thought that hard about that bumper sticker, after an initial "what a stupid thing to say, let alone put on a car" with a roll of my eyes. But, you are more analytical than most of us. ;-) Interesting thoughts.

By the way, did you really post that on Thurs, Feb 15?? I know it wasn't there yesterday (the 17th). Does blogger have a delay sometimes? Or have I totally lost it?

 
At 2/18/2007 02:27:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Mrs. G.

Yeah, I am pretty analytical. That has its plusses and its minuses.

I did not post it Thursday. What happens is that Blogger always puts the date when you start the draft, not the date when you publish. I wish it were otherwise, actually. It would make things a bit less confusing. Oh, well. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

In Christ.

 
At 2/18/2007 06:37:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

But. . . you can alter the date of the post, my dear :-). Blogger does automatically enter the first draft date, but it's easily changed. Go to your dashboard, then "manage posts" (lower right corner of white rectangle, then hit "edit" for this particular post. The text for the post should be framed in sort of a mauve-ish frame. The lower left part of the frame should have a blue text tag that says "post options." Click on that, and it should reveal options for changing the date :-).

I thought this was a very interesting post, by the way. We had already discussed part of it, but not all. I think it's fun to analyze (or perhaps "super analyze") things. *grins*

 
At 2/18/2007 07:35:00 PM , Anonymous John Dekker said...

For what it's worth, you haven't convinced me that it's wrong, Adrian: although sin may be the norm, it is much more interesting than virtue.

Of course, I don't believe that "making history" is a particularly good thing.

Oh, and you might be interested in Steve Wilkens' Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics. :)

 
At 2/19/2007 12:24:00 PM , Anonymous Lane Keister said...

I thought this was a fabulous post, bro, especially the point about the life hereafter. Don't think I would have thought about that as an answer.

 
At 2/19/2007 12:38:00 PM , Blogger Lydia said...

Wow! All that from a simple bumper sticker? I am impressed. You point out some excellent philosophical assumptions. It is clear that you are "epistemologically self-conscious" about such things (to borrow from Rushdoony, et al.).

Thanks for the thought-provoking and edifying post. It will make me think twice the next time I view a questionable bumper sticker. :)

 
At 2/19/2007 12:52:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to John Dekker.

Perhaps you're right that from a human perspective, vice is more interesting than virtue. Thus it is that ill-behaved women make history books. But books written by merely human authors not under inspiration are automatically biased in some way. But from God's perspective, ill-behaved women are negligible. Well-behaved women are much more interesting to God, I think.

As to the Steve Wilkins book, I doubt I'll look into it. I do not agree with much of Wilkins' theology, and my denomination, the PCA, might very well be kicking him out for heretical views. I'm not interested in getting into the debate here, but no doubt you've been following it on Lane's blog. Plenty there to choose from!

Lord bless.

Reply to Lane. Thanks, bro. :-)]

Reply to Lydia. You're very kind; I like that phrase, "epistemologically self-conscious." Thanks for applying it to me!

In Christ.

 
At 2/19/2007 01:47:00 PM , Blogger BrittLeigh said...

Hey, for "just being a bumper sticker" you analyzed it well. It's not real heartening to see our culture so flippantly embrace "naughtyness". Thanks for being so analytical :)

 
At 2/19/2007 05:53:00 PM , Anonymous John Dekker said...

Surely the bumper sticker does refer to written history.

As to the Steve Wilkins book, I doubt I'll look into it.

Um... whatever you think of Wilkins, or the virtue of reading books by whose with whom you disagree, Steve Wilkins isn't the same as Steve Wilkens...

 
At 2/20/2007 02:44:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

Thanks for the chuckle, Adrian. You and Susan were made for each other. Car trips will be interesting for the both of you. Instead of playing 20 questions or singing "99 Bottle of Beer...er...Coke on the Wall" with you kids to pass the time(granted you do get married and have a family), you guys can analyze and discuss bumper stickers.

I have seen that bumper sticker so much around where I live. It's really is irritating. Most of the misbehaved ladies feminist admire weren't very happy.

 
At 2/20/2007 06:23:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Or we could play fun math license plate games! My family has played "find perfect squares sequentially" or "find prime numbers sequentially" or "find the largest power of two", etc. *geeky smile* Hehe.

 
At 2/23/2007 11:40:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to John Dekker.

Please forgive me: I spoke without knowledge. Also, please forgive me for not having replied sooner. Thanks for the link.

I'm not sure about whether the bumper sticker was referring to written history or not. I doubt the distinction was very clear in the minds of those who made it, in any case. Perhaps you're right.

Reply to Zan. You're quite right that I don't like beer. Now wine is excellent, but beer stinks, literally. You're quite welcome for any chuckle you're able to extract from my essentially "serious" discourse on the merits of... a... bumper sticker. ;-)]

Reply to Susan. Man, I used to think I was geeky! ;-)]

In Christ.

 
At 2/26/2007 10:12:00 AM , Blogger zan said...

Beer is yucky. I only drink "good" wine. Not that cheapy stuff. Yuck-a-roonie!

I changed it to Coke because that is usually what Christians do when they sing that song with their kids. I was assuming that you were an abstainer, as well as Susan.

 
At 2/26/2007 11:58:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

*hootie-tootie*

Are you a snob? ;-)] No, I know what you mean, although I'm definitely no connoisseur in wine. I go for what I think tastes good! Nowadays that means the dry wines like chardonnay and merlot. As you can see, I'm no abstainer, so you assumed, well, wrong. :-)] Susan currently is an abstainer, but that's not out of any sort of conviction that alcohol is wrong. She just doesn't have much of a reason to start drinking. That might change if we get married. ;-)] *laughs* I just realized that could be taken more than one way. Oh, well. I only mean that I like wine, so she might get to like it. That's all. Hehe.

In Christ.

 
At 2/26/2007 05:29:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

"She just doesn't have much of a reason to start drinking. That might change if we get married. ;-)] *laughs*"

That was incredibly funny. Hehe.

That's funny that you thought we were teetotalers, Zan. I thought you and I had discussed alcohol on my blog a while back. *shrugs* Before I had any concrete reason to believe that Adrian liked wine, I had already pegged him as an appreciator of wine - drinking moderately, of course. Hehe.

 
At 2/27/2007 10:40:00 AM , Blogger zan said...

I knew you both didn't think there was anything wrong with it. I just thought that you both obstained for other reasons.

My husband does think that I am a little snobby.

 
At 3/01/2007 07:13:00 PM , Anonymous New Commenter w/ Weird Comment! said...

This is really random, but I just thought I'd say that my family sings "99 bottles of *pop* on the wall" (even though we drink "soda"...:-))! :-D

 
At 3/02/2007 07:47:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know a lot of people with that bumper sticker, including a woman who has it on the door of her office at work. I have never actually discussed it with any of the people I know, but here's what I have always assumed the statement in the bumper sticker to mean:

Being "well-behaved" implies following particular rules set by others without ever questioning the status quo -- like a little girl. (One usually uses the term "well-behaved" to describe a child, not an adult.) Under my interpretation of the bumper sticker, people in history who have not been "well behaved" include Moses, Jesus, and the American revolutionaries. (For example, a "well-behaved" person would never have knocked anything over in the Temple, nor would a "well-behaved" person have dumped tea in Boston harbor.)

So why have a bumber sticker that focuses on women in particular? Women, in particular, have traditionally and even today been more subject than men to having others dictate to them the standards of their behavior. Thus, a woman who is not "well-behaved" is not necessarily behaving immorally or badly, but rather is not accepting the conventions of her time as to what is believed to constitute being "well-behaved" for a woman.
Under this analysis, Abigail was not "well-behaved" although the others in your example perhaps were.

 

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