Monday, September 04, 2006

Preparing for Labor Day

For those unfamiliar with Greyfriar position papers, “each student in Greyfriars’ is required to complete four position papers per year. The papers are to be pastoral in nature, written for the edification in the church.” Most students seemed to understand the guidelines: Virgil Hurt addressed Returning to Old Paths: Rediscovering the Riches of the Westminster Shorter Catechism; Ben Zaked Smith struggled through a treatise on Pastoral Confidentiality; Dave Hatcher showed less-than-original scholarship in Remember the Sabbath: Our Privilege and Obligation. But the intellect that trumps them all is Ben Merkle’s, and his work Preparing for Childbirth is a tour de force of maladroitness.

Now, it is curious that given all of Scripture and all the works of Reformed theologians, two of Merkle’s papers focus on feminine issues, of limited church-wide interest, where he has no experience or training, viz. childbirth and head coverings for women. It is even more curious that given his deficiencies, Merkle did not hesitate to arrive at conclusions that hitherto the world has never known. Accordingly, Merkle believes that childbirth — and this is where the Kirk stench begins to waft pass my nostrils — is not limited to the physical process of having a baby. Rather, it’s about the attitude and behavior of the laboring woman — hang on, this précis is frankly unbelievable — insofar as it reflects upon her husband.

Consider this quote, for example, where Merkle affirms that the delivery room is a stage upon which the birthing mother’s hidden bitterness erupts to disgrace the man:
There are plenty of stories of women in labor losing their tempers, shrieking and cursing, and generally doing things that they wouldn’t dream of doing at any other time. And most of these stories are true. When a woman is in child labor, somewhere inside, someone turns the volume on her heart all the way up and plugs in four amps. What may have been just a murmur of discontent under ordinary circumstances turns into a deafening shriek in the delivery room. Put another way, the pregnant woman is about to have a number of people come and visit her heart; and this company is going to see how well she has kept her heart in order. . . . Bitterness, when given the chance, will spring up and defile many. It is the sort of sin that easily pollutes others. If a woman goes into labor and has any sort of bitterness within her, it is a fairly certain thing that the delivery room will see this bitterness springing up and causing trouble.

Is there no activity on earth that is spared a critique by a Kirk-contaminated man? Is there any subject conceivable upon which they do not possess universal knowledge? It appears not. Regardless, charity obligates us to ignore Merkle’s reliance on hearsay evidence regarding the “shrieking and cursing” of laboring women. Charity also demands that we refrain from undue scrutiny of the recurrent misuse (7 times) of the term “child labor,” which originally denoted the forced labor of children during the Industrial Revolution. And charity compels us to overlook the hackneyed cliché, “A woman should remember that labor is called labor for a reason, there will be a lot of work,” which denotes the author’s incompetence.

However, if this position paper were graded on the basis of cogent argument, satisfactory development of its thesis, syntactical error, and substantiated research, it would receive a D letter grade in a government high school. That this trifling essay fulfilled a quarterly requirement of Greyfriars Hall exposes the inferior academic quality of the singularly indifferent faculty that accepted this shoddy product, which at that time was composed of one man — Ben Merkle’s father-in-law — Doug Wilson.

That said, these things are true: Unlike Ben Merkle, I draw no spiritual inferences from the way a laboring mother expresses herself. Unlike Ben Merkle, I’ve actually been in labor a time or two. And, unlike Ben Merkle, my husband did not interpret my travails as anything more than the normal pain experienced by a woman when her uterus expels a twelve-pound baby through her narrow birth canal into the world. Thankfully, my husband didn’t feel that my labor provided an opportunity for him to showcase his headship — but then, he was more concerned about me than he was about himself.

On this Labor Day, I wish that Ben Merkle, and other like-minded Kirk men, would put aside their pathological need to be the bride at every wedding, the pregnant woman in every delivery room, the authority on every subject, and the center of attention at every moment. I wish that they would labor at evacuating a whole cantaloupe while simultaneously and melodiously thanking God for the fruits of the earth. And I wish, with all my heart, that their wives would have the spiritual and intellectual wherewithal to refuse to allow this pigheaded misappropriation of childbirth.