A few months ago, CT senior writer Rodney Clapp wrote that it is important to lodge our biological family membership within our more primary identity as redeemed members of God’s international family, the church (Sept. 16, 1988). About the same time I came across a vivid example of the point he was making.
I was invited one morning to meet the wife of a South African theologian who was on a lecture tour of the United States. This woman had been working to improve the status of black South African domestic workers and hoped to raise further support for this work while in America. I was eager to accept the invitation since I knew from other sources how rare it is for white Afrikaner women to question their own state of privilege. “What it comes down to,” wrote one South African academic, “is that women are so accustomed to the idea of men taking leadership that they never learn to think for themselves.… On the whole, I don’t think Afrikaner women understand the implications of apartheid or think very much about it. We have produced a race of women in blinders” (see “Voices from a Troubled Land,” CT, Nov. 21, 1986).
The woman I met over coffee was no flaming political radical. She was, in some ways, the epitome of the middle-class pastor’s wife: carefully dressed, mild mannered, and (in her own words) “not a theologian, just a housewife—no, I mean a Christian first, then a housewife.” With that telling self-description she launched the story of her project.
Over a decade ago she and some fellow churchwomen were led to find a way to raise the self-esteem and economic independence of the many black women domestics who worked in the white homes of their city. But what, as unwaged homemakers themselves, could they do to achieve these ...1
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