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Monday 29 April 2024

Karens - Another Win For Biblical Wisdom


Because of some things I have seen on social media, and in wider society, lately, I have been reflecting a bit on what the Bible says about ‘busybodies’. There are countless examples of this. If there is one issue I could identify in the Australian culture that underlies many other problems in our society, it is that we have a society where so many people are busybodies. So many people in our culture want to find ways to insert themselves into the business of others or take control of other people’s lives in some way. From local government all the way up to senior federal government positions we see this emphasis on seeking to control the minutia of people’s lives. But it does not just happen in government. Throughout our society in lobby groups, social groups, sporting groups, religious groups and more, we see this unceasing stream of busybodies flooding across our society coming up with new rules, new laws, new proposed rules and laws, new guidelines and more, and new things people must do. They are everywhere. 

These kinds of people got to achieve their dream society in 2020 to early 2023. You could see how much delight busybodies were taking in making and enforcing rules. This was their dream come true, the ability, and the so-called moral and ethical backing, to make their dreams of petty power become a reality. But this is not their only imprint on society. This was just an opportunity for them to be let loose in a way that they could only previously hope to imagine.

The Bible speaks of these troublesome people and indicates at least where some of them come from. We read this in 1 Timothy,  

“11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan” (1 Tim. 5:11-15).

Now, even though Paul is directly addressing widows in this passage, we know that he has a similar understanding for single women in general, because he says earlier in 1 Timothy, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:15). Paul is addressing women in general here, but particularly those who are seeking to teach in the church, and he tells them that they are not to teach, not to assume authority, but rather are to live out their faith by seeking to be godly mothers. When Paul says by this they will “be saved”, I do not think this means in the sense of salvation from sins, but in the sense of being rescued from the devil’s schemes, because this advice here matches very precisely with his advice to widows, and it also fits with protecting women from the same deception by the devil that Eve fell for (1 Tim. 2:13-14).

In other words, Paul is saying that if women do not recognize what God has called them to in life, and that is generally to be wives and mothers, they will be in danger of deception from the devil, just like Eve was. They will become troublemakers, busybodies, gossips, saying what they should not. They will become people who think they should assume an authority that they should not. They will become people who invade other people’s lives in unhealthy and sinful ways. They will be deceived and follow after Satan, just as Eve was deceived and followed after the devil.

What is interesting is how many young Christian women I have met across my life, who believed that they were not yet called to settle down, marry, and have a family, but instead were called to be social activists, or called to this or that ministry, life of service or to some other cause or thing. While I do believe in some instances God does call women to singleness, as Paul seems to indicate in 1 Corinthians 7:17-40, this does not mean that they are called to ignore Paul’s advice here in Timothy. In fact, in 1 Corinthians Paul says, “And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit” (1 Cor. 7:34). Paul is not saying that single women should be called to activism, ministry or social causes, or other things like this. He is simply saying that they have less concerns. How can they have less concerns if they go and dedicate their life to fighting some nation or international cause? They can’t.

In other words, Paul is saying in general women should marry and have children, and manage the home so that they do not become people who are tempted to interfere in other people's lives and affairs. Any woman who takes on this role, especially those who educate their children in the home, knows that this will fill their time. There is no time to be a busybody if you are doing this role diligently. So many young women ignore this, and indeed many pastors do not teach this, and you see the many issues this causes in society. The subversive 19th century Suffragette and “evangelical” Feminist movement would be the most powerful example of the issues this can cause for a society. The modern degradation in progressive Christian churches is another. 

In fact, Paul seems to say that if a woman has the time, she should find a way to help her relatives rather than look to influence society, “If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows” (1 Tim. 5:16). Rather than take her free time and try to change the world, and therefore become a Karen who wants to rule the daily lives of countless people through an ever increasing pile of rules and decrees, she should use her time to make sure her extended family is well cared for. If you don’t have extended family, than ask the Church how you can help, so the church is not burdened. 

If our churches were to apply this, and if young women were properly taught this, there would be a lot less troublesome young women seeking to invade other peoples lives, and far less lonely single women in their forties and fifties angry that no one told them to get their act together before it was too late. But it is not just women who have an issue here. 

Paul also says,

“10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thess 3:10-12).

This passage is saying that men who do not work should not eat, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." The work women should do is keeping the home, if they are not engaged in this they can become troublesome. The work men should do is providing for their relatives, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). If men are not diligent in this, they too become troublesome. They too will find ways to be busybodies.

The truth is, I see this sort of busybody type behaviour less in men, than I do in women, though it does exist in men. If you include the online annoying gamma commenter it probably increases how much it exists in men, though. I think the reason you see this less for men is that society is far harsher to men who do not fulfil their God-given role, than it is to women who do not fulfill theirs. Women are actually encouraged to not be home keepers, and to not be people who take care of their relatives. Not just encouraged, but really propagandised to leave the home and work. But men are brutally and correctly told that they should be income earners, who do not live off others. So it is harder for men to be busybodies. However, just because it is less common does not mean it does not exist.

So, Paul helps us understand at least part of where this phenomenon comes from. It comes, in part, from men and women not fulfilling their God given roles diligently. The good thing about this is that once you become aware of this you can easily speak to it, or correct it in your own life. The bad news is that many people, even many Christians, have no intention of believing that Paul had better insight than them when it came to understanding our God-given roles in society. Most people think that Paul was an out of date misogynist who was simply perpetuating the outdated morality and social conventions of his day, or among those who think he was progressive for his day and a step towards the egalitarian "utopia" our society is pursuing. I think they are wrong and I think the fact that our society is filled with so many busybodies is proof that Paul was correct to tell women their role is in managing the home. The fact that our modern culture has come up with a whole new term to describe women who act this way - 'Karens' - shows that even though our society does not know the reasons for this issue, or even understands the solutions, it at least recognizes the issue is real and troublesome.

I would say this is another win for the Bible and its practical wisdom. We should have listened to it. 

List of References

1 comment:

  1. You don't see this behavior in men much because they're not women. The reason Karenism even exists is that women are *built to mother*, and if they don't have families of their own to care for, they'll try to mother the whole world, to very ill effect. Very few men have that tendency. Very few women don't.