Fairytale Teaching

Fairytale Teaching

An accurate portrayal?

I've been training several women in a church in the Dallas area. We are teaching through the Book of Ruth. To give some foder for the teachers I asked them to read The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James. A few months later we gathered to discuss Carolyn's book. I love that women love to learn. One woman, Jenny, had some profound "ah ha" moments. Below are her words. 

When I was first handed the book The Gospel of Ruth and told “It’s different,” I was thankful. In fact, I remember telling God before I opened the book, “Please let it really be different and change my perspective of Ruth.” I had grown up hearing Ruth preached at least twice maybe three times by men from a fairytale-esque theme. They highlighted the moments when Ruth appeared the most submissive as well as the moments when Boaz seemed to fall in love with her and finally sweep her off her feet with a Cinderella ending. In my 35 years, I have not seen fairytales in real life; so I wondered why God would put a fairytale in the Bible when I couldn’t apply it to my life. I thought God only included the useful and practical in His Word?

It didn’t help that I had heard “submission” (Col 3:18, Eph 5) taught in the traditional subservient manner, woman is weak (the weaker vessel), and man is the head of the household. I’ve always been strong-willed, stubborn and a bit independent so this “damsel-in-distress” Ruth was not one I could relate to.

For a short moment I wondered if these were old fashioned ideas that are no longer being taught or preached, but just a few years ago a church did a six week series on Ruth (http://marshill.com/media/redeemingruth/gods-hand-in-our-luck). The pastor kept saying that there was the unspoken demand within the congregation and the community “I need a man,” “I need a husband,” “I need a woman,” “I need a wife.” He frequently told the single men to imitate Boaz in order to get a woman/wife; and advises the single women how to get a Boaz. He talked about how Boaz’s name means strength so he was a man’s man and it was his masculine strength that rescued Ruth. When the pastor read the scriptures, his voice remained respectful but as he commentated on what he read, his phraseology, voice and body language became flirty. This is the message the CHURCH is sending to the teens up to the thirty-somethings? You need to get married and this is how: men be strong and women be rescued.

Then as I read the Gospel of Ruth and studied the culture of her time, she became my hero. She defied the culture stereotypes of her time that poor, foreign, barren widows had not voice. She boldly pushed the boundaries as she had the guts to approach men and ask for more to ensure both she and Naomi were taken care of and not barely surviving. She became known for her noble character when she wasn’t attached to any man. And as a new believer she displayed spiritual strength trusting God to protect her as she risked her physical safety gleaning in the fields and sneaking into the threshing floor.

If the focus of the young people in our congregations and communities is getting a husband or wife, why not use Ruth to show the strength of individuality? Why not use Ruth to show developing one’s character and being complete in Christ first? We can learn so much from Ruth if we can just stop teaching her story as a fairytale.

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