by Debbie Gin
Have you ever wondered why a lot of the work done by women doesn’t get much credit? (That is, unless it’s women doing “men’s” work.)
I grew up in a Korean American household, where my mom did almost everything at home – cooking, cleaning, laundry, vacuuming, trash, yard work, paying the bills, dishwashing, attending to kids’ needs, sewing kids’ clothes – and worked a full-time job as a graveyard-shift registered nurse. And she was a pastor’s wife. She held three full-time jobs but got credit for just one: as a nurse. Thankfully, over the years, my father has come to share some of the household load.
I’m also thankful that my own dear husband has taken on most of the domestic duties in our family, while I handle more of the managerial responsibilities. Yes, our roles are happily reversed! This role reversal in OUR marriage has brought about two subtle shifts in thought: 1) (less so) in the eyes of some “friends,” my husband and I have had to prove his worth as a man, and 2) (more so) the “women’s work” that my husband does has taken on a whole lot more value or weight.
I recently finished a book called “The Real Wealth of Nations” by Riane Eisler. While I differ with the author in the area of religion and spirituality, I found her ideas on caring and care-giving to be profound. Eisler suggests that societies built on capitalist or communist economies – based on a dominator model – do not allow all members to thrive. She contends that societies built on “care economics” – ones built on a partnership model – will allow all to thrive. In such an economy, the work that is largely done by women (and an increasing number of men) is recognized for the great value it contributes to the well-being of society.
She proposes a different kind of economic map, a more accurate map, one that recognizes what she calls a “full spectrum” of economic activity and relations. In addition to government economy and market economy, she would also recognize natural economy, illegal economy, unpaid community economy, and (at the core of society) household economy. And instead of looking merely at GDP (gross domestic product) or GNP (gross national product), she advocates using QL or QOL (quality of life) – used by the United Nations but rarely by U.S. politicians and policy makers – as the principle measure of our nation’s activity and productivity.
I think Eisler’s view of a more inclusive economic map should be considered by our government. As an economic novice and a citizen who entrusts economic decision-making to politicians who are often novices themselves, I was glad to hear that, at the suggestion of Michelle Obama, Eisler has been tapped to contribute her voice at the economic advisory board of President-Elect Obama.
I also believe Eisler’s economic map should be considered by the Church, especially the Asian American Church. This would require the “sacrifice” of eliminating the common practice of hiring “two-fers” (paying the husband as pastor but getting the wife’s work for free). But if we, as followers of Christ, incorporated more of this kind of economics – which, I would argue, follows more closely the model that Jesus left for us – in our philosophy, ministry, and polity, more people both inside and outside the Church would find our message to be authentic and in better alignment with our actions.
Debbie Gin, M.Div. M.Mus., is the Director of Diversity Studies at Azusa Pacific University and an Assistant Professor in Biblical Studies and Ministry at Haggard Graduate School of Theology. She and her husband live in Southern California. To contact Debbie, please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.