Friday, January 25, 2008

Amber Mathenia: The Passing No One Told You About

Also see: Tim Ellsworth on Amber Mathenia

In this week that has claimed the lives of one popular celebrity and one distinguished Baptist scholar, the death of one young woman has gone unnoticed by most of the world. Ironic, since those are often the sort of people who deserve the most admiration. In this particular passing, that adage is true in spades.

Amber Mathenia, a 2001 graduate of Union University, was neither a pop-culture star nor an acclaimed seminary professor. Yet, in her 28 years on this earth she accomplished more for God than most people will achieve in a lifetime. She and her husband, Anthony, had been serving as full-times missionaries to Ethiopia for the last few years. The life of a missionary, of course, is always filled with danger and uncertainty. Yet, Amber was not called home to glory as a martyr. She finished her earthly pilgrimage when she and her two children were involved in a car crash while visiting family and friends in west Tennessee. The children were unharmed.

Amber was a woman whose life was characterized by a joyful submission to the will of God in all circumstances. She followed the will of God when she married a godly husband. She followed the will of God in standing by his side while serving the cause of Christ in Ethiopia. And she followed the will of God in the adoption of two Ethiopian children: Ellie, 4, and Isaac, 6 months.

As the world mourns the loss of an actor whose movies will surely preserve his legacy, and Baptists mourn the loss of a great statesmen whose publications will surely preserve his legacy, I ask that we all pause and mourn the loss of a godly woman whose legacy will surely live on in the hearts of those whom she blessed in life. Let us pray for her family, her father does not yet know the Lord. Let us pray for her children, Ellie and Isaac, now without their mother. Let us pray for Anthony, now left to persevere in the service of God as a single father and missionary. And let us pray that God might grant us the grace to conform our lives to the gospel with the same joyfulness as Amber Mathenia. In this way, we may honor her legacy in a way she would have wanted.

To live is Christ. To die is gain.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that monetary donations be sent to Christ Community Church in New Albany, Miss., where the Mathenias receive their support. Gift cards from Target, Wal-Mart or Babies R’ Us are also needed to provide for their children. The church’s address is P.O. Box 795, New Albany, Miss., 38652.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What Shall We Call Our Women?: An Observation from T.T. Eaton

In a widescale attempt to provide lesser known blogs with good publicity, the honorable Owen Strachan has linked my blog with the notatable description: "history." I have to admit that while historical reflection was the reason I started this blog, my recent posts haven't exactly lived up to that vision. That said, it's time I started getting back to the basics. So without further a-doo-do...

I was digging through Boyce Centenntial Library's T. T. Eaton Papers today when a particular essay caught my eye. This Eaton essay was entitled: "What Shall We Call Our Women?" Eaton was a unique man of Baptist history, described by Russell Moore as "a man of the church who stood athwart history, yelling, 'STOP,' with a Bible in his hands." I also heard it said that Eaton represented simultaneously both what was right and what was wrong with 19th century Southern Baptists. If that is the case, then surely this essay represents all that is right and good! This man had an uncanny talent for observation and unintentional wit as evidenced to this very asute point that would have otherwise escaped my attention.

Eaton lamented the fact that Americans had no good formal title with which to refer to the bone of Adam's bone and the flesh of Adam's flesh (aka: the woman). Most cultures divide women into two classes: married and unmarried. In English, the married woman is known as a "Mizzez" (note the hard pronunciation), while the unmarried woman is referred to as a "Miss."

First, Eaton took issue with the appropriateness of "Miss" when referring to a single woman. Webster's Dictionary, of course, defines "miss" with such undesirable connotations as "a failure to hit the desired mark." Clearly, as Eaton suggested, this is not the sort of implication we should convey to our young, single women! As if to add insult to injury, the "miss" stem is often used as the base of many unpleasant compound words such as "mistreat" or "misunderstand."

Eaton, upset that even "Mizzez" sounded too gruff and unpleasant an honorific for the glory of man, conceded that other cultures have bested the English language in their formal references to the fairer sex. German uses the dignified distinctions of "Frau" and "Fräulein." French makes use of the magnificent terms, "Madame" and "Mademoiselle." Spanish uses the sweet sounding "Señora" and "Señorita." But English, that great universal language, can only muster up the unpleasant "Mizzez" and potentially embarrassing "Miss." America, according to Eaton, possessed a superior sort of women to any of these forementioned cultures, yet it rewarded them with the least attractive honorifics.
What then shall we call our women? I don't really know what Eaton would have recommended, as I did not have time to finish the essay and couldn't run off a copy since it was a manuscript from the library's special collections. But I suppose we are all captives to our culture at some point.

With great indebtedness to our late Brother Eaton,
I am,
On the Shoulders of Giants