by Al Maxey

Issue #371 ------- October 28, 2008
There is in every true woman's heart a spark of
heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad
daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and
beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.

Washington Irving {1783-1859}

Silena Moore Holman
A Courageous Sister-in-Christ

What is the place of a woman within society? Within the home? Within the church? May women ever assume positions of leadership outside the home (both secularly and spiritually)? Do they have any leadership function within the family? May they proclaim God's Truth to others in a public forum? May they teach a man? A group of men? The brotherhood periodicals are filled with voices of concern on the matter; debate fills the air; emotions are running high. The time? It is the late 1800's in Post-Civil War America. Yes, brethren, "Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before" [Eccl. 3:15]. There really is nothing new under the sun! In the late 1800's, far too many men in this nation had a rather low estimation of the worth of women. They were largely denied a voice and a vote in most of life's arenas, and the women who dared to speak out for greater rights for themselves were viewed quite unfavorably. They were seen as little more than godless rebels determined to destroy the sanctity of the home, the purity of the church, and even the stability of the nation as a whole.

There was a "vision of the ideal woman" that was rampant in our great nation during the 1800's that was known by the historians of that period as the "Cult of True Womanhood." It was also characterized by some historians as the "Cult of Domesticity." "This ideal permeated much of the women's magazines, the popular books, and the religious literature of the period" [C. Leonard Allen, Distant Voices: Discovering a Forgotten Past for a Changing Church, p. 130]. There were certain personal attributes of women that were considered to be quite desirable, the four most prominent of which were -- purity, piety, submissiveness and domesticity. "The ideal woman was passive, dependent, deferential and childlike" [ibid]. One woman, in the year 1870, phrased it this way, "God has so made the sexes that women, like children, cling to men; lean upon them as though they were superior in mind and body" [ibid].

Since the "ideal woman" was perceived to be very little more than a child, clearly inferior to her "man," it was unthinkable that she would have the mental capacity to possess rational thought in matters of national and religious import. Thus, women were denied the vote. And women were denied the right to "speak in church" when men were present. What man, after all, wants to be distracted from his "holy thoughts" by some woman's "mindless religious rantings and ramblings"?! This is an attitude, by the way, that persists even among some within the church today, sadly. David Lipscomb and E. G. Sewell, who were co-editors of the publication Gospel Advocate, both condemned, in the boldest language possible, those "strong-minded women" who had begun seeking the right to vote. Women seeking to vote, declared Sewell in the Gospel Advocate, would "break the 'bond of subjection' divinely laid upon them and assert their independence" [ibid, p. 131]. Giving women the right to vote, he went on to warn, would utterly "destroy the most sacred of all institutions and make America a homeless nation." Sewell was absolutely convinced that if a woman ever left the house to interact with the world about her, then home and family would be destroyed. Lipscomb went even farther, declaring that if women "entered the public sphere, loose marriage, easy divorce, indisposition to bear children, and ... attendant social impurity" would ensue [ibid]. And this was just their view regarding women in the secular realm. Their position was even more restrictive when it came to the spiritual realm. Thus, in essence, the "ideal woman" would keep her mouth shut and stay out of the way! "Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen was where God intended her to be!"

In the midst of this maelstrom of misguided and muddled thinking there arose a few brave souls, both men and women, who dared to speak out against this great injustice and departure from God's Truth. One such courageous Christian lady was Silena Moore Holman (1850-1915), and before her life ended at the age of 65, she had taken on the religious and secular establishments and forced them to take a good, long look at themselves. And yet, she did so with a gentle, respectful spirit (something she was rarely shown in return). She is a true heroine of faith and a woman of conviction who should not soon be forgotten by the people of God today. She is an inspiration to those sickened by the excesses and injustices of society today, inspiring both men and women to take a stand for what is right, even when it is unpopular to do so.

Silena Moore was born July 9, 1850 in the state of Tennessee. She was the oldest of five children. Her father, J. L. Moore, was a Captain in the Confederate Army and was killed in combat. This left the family in near poverty. When the mother was forced to sell the family home, Silena, who was only fourteen at the time, chose to become a teacher in a nearby country school so as to help the family survive financially. Over the next few years, due to a lot of hard work and a very good head for finances, she saved some of her earnings and was eventually able to buy back the family's home. After a decade of being a school teacher, and at the age of 24, she married Dr. T. P. Holman, a local physician, to whom she had previously gone for treatment when ill. They would remain faithfully joined together in a covenant of marriage for the next 41 years, separated only by her death. At her funeral, the preacher referred to Dr. Holman in the text of the message, identifying him as "the husband who is today lonely and broken-hearted because of her departure." She was the mother of eight children by Dr. Holman -- seven sons and a daughter, all of whom (according to the text of the funeral sermon) were raised up in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord." She was a woman who took her faith in the Lord very seriously and never wavered from it, and was not afraid to share it with others (both male and female).

When Dr. T. P. Holman, Silena and the family moved to Fayetteville, Tennessee, where they would remain the rest of their lives, they placed their membership with the Washington Street Church of Christ (established in 1835), which today is the largest of some twenty congregations of the Churches of Christ in that city. Dr. Holman would go on to serve as one of the elders of that congregation for many years. Shortly after moving to Fayetteville, TN, Silena decided to join the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. This would become one of the major passions of her life, and her tremendous zeal for this movement soon came to the attention of its leaders, who began advancing her in the ranks of the organization. She became Tennessee's reporter for The Union Signal, the official publication of the national WCTU, and her writing skills increased dramatically through this experience. In 1899 she was appointed the Tennessee WCTU President. Through her efforts she was able, on January 19, 1909, to get Tennessee to pass a law mandating statewide prohibition. During her long tenure as state President, the Tennessee branch of the WCTU grew from only 200 members to over 4000. She was a powerful and inspiring leader.

Although the fame of Silena Moore Holman, in secular circles, was generated by her work as a leader of the temperance movement, her fame in spiritual circles was from a different source ... and it was not always of a very positive nature. She was a vocal advocate of equality for women in the Family of God. Her "voice" was heard far and wide via her writings! "In the Stone-Campbell Movement, her recognition came from published articles and letters in response to those in the church who wanted to keep women from positions of leadership" [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 402]. Her work in this area began in 1888, when she responded to an article in the Gospel Advocate written by editor David Lipscomb. For the next quarter of a century Silena would tirelessly debate David Lipscomb within the pages of his own publication on the place of women in the church. Sister Holman believed Lipscomb's interpretations of some of Paul's passages pertaining to the "silence" of women in the church were misguided, and she presented some very scholarly arguments for her position.

Although Silena Moore Holman was an advocate for greater freedom of expression for women in the assembly, she was not a radical feminist. "Holman maintained the traditional view that the husband was the head of the family and that a woman's primary obligation is to her family" [ibid]. Although she was indeed very active in the temperance movement, it was attested by all who knew her that her family always came first, and she never neglected her husband, children or home. Like the "worthy woman" of Proverbs 31, she was able to balance the secular, the spiritual and the familial. "In her writings she lifted up biblical women who were placed in positions of power, not by humans but by God. She argued that there was no reason for anyone to believe that women's brains were inferior to men's and that any knowledgeable woman was free to teach women and men about the Bible and faith" [ibid]. She wrote over 100 articles, a good many of which were published in the Gospel Advocate. Although she treated Lipscomb, and others, with great respect in her own writings, they would often attack her without mercy. "In numerous articles, Holman developed her views with considerable skill and verve. She dealt extensively with biblical passages, and often affirmed her commitment to biblical authority. Lipscomb's responses were usually sharp, sometimes patronizing, and occasionally marked by exasperation. Her responses to him -- and to other male critics -- were firm, carefully reasoned, and respectful" [Distant Voices, p. 129].

The position of Silena Moore Holman, and others like her, came to be referred to in the late 1800's as the "new woman" model for the church. "Proponents of the 'new woman' supported women's suffrage, involvement in reform organizations (e.g., WCTU), better education for women, and more leadership positions held by women in the churches" [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 402]. "The proponents of the 'new woman' accepted neither the passivity of the 'true woman' nor the militancy of the emerging 'women's rights' movement. They stressed loyalty to home and family and did not reject male headship. They did not promote a feminist rejection of the domestic sphere, but rather believed that more opportunities for women would make for better wives and mothers" [Distant Voices, p. 132]. David Lipscomb strongly attacked this "new woman" concept, to which Silena replied within the pages of the Gospel Advocate, "The days of the 'clinging vine woman' are gone forever. In her place a husband will find walking by his side the bright, wide-awake companion, ... a helpmeet in the best possible sense of the term" [ibid]. The "new woman," she wrote, is well-educated, and her education "has not impaired her feminine grace or lovable qualities in the slightest degree. ... When the 'new woman' ... comes into her kingdom, wide-awake, alert, thoughtful, and up to date, she will not depreciate, but ... magnify and glorify the profession of motherhood" [ibid]. David Lipscomb was never convinced, however, and he even once lamented, "It gives a body the blues to read Sister Holman's articles" [ibid, p. 133].

"In 1913, two years before her death, Silena was still addressing 'The Woman Question' in the Gospel Advocate, still arguing for a woman's right to teach publicly before 'mixed audiences.' 'Men may change with the changing conditions of modern life,' she wrote, 'but when women find themselves trying to keep step with their fathers, brothers, and husbands in the new order of things, the brethren stand in front of them with a drawn sword and demand a halt, because, they say, the Bible forbids, when it does nothing of the kind'" [ibid]. NOTE: For those readers who would like to read several of the more important articles written by Silena Moore Holman, and which appeared in the Gospel Advocate over the years, Click Here. I think you will find these to be fascinating reading.

Sister Silena Moore Holman passed from this life on September 18, 1915 in Fayetteville, TN. Her cause of death was due to complications from an appendectomy. Just three weeks before her death, as she sat visiting with the well-known and highly respected evangelist T. B. Larimore, and as if she knew what was to come in some special way, she requested of him that he perform her funeral [Reflections #352: Theophilus Brown Larimore -- A Champion of Unity and Harmony within the Stone-Campbell Movement]. Her reason for this very special request? -- "I want no man to apologize for my work, and I know that he will never do that." Brother T. B. Larimore, within the text of his funeral sermon (which may be read at the above mentioned web site), stated, "It is difficult for me to understand my own emotions upon this solemn and important occasion. We are here to perform a sad service. Our Savior, in Mark 14:6-8, said to His disciples of the woman who loved Him and showed it by her services to Him: 'She hath wrought a good work ... She hath done what she could.' That is the sum and substance of all I may with propriety say today." He concluded, "In her death, her family, her friends, her co-workers, the church of Christ, and the brotherhood of man have sustained a great loss. 'She hath wrought a good work. She hath done what she could.'" It is reported that close to 2000 people showed up for her funeral, paying tribute to the life of this great servant of the Lord and her fellowman. She was buried in the Holman family plot in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Fayetteville, Tennessee. A mere two years following her death, the WCTU commissioned a painting of Silena Moore Holman, which was then placed in the Tennessee State Capitol. This was an honor that has been granted to only one other woman in the history of the state of Tennessee. Thank God for women like Silena Moore Holman. May God raise up many more like her!!

Applauding at Mom's Funeral
Pondering Another Waddeyism

Okay, now that I have your attention!! Applauding at your mother's funeral just doesn't seem "right," now does it?! What heartless person would actually do such a thing? I'm sure when you all first read the above caption, you very likely wondered in your own mind what would motivate a son or daughter to applaud during such an event. John Waddey, in a very brief article that appears in the November 1, 2008 issue of his periodical Christianity: Then & Now, wondered the same thing. First, let me provide some necessary background to his piece. Someone by the name of "Larry" had written John (who is the minister for a small, ultra-conservative congregation in Surprise, Arizona) asking the following question: "Since our new youth minister came here, our young people have begun applauding when a person is baptized. This upsets and distracts me. Am I too old-fashioned, or am I right?" Naturally, John Waddey felt Larry to be justified in his opposition to this practice "of those who crave entertainment in place of sacred worship" [p. 4].

It goes without saying that there are some within the more conservative wing of Christendom who do not take kindly to anything outside their own personal comfort zones. "If it was good enough for great-grandpa, it ought to be good enough for us" is their mantra. "Change" and "Change Agents" are greatly feared and detested. John Waddey has for years led a personal crusade against these "godless liberals." Applause in the assembly, in his view, is just one of numerous "evidences" of the creeping darkness that threatens to overwhelm the church, and against which he is determined to fight unto the death. For those who might like to examine what the Bible has to say about applause, I would invite a very careful and prayerful reading of the evidence provided in my study "Applause in the Assembly" [Reflections #139]. I believe you will quickly find there is far more justification for applause among God's people as they come before Him in worship than John Waddey would have you believe.

Nevertheless, my primary purpose in this brief addition to my regular weekly article above is simply to comment upon John's following statement in his article. He wrote, "One way to respond to those trying to justify their practice is to ask if they would applaud at their mother's funeral. If not, why? Would they have applauded at Christ's death and burial? Why not? Baptism is a symbolic re-enactment of the death and burial of Jesus Christ. Is that an appropriate time for applause?" [p. 4]. John has alluded to Romans 6:1-11 where the apostle Paul does indeed point out that baptism is a symbolic parallel to our Lord's death and burial. What John has failed to note in his article, however, is that Paul doesn't end his comparison there -- baptism is additionally a symbolic parallel to our Lord's resurrection. Just as He died, was buried, and arose, so also do we enter into the watery tomb and then arise to newness of life. Would I applaud my Lord's death and burial? Although I appreciate deeply His sacrifice and His willingness to accept the penalty of sin in my place, I am so humbled by His amazing act of love that applause doesn't enter my thinking. Indeed, I am subdued to think that my sin necessitated such a sacrifice on His part. However, at His resurrection ... standing before the empty tomb ... there is occasion for unbridled JOY. Would I applaud this? Absolutely! Indeed, there might also be some shouting and leaping into the air!!

Remember the parable of the prodigal son [Luke 15:11f]? There was little joy in the home of the father while the son was lost in the far country. However, upon his return, "they began to be merry" [vs. 24]. Indeed, the elder brother, as he approached the house of his father, "heard music and dancing" [vs. 25]. "Music" in the father's house? Dancing? Why this celebration? "Because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found" [vs. 24]. "But we HAD to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found" [vs. 32]. Jesus said this joy extends even to the angels in heaven [Luke 15:7, 10]. When the Ethiopian eunuch came up out of the water, we are told that he went on his way "rejoicing" [Acts 8:39]. I wonder if anyone applauded?!

When the dead come to life, there is reason for great joy!! John Waddey wondered if someone would actually dare to applaud at their mother's funeral. John, if she rose up out of that coffin ... YES, I would applaud. God help me, I might even shout and leap into the air! Should we express great joy (as do the angels in heaven) when someone arises from the watery grave? If not, why not, John?! For those who are offended and distracted by such expressions of joy over a brother brought to life, there is ample room outside the Father's house in the darkness with the elder brother! He didn't care for the celebration either!

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707
Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Washington:

Dear Brother Al, I pray you're having a blessed day. It was very difficult to get Darrell Broking's third rebuttal to open. He used a .doc file, and it kept coming up as "locked out" because there were "too many errors in it." I have a friend who helped me download some new software, and so was finally able to get it to open. I wish now that I hadn't. What a ridiculous pile! I think my computer was right in the first place -- "Too many errors in it." Also, just who IS this poor excuse: Daniel Denham? Boy, with a fiend like that, one needs no enemies. I would imagine that you're glad the debate is over (or just about over). You need to get a breath of fresh air after having to breathe all of that fire and brimstone. If Darrell is looking for a church in Florida, I know of one he would fit in with nicely: they had a note in their bulletin for the "proper dress" of those men serving at the Lord's Table on Sunday. I think it came from one of those Scriptures that Darrell Broking often uses. You know, the ones from the 3rd chapter of Jude! I'm sorry to be so cynical this morning, brother, but these folks just strain my good nature. I love you, and I hope and pray for your good health and steadfastness in His work. You are a true warrior.

From a Minister in Florida:

Brother Al, I would like to inform Daniel Denham, who is currently writing his book on MDR (with a chapter about your own book), that we have a fuel shortage here in Florida and I may be interested in purchasing great quantities of his ramblings to use as "fire wood." We've had such a building boom in Florida over the last several years that our trees have been cut down and houses built in their place. And since gas is too high to heat with, we could really save some money by burning useless books written by closed-minded space travelers. Yes, it does get cold here sometimes, and we'll need that burning material this winter. So, pass the word: "Buy Denham's Books, Save On Fuel." Brother Al, I just wanted to cheer you up today! I know that you likely get thousands of emails thanking you for your efforts, but I know from experience that it only takes one or two bad ones to make a person feel "down." Don't let these people get you down, Al. You are on the right track. You are making a huge difference in this world. God has given you a wonderful gift, so keep on using it for Him. By the way, your article on the Pledge of Allegiance was great. I forwarded it to a brother who doesn't believe in standing up and honoring the flag. I had tried to explain my feelings to him a few weeks ago, but not as well as you expressed them in your article. Thanks, brother!

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Dear Bro. Al, I deeply appreciated your Reflections on the Pledge of Allegiance, since I retired from the military after 20+ years. I noticed in your readers' section the comment by the "wannabe author" in Virginia, Daniel Denham, who is writing a book on MDR, and my first thought was: "just what we need ... another book on that subject advocating some dogmatic position and thus confusing the issue." A wonderful man by the name of Abe Lincoln, now deceased, who was a former instructor at Sunset School of Preaching, offered up one of his insightful "Abeisms" which I will remember for a long time. He commented, "When the great minds of our brotherhood cannot agree on an issue, it is not the time to get dogmatic about it." If this "wannabe author" is not better educated and more insightful than Roy Lanier, Sr. and Thomas B. Warren and Roy Deaver, all of whom were great thinkers of our time, then this would probably be a good time for someone to do us all a favor and steal his typewriter! Brother Al, you are doing a great job of encouraging deep thinking, so please do not let the detractors pull you down.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Maxey, After reading the latest issue of your Reflections, I am at a complete loss over Mr. Denham's words regarding your book Down, But Not Out. I don't have a clue where he comes up with his information!! Apparently it isn't from the Bible!! Thanks again for all you do, brother.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, I have just read your article on the Pledge, and I find it very informative. Not mentioning any names, but there are some who are running for office today who should bear in mind what you say! It really rubs me the wrong way to see people doing everything except standing at attention when the flag passes by and giving it the proper salute. I guess being in the service through both World War II and Korea has had that effect on me. Al, please keep on writing, as maybe in time a bolt of lightning will strike the likes of Darrell Broking and Daniel Denham, awakening them to the real Truth of the Bible. You do such a wonderful job with your writings. Soldier On, brother, and may God bless you.

From a Reader in Alaska:

Dear Brother Al, Does our God want a nation of Christians or a Christian nation? I hope that this question might get some readers to begin thinking differently. I have read enough about our nation's founders to realize that God was very much a part of their intent, and yet there has been much confusion, misinterpretation, and sometimes even consternation about the establishment and exercise clauses in our Bill of Rights' First Amendment. It is my hope that the above question will help all disciples of Christ to realize that they have been "commissioned" in the Lord's army for His purposes, which cross all borders, whether political, ethnic, cultural or socio-economic.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Dear Brother Al, Like so many of your correspondents, I know how busy you are, and so I do not write nearly as often as I would like to. However, your current article on the Pledge of Allegiance brought tears to my eyes! And your previous Reflections on "The Assurance of Faith" was truly great. But I want to particularly commend the minister from Kansas whose email you included in your last readers' response section (the one that began with the comment about love being the true litmus test of the Scriptures). This brother proclaimed more Truth in his short letter to you than all the Darrell Brokings and their ilk ever dreamed of in all of their combined lives!! Thank you so much for passing this brother's thoughts along to the rest of us.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, I heartily agree with you that the young minister who wrote to you ought to allow his young daughter to recite the pledge at her school. I too served in the Armed Forces, and, like you, still get misty-eyed when the flag is flown or the National Anthem is sung or played. I stand tall and place my hand over my heart. Yet, I always realize that God continues to rule the nations and that all governments stand or fall at His will, not ours [Romans 13]. I too believe that there can be an allegiance to a nation, and a national symbol, without ever compromising our true allegiance to our Lord. Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is his, and I would take that to include the proper respect for the nation in which we live and its symbols of citizenship, as long as that respect or those symbols do not replace our faith in our God, thus becoming cheap idolatrous substitutes. I believe we live in the greatest country on earth, but that could change if the Body of Christ does not truly become the influence for good within society that it should. It is truly a shame that politics tends to corrupt those involved in it, for I would like to see more Christians serving in office. Perhaps if more were, the corruption would be lessened.

From a Minister/Elder in Florida:

Brother Al, I was fairly recently "turned on to" your web site and your Reflections articles. I have been reading my way through your Archives, and have just read Issue #63 on Nadab and Abihu. Without taking a thing away from what you wrote, which I believe to be "spot on," I see an additional element to their tragic end. In Leviticus 9, at the very end of the chapter, fire came out from the presence of the Lord to consume the burnt offering. God accepted the sacrifice of the ox as the burnt offering in the place of the sinners who offered it. It was a vicarious sacrifice. When Nadab and Abihu came before the Lord, they came without the sacrificial fire of that offering for their sin. When any man comes into the presence of the Lord God without an appropriate sin offering, he thereby exposes himself to the fire of God. So, fire came out from the presence of the Lord to consume these errant priests. An equivalent today would be for us to approach God, as did the Pharisee in Jesus' parable in Luke 18, with our own works of righteousness instead of coming before Him pleading only the blood of Jesus and His righteousness.

From a Minister in Indiana:

Brother Al, I have been following your recent debate with Mr. Broking, and have appreciated your point of view. But, I'm really writing to thank you for all your many articles over the years about the Lord's Supper. I have accessed them from your Topical Index and they have been very helpful in my personal study. I have even given you some "props" in my latest post to my Blog Site. I appreciate your ministry!

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