During the 1996 presidential primaries, Senator Phil Gramm from Texas introduced us to his friend “Dickey Flatt” who owned a family printing business that had been started by his parents. Gramm said that every time he was faced with a vote to spend government funds, he would put it through his “Dickey Flatt test,” that is, he would consider how his actions would affect Mr. Flatt and millions like him in real life.
I use a similar barometer when I write and speak about things I think are important. I ask myself what the needs are of those in my audience, how I can present information and ideas and provoke thought along the way. I reflect on the truth of what I am sharing and how it will affect those who read or hear it. And most importantly, I ask myself “Will it draw others closer to Jesus or place stumbling blocks in the path?” In order to do this, I always put things through my own “Dickey Flatt test.”
Now, of course, Scripture is the standard of all truth so I am talking about the application of that truth, the working out of our salvation in fear and trembling as it were. This is where I lay down my WWMGT test. The “What Would My Grandmas Think?” test.
I have written about both of my grandmas in the past but let me share a brief bio.
My “country” grandma went to school through the 8th grade and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ while she was a young girl who came from Missouri to Illinois to work as a household helper on a large farm. She married at 18 and raised three sons during the Great Depression, feeding everyone from her large garden and amazing pantry. She taught me how to embroider and quilt and make to-die-for bread stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey. Her pie crusts were terrible but it didn’t stop her from baking into a pie anything and everything that grew on their tiny farm. She was a straight talker and didn’t hesitate to ask if she didn’t know something. She always said “I’m from Missouri, you have to show me.” Once in the mid-70’s she saw Phil Donahue interview a gay couple and asked me, “How DO they have sex, anyway?” Bless her heart. She was so resourceful and frugal that when she died we found a tattered old journal where she wrote down how much she had spent for nearly every single thing she had ever purchased. We also found a secret bank account where she had been stashing pension money, nearly $40,000.00 worth of it.
My other grandma, my “city” grandma actually lived in a small town in a pre-civil war Italianate house with 14 foot ceilings and marble fireplaces; my grandpa had bought it with cash shortly before the Crash of ’29. She raised nine children in that old home, its unusual contents telling the family stories: a large bearskin rug from their drive to Alaska before it was even a state, the basket made from an armadillo, the real Indian skeletons in a glass case on the wall, dug up by my grandpa and his older children during a “free dig” at Dixon Mounds in the 1930’s. Before she was the mother in this house, though, my grandma was raised in a strict Catholic household where her two younger sisters grew up to be nuns. My grandma became a born again Christian and a Baptist when she married my grandpa and thus began her lifelong love for the Scriptures. As long as I knew her she taught the adult Sunday School class in the church; even the seminary-trained pastors were often found sitting around her dining room table talking with her about theology. Her life was rough and so was my grandpa, who rarely attended church, smoked a stinky cigar, and left her a young widow in her mid fifties. To this day I still meet couples who have been married for more than 50 years who tell me my grandma’s counsel saved their marriages. The picture of with her open Bible on a metal table near her favorite chair in the living room is how I best remember her.
These two women came of age during an era of great change. They both remembered when women first won the right to vote, my “country” grandma only marking her ballot for the candidate of my grandpa’s choosing while my “city” grandma openly explained to those she discipled what it means to apply a Biblical worldview in all areas of life, including the voting booth. They married and raised children and cared for the needy during the Depression and saw sons and sons-in-laws and brothers and husbands go off to fight wars in both the European and Pacific theaters during WW2. And in the midst of it, they clung to their faith in a living God who gave them the Gospel and drew them to Himself every day.
During the years my “city grandma” taught Sunday school and my “country grandma” worked in the little Baptist church that sat no more than 50 feet from her vegetable garden, it didn’t really matter who did what in their homes or in the church, somebody just did it. Because my grandpas traveled far and worked long hours in the coal mines, often leaving before the children were up and arriving home long past their bedtime, it was up to these women to introduce Jesus to their little ones. They taught them from their Bibles and memorized the Word right along beside them.
My “city” grandma was a voracious reader and drank deeply from concordances and Bible commentaries simply because she believed the Bible to be God’s word to her! When Moody Bible Institute began their first radio broadcasts, she tuned in, taking notes and sending for study helps for various programs. Not once did it occur to her that this was only for the men folk! She was a Martha and a Mary, often preparing delicious meals to welcome church visitors, including the two older sister evangelists, Fran and Winnie, who both sang and preached during special meetings; my grandma delighted in those times of deep spiritual discussion as they shared dinner. No one reprimanded her for teaching and speaking and taking leadership at home or in the church simply because of her gender. They welcomed it because she was using gifts the Lord had given to her. In my grandmas’ day, there were no “waves” of feminism, white-washed or otherwise, and there was no name calling or labeling. There was no “role playing” or even a discussion of a proper place for these women. There was simply these women and many more like them purposing to live as believing wives, moms and grandmothers, by grace, every single day.
So, I ask myself, WWMGT? What would my grandmas think? About the word “complementarian.” About the labels and the theologians who insist on using them. About silly teachings like the Piper “cone of silence.” About the idea that adversarial rather than redeemed relationships are the standard, that inorganic role-playing should be taught to daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters? I am pretty sure I know.
In part two, I will be looking at WWMGT about “Gospel Sex.”