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July - Aug 2013 | Issue 13
beyond the word feminism 53 women who inspire sexual competition in the church men as feminists the last name debate women in ministry
IN SYDNEY AUSTRALIA Hillsong College will equip you with the necessary principles and tools to lead and impact in every sphere of life. With a specific focus on raising and training local Church leaders, the college is strategically placed within the life of Hillsong Church, in order that every student will apply the skills they have learned in the class-room in a practical ministry setting within the Church. Specialising in Pastoral Leadership, Worship Music, TV and Media, Dance and Production, with Pathways that include Youth, Childrenâ€™s, Event Management, Pastoral Care, Church Ministry or Social Justice.
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persistent Marie Osmond
Jamie Bucman Mad About You
The Cosby Show
Fran Fine The Nanny
The West Wing
full schedule + local listings at ctstv.com
Exploring the joys and struggles of the female experience
5 EDITOR’S LETTER 7 Reflections
30 LOOKING BEYOND FEMINISM
On rising from rejection
8 Women who inspire us
What do Christianity and feminism have in common?
53 exceptional ladies whose actions and work have inspired, amazed, or influenced us
32 How to be a woman
14 Interview with john stackhouse
38 The name change debate
We asked the author and Regent professor about feminism
17 CATHOLIC CONVERSATIONS A little chat with an East Coast nun
20 FIELD NOTES Vol. 7 We talk to hip and married Lauren and Max Dubinsky about sexual competition in the church
A lifetime of hard easy steps What’s in a name? The implications of keeping with tradition and assuming your husband's last name.
42 Feminist jesus Why Sarah Bessey says she's a happy, joy-filled, Jesus following feminist
22 Women in ministry Should females be in the pulpit?
24 The one-child policy A conversation with Reggie Littlejohn opens our eyes to the hidden horrors of China’s infamous one-child policy
46 Have you read?
27 Setting boundaries
48 Last word
Helping guys go through faith crises while keeping virtuous
Telling women’s stories. A review of Parade of Faith Loving through God's leading
“I’M A CHRISTIAN, SO HOW COME I FEEL SO LOST?” YOU CAN PROVIDE ANSWERS THAT MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE Train online to lead others through The Truth Project – a DVD-based study for small groups
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Photo by Lizzette Miller
THE WOMEN's ISSUE
converge 13 | July - August 2013 Converge Media Inc. #301 - 291 East 2nd Ave Vancouver B.C. V5T 1B8 604.558.1982 1.888.899.3777 editor
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THE F-WORD “It would be much easier to choose one or the other; Christianity or feminism, but I believe they should be — and are — utterly compatible.” — Vicky Beeching
often shocked when people will nonchalantly say things like, “feminism is the female equivalent of macho-ism.” It disturbs me that in 2013, many still aren’t clear what this word means. Of those that do understand the term, some might question its relevancy today. “Don’t we already have gender equality?” they ask. The answer, sadly, is that we don’t — which is why we still need feminism. Sure women in the West today appear to have it all — we’re able to hold jobs, vote, buy land, take charge of our reproductive rights, and get involved in almost all sectors formerly dominated by men. But it’s the little things that add up and create a recipe for a persisting gender inequality. For example, on average women earn 82 cents (or less) to every dollar that men make, only four per cent of women hold CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies, and female politicians are severely underrepresented in countries all over the world. The picture doesn’t look any better in the church, where only 10 percent of preachers are women. If they do make it to the pulpit, they earn far less than their male counterparts. Some women are banned from assuming leadership positions in the church altogether. A friend recently told me about a mass exodus at her parents’ congregation, where a female was appointed “associate pastor.” She was not appointed to be a lead pastor, or senior pastor, but simply an associate pastor. She had been leading the church for ten years as a volunteer before officially assuming the position. So the only thing extra given to her was a small paycheck and a title.
Although we wanted to create a women-themed edition to point out inequalities between sexes, we also wanted to highlight all of the wonderful things that women have accomplished and the attitudes that are changing about women’s issues. We’ve tried to gather different perspectives on what it means to be a Christian feminist. You’ll hear from Sarah Bessey, author of the book Jesus Feminist on just how much the teachings of Jesus reflect feminist values, Craig Ketchum on why men should be feminists, and Chelsea Batten on the pressures the modern woman faces. You don’t have to be a woman to support feminism. In fact this is an issue just as much for the men as it is for the women. What feminism seeks to achieve is equality of the sexes. It’s as simple as that.
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“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18
Rising from Rejection By Craig Ketchum
Flickr photo (cc) by Nathan O’Nions
“I have no regrets” is an easy deflection. It sounds confident. It avoids and silences the suggestion of mistakes. It defers responsibility instead of owning it. Yet, despite the brave face, escaping deep feelings of foolishness, anger, embarrassment and rejection isn’t easy. Some hurts last a long time. But the redeeming fact of their memory is that they are in the past. They do not have to define us in the future. I am comforted by Jesus’ empathy for our hurts. He was rejected in brutal ways. Shunned by His own town, abandoned by followers, abandoned by close friends, betrayed, spat on, beaten, called names, nailed to a cross and left to die, Jesus’ altruistic, inclusive, ever-loving life faced bitter and ironic rejection. What enabled Jesus to be so rejected and to rise again untraumatized? Jesus knew whose He was — and that caused Him to know who He was. Henri Nouwen
writes: “Jesus was truly free. His freedom was rooted in His spiritual awareness that He was the Beloved Child of God. He knew in the depth of His being that He belonged to God before He was born, that He was sent into the world to proclaim God’s love, and that He would return to God after his mission was fulfilled. This knowledge gave him the freedom ... and the power to respond to people’s pains with the healing love of God”. Moreover, Jesus’ departure made way for the Holy Spirit to come from the Father. The Holy Spirit today restores the parentless places in our spirit: our beliefs that we have to fend for ourselves, the jealousy of others’ well-being and privilege, the heart that doesn’t know how loved it is, the orphaned spirit that cannot identify with the concept of a heavenly Father. It is not God’s plan that any of His children should miss out on knowing their true freedom and power. The Holy Spirit longs to come to show us the Father, and He asks for our invitation.
Joan of arc
lead the French army with divine guidance to many victories during the Hundred Years War. She was executed by burning for heresy but later named a martyr. She was canonized in 1909.
WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US We've complied a list of 53 accomplished women who break the mold, inspire us to aim higher, or are just sort of awesome. There are some lesser known names as well as a few familar faces — all of whom embody the feminist spirit.
“...we need to fall, and we need to be aware of it; for if we did not fall, we should not know how weak and wretched we are of ourselves, nor should we know our Maker’s marvellous love so fully...”
Julian of Norwich
Revelations of Divine Love Julian was an English anchoress in the Medieval Ages. Though she was never officially canonized, writings of her visions of God have made her one of England's most important mystics.
Unlike the Disney animation, Mulan was a complete bad ass. And yes, she was an actual person. Her last name was Hua and she was born in a small rural village, though there are no concrete records of when she was born. But the story of her joining the army in place of her father is true! Mulan had learned both the ways of a men and women, by weaving and embrodering with her mother, and practicing martial arts and fencing with her father. When the time had come to go to war, she had to convince her parents that she should enlist. Eventually they allowed her to go.
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“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at School. All I want is education, and I’m afraid of no one” Malala Yousafzai
A Pakistani education activist who bloggled about the critical situations and the difficulties of the area where she lived. She was shot in the head by the Taliban. The Taliban saw her as a threat because she was advocating education for girls. She was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize.
Aung San Suu Kyi Burmese Politician
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
Known as the “Iron Lady,” Thatcher was longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and is the only woman to have held the office.
Andrea Smith is a
Cherokee intellectual, feminist, and antiviolence activist who focuses on issues of violence against women of colour and their communities, specifically Native American women.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
"One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am."
Michelle Obama Somali-Dutch-American feminist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali atheist, activist, writer, and politician on CNN with who is known for her critical views on Fareed Zakaria female genital mutilation and Islam. She wrote the screenplay for Theo van Gogh’s movie Submission, after which she and the director both received death threats, and the director was murdered. The daughter of the Somali politician and opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse, she is a founder of the women’s rights organization the AHA Foundation.
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Canadian feminist, politician, and social activitst. Part of “The Famous Five” a group of women who advocated for female positions in the Senate.
“Nothing about my birth — or yours — was random or accidental. I was born for this time — and so were you. We were each chosen for a particular, cosmically important task that can be done by no one else.” Christine Caine Australian pastor, activist, international speaker
“I have no child to inherit my properties. You, the people, are my only family, and to make you happy is the reason I do politics.”
First female prime minister of South Korea convergemagazine.com
WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US
Valerie Saiving Goodstein.
Asian American feminist theologians
Rita Nakashima Brock Kwok Pui Lan Wenh-In Ng Rose Wu Lo Sai Wonhee Anne Joh Jung Ha Kim Ai Ra Kim Asian American feminist theologians are often considered controversial in evangelical circles because they don't only challenge patriarchy in an academic setting, but they argue that the whole structure of theological thought tends to favour white male colonizers. As Asian Americans, they attempt to re-articulate theology through indigenous "Asian" concepts, re-conceiving of Christ and Christian practice through the lens of minority women often also read through the trauma of Asia-Pacific war politics. While their material is often not discussed in evangelical circles because it is controversial, they are making a considerable impact in academic biblical criticism, theology, and ethics as they try to radically reimagine God on the side of the utterly marginalized.
Vicky Beeching is a worship leader for Soul Survivor in the UK and a PhD student at Oxford focusing on how theology is expressed through social media. Her songs like "Yesterday, Today, Forever," "Above All Else," "Call to Worship," and "Great Is the Glory of the Lord" have become staples in evangelical circles. She also advocates strongly for women's positions in ministry, especially for the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England.
The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is founding pastor of the House of All Saints and Sinners in Denver, CO and an ordained minister in the liberal mainline Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Her pastoral work is known for its poetic commitment to social justice and to a radical inclusion of all seeking God in her church. She blogs on the Patheos Progressive Christian Portal as Sarcastic Lutheran and will be releasing a book with Jericho Books entitled Pastrix.
my This is a m !
Arguably the mother of "feminist theology," Goodstein published a very provocative academic article in The Journal of Religion in 1960 arguing that Protestant theology up to that time was based on how men experience God. Goodstein said that while men could talk about being creative, the experience of women in America was that they were always passively waiting. She argued that a theology based on women's experiences needed to be articulated in order to empower women as they reflected on their human situation.
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza Schüssler Fiorenza is arguably feminist theology's most famous scholar (probably alongside Rosemary Radford Ruether). A New Testament exegete at Harvard, Schüssler Fiorenza's most famous contribution is In Memory of Her, which makes an argument that while Jesus said of the woman who washed his feet in Mark 14 that everywhere the Gospel will be preached in "memory of her," she has been forgotten after a patriarchal consolidation of the liturgy and church structure. While her stuff tends to be radical, her engagement with the debate on women's ordination in Catholic holy orders caused then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) to call her a "serious exegete" for her thoughtful feminist interventions in Catholic life.
“ If God is male, then male is God. The divine patriarch castrates women as long as he is allowed to live on in the human imagination.”
A self proclaimed “radical lesbian feminist” philosopher and theologian taught at Boston College for more than 30 yeras, challenging and critiquing patriarchy and the basic precepts of the Catholic Church.
Our BA program o f f e r s o v e r
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Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies, TESOL, Youth Ministry & Global Ministry
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Sarah Pulliam Bailey is national religion
At 13 years old, Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to a shark while surfing. With the help of her family and faith, she got back into the water and learned how to continue doing what she loved with one less arm. She founded Friends of Bethany Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping shark attack survivors or amputiees.
correspondent for Religion News Service and managing editor of Odyssey Networks; she was also formerly the online editor for Christianity Today and a contributor to the GetReligion blog. At CT, she developed a reputation for being able to write about evangelical controversies with a careful fair-mindedness to all sides. Her current reporting has extended to mainline Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church, where she is quickly developing credibility as one of the most competent God-beat journalists in America.
“As a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood; my highest calling is to follow Christ.”
“The hard days are the best because that's where champions are made so if you can push through, you can push through anything!”
Rachel Held Evans
A Year of Biblical Womanhood
Image credits: Rubenstein, orionpozo, david_shankbone, Jamesboyes, Robert Kowal, Kanake Menehune, Samantha Matheson
“There is no perfect fit when you're looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
Caitlin crosby is an
actress/singer/song-writer whose encounter with a homeless couple turned into a side project of making key necklaces into a charitable endevour. The Giving Keys employs the homeless to engrave the keys with inspirational messages, which then get sold and shared around the world.
First African-American gymnast to win the individual all-around gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was also part of the team that won the team all-around gold at the same olympics.
Aimee mullins is
an athlete, actress, and model. Best known for her athletic accomplishments despite having both her lower legs amputated.
Cheif operating officer of Facebook since 2008, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Amy Poehler, tina Fey & Kristin wiig. For fans of Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, and Bridesmaids, there's no denying that these are three of the funniest women in entertainment.
Canadian cyclist and speed skater
Clara Hughes is one of only five people to have podium finishes in the Winter and Summer Olympic games, and the only person to ever have won multiple medals in both. She is also involved with Right to Play, an international humanitarian organziation that encourages youth in disadventaged areas through sports.
WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US
The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. Coco Chanel These style icons changed the way we dress and influenced what we wear today.
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”
With her Chanel suits and pill box hats, Jackie Kennedy became the fashion icon of the 60s.
First Lady of China Peng Liyuan is according to Time Magazine, "bringing glamour to Made in China."
Jenna Lyons is President of J.Crew, a clothing company that embodies casual cool style.
Tory Burch has built a company of affordable luxury, appealing to working moms and college students alike.
Anne Shirley, Katniss Everdeen, Eowyn, Daenerys Targaryen, and Lisbeth Salander are all fictional heroines that we admire for their strength of character.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.” Frida kahlo
Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are only a few of the Bronte sisters’ works that are now masterpieces of literature.
The Bronte Sisters
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
is the first woman to have her work exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. She is known for her stunning portraits of celebrities.
Georgia o’keeffe Aside from launching
a successful career in the male dominated discipline of painting, she was considered to be the foremother of the feminist art movement.
We asked The author and ReGENT COLLEge professor to dispell some myths about the F Word
Interview by Sam McLoughlin
What would you say to someone who views feminism as the typical caricature … you know, of… An angry lesbian woman who hates men? Well that’s what keeps most of my students from identifying themselves as feminists. Feminism should mean, simply, advocacy on behalf of women because they are being mistreated because they are women. So whenever women are being mistreated because of their sex, a feminist says, “No, that’s not right.” And if you say, “I’m not a feminist, I’m just in favour of justice,” well, you are a feminist if you’re concerned about gender. Just the way you’re antiracist if you’re concerned about racism.
What about those who think feminism is the female version of chauvinism? There is one stream of feminist thought that suggests that women and men are different and women are better. Originally, the concern for women’s rights tended to be packaged in terms of men and women are basically the same. More recently … the trend was to say they are different, but complementary — that women have distinct ways of doing things. The third form of this is to say women and men are different, and women are better. Women are the civilized ones, men are the brutes; women care for other people, men are selfish pigs. Women are intuitive and organic and open to the world, and men are cold and objectifying and logo-centric. So there are female chauvinists, but it’s not the mainstream of women or feminism.
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Should men be feminists? Yes. Otherwise you’d be saying women should be mistreated just because they’re women.
Was Jesus a feminist? Of course — He’s in favour of treating women properly. And I’m a feminist, I like to think, like Jesus, that is, in a particular way. That is to say, I’m a Christian first. And I’m trying to follow the call of Jesus to work for shalom, moment by moment. In the midst of the world in which we live, you can’t improve everything at the same time in every respect. Some students of mine from Regent are now missionaries in Muslim countries,
ostolic church, they’re called to sacrifice secondary values for primary ones.
What would you say to John Piper, who said that women should not be in leadership in the church? Well he’s wrong. And I think he’s not only wrong, he’s giving a lazy interpretation of scripture. I think that Piper has interpreted Scripture in the way that we always have, and he’s not troubled by the clearly deleterious effects of this teaching in our society, he’s not troubled by the fact that this seems weird, scandalous, and irrational to teach this. And for a guy who values rationality as much as John Piper does, for him to then teach what seems like a manifestly irrational teaching, I think is irresponsible. I would say instead, if you can’t think of a way for the Bible to justify women preachers, okay, but others of us have, and we’ll help you with that. But for you to dogmatically insist that this is what the scripture requires of us, I just think for a guy who’s as smart as he is, I think it’s lazy.
If you can’t think of a way for the Bible to justify women preachers, okay, but others of us have, and we’ll help you with that. and while there the women wear veils, sit in the back seat of the car, and have their husbands escort them everywhere. Not because they or their husbands are patriarchalists, or agree with the ways of that society, but like Paul and the ap-
Word on the street We Asked Some Men, “Are you a feminist?”
Depends on your meaning of the word feminist. In life and the work place I’m all for it. Love equality. The scholarly Feminist lense however is great at revealing problems but doesn't offer any solutions. Thats the only thing that I find troublesome.
Jonathan W, Entrepreneur
I am not a feminist due to what I perceive as a reluctance on the part of the New Testament to do away with male headship, especially as it pertains to marriage. Paul, a man we know was very willing to disregard longstanding traditions if they ran contrary to the Gospel (e.g. circumcision and food laws), is unwilling to pull the trigger on what we now call "complementarianism." The same man who boldly proclaims "there is no male nor female" (Gal. 3:27) reinforces the timeless truth that "the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church..." (Eph. 5:23).
Quinn M, Grad Student
Anyone who says they're not a feminist is uneducated. If you believe that women are equally capable in all areas of career and societal influence, should be paid equally to men, and should vote and be involved in the democratic process, then you're a feminist. The Christian especially affirms this idea, as Christ has broken down the separating wall, making all equal in Him (Galatians 3:28).
Dave L, High School Teacher
I agree with Dave. It's almost exactly what I would say.
I'll add that the word "feminist" still has strong 2nd wave connotations and lots of people immediately picture hairy leg, lesbian, man haters when they hear feminist, so they are hesitant to associate with the term. But as Dave says it's more about gender equality than any stereotypes that are associated with feminism. Mark I, Musician
I am a feminist in that Christianity and feminism converge in their aims for fullest human flourishing, and that I long to see the deeper, older, more foundational biblical theme of honour being given both to male and female reinstated in our culture.
Craig K, Teacher
Jesus wasn't an ideologue; he wouldn't have called himself a feminist. He was bringing God's Kingdom. And in God's Kingdom women are elevated, recognized, empowered in ways that break out of culturally conditioned oppression while avoiding ideological narrowness. Jesus and his church have done more for women than any form of feminism ever has. Not to dismiss feminism! Just that it stands on the shoulders of an historical movement it often critiques as its adversary, unfortunately.
Matthew M, Ministry coordinator
In what ways are women being persecuted in the church, other than leadership, that a feminist may notice happening under the surface? I know lots of women who say, “We don’t care who preaches, but how come the other jobs in the church are allocated the way they are? How come the voices that seem to matter when church decisions are being made tend to be the men’s? Why is there a sexual double standard … where a young man who has premarital sex has made a mistake, has but a women who’s had sex is a tramp, is spoiled, and is supposed to feel degraded and horrible?” This is supposed to be Christian thinking in the 21st century, not Semitic thinking in the year 1000.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from writing Finally Feminist? The main problem with the book is the terrible title, and that’s my fault. Finally Feminist does convey the argument of the book in a short phrase, but the f-word in the title does turn off some prospective readers. Some people say, “I can’t give this to my dad, my pastor, or the elders, because of this f-word.” The irony is that my book is more respectful of traditional arguments, more respectful of patriarchalist interpretation, than any book that argues the feminist side, and I’m in talks with a publisher to do a new edition with a different title.
What about what Paul says regarding women in leadership? I would say that in the right circumstances, yes women should teach and pastor alongside men. But in societies that are strongly patriarchal, which is every society we know of up ‘til ours, the social scandal of women in leadership, coupled with a second point which is that the patriarchy in these situations meant that women were not equipped for certain kinds of leadership. They were not educated. Not only not formally educated but also in the lore and the manner of leading. Nor were people educated in society at large to receive a women’s leadership without freaking out. Those, and a combination of social factors meant that women could not have led without there being serious disruption. It would have been all about the women leading and not about the actual message. And that was too great a trade-off. But now, the fact that the scandal is the other way, why wouldn’t you have a women teach if she is the better teacher? Why wouldn’t you have women in your leadership team, so that the insights of women and men can be brought to bear on the situation? In our society, for the first time in history, the scandal goes the other way. That’s one of the elements that some of my feminist Christian friends haven’t really recognized. It’s how do we properly explain why this generation of Christians should be feminists when all 19 plus centuries of Christians haven’t been? I don’t think it’s because we’re better Christians, it’s because our situation has changed, and God is saying “change with it” in light of the Gospel. convergemagazine.com
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A nun’s reflections A conversation about religious life with Sister Evelyn
By Leanne Janzen
Flickr photo (cc) by rogiro
Leanne Janzen is a recent journalism grad, and is most likely found in any place that sells quality espresso. She loves nothing more than the promise of adventure, the comfort of a good book, and the honesty of a conversation between friends.
he wind whistles across my ears as I speed-walk towards the corner of Oxford and Coburg. I had told Sister Evelyn I would meet her there. But before I even make it there, my eyes catch the gaze of an elderly woman sitting behind the steering wheel of a newish grey car, parked in the parking lot. “Are you Leanne?” her head pops out of her rolled-down window. “Yes! Evelyn?” “Hi! Come on in!” she says as she starts the car. I don’t know what I was expecting, but Sister Evelyn isn’t it. She looks, well, she looks so ... normal. Her silver framed glasses match her short hair that brushes across her forehead, her black leather jacket squeaks slightly as she moves the steering wheel. Being a non-Catholic person, this is what I know about Sisters: they live in convents; they wear long black robes with constricting white gauze stuff around their faces; they are sent to be nannies to the children of retired sea captains; and they hide Las Vegas performers who are on the run from abusive partners. All the
while they are singing. Always singing. So it turns out I got a few things wrong. Sister Evelyn stops at the red light and flicks her turning signal on. We are on our way to the Seton Spirituality Centre in Terence Bay, about forty minutes outside Halifax. Sister Evelyn and three other Sisters of Charity live there, providing a place for people to spend time in prayer, meditation, and have conversations about faith and justice. The Sisters of St. Joseph, which later became the Sisters of Charity, formed in 1809 in Baltimore, Maryland. Seeing the need for increased education in the area, the nuns started up a girls’ boarding school. Under the leadership of Mother Elizabeth Seton, they later expanded to include a free school for children in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Now there are chapters of Sisters of Charity across North and South America. Operating under the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul, an early 17th Century Catholic priest who focused on compassion and love for the poor, the Sisters of Charity take vows of poverty, chastity, convergemagazine.com
catholic conversations and obedience. They live in small groups of three or four, and dedicate their lives to God through their charitable acts. As we jostle about in the car, we chat a bit about the Seton Spirituality Centre, the 16 years Sister Evelyn has been the director, and about what had inspired her to become a nun in the first place. “I learned early that we needed to share what we had,” she says, a smile inching across her face. She remembers how her dad would give food to those in need who appeared on their doorstep, and how she would often accompany him when he visited the sick and the elderly. Sister Evelyn grew up in Halifax with her two sisters and one brother. Her father was a municipal councillor for Halifax County. Her mother contracted tuberculosis at an early age, and had to spend most of Sister Evelyn’s childhood years in the hospital. “So when was it that you decided you wanted to become a Sister?” I ask. “I think it was a gradual process, probably through high school, even through elementary school.” She shrugs her shoulders softly as she remembers. Entering religious life wasn’t a foreign concept for her; being taught by the Sisters of Charity all the way through school, she was surrounded by Sisters who made an impact on her life. “I saw them going out to the poor. I saw how they handled kids who were really misbehaving in class. It wasn’t a put down, it was a ‘that’s good, I like that,’” Sister Evelyn says with a sparkle in her blue eyes. She sits back, chuckling as she loosely grips the steering wheel. "I can listen to this woman speak all day, every day," I think as we exit onto St. Margaret’s Bay Road. Sister Evelyn recounts to me (in her words) her “checkered career,” about how during her preparation to become a Sister, she obtained an education degree as well as a Master of Theology degree. She was a teacher for a number of years, and also
worked with young women entering religious life. She later became a chaplain at Mount Saint Vincent University, while volunteering some of her time to develop an advocacy program for individuals involved in the justice system. After the success of the program, she was asked to take a position as a probation officer, and worked within corrections for a decade. She tells me during that time she would often be asked about a high-profile offender after people saw him on the news, as they assumed he was a wretched human being. “I’d say, ‘No, I talked to him today. He’s just like us,’” Sister Evelyn smiles. “People who are into crime — or who have been caught — are often the most creative people. They’re very bright, but they’ve just had less opportunities.” “Do you see it that way because of your faith?” I ask. “Yes, but it’s not a pious faith. It’s a faith in a God who lives among us. A God who calls us to pay attention to the most in need,” Sister Evelyn explains. “Because we’re journeyers as well. It’s not an attitude of, ‘I know what’s best for you,’ but an attitude of ‘hey we’re in this together.’” I study Sister Evelyn’s profile as she drives and wonder out loud if she is happy with her decision to become a nun. “Does it sound as though I’m happy?” her eyes dance as she chortles to herself. Of course I say yes; there’s no denying the way her smile brightens when she talks about her past, or how her voice gets loud and charged when she speaks of serving the poor. “There it is, there’s your answer,” she pauses. “You can’t live this life if it’s not for you. You need to know happiness, you need to know that your life is making a difference — that makes all the difference in the world.” She is quick to admit she’s had her share of difficulties, and sometimes wonders if she should have married Walter, a teenage friend of hers. “But nothing of any substance did I have to wrestle with in order to really continue to give my life to this lifestyle.” We turn a corner, and suddenly we are in Terence Bay. “So there’s our complex. Isn’t this lovely?” Sister Evelyn points to an old large white building on the top of the hill, standing beside an old abandoned church. It’s very Anne of Green Gables, with its white and green trim, surrounded by the sea. After she parks the car, Sister Lorraine who softly coos a “nice to meet you” greets us at the door. Sister Evelyn almost immediately leads me around the place, pointing out its cozy simplicity. The first
"You can’t live this life if it’s not for you. You need to know happiness, you need to know that your life is making a difference — that makes all the difference in the world."
The Seton Spirituality Centre is located beside the Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in Terence Bay, N.S. PHOTO BY LEANNE JANZEN
18 | CONVERGE. july - august 2013
floor contains offices, a large kitchen, a dining room and a couple of living rooms. The upstairs holds bedrooms with single beds in them. Landscape paintings decorate their otherwise bare walls. Further down the hall is the chapel: a stained-glass window funnels its coloured light onto the soft pink carpet. I can hear myself breathe, it’s like the sound of a thousand stars. The spirit of the place echoes that of Sister Evelyn and the others who make this their home. It’s alive with a deep aura of peace. I sit down with three out of the four Sisters. Sister Evelyn, of course; Sister Lorraine, a former teacher as well as a medical technologist and university chaplain; and Sister Maria who still works as a psychologist, practicing in Halifax a few days a week. They all work on multiple boards, and are involved in numerous organizations besides operating the Seton Spirituality Centre. As we sip our coffee around an oversized table, I want to know what their lives are like, what frustrates them, and what keeps them going.
What’s it like, living with each another?
Sister Evelyn. PHOTO BY LEANNE JANZEN
"If I was married, I probably wouldn’t be able to get into everything that I’m getting into as a Sister. It’s just different, not better. Never ever better."
Sister Maria: I think a key piece is living together for the
sake of the mission. We don’t come together just to live together. We don’t choose people to make a family as couples do. So this community comes together, you know, for a purpose. And that’s been a common bond from the beginning.
How does your lifestyle contribute to living out “God’s mission”?
What do you wish people would understand about you?
Sister Maria: I think it is a question of support. The living to-
Sister Maria: I would like people not to think that the church
supports us, that the bishop pays the bills, or that the parish pays the bills. We’re a self-supporting organization. In this house, everything we earn goes to one bank account. And it’s used for whatever needs we have. So if someone earns nothing, or earns $100,000 a year, it doesn’t change the way we live.
Sister Evelyn: I guess one of the other areas for me would
be visibility, like habit. That’s always an issue. While we’d like to know when there are Sisters present, I wore the habit for a while, and it’s an awful experience to just to be gawked at and treated differently.
Sister Maria: The habit was a sign, a visible sign that we were
turning away from the world, that we’re different. But it removed us from the people that we wanted to serve. It gave them the impression that, ‘she cannot understand my problems because my problems are human problems, and she isn’t human.’ It was letting go of something that we wanted to let go of.
Sister Evelyn: Another misunderstanding is they see us, and
we drive cars; we don’t, you know, walk to town. We live in a nice-looking house. We have what we need, we have food, we have all those things. And then they look at us, and most of us have had teacher jobs, government jobs with pensions. But our money has never ever been just for us. Our money is not so that we can build bigger places, it’s to be used for ministry, it’s to be used to address the issues, to address some of the injustices around us.
gether and praying together and sharing values supports each one in whatever particular way they’re engaging.
Sister Lorraine: I think that sharing the values piece is im-
portant because everyone who is in a community, and however else we might be different, we have the belief that we are here for mission. Where you could be in other communities, where people would say, ‘why would you want to do that? You know, it’s not going to give you a pension.’ So it’s the shared values.
Sister Evelyn: I have more time than say my sister who, when
she first got married, had a husband, two children, a family. I don’t have all of that to juggle. I mean, I have relationships, and she’s got relationships. She reaches out to the poor, I reach out, but it’s just done differently. Because I think of the shared community aspect, there’s more time, and there are more people to do that reaching out. So there is a sense that if I was married, I probably wouldn’t be able to get into everything that I’m getting into as a Sister. It’s just different, not better. Never ever better. I entered into my interview with the Sisters of Charity expecting not to be able to relate to these ladies, anticipating a measure of awkwardness because of how different our lives are. These Sisters I met today are just women who have chosen a life of service. Sure they’ve forsaken some pleasures, but that doesn’t mean they live dull and uninspired lives. Within minutes of meeting them, I discovered I had more in common with these passionate, intelligent and sparkly-eyed women than I had differences. convergemagazine.com
FIELD NOTES Vol.7
SEXUAL COMPETITION One-upping the competitors
By Chelsea Batten Continuing the trend of comparing my field notes with those of others, I thought I’d get in touch with Max and Lauren Dubinsky. If you don’t know who they are, well, you must be new. Each half of the Dubinsky partnership has their mission aimed at helping their sex (as in gender) be better at what they do. A big part of what they advocate is cutting everybody some slack, and looking for the good in the different. That’s what I wanted to talk to them about — how things might change in the church if we lowered our pointer fingers a little. Or maybe they needed to prove me wrong, thinking this sexual competitiveness was a thing.
Lauren: [laughs] We always have to say that.
Me: But it’s true. If we’re going to ask the
church, or people in it, to stop pointing fingers, we have to stop, too.
Lauren: It’s an awesome thing to get to
the place where they’re just people, and God made them the way He made them for their own life story, and it has nothing to do with what I’m doing with my life. It’s an amazing thing to participate in that life.
Max: The church is always going to be
broken. You’re just talking to two people who came out of churches that were missing the mark. But they did a lot of things right. It just sucks that the wrong things they do sometimes take a personal toll. The same thing that encouraged one per-
20 | CONVERGE. july - august 2013
Lauren: Max is an extraordinarily nice
Me: Lauren recently wrote
most men are.
a blog that made me think about how women in the church view each other with suspicion, if one doesn’t seem to follow the same rules as the others. Is this just me?
Lauren: When you believe that your
beauty and sexuality is the ticket to what you want most in life, you will pit yourself against anything that makes it harder for you to attain that. So when life is hard, your enemies are the prettier girls. Because in a professional sense, I know that men hire the prettiest girls. In a personal sense, I don’t want to always feel bad about myself around her. I don’t want any love interest in my life distracted by her.
Me: Max, is this exclusively a chick thing? Or do men operate this way, too?
Max: I can only speak for my personal
experience. If I see men doing things I cannot do, and think I cannot pull off, I want to gravitate towards them, not push them away.
Max: I would like to think that’s the way Lauren: So If you walk into a room ...
hypothetically, you’re single, so you can save face in this ... and there’s a really attractive woman, and one other guy you think is more attractive than you, how do you process that? Do you feel insecure? Do you feel a competitive spirit towards him? Are you comparing yourself? Because if I walk into a room with another girl that I think is really beautiful, and there’s another really good looking guy in the room, I instantly have a sense of defeat.
Max: The guy who’s confident, who has
a great one-liner to everything everyone says, who isn’t afraid of confrontation ... I often fantasize “I wish that I had that. I wish I could be as brave as he is, to say those things.” But I never want to eliminate those people from my life. I see them as men to look up to.
Me: Max, maybe we need to fire you and bring in a guy that’s not as nice as you.
Photos courtesy of Max and Lauren Dubinsky
Max: I like church, for the record. I think
son really hurt me. That’s just a battle we have to face.
LAUREN: Obviously, I know this can dif- Max: Before I married Lauren, fer from guy to guy. I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I know you are insecure about your looks.
Max: Always! Lauren: But secure about yourself as a person. They seem to be very separate things, to him. Whereas for me, they are much more closely tied to one another. One thing that has driven this concept home for me is getting married. If you go into marriage with the idea that you got your husband because you’re the prettiest girl he met, that puts you in a position where if your husband ever sees a girl that’s prettier than you, you’re in danger.
Me: Well ... I know those women, don’t
a Christian man called me up on the phone and said, “If you’re serious about marrying Lauren, you need to get your act together. You need to be a man.” I felt exactly where God needed me to be, but I listened to this guy and was like “Oh crap. I need to be a man. I can’t marry this woman who told me she loved me, and we’ll be together no matter what happens.” As a man, you have to have everything together, and then God will bring you a wife.
Is your journey taking you where you need to go? Why wait?
Lauren: That’s relegating hu-
man beings into a role that you think all people in that gender have to fit into.
Max: As a man in the church, LAUREN: Women walk into church and see you have these credentials, your some girl with great legs, rocking a skirt that goes too short. Our thought is, “It’s not fair ... I covered up more, to not be a slut at church.”
ME: Church becomes like high school. Lauren: I can’t tell you how many girls I’ve talked to who grow up in church, get to their late 20s, and they think they’re still single because the girls who dress more provocatively in church are getting the guys. That lands you in a really complicated point — on one hand, they’re absolutely right. Every man wants to be with a confident woman, and ultimately that’s what dressing provocatively communicates. That they’re confident in their body. Me: Max, you can’t tell me there’s not some guy version of this.
Godly performance. And then you’ll get a wife. But not before.
Me: I knew there had to be a
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guy version of this sexual competitive thing!
Lauren: The goal is to treat
beauty and sexuality as something that we all have been inherently given. The beauty and sexuality in other people doesn’t negate ours. It’s not something that only one person can own. It’s a good thing, it’s not something that is bad, or has any ability to steal what God has given me. When I viewed everyone as competition, I had no close girlfriends. When I realized they had this potential to be my sisters, I became a magnet for awesome girls who were looking to really be intimate friends with other girls. It was a major shift in my life.
Max: Girls seem to be attracted to men who look Max: Lauren is very approachable. I told her yessuper “Godly.” I had someone once tell me I looked really hot worshipping. That made me say “Okay, on Sunday, if I put my hands in the air and go down front, girls are going to notice me. Girls are going to look at me and think ‘Wow, that’s a godly man.’” When you’re a Christian guy who is serving and worshipping, women are attracted to you. I used that to my advantage, and tried to date them all. I couldn’t go to church if my hair didn’t look good, or my shirt didn’t fit right. I had to look my best.
Me: So we try to strike this weird balance between being both physically and spiritually appealing ... and when someone else plays the game better than us, or refuses to play the game at all, we judge them. Is that fair to say?
terday, we were walking down the street, and I told her she has a very friendly look. You are a very friendly person.
Lauren: That’s so not true! I’m the person everyone thinks is a bitch, and everyone talks to you because you look so nice.
Max and Lauren blog at The Good Men Project and The Good Women Project, respectively. Their writing can be found all over the place; they themselves live in Hollywood, California
Max: I just feel like when we’re out, people talk to you. I think you have a very comforting aura about you.
Lauren: That’s so nice of you to say. Me: Um ... I’m still here, you guys.
WOMEN IN THE PULPIT Should females preach?
By Nick Schuurman
Equipping people to be pillars of His Church. You’ve heard God’s calling; now make Heritage College & Seminary part of your response. Heritage offers diverse options to serve students’ spiritual, leadership and educational needs, including undergraduate diplomas, degrees, certificates and seminary graduate programs. Our lively campus community is conveniently located in Southern Ontario. Book your campus tour today. Join us as we equip people to be pillars of His Church.
Pursuing God with Passion & Excellence 22 | CONVERGE. july - august 2013
Illustration by Carly Martin
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“What do you do,” her voice strained, discussions about Scripture, interpreta“when everything inside of you feels like tion and culture. They are exchanges in you are supposed to do this thing, serve which the identity, sense of calling, and God in this particular way, and then spiritual buoyancy of actual people are someone comes and completely dele- at stake. If you’ve been in either of those gitimizes that desire?” I was struck, as places, you already know exactly what I she sat there, red-eyed and silent, by the mean, because you’ve felt it. complexity of it all. Here was a woman The conflict, as the reader has no who could have chosen any career path, doubt gathered, is in regards to the but, for any number of reasons, decided question of women in ministry. The to sacrifice untold time and resources in struggle, which at its most basic level is order to serve the church — the church primarily about interpretation, has rethat so desperately needs leaders. Even sulted in some of the most painful and the most gentle word of disagreement confusing chapters in recent church his(and I am certain that the word which tory. was spoken to her that day was anyThroughout the New Testament, thing but), I realized, runs the risk of a number of prohibitions and guidecompletely wrecking a person in such a lines are given in regards to the place situation. of women in the life of the church. In “There are a few of us,” another friend his correspondence with a number of told me years later over lunch, rattling early churches and young leaders, Paul off a couple of names we both knew. explains, for example, that he “does not While by no means unbearable, the permit a woman to teach or assume ausense of alienation and belittlement I thority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12). knew he felt was troubling him. DeReaders can either take these texts as pending on what sort of circles you find universally applicable imperatives (and yourself in, admitting that you believe fall into a camp commonly referred to women should not be alas “complementarianism”) or lowed to serve as pastors or understand them as historielders may put you in a scrucally specific to the particutinized minority. lar first century communities Here was one of the most that are described in the New sensitive, intelligent people Testament text (a position ofI know — a man who deeply ten described as “egalitarianloves the church and treats ism”). women with incredible reI’ve heard the arguments, spect — left completely disworked through the texts, heartened in the wake of an and, if you ask me, I will cerexchange in which he was, tainly tell you where I stand on account of his position, on the issue. What I am more presented as little more than concerned with at this point, a close-minded bigot. however, is the question of Nick The power of these achow we debate. I’ve seen this Schuurman counts, of course, is their issue cause people to say some lives in pathos, the sense in which of the most brutally offensive Cambridge, they serve as reminders that things and completely tear Ontario, and theological arguments such communities apart. Whatstudies at as this one exist as someever the debate happens to McMaster Divinity College. thing more than abstract be about — political affilia-
What I am more concerned with at this point, however, is the question of how we debate. I’ve seen this issue cause people to say some of the most brutally offensive things and completely tear communities apart.
BRETT MCCRACKEN Author of Hipster Christianity
tion, abortion, military involvement, gay rights — is it possible to take seriously the claims of Scripture while committing to a posture of radical humility and a vision of the image of God and need for grace that we all share? For egalitarians, that may mean remembering that the folks who believe the pulpit is reserved for men generally didn’t get to that place because they are culturally-regressive misogynists. They (and I know quite a few women for whom this is also the case) have seriously and prayerfully wrestled with the texts, and while part of them perhaps wishes it were not the case, have moved forward in the conviction that this is how it ought to inform the shared practice of their communities. Likewise, individuals in support of a complementarian, or male-exclusive vision of pastoral ministry, perhaps need to keep in mind that those who support the ordination of women have not necessarily abandoned all sense of scriptural
authority in order to align themselves with shifting cultural norms. I am not talking about everyone getting along, or suggesting that important convictions about Christian faith and practice ought to be abandoned for the sake of some sort of false sense of unity. What I hope and long for instead is a restored sense of dignity when it comes to dialogue, something that has proven increasingly difficult in an era of mediated discourse in which knee-jerk reactions are hammered out digitally in seconds. Conversations like these cannot be avoided, nor can one avoid committing to a position when it comes to the issue (this is clearly a debate in which the two options cannot both be true). It may bring a number of wounds, and it may bring a measure of division, but as we wrestle with the texts and discern how they ought to inform our faith and practice, we ought to do so in a way that is marked by love.
“McCracken is one of this generation’s leading thinkers on the intersection of faith and culture. If you start reading this book, beware— you won’t be able to put it down.” —JONATHAN MERRITT, faith and culture writer; author stillsearching.wordpress.com facebook.com/graymattersbook @brettmccracken
Relevant. Intelligent. Engaging. Available wherever books and ebooks are sold. FB ReadBakerBooks • TT @ReadBakerBooks convergemagazine.com
Justice for the unborn
and their mothers Why the one-child policy is the greatest women’s rights issue today
By Shara Lee
quick Google search of “forced abortions in China” yields disturbing images, but be warned, they’re not for the faint of heart. If you weren’t aware that the one-child policy was forcefully implemented before, seeing these pictures should quell any unbelief. I myself would have pleaded ignorance before Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, showed me pictures that not only brought tears to me eyes, but also rage to my inner conscience. What I see shocks me. Instead of the afterbirth glow of joy I’m used to seeing on women who have recently given birth, I see women sprawled out on hospital beds either passed out or wearing a looks of utter despair on their faces with their dead, full-term, babies lying in plastic bags bloodied from violent surgeries. “The first woman I represented was Reggie Littlejohn with pictures of the baby girls rescued through the Save a Girl Program forcibly sterilized,” says Littlejohn who was an attorney before she became solely devoted to women’s rights. “I’m a graduate of Yale Law School, and I was a commercial litigator in San Francisco for “Remember, this is an official policy, eight years,” she tells me. “During that time I also represented this is a government policy. We’re not Chinese refugees and cases for political asylum in the United talking about women going to Planned WATCH: States.” Parenthood to have an abortion. They Littlejohn exposes “Here I was an associate at a major law firm, enjoying all the have Family Planning Police that will the truth behind benefits of free society and I couldn’t believe that this was hapbreak your door down if they find out you China’s Once Child pening.” Her voice crescendos as she continues, “my life was so are pregnant without a birth permit,” LitPolicy. civilized and I could not believe that on the other side of the tlejohn says emphatically. “They have a Warning: Graphic world, at that moment women were being dragged out of their system of paid informants so that a womimages homes and strapped down to tables and forced to abort babies an can be reported by her neighbours, her even up till the ninth month of pregnancy,” friends, her co-workers, or her supervisor. “I think the fact that I had had my own miscarriages made me They’re just paid to look at women’s abdomore sensitive to that issue than I otherwise would have been mens to see if they look any bigger. What because it just gripped me on a very visceral level,” she says. this does is rupture the relationships of Littlejohn eventually won the case and the Chinese woman trust in Chinese society. I think this is was able to seek asylum in the United States. She tells me that one of the reasons they want to keep the she’s never lost an asylum case. “Those are the cases I lose sleep policy. Because if you can’t trust, you can’t over,” she says. organize for democracy.”
24 | CONVERGE. july - august 2013
Photos by Carmen Bright
This breakdown of trust in society has caused those involved to lose their humanity, whether it’s those that do the reporting, or those that perform the abortions. This is clearly expressed in an Op Ed piece in The New York Times by Chinese writer Ma Jian, who writes: “One woman told me how, when she was eight months pregnant with an illegal second child and was unable to pay the 20,000 yuan fine (about $3,200), family planning officers dragged her to the local clinic, bound her to a surgical table and injected a lethal drug into her abdomen. For two days she writhed on the table, her hands and feet still bound with rope, waiting for her body to eject the murdered baby. In the final stage of labor, a male doctor yanked the dead fetus out by the foot, then dropped it into a garbage can. She had no money for a cab. She had to hobble home, blood dripping down her legs and staining her white sandals red.” But while the reality is stark, Littlejohn is doing her part to help where she can. She tells me that her organization works to prevent gendercide and save the lives of baby girls. In China (like in a lot of other parts of the world) males are highly valued. “Many people want their only child or one of their two children to be a boy because of son preference, and so they selectively abort and abandon baby girls,” she says. “Many people view that second baby as their last chance to have a boy.” In the countryside, if a woman’s first child is a girl, she can get a second birth permit to try again for a boy. But what ends up happening is that women will keep aborting their baby girls until they get a boy. “We have a program that encourages people to keep their babies. We call it the ‘Save a Girl Program,’” says Littlejohn. The program identifies women who are pregnant with girls, who are planning to have an abortion, or who have recently given birth to girls and gives them a small stipend for a year to help support the baby. “To my knowledge we have a hundred per cent success rate,” says Littlejohn. Littlejohn is also continuing her advocacy work by testifying at Parliaments around the world as well as in her own United States congress so that the full scope of what is happening in China is made clear to them. Littlejohn tells me that many people in North America are misinformed
One-Child Policy Facts from Littlejohn Fines for having a baby without a birth permit can reach up to 10 times a woman’s annual salary. Most women cannot afford to pay and are subject to a forced abortion An estimated 590 women kill themselves a day in China In the countryside where they have a two-child policy, demographers have found couples are willing to let nature take its course on the first baby, it’s on the second child that you get 140, 160, 190 boys born for every 100 girls You cannot get a birth permit if you’re not married. So the option for single mothers is abortion, going into hiding, or abandoning her child Women who are wealthy can get around the policy by having their children abroad (usually in Hong Kong or Singapore) or by paying enormous fines. China has a whole population of illegal children. These children have no access to education, healthcare, cannot officially marry, hold jobs, or get passports
about the one-child policy in China. Some people think it was abolished years ago. That’s one of the things that she has to struggle against. She says that the western media completely mischaracterizes certain exceptions as the end of the one-child policy. She gives the example of Shanghai a city where the birth rate was so low that couples who are themselves only children are allowed to have a second child. “As recently as January of this year, the head of the Family Planning commission said that China must ‘unwaveringly adhere’ to the one-child policy.” says Littlejohn. “China is not ending the one-child policy,” “They’re completely unbalancing the population,” says Littlejohn. “That in turn is driving human trafficking and sexual slavery. So people sometimes ask, how do women in China deal with this? Well, China has a higher suicide rate than any country in the world.” The sex selective abortion and abandonment of baby girls has led to a situation where there are now 37 million more men living in China than women. That is a recipe for serious social instability. I ask Littlejohn what she thinks would happen if the one-child Policy were abolished completely. “China would not have a population explosion. The entire population has had it hammered into their head for so long that small families are better,” she tells me. “What would happen is the population would start to right itself.” Littlejohn says that in the Mao era, couples were encouraged to have many children. Now all those children are elderly. “So now China’s got this tsunami of retirees without the young population to support them.” Littlejohn calls this policy, the greatest women’s rights issue in the world today. “The core of the policy is not whether you’re allowed to have one child or two,” she says. “The core of the policy is the government telling you how many kids you can have and then enforcing that limit coercively.” Hearing those words gives me a chill. This is no government, this is a totalitarian regime.
Top: One of many one-child policy propaganda reading “Carry out family planning, implement the basic national policy” from 1986. Designer: Zhou Yuwei Bottom: Reggie Littlejohn holds a photo of a woman lying next to her dead child after a forced abortion convergemagazine.com
Every year Earth Day Canada, with financial support from the Toyota Canada Foundation, recognizes the environmental leadership of graduating high school and CĂŠgep students in Canada. The following are the 2013 scholarship winners.
2013 National Winner, Saskia Vaisey (Port Moody, BC) Saskia is the co-founder and leader of her high school Green Team and led the implementation of an organic garden and the schoolâ€™s first composting program. She recently took on a worldwide awareness campaign about the impact of water shortages. As one of seven youth ambassadors for the organization impossible2Possible, she ran a 182-kilometre ultra-marathon across Botswana and connected with over one hundred classrooms across the globe via videos, blogs and live video conferencing to engage them in the topic of water. Saskia is also a peer leader for the Catching the Spirit Youth Society, a National Youth in Parks advisory board member and volunteers with Mossom Creek Hatchery.
Regional Winners Deven Azevedo Langley, BC
Nicole Doray Thornhill, ON
Thea Olalia Winnipeg, MB
Kelsey Shaw Orillia, ON
Kathleen (Kate) Berger Medicine Hat, AB
Nayani Jensen Halifax, NS
Kristina Parker Conestogo, ON
Danvy Tran Calgary, AB
Marie-Christine Bouchard-Martel Alma, QC
Jenny Kuan Brossard, QC
Rosa Poirier-McKiggan Dartmouth, NS
Monique Tuin Georgetown, ON
Alexandra Bruni-Bossio Jasper, AB
Nhat-Tan Nguyen Montreal, QC
Sandrine Renaud Quebec, QC
Katherine Wheatley Pointe-Claire, QC
ShengDi (Sharon) Chen Markham, ON
Raphael Nowak Kelowna, BC
Laura Rigg Dartmouth, NS
To read more about these outstanding young leaders, please visit
26 | CONVERGE. july - august 2013
On the blue period Helping guys through crises of faith ... and setting boundaries
By Lauren Hjalmarson
Flickr photo (cc) by STEFF LING
assumed that it was all a part of Christian courting. Until, that is, Ryan was on top of me. Okay, maybe it was a red flag when he asked me to turn out the lights. But still, it’s not like he declared the intention behind that request. He didn’t say, “Hey, could you turn out the lights? ‘Cause I want to...” There was no explanation offered for what Ryan was planning to do once our setting was intimate enough for his tastes. There was only a cute little blanket fort and a little less ability to see than usual. He’d told me all about the youth ministry degree he was working on just the week before. That was collateral for my innocence, was it not? I had hoped so; but things continued to intensify, and I had to pull back and ask. “So, hang on — sorry,” I said. “I’m just, a little confused.” There was a pause. Ryan’s breathing was heavy. “Okay ... ?” “I just thought ... well, I didn’t expect this. Aren’t you in school for ministry?” “Ohhhh ... yeah, about that ...” Ryan proceeded to lay out for me what he had consciously neglected to mention earlier: that he was in the midst of a profound struggle concerning his faith, and as a result, he was not actively holding to the guidelines it set out for him. I wasn’t a believer at the time, only feeling pulled towards
what I knew to be truth, so we went back to kissing, and things progressed from there. In every sense. Reflecting on the evening and on the entire relationship later on, I realize that I shouldn’t have pretended I was okay with how enthusiastically Ryan had educated me about his degree path and then how casually he had followed that up by taking off his own pants in my bed. I knew that Ryan was acting inconsistently with the values he had professed to hold close, and I wasn’t okay with that. But, somehow, I’d fallen in love that night. I couldn’t say no to him, and he used me thoughtlessly for the rest of that summer and a good part of the next. What resulted was an exceptionally deep hurt to my heart — one that took its time healing after things finally ended between us. It was the large number of sexual encounters that were peppered throughout that relationship that formed the cornerstone of the hurt. I expect that Ryan is as ashamed of those encounters now as I am, because he’s engaged. He’s getting married next month to the lovely Christian girl who was one of his closest friends throughout the time he messed around with me. See, Ryan came through that rebellious searching stage, but when he reached the point of readiness to commit I was in no condition to be anybody’s girlfriend. I was in shambles, a wreck of raw nerves, my head spinning with what I’d been through as I had given everything in the hopes of my love being returned. Ryan decided it was time for him to start dating somebody more seriously, saw another girl over my shoulder, and moved on. Now he’s engaged, and me? Well, I’m writing this column. I learned a lot through that relationship, though: recently I dated a nice guy from my university who was in a very convergemagazine.com
similar stage to where Ryan was at when we were a couple, and, like Ryan, he constantly wanted things to go further physically than I was comfortable with. I said no to him, but he would ask again. And again. And again. After a few months of saying no I was tired of it and let him know things weren’t going to work out. But guess what? There are no hard feelings. If he was to come out of that stage — that searching stage which I’ve begun to think is a rite of passage for nearly all Christian men these days — we would still have a solid enough friendship as the basis of our acquaintance that we could get back together. And I am sure, from personal experience, that that would not be the case if I had let things go where he wanted them. Because of this experience I am fully comfortable calling my Christian guy friends on their crap when I see them in that blue period. I did this just recently with a 20-year-old buddy of mine who was messing with a girl’s head by alternately hooking up with her, telling her that he’s a Christian and has to stop, and then doing it again (with absolutely no intention of dating the girl). When I heard that this young woman had asked for a good-bye kiss in public the last time they’d seen each other, thinking that because they’d been intimate the week before that it would be alright, and that he had denied her, that was it. I sat the guy down and gave him a piece of my mind. And you know what? He listened. He thanked me for being so honest and for giving him the kick in the pants that he needed,
and then he proceeded to conduct a clear and kind conversation with this girl in which he let her know that he couldn’t spend time with her any more because he couldn’t keep hurting her. She was upset of course, but as much as I would have hated to hear the same thing from Ryan when we were together, I really do wish he’d had the guts to say it. It would have saved me a lot of pain. Ultimately, when guys are in that stage of not knowing what they believe, they just need listening ears and responsive communicators. They need the women they know to pray with them, and they really, really, need us to give it to them straight. Not knowing what they believe easily becomes an excuse for them to be thoughtless in an area that has always had hard and fast rules. It can also be a lot less difficult a time for them and for the women they date if friends will be honest about what they’re seeing. When Ryan screwed around with me, our mutual girlfriends all knew what was going on and hated him for it, but none of them sat him down and told him it needed to stop. Don’t be them in that situation. And don’t sell yourself short, either. You deserve to be treated properly. If you love a guy who’s rebelling against his faith, recognize that he’s a wild card right now and stick to both your physical and emotional boundaries. Talk to him, and be clear that you know what you believe and that, if he wants to be with you, he needs to invest in knowing what he does, too. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
When Ryan screwed around with me, our mutual girlfriends all knew what was going on and hated him for it, but none of them sat him down and told him it needed to stop.
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By Craig Ketchum
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A grade 12 student of mine amazed me recently in her critique of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. “It was visionary for his time”, she quipped, “but we can’t stop there. We need to have an even bigger vision today.” Like King advocating eloquently for the black American, the world’s women desperately needed heroic female visionaries to close the gap on equality. The waves of feminism fought, and, for a large part, won an uphill battle. I’m not about to say the fight is over, nor diminish the pervasive subtleties that characterize women’s challenges today. Feminism was a good thing; necessary in order that women could enjoy the freedoms they do in Western culture. Some of these freedoms have impacted other cultures. However, feminism is deeply misunderstood. It’s caricatured and blamed for the breakdown of marriage and society. One well-known Evangelical suggests that feminism turns women into lesbians who hate their husbands and kill their children. These narrow-minded and ill-informed views couldn’t be more wrong. Feminism neither destroyed marriage nor created abortion. Women’s rights is not some kind of culprit. Marriage has been deeply broken for a long, long time, and children die where patriarchy reigns like a lion. These problems have existed since original sin, with a refusal of responsibility and the start of the blame game.
But feminism won’t save the world. It won’t accomplish everything it wants to accomplish. That is because what it is fighting against is a more pervasive and transcendent evil that has been at work throughout time. Read deeper into the Genesis 3 account. Whether this story is literal or figurative, it portrays fundamental truths about humanity. Who is the perpetrator of sin in Genesis 3? Not woman. She did not invent temptation! Notice further that “the man was with her” and went along with it. Man didn’t stand up for the victim. He blamed her after things came crashing down. This game of blaming the victim continues to this day. A woman is raped, and we want to know what she was wearing, whether she had drank, or in what part of town she was. The perpetrator completely drops off the map and the woman is identified as blameworthy. This is where you come in, especially if you are a man. Man and woman have been playing the blame game for a long time now, but this isn’t a war. We’re on the same side. If we fight against each other rather than join forces, it will never end. We need to start seeing that gender issues are not women’s issues. Gender is something we all have. And the gender issues that face our world are ones that can only be addressed if both genders co-operate. Violence against women is distressingly prevalent in our culture. Most of us are virtually complicit as women are patronized, underpaid, underrepresented, silenced, and objectified, let alone abused. Men who stand up against the status quo are seen to be in the minority, effeminate, over-sensitive, and slapped What do Christianity and with a variety of other colourful designafeminism have in common? tions. What we need are men and women who care deeply about the human race A desire for fullest human and see the sense in advancing freedom, compassion, and equality for everyone. If flourishing, freedom from you’re a guy, are you willing to speak up and tell your friends it’s not cool when all forms of oppression, they degrade a woman or objectify her? If you’re a woman, are you willing to stand and compassion for up for yourself by having a heart to heart with men or women in your life who need the powerless. Both to know the impact of their words and acChristianity and feminism tions? Strangely enough, for all that feminism aim at justice and and Christianity have in common, some Christians are the most ardent opponents self-reflection. to women’s rights. What do Christianity and feminism have in common? A desire for fullest human flourishing, freedom from all forms of oppression, and compassion for the powerless. Both Christianity and feminism aim at justice and selfreflection. Both involve seeing the other as an equal. The Gospel of Jesus carries no extra labels — His Gospel is greater than any ideology. To think Jesus was a feminist is to think too small. Jesus is a greater way than Feminism. It is okay for Christians to be feminists, but not as their primary identity. One’s identity as a Christian is greater than one’s identification with feminism, conservatism, environmentalism, veganism, socialism, or any other ideology you can name. All ideologies must bow before the name of Jesus, else they transgress into the realm of idolatry, taking precedence where only God ought. In the book of Revelation, Jesus proclaims, “See, I make all things new”. Jesus’ vision of a renewed cosmos outshines even the most complete of feminist visions. Paul took this pretty seriously, writing: “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). If we take the Gospel seriously, His good news touches all areas of life. Everything is permeable to Jesus — architecture, art, relationships, memory, education, technology, everything. The Gospel presents humanity with a cosmos that is diametrically different to what exists in its absence. convergemagazine.com
Woman by Chelsea Batten // Photos by Lizzette Miller
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It took me years of trying to be this woman before I remembered that God’s word to Eve in Genesis 3.16—”Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”—is a curse.
They say that sex changes everything. I think they’re more right than they know. Sex doesn’t only change a relationship; it also changes the people in it. In this selfstyled age of equality, Sex: The Physical Act is perhaps the only thing that activates the significance of Sex: The Physiological Category. As a result, the things for which you’re applauded as a child — intelligence, aptitude, athleticism — are scaled very differently when you reach sexual maturity. At that point, if you’re a guy, people will start trying to help you find a role that suits those gifts. If you’re a woman, they’ll start trying to help you find a way for your gifts to suit a role. You know the one. It goes by the witty phrase “domestic engineer” on a good day. I suppose the world might harbour some justified resentment if all women began refusing the one role that only they can biologically fulfill. Perhaps that’s why time and tradition have conspired to make us feel guilty if we don’t put it at the top of our priority list. Besides, for every other job, there’s a man who can do it. Whose self-respect requires him to do it. Who fears and resents anyone who might take it away from him. Women complement this fear with a fear of their own: that their only shot at getting (and keeping) the right kind of man is to be the right kind of woman. What is the right kind of woman? God help us — she’s everything. She’s a girl-next-door type with a porn star’s prowess. She’s a model of virtue who turns heads when she crosses the street. She’s mysterious, and also dependable. She’s caring, and also detached. She’s intelligent, but doesn’t talk too much. She’s talented, but doesn’t come on too strong. She’s the one who makes it as easy and rewarding as possible for a man to be what he’s supposed to be.
Both in the church and out of it, no matter how progressive the culture, there seems to be a prevailing certainty that whatever else a woman wants, it’s anchored by a desire for a spouse, a home, and kids. Any discussion about women in careers inevitably becomes a discussion about “having it all.” And “having it all” sounds greedy. I suppose that is why, no matter how many laws get passed to give women opportunities to work outside the home, the reactions toward them taking those opportunities remain dramatically polarized. On one hand, there are the carryover attitudes of the 1970s NOW movement, when domestically-minded women were treated with contempt usually reserved for union scabs. This movement has many feminists of today’s third wave talking about whether to discard the term “feminist” altogether. It carries the connotation of bitch and harridan, never satisfied, always put-upon. On the other hand, there’s Pinterest. According to a cursory poll of my friends, this social medium, used primarily by housewives to grade their home economics for comfort, chic, and effortlessness, is a lot like the bathroom scale — used most devotedly by women who resent its existence. (A friend of mine toys with the idea of starting a Pinterest board with lovingly Photoshopped images of cupcakes fallen in the middle, and children caught taking a dump behind the sofa.) These phenomena, of course, aren’t relegated to the women who have homes and families to arrange among their priorities. Women who want those things are judged, or judge themselves, by the same standards. What no one seems able, or willing, to countenance is that some women might not want those things, or at least not want them the most. This is the mindset that no wave of feminism to date has been able to wash away. Single men might be socially pressured to want these things;
There seems to be a prevailing certainty that whatever else a woman wants, it’s anchored by a desire for a spouse, a home, and kids.
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I’m not sure that’s as bad as having it assumed that you want them. That any unhappiness in your life can be traced back to domestic woes. That not having a husband as your default top priority means that there is something emotionally or spiritually wrong with you. Since men’s priorities are not assumed on the basis of their physical aptitude for creating offspring, they have more freedom to find and forge their own mode of expression. They function in the world — in the evangelical world, in particular — very much like a writer does with his editor. Here’s the work, let’s make it the best we can by its own standard, and then we’ll find an audience that it’s suited to. For women, it’s much more like what a writer experiences with clients. Here’s what I want from you; please adjust your ideas, voice and presentation accordingly.
That it ought to be this way is the premise of complementarianism. Men create the work, and women do whatever they can to be helpful. According to staunch complementarians such as Nancy Leigh DeMoss, a good woman is one who learns to do this without being asked, functioning much like a spiritual zamboni, appearing only during breaks in the action, methodically smoothing the arena in preparation for when the real players return. This, they say, is what it means for wives to submit to their husbands. (The desire for whom, you’ll recall, is a woman’s defining characteristic.) Those who try to soft-pedal the issue by allowing women to have their own voices, but only within a narrow sphere of operation (in such prestigious places as Her-Meneutics and the Gospel Coalition for Women), reason that men are in need of the help women can give them only through silence and passivity. Witness to this is borne by the recent comments of Dr. John Piper, made in the final 60 seconds of a five-minute podcast Q&A about whether he’d submit to the truth found in a Biblical commentary if it was written by a woman. For the first four minutes, Dr. Piper answered a garbled yes to this question. The followup question, asking how this was any different from being taught on a Sunday morning by a female pastor, provoked Dr. Piper to reference the “female personhood” as being a mitigating factor in how the Bible allows men to access its truth. Soft-core complementarians are always laying these traps for themselves, which are then assiduously monitored by militant egalitarians. In response to Dr. Piper’s comments, the evangelical feminism blogs blew up with a thousand rehashed versions of the opinion voiced by queen bee Rachel Held Evans. The fame Ms. Evans earned for her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood is quickly being eclipsed by her endless bonepicking with Dr. Piper. In this round, she extrapolated his fuzzy reference to “female personhood” as meaning possession of breasts. Probably she was right; Dr. Piper has frequently copped to a personal struggle with lust. But rather than find the humour in his gaffe, feminists took the occasion to lob a lot of stones, the kind that agitates the supporters you already have, while distancing the people who disagreed or weren’t sure. Far from being persuasive, the argument only polarized the issue more.
To non-Christian feminists, this must all seem ludicrous. The ladies (and gentlemen) of the mainstream movement have long since learned to laugh at themselves. The threat to society that gender politics posed back in the 70s is pretty much gone, replaced by semantic quibbles over intractable attitudes that are better worth mocking than attacking. But for Christians, the threat is still very much alive, and I think it’s more than just a matter of trailing a few decades behind, as we do in music, fashion and other aspects of popular culture. I think it’s because we still care very personally about marriage. People always react strongest when what they want is most threatened.
Judging by the frequency with which various bloggers refer to the support of the men in their lives, it seems it’s only safe to be a feminist in the church after you’re married. No matter how progressive we get, a woman’s opinion is still only as credible as her ability to keep a husband. Being the right kind of woman is the key to more than just convergemagazine.com
marriage, then; it’s the key to being heard. This could be why women’s Bible studies consistently outnumber those for men. Men are out there being and doing to get what they want, while women are still trying to figure out how to be, in order to deserve what they want. According to Good Women Project founder Lauren Dubinsky, one of the main places this problem festers is in socalled “modesty culture.” “I think what the church needs to do right now is eliminate this outrageous modesty/lust thing,” she says. “When you
into sexist caricatures. There's no shortage of ministries, books, studies and counselling protocols to help with conflict between the sexes. But however thorough their research or accurate their diagnoses might be, these ministries are apt to become petri dishes for the proliferation of the gender problem. The valuable advice they dispense gets misappropriated by people and cultures, to say nothing of churches, in teaching that a certain kind of man is more worthy of say, respect or leadership, or a certain kind of woman is more loveable or desirable.
A good woman is one who learns to do this without being asked, functioning much like a spiritual zamboni, appearing only during breaks in the action, methodically smoothing the arena in preparation for when the real players return. teach the women in your congregation to alter or hide the way they were created in order for men to be good men, it puts women instantly back in the position of being evaluated and valued based on how they look.” On one hand, she says, it tells women that if they dress a certain way, they have unaddressed issues of sexual sin, and that they aren’t fit for dating. On the other hand, she says, the guys at church are guys, and they are often drawn to women who dress more provocatively. But by saddling women with the responsibility for managing men’s problem with lust, she says, “you are teaching that other women’s bodies have the power to control the men in the congregation.” That brings up a point that could be really funny, if it didn’t hurt so many people: that the modesty police, many of whom come from the strictly submissive, complementarian side of the fence, are promoting a subversive form of women’s leadership of the church. It’s like when you find out in The Stepford Wives that the community of perfect robotic women was created not by a diabolical man, but by a sad, disillusioned woman, who engineered perfect wives that made it easy for men to be good. It’s an ethos that hurts not only women, but also men. Strong, assertive women can’t help but resent a man who doesn’t exhibit the traits that they are suppressing for his sake. The more women push themselves to be clinging and demure, regardless of their real personality, the more men are encouraged to be forceful and domineering, regardless of their real personality. When cultivated without regard for the individual, gender roles turn
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Consequently, a woman or a man will do their best to shoehorn their personality into sexually attractive categories, in order to be worthy of what they want to receive from the opposite sex. But this approach backfires. It turns people into mere symbols of gender, rather than fearfully and wonderfully made individuals. It turns the mystery of relationship into a mathematical equation. In the end, this approach turns love into a barter of expectations — “I’ll be like this, if you’ll do that” — which only breeds resentment when those expectations aren’t met. Couldn’t this all be cut off at the pass, if we’d just be who we are? Couldn’t we instead form more complementary relationships, if we accepted our unique personhood, and used it to express love and respect for someone else’s unique personhood? My friend Jessica grew up with a mother who writes, teaches and speaks on the Christian conference circuit. Two years ago, after writing a runaway bestseller on parenting, Jessica has joined her mother for the ride. Their speaking tours include a lot of “teas,” “socials,” and various retreats themed with floral metaphors. Let’s just say Jessica’s private feelings don’t always match up to what her audience might expect from their keynote speaker. “I’m always fighting against ‘I’m not that girl,’” she admits. The inner conflict between what her church environment assumes about a woman, and what she is as an individual, has been present most of her life. And while she’s grateful to be married to a
man who, she says, is much more compassionate and sensitive to others than she is, it sometimes makes her feel like less of a woman. “The gospel speaks to that. To all our insecurities. If you make yourself about anything but Christ — being a mom, a single woman, a complementarian — you’re resigning yourself to a life of pride and despair.” There’s no question, Jessica tells me, that work in the Christian sector is ruled by a “good old boys club.” The greater respect accorded to men for speaking and writing is reflected in how much more they are paid for books and engagements. She sighs. But then, unexpectedly, she laughs. “I need to be secure enough in God’s love, that it doesn’t piss me off, that men get treated differently. I don’t need to fight for respect in that way. I think women feeling sorry for themselves needs to change. Just do what you can do.” It’s more than simply about respect, she admits. It’s hard to see your message impaired by the limitations of gender. But the question for her comes back to whether it’s better to share her gifts in an unjust environment, or to not share them at all. “If we could all be human beings, about Jesus Christ, I feel like that’s where the power would be. The only way to do it is to have your identity secure in the Gospel.” Specifically, she says, that means believing that you are free to move forward, even to make mistakes in being a good woman, because God loves you enough to correct you as you go. Quoting the author and priest Robert Farrar Capon, she asks a question that is still ringing in my ears:
“What would you do if you really believed you were free? How would you live your life?”
Leaving aside for a moment Paul’s prohibition against women teaching in the church, the Bible is full of commendations for both women and men who acted decidedly against the stereotypes for their gender, according not only to their culture but also to ours. As Sarah Bessey points out in her blog post from last May, there is neither Biblical nor linguistic basis for assigning certain qualities to gender. An adjective like “feminine” is really only an adjective of quantity — as in, a person’s quantity of X chromosomes. “If I am a woman, and I am doing it, it is, by statement of fact, womanly,” she writes. Nevertheless, Bessey acknowledges, we do use words like “manly” and “womanly” to mean something beyond physical sexuality. They are shape-shifting words, their nature depending entirely on the time and place, and the person who is using them. If we like a woman’s propensity to cry in given situations, we might call her “womanly;” if we dislike it, we’ll just call her oversensitive. If we see a mother run into a burning house to rescue her child, we’d never call her manly. We might even call her womanly. In another, earlier blogfight with Dr. Piper, Rachel Held Evans took him to task for opining that “God gave Christianity a masculine feel.” Personally, I find Dr. Piper’s description very appealing. Strength, courage, decisiveness, ability and readiness to sacrifice ... if that’s how we define “masculine,” then I want a masculine Christianity, too.
I want a Christianity that kicks ass and takes names and can crumple its opposition with a thousand-yard stare — when these things are called for. I also want one that cries and hugs and talks about its feelings, when that’s what is needed. For the record, those are also qualities I want in myself. And they are qualities I want in the person I might marry. The only real reason I can find for acting with regard to gender stereotypes, is the fear that if I’m not being a Godly woman, God won’t bless me with a Godly man. There are few of us that really believe we could be free of this equation; there are fewer still of us who want to. After enough abortive attempts to stop being single, a girl can either get bitter, or try to find the bright side. The surprising advantage I’ve found in being single is that, since no one has a personal stake in my female personhood, I don’t have to answer to anyone’s expectations of it. When well-meaning people begin to calculate the odds of my future martial bliss against the way I choose to live my life, I engage my autopilot nod, and respectfully tune out. By not concerning myself with others’ opinions on managing my feminine nature, I feel entirely free to explore it on my own. At first, this freedom was scary; now it makes me feel confident and ... dare I say it? ... sexy. I’ve never felt so positively glad to be a woman, as when I stopped wondering if I was doing it right.
going through a last name crisis by leanne janzen
“What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” — Juliet, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
juliet is wrong. There’s a lot tied up in a name: identity, independence, history. I’m getting married in a few months, and even before I got engaged, I’ve been plagued with the decision of whether or not to change my last name. My last name makes me feel a part of something grand; it reminds me of my Mennonite heritage and the values I’ve inherited. My grandfather, in his memoirs, writes of the sacrifices he and my grandmother made in escaping Stalinist Russia: “Departing from my wife, children, and all our other relatives was not easy. Perhaps we would never see one another again. We lived in volatile times. We certainly were not going on vacation.” Maybe I wouldn’t be so attached to my name if I wasn’t so proud of where I’ve come from. Or maybe it would be different if my name was awkward-sounding. Or perhaps it’s because I’m almost 30, and I’ve spent about a third of my life operating under my birth name. People professionally and personally know me as Leanne Janzen. All my documents and degrees say Leanne Janzen. I know me as Leanne Janzen. So why would I give all that up just because I’m getting married? Most women gladly assume the name of their husbands. Even celebrities with established and recognizable names. Kim Kardashian planned to become Kim Humphries after she married Kris Humphries (but got divorced too quickly to actually change it). And Jessica Biel legally changed her last name to Timberlake when her and Justin married last fall. And Jennifer
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Garner took on Ben Affleck’s last name when they wed. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have considered changing my name. But I guess it’s one of those decisions you can’t speculate about until you come head-to-head with its implications. For months now I've been struggling with this decision. If I did change my last name, I wouldn’t do it because that’s just what you do when you get married. My reasons are simple: I want to communicate to myself and to the world I’m on a team with my husband, and if we ever have kids, I would like the same last name as them. But if my name stayed the same, it would reflect the kind of equality that’s already present in our relationship. And it would say that being a wife doesn’t suddenly turn me into a completely different person. I’m so excited to be married. To go through life hanging out with my best friend all the time? To be known and loved so completely, and continue to grow closer? To operate as one? Seriously, what an amazing thing. I am honoured to unite my life with my fiancé’s. But even though my relationship is one of the most important parts of my life, it’s not all of my life. And I don’t necessarily want to be defined by it. My fiancé and I make sacrifices for each other. We share in each other’s successes and are completely honest about our needs and fears. We’re friends. Partners. Equals. So would changing my last name convey we’re not so equal after all? Why do we even do this? It’s no surprise name changing stems from patriarchy. Women, historically seen as second-class citizens, were the property of their father before they got married. After they wed, a transfer of ownership occurred from father to husband, and the name change was part of the whole transaction: it showed they now “belonged” to their husband.
The first woman in North America to keep her last name was Lucy Stone, a suffragette born in Massachusetts in 1818. She was not only an advocate for women’s rights, but was also key to the the anti-slavery movement in the U.S. When she got engaged, she said this to her soon-to-be husband: “A wife should no more take her husband's name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost.” Her fiancé agreed with her, and renounced the laws and privileges marriage afforded to him as a man. It’s because of people like Lucy Stone, who cried out for change within the systems of power, that I’m even having this dilemma. Because of the actions of revolutionaries, women now have some measure of equality; choosing to keep my last name after I get married would be a powerful symbol of the kind of fairness they fought for. But despite the measure of equality women enjoy, we’re not all the way there yet. Systemic inequity is something our society continues to deal with. Canadian government data from 2009 shows there are about half as many women than men in senior management positions. And women are spending about 50 unpaid hours a week on child care, more than double the amount of time spent by men. The glass ceiling is still firmly intact. You’d think we would be getting more progressive as time goes on, but in reality, the vast majority of women still choose to adopt their new husband’s last name. A 2009 study featured in Social Behaviour and Personality shows only about 18 per cent of women who got married in the 2000s are keeping their last names. These women are more likely to be well-educated, high income earners, and older. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling so conflicted. I’m caught right in the middle of these stats: I’m fairly well-educated; I don’t exactly have a high-powered profession, but I do have some semblance of a career. And though I’m not just out of high school, I wouldn’t consider myself an old bride.
my friends are wise Part of me wonders if this is such a big deal to me because I’m just that bad at making decisions. There are so many choices out there, and I have a hard time not feeling paralyzed. Do I: keep my present last name; replace my name with my husband’s; hyphenate; use Janzen as a middle name; have my husband change his last name to mine; or make a new name altogether? I can see why people would choose any of these things. There are pros and cons to them all. I’ve had quite a few friends get married in the past couple of years. Some of them have gone the hyphenation route, others have taken on their husband’s name, some have kept their original name. I want to talk with some of them, to find out what motivated their decision, and whether they’re still happy with their name a few years later. I’m hoping I’ll resonate with someone, so I can align myself with one of their paths, and say, “That’s what I want to do.”
the hyphen name Sarah Nicolai-deKoning got married in 2008 on her 24th birthday. Her and her husband both chose to hyphenate their names, as Sarah says it was a natural reflection of the equality in their relationship. “It didn’t make sense to either of us,” she says, “that you know, we’re getting married, we’re joining our lives together, but why would I automatically take his name rather than both sharing our names?” It wasn’t a hard decision for them; she says she knew other couples who had hyphenated, and it just seemed to fit. convergemagazine.com
i ask her whether she felt a bit of an identity loss when she dropped
the last part of her name. she says it took her a while to answer to
the name “jenny robinson,” but she
doesn’t feel like it changed who she was. and it actually helped her to process this new stage of life and what it means to be married and she doesn’t regret it one bit.
Keeping the family name alive was another factor, she tells me, as there aren’t any boys on her side of the family. She likes how her name both communicates where she comes from, as well as the choice she’s made to join her life with someone else. But hyphenation sometimes has its issues, Sarah says. Her name doesn’t fit on many official forms. And she says sometimes people think her and her husband are siblings rather than spouses. She also tells me she wonders what her kids will do when they get married. But there’s no turning back; she says she doesn’t regret her decision at all. “It was one tradition that we thought was one we didn’t need to keep.”
the changed name Another friend, Jenny Robinson (formerly Snyder), was 28 when she got married in 2011. She says it took her about two months to decide to take on the Robinson name. Throughout the process, Jenny tells me, she asked herself a series of questions: “What does it mean for me to give up my name? And how does that change who I am or not? And is that something that I feel good about doing, or what would be the reasoning behind changing my name or keeping it?” In the end, making the decision wasn’t that difficult, she says. It came down to priorities; she wanted her last name to be a symbol of the partnership she was entering into. “Whatever we chose,” Jenny says, “I wanted us to share the same last name because we are committed to each other for life. And becoming a family. And I just wanted that to be the same.” I ask her whether she felt a bit of an identity loss when she dropped the last part of her name. She says it took her a while to answer to the name “Jenny Robinson,” but she doesn’t feel like it changed who she was. And it actually helped her to process this new stage of life and what it means to be married. And she doesn’t regret it one bit.
the unchanged name Jamie Ostercamp got married in 2011 when she was 26. She remembers, shortly after getting engaged, asking her partner whether he would change his last name.
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“And he was like, ‘Uhhh, no. I don’t really want to.’ And I was like, ‘Because that’s kind of how I’m feeling too. I don’t really want to change my name.’” For Jamie, she says she felt her identity was too closely connected to her name to just give it up; it would be difficult to see herself as anyone but Jamie Ostercamp. “Anyone I’ve ever met, and like the whole life that I’ve developed for myself, is with this last name.” She’s also one of the last Ostercamps, and has recently found out more about her ancestral roots, so she feels closely connected to the history and family links her name implies. I ask her whether being a feminist had a part to play in her decision-making process. She pauses, saying to her, feminism is about people caring about other people. “I thought it was really cool that I was able to think through that as an individual and that I’m comfortable enough with this guy that I’m going to marry that I can ask him if he would be comfortable changing his name.” Her husband didn’t want to change his name to hers because he was similarly attached to it; it wasn’t because he was a man and she was a women. She says the very fact they were able to talk about it speaks to the equality in their relationship. If they have kids, she says she doesn’t know which name they’ll use; it’s one of those decisions that can’t be made in the hypothetical. “I think part of me would find it weird that I was the only one in the family who had a different last name. Then again at the end of the day, I might not really care.”
so now what? I resonate with each of my friends’ decisions, and understand and respect their choices. And after talking with them, I’ve been able to sort out a few of my own values and priorities. There are Christians out there who argue that the Bible lays it out for me pretty clearly; that changing my name indicates becoming “one flesh” with my husband, and that it affirms my husband as being the head of the household. And because marriage is symbolic of Christ and his bride, when a woman changes her name, it demonstrates the new identity we have in Christ. But isn’t Jesus a feminist? When he came to earth, he challenged sexist laws, treated women with dignity, and taught and healed women just as much as he did men. Jesus turned the social mores and norms of the day upside-down. He was a radical. So in the end, does it really matter all that much? I wanted to write this article to help me process, and to have an excuse to do some research on the topic. I went in thinking there would be about an 80 per cent chance I would decide to change my name. My fiancé and I had discussed it; I would keep Janzen as a middle name, and assume his last name. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I just couldn’t do it. If I changed my name, I’d be doing it out of some weird expectation I’d placed on myself. It wouldn’t be because I actually wanted to. My fiancé supports whatever decision I make; he’s attached to his name, so he understands why I’d be attached to mine. He was even a bit gleeful at the prospect of being “one of those really modern couples.” I don’t think every woman should keep her name after she gets married. It’s a personal decision, based on someone’s individual values and priorities. No choice is a bad one. So I guess I take it back; Juliet wasn’t entirely wrong. She just had different priorities than me.
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em i n ist BY Sarah Bessey 42 | CONVERGE. july - august 2013
I’m not a bitter and angry feminist. Oh, no. I’m a Jesus-following, joy-filled feminist, a Jesus-made-a-feminist-out-of-me feminist. I’m no man-hater: I’m surrounded by good men, brave men who celebrate, affirm, welcome, strengthen, and protect. There’s no bitterness in my words, my axes aren’t for grinding. I’m ready to beat them into ploughshares. As my friend Kelley Nikondeha often says, “I’m for farming not fighting, fertilization not weaponization.” I can’t make apologies for it even though I know, if it’s possible to alienate almost everyone with just one label, well, my made-up label of “Jesus Feminist” might be it. Feminism carries a lot of baggage for the evangelical church. We’ve been fed a steady diet of stereotypes and straw men. Feminists are shrill killjoys, man-haters, lesbians, and rabid abortionpushers, terrifying on our cable news programs, deriding motherhood and home making. Feminism has been blamed for the breakdown of the nuclear family, gay marriage, bikinis, day care, rape culture, the downfall of the dominance of Christianity in Western society, and pop icons from Mary Tyler Moore to Lady Gaga.
In some evangelical circles, using the word “feminist” is the equivalent of an f-bomb dropped in church: outrageous, offensive even. It’s likely some people saw the name of my upcoming book and figured that they knew what sort of words would be hidden here, an angry shrill man-hater, aferocious and humourless, arguing that men and women had no discernable differences, and so they reacted at the sight of Jesus alongside Feminist like someone had raked long fingernails across a chalkboard. I like the word feminist, even if it worries people, or causes a knee-jerk revulsion in some evangelicals. The word feminist does not frighten or offend me: in fact, I’d like to see the church reclaim it. For me, feminism consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. I call myself a Jesus Feminist: to me, the qualifier means I am a feminist precisely because of Jesus. Gender inequality is bigger than our congregational divides over lady preachers. Patriarchy cuts a convergemagazine.com
wide swath across civilization. One need only read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s groundbreaking Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide to feel angry and motivated, horrified and sick. Stories of rape as a war tactic, murder, sex trafficking, maternal deaths, the exhausting grind of poverty, and the tragic economic and social consequences of the refusal to educate women while study after study shows that it’s the best way to develop communities. But these stories are not limited to the developing world. Our sisters and mothers right here in our own neighbourhoods are also victims of physical and sexual abuse, trafficking, manipulation, silencing, objectification, and poverty. Even within our churches, we have stories of oppression, minimizing, and marginalization. So yes, anger has a place and it can be helpful, even constructive, as we look the facts square in the face. But mostly I am hopeful. Women are not the problem. Nor do we bear the weight of being the sole solution here. Jesus and life in his Kingdom is our solution, and so we are seeking men and women together, in wholeness, healed, walking in the Light and free. Our strategies might look like education, economic development, maternal health, biblical literacy, and theological debate, but our true purpose is the mission of God to redeem, rescue, and love humanity. We can hear the daughters of the earth crying out for God’s justice and peace. First world and third world and caught somewhere between, we are buried in the world’s power structures, tensions, histories, the old empire fall-out of authority and patriarchy, war and economic injustice, hierarchy and systemic evils. So like David Bosch beautifully explains it his book, Transforming Mission, as the people of God, we bravely “erect, in the here and now and in the teeth of those structures, signs of God’s new world.” Our world believes women are only valuable if we are thin or young or sexy, preferring all three at once. Our world believes women exist for men’s pleasures, however perverse or damaging. Our world believes women are only valuable if they bear healthy children. Our world believes women are manipulative, insecure, catty, shallow, silly, and jealous. Our world treats women as objects, to be used, abused, discarded. Our world believes women are to be servants of their husbands or fathers or families. Whether through advertising or pornography, vicious
assaults or quiet subjection, language or legislation, the message is the same: women are not valuable. Our world dehumanizes and devalues women. These are all the lies of the enemy, an enemy seeking to kill, steal, and destroy. So the Kingdom of God stands in sharp contrast to the ways of the world. The church has not always stood in sharp contrast. Yet the Kingdom of God is bigger even than the Church’s failures and successes, disappointments and triumphs. As the people of God, we proclaim and we dare to live out the truth for us all: you are valuable, you are free, you are loved. As Carolyn Custis James proclaimed in (my very-dog-eared copy of) Half the Church: “The community of God’s people should be the epicenter of human flourishing — where men and women are encouraged and supported in their efforts to develop and use the gifts God has given them wherever he stations them in his world ... God never envisioned a world where his image bearers would do life in low gear or be encouraged to hold back, especially when suffering is rampant, people are lost, and there is so much kingdom work to do. He wants his daughters to thrive, mature, gain wisdom, hone their gifts, and contribute to his vast purposes in our world … God created his daughters to be kingdom builders — to pay attention to what is happening around us, to take action and contribute.” I want us to move beyond man-made restrictions and fully welcome women’s diverse voices and experiences to the Church,
My prayer is that we will all lay aside our ammunition, our prooftexts, our deeply ingrained notions.
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for the sake of the Gospel. My prayer is that we will all lay aside our ammunition, our proof-texts, our deeply ingrained notions. I want to be both loving and fearless. There are many of us — men and women together — emerging like stars out of the dark, out of our brokenness, and crazymaking hermeneutical gymnastics rhetoric. We don’t care about labels or debates, we’re moving on, we care about the great I AM glorified, and our only song is worship and freedom, we’ve decided to plant vegetable gardens, ringed with marigolds, in our exile. Maybe it’s not as movement-building to tell the good, hopeful stories or all of the ways the Bride grows more beautiful as she
ages. It’s not as fun as thundering down judgments. The revolution of love takes many different forms, all good and courageous for their differences. Sometimes we turn over tables in the temple and other times we invite conversation. I could spend my life telling the beautiful stories of ordinary radicals, of the normal people sitting right beside you in that folding chair in the school gym, on the itchy padded pew, in the movie theatre style-seat at the mega-church, the living room and the back alleys, the refugee camps and kitchen tables, and still run out of time because there are so many pockets of hope, love, and freedom for women in the church. My friend Tina was at a conference when she heard about soldiers from the Lord’s Resistance Army terrorizing northern Uganda. Women had their lips, ears, noses, and even genitals severed from their bodies. Many of these women are HIV positive as a result of rape as a war tactic, and they were now marginalized and ostracized from their own communities and families. Tina was single and in her twenties then, the daughter of immigrants, living a full life in a first world country, but she could not bear to think of how these women had endured war, loss, torture, rape, and on top of that, were unable to provide for their families due to disfigurement. It was unacceptable to her. Tina now considers this story her inciting incident, the moment when she realized she didn’t have to live vicariously through anyone else; she could do something. These women needed relatively straightforward surgeries to reconstruct their bodies. Tina thought, “Well, I’ll try to raise the money for one surgery for one woman”. She organized a half marathon to benefit Watoto’s Living Hope project to restore dignity to women of Uganda. By the time she was done, she had raised nearly $43,600 to pay for more than a dozen surgeries. We must also tell the stories of grace and justice — received, given, witnessed — alongside the stories of disgrace and despair. I know it’s important to be honest; to honour the stories of hurt and pain, but it is just as important to tell and hear the good stories of the people of God. I believe we can be critical thinkers without a critical spirit. We must make room for redemption, for the stream in the desert, for the road of the righteous. A quiet shift has happened in my heart as I see, live, work, and love with my sisters and brothers all over the world. It’s a shift towards hope and grace, towards freedom over fear, life over death, inclusion over exclusion. As we follow in the footsteps of our Savior, we are led away from the world’s way of looking at life and conflict, community and creation, marriage and children, aging and youth, suffering and friendship, even male and female. I believe our early church father, Irenaeus of Lyons, when he said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” That happens by beholding God. So I believe God is glorified by new babies, and laugh-line wrinkles, by true worship, toddlers running at the back of the church, by the rolling down of justice, by the love of mercy, by walking humbly with Him. I believe God is glorified by
dancing; by silence and gardens and bonfires on beaches, by conversation and laughter, by gratitude and grace freely given. I believe God is glorified by both real marriages and real singleness, and by true friendship, by daily forgiveness, by quiet service, by ferocious gentleness, by bold subversion. I believe God is as present in the 20,000 tents still standing in Port au Prince, Haiti, as He is in my little home beside the blueberry farm in the Fraser Valley. I believe God is glorified when we love Him with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our strength, all of our soul, and then we turn around to love each other, the whole world over, as both neighbours and our own selves. Wherever there is injustice or oppression, anything less-thanGod’s-intended-purposes from the dawn of Creation, our God has always set his people on the trajectory of redemption. The Cross is the center of this story, Christ and him crucified, the Gospel is always glad tidings and great joy for all mankind. And now, we live in that truth and goodness, we live unveiled, and we are prophets and ambassadors of the God way of life. God has a global dream for his daughters and his sons, and it is bigger than our narrow interpretations of Biblical manhood and womanhood, frozen-in-time arguments, or cultural biases. God’s vision is a call to move forward into the future in full operation of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, with a fearlessness that could only come from Him. Sarah Bessey is a writer and an award-winning blogger. Her first book “Jesus Feminist” (Howard Books) comes out in November 2013. Sarah is an editor at A Deeper Story, and a contributor at SheLoves Magazine. She is a happy clappy Jesus lover, a joyful subversive, a voracious reader, and a social justice wannabe. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband and their three tinies. You can find her online at www.sarahbessey.com.
Find hope. Live life. livingwaterscanada.org
HAVE YOU READ?
Telling women’s stories Review of Ruth Tucker's Parade of Faith By Flyn Ritchie ary Slessor, like her hero David Livingstone, worked long hours in a Scottish textile mill as a child before going to Africa as a missionary. Upon moving to a remote region of Nigeria, she wrote that she was “left along with the mud and the rain and the general wretchedness,” surrounded in a tiny hut by several children and curious onlookers, with “goats, dogs, fowls, rats and cats all going and coming indiscriminately.” But she loved the people, and served them for more than 35 years until her death in 1915. Parade of faith Mary Slessor was more a peaceRuth Tucker, maker and an agent of social change than she was an evangelist. She fought Zondervan, 2011 injustices against women and adopted many children — especially twins, who were routinely abandoned to die. She presided over native courts, and in time was named vice-consul in Okoyong by the British government. When Mary Kingsley (another unique woman, travelling alone throughout West Africa) came across her in the 1890s, she said: “This very wonderful lady has been 18 years in Calabar; for the last six or seven living entirely alone, as far as white folks go, in a clearing in the forest ... and ruling as a veritable white chief over the entire district.” Mother Slessor — as she came to be known in Nigeria — was one of thousands of young women who travelled the world as missionaries in the latter half
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of the 19th century. Opportunities for worldly advancement were as remote as their mission stations, but they taught, explored, healed and evangelized — in short, they enjoyed careers which would have been denied them at home. Mary Slessor’s story is one of dozens in Ruth Tucker’s Parade of Faith (Zondervan, 2011), “a biographical history of the Christian church.” Tucker’s aim is to present Christian history through story, and although she has a doctorate in history, she feels that “fact-based history” doesn’t adequately “appreciate the chasm separating people of colour — and women — from white, male-oriented academia.” While Tucker certainly doesn’t neglect men, she includes more women than most popular histories (at more than 1,000 pages, Diarmaid MacCullough’s impressive Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years includes only one-fifth of the women whose stories Tucker tells). Following are a few examples of the women Tucker chose to profile.
Macrina the Younger
asil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa were two of the three Cappadocian Fathers who lived during the 4th century in what is now Turkey. They were also brothers, and their sister Macrina was well known as a holy woman herself. Gregory wrote A Life of Macrina to celebrate her sanctity, but also — as in this amusing little dig at his brother — her influence on others: “Macrina’s
Flickr photo by Ronn aka “Blue” Aldaman
FOR Further READING brother, the great Basil, returned after a long period of education, already a practiced rhetorician. He was puffed up beyond measure with the pride of oratory and looked down on the local dignitaries ... Nevertheless Macrina took him in hand, and with such speed did she draw him toward the mark of philosophy that he forsook the glories of this world and despised fame gained by speaking, and deserted it for the busy life where one toils with one’s hands. His renunciation of property was complete, lest anything should impede the life of virtue.”
orn into a middle class family in Norfolk, England in 1373, Margery Kempe dictated The Book of Margery Kempe, often considered the first autobiography in the English language. She described vivid religious experiences (some of her hallucinations and attacks by the devil are beyond vivid), in the midst of which she experienced a profound vision of Jesus. Though married and having borne 14 children, for two decades she travelled to various shrines in Jerusalem, Rome, Germany, and Spain. “As a pilgrim,” says Tucker, “Margery represents religious women who are among the freest in medieval society. They have been released — often through claims of visions — from the bonds of marriage and are under no one’s ‘rule’ but their own.”
orn into a high-case Hindu Brahmin family, Pandita Ramabai (1858 - 1922) believed that girls should have the same educational opportunities as boys. After Ramabai became a Christian, she founded Mukti Mission as a place of refuge for young widows who had been abandoned by their families. Tucker notes she “was not a compliant convert.” Ramabai said, “I have just with great efforts freed myself from the yoke of the Indian priestly tribe, so I am not at present willing to place myself under another similar yoke.” Pandita Ramabai’s American Encounter included some astute critiques of the United States following a three year stay in the 1880s.
Books about great women
James D. Loy & Kent M. Loy Emma Darwin: A Life University Press of Florida, 2010 Emma Darwin was a warm, loving and spiritual companion to her husband Charles as he weathered chronic illness, attacks on his scientific theories and a gradual loss of faith. Emma retained her faith, though she lost some of her certainties along the way, as she bore 10 children and served as a sounding board for her husband. She was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, a prominent abolitionist; both she and Charles were very much influenced by the anti-slavery struggle (a theme covered in depth in the excellent Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins).
Regina D. Sullivan Lottie Moon: A Southern Baptist Missionary to China in History and Legend Louisiana State University Press, 2011 It’s not often that a Southern Baptist missionary woman is presented as a pioneer of women’s rights. Lottie Moon was brought up in a well educated southern family, and her older sister was a women’s rights advocate, an opponent of slavery and the first female in Virginia to earn a medical degree. Lottie took a similar approach in China for 40 years. “While evangelical Protestantism was used to undergird patriarchy and enforce female domesticity,” the author notes, “its doctrines also contained ideas that were at odds with these social constructions — such as egalitarianism, discipleship and the priesthood of the believer.”
ucker does not whitewash Christian history. Alma White, for example, stands out as a less than heroic figure. While she was a strong supporter of women’s equality and the first American woman to hold the office of Bishop (with the Methodist Pentecostal Union church, a denomination she founded in 1901), she also collaborated with the Ku Klux Klan. Parade of Faith is not without flaws. Tucker chooses to tell stories in the present tense, an odd quirk for a historian. Some stories are interesting, but not very important (Pope Joan would have been very significant if she really had been a pope, but she wasn’t). Some will say she focuses too much on the Protestant era, and she doesn’t include enough indigenous stories from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Quibbles aside, Parade of Faith is a fascinating read and it whets the appetite for more Christian history.
Valerie Griffiths Not Less Than Everything Monarch Books, 2004 By 1900 there were two missionary women in China for every male missionary. Women donned Chinese dress and spread out all over China as they taught, nursed and evangelized in ways that would not have been tolerated at home in the West. In the midst of many impressive and moving stories in Griffiths book, that of ‘The Trio’ also stands out. Mildred Cable, Eva French and Francesca French traversed the Silk Road many times. The Gobi Desert, a critically acclaimed chronicle of their adventures, is still in print. convergemagazine.com
HOW DO YOU LOVE? By Michelle Sudduth
f I asked you, “Who do you love?” I’m sure you could give me a list of the significant relationships in your life. Pondering these people probably brings up an assortment of feelings: gratitude, hilarity, joy, sorrow, longing, and maybe even regret. Some of the feelings associated with our past and present relationships have tenacious staying power. If you look closely, you may notice, a certain good or bad feeling has evolved into a way of thinking, a belief about your identity. A while back, I knew God was asking me to offer love to someone who, as far as I could tell, didn’t particularly care about me. One thing I have learned about myself over the years is that I sometimes doubt that people really care, which makes me feel like I’m not worth being cared about. So, you can see why God asking me to love someone who didn’t seem to care about me felt like a mean thing for Him to ask me to do. But God was not at all being
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Flickr photo (cc) by Overdaforest
mean. Instead, He was saying, “You are going to have to believe that I care for you, otherwise you will be unable to really love this person as I am asking you to.” God knew I had read all the marginally helpful, “You Are Cared About, No Really, You Are!” books, so He had to sneakily put me in a situation where I would have to believe it. Much of the way I had “loved” before was tied to an unspoken, anxious need for the other person to prove they cared first. I realized the question, “Am I cared for?” was between God and I, and not between me and anyone else. Sorting through this situation by praying and being in conversation with friends wiser than I brought me the epiphany that God was asking me to do this for two reasons (though I’m sure there are more I’ll never fully know). 1. To prove the point that loving someone is something I do unto God, not because they have made it a good deal for me, and 2. to heal me of any lingering feelings that I’m not worth being cared about. People, like all other created things, can be powerful examples of God’s healing and love, but God is the only one who heals and who puts “loved” at the core of our being so we don’t go trying find it in the world. When I started offering love in response to God’s leading, while not asking the other person to care first, our interactions became more-or-less free from my care-hunting. This incredibly healing experience allowed many beautiful things to transpire between me and the other person. Jesus is the most amazing example of a person with an untangled identity. When He knelt down and washed the feet of His disciples, when He taught His disciples to no avail, when He didn’t respond to the enemy’s temptations in the desert, He showed us that love and service are offered gifts, not tactics for self-fulfillment or self-healing. Following God doesn’t require the participation of other people or even their capacity to understand the depth of faithfulness that relating to them in God’s way is requiring. So, I ask you, where are you spending energy trying to get another person to do or undo what only God can? Where is God asking you to respond to Him alone, despite the complexity of another person or situation? God wants to heal you and give you what you may not even know you need. Let God give you cues for how He wants you to relate to others and then let Him respond to your love offering, no matter what how the other person responds to you. In letting God alone lead your relationships, you will walk the road to being untangled, free, and healed.
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july - august 2013
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