Thinking Out Loud

September 29, 2017

Getting in Touch with my Biblical Feminine Side

Every once in awhile I do a feature titled “Currently Reading.” These are books for which I haven’t been given any review mandate and may or may not finish, but feel are worth mentioning. Sometimes they are books which aren’t new releases, and occasionally are completely out-of-print.

A better title might be, “Currently on the Bedside Table.” This describes the time of day I’m looking at them, though it’s actually a lie since the lamp base takes up most of the room. More like on the floor next to the bed, along with several unfinished crossword puzzles, which are a great way to unwind before sleep.

Have I put enough distance between myself and this book? I just don’t want people thinking I regularly choose my books in the women’s section of the bookstore. That’s because I’m currently late-night reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (Thomas Nelson, 2012) the very same writer described by one site as “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing;” and one whose haters have their own Facebook group; and I’m thoroughly enjoying the book. (I chose not to include the links.)

The book is part homage and part spoof  (depending on how you read it) of A. J. Jacobs’ classic My Year of Living Biblically. It’s also a response to the CBMW (the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which could also be represented by COBMAW) the same people behind the infamous “Nashville Statement” earlier this season. Evans searches the scripture to gain a picture of the role of women in both Old Testament times, and also at the time of Christ, and what implications both have for Christian women in today’s world.

But you know what? There’s nothing beyond that synopsis that I can write that would satisfy those whose faith compels them to simply denounce and write people off. I’m the other way around. I may not applaud the rhetorical style of Nadia Bolz-Weber, the artistic license of Wm. Paul Young or the non-directive responses of Rob Bell, but I love all three of them. There are certain people who instead prefer to draw a circle and everyone who is not in that circle is simply out. If that’s you, do the rest of us a favor and stop reading here, because…

…because I want to say a few things I really like about the book, so far.

  1. Evans is a gifted writer. She’s basically writing some type of autobiographical Bible-study memoir thing — a genre, called “lifestyle experiments” which apart from the aforementioned A. J. Jacobs and a few others doesn’t exist — which is difficult to classify, let alone critique. She pulls that off with all the requisite color and humor and other words which have a u in them if you’re British. I have no commitment to this book or its issues, yet I keep turning the page. And I feel like I already know Dan, her husband. (Poor Dan!)
  2. She did her research. Actually a lot of research. In the Bible and elsewhere. She didn’t just write the thing off the top of her head. If anyone would simply take the time to take the book seriously, it’s an excellent treatise on the role of Christian women even if you land the plane on a different runway.
  3. She is in many respects theologically conservative. Okay, don’t tell anyone that, because it would spoil her entire shtick, but she comes from an ultra conservative background, in many respects moved on past that, and yet she hasn’t tossed the baby out with the bathwater (a faith image that always works better around Christmas.) I can identify with her background.
  4. Her book resonated with many, many women who find themselves constantly trying to meet impossible expectations. Six years later, the book is still selling.
  5. She has the pictures to prove it. The subtitle is How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on the Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master. My favorite is her “praising her husband at the city gates” which shows her under a “Welcome to Dayton” sign holding up one of her own stating, “Dan is awesome.” She took her project seriously. (My wife keeps reminding me that’s not exactly what Proverbs 31 is saying.)

This is a book about someone’s life and something they decided to do for 12 months as an expression of their faith journey. Being honest, blunt and transparent is at the very least the antithesis of the hypocrisy Jesus condemned, though it may get you banned at LifeWay stores.

Some people may not like it, but as the pictures make clear, it actually happened, and Rachel was the perfect person to make it happen and make it meaningful.


From the archives: The original cover.

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January 8, 2015

They Like Her, But Why?

Last week we looked at the issues raised by the group calling itself #the15 in reference to the books that get sold in Christian bookstores and their online equivalents. I want to focus on one in particular today.

Google the phrases “Joyce Meyer” and “false teacher” and you’ll probably get, as I did, over 91,000 results. That’s a lot of discontented people posting an opinion online. Many of these people would hard to please. I always thought that if I could ask the head of one particular watchdog organization who he really likes, he’d probably say, “I really like my pastor, but he gets it wrong a few times a year, too.”

Still, as someone who spends several hours a week in Christian retail, I do try to take these comments to heart and re-examine the products we carry. Even if many of the 91,000 web pages represent those who make it their business to put every word spoken or written by every Christian under the microscope to find fault, some of those criticisms have merit when the author’s opinions or interpretations are examined in the light of scripture.

So of course, I took particular note when one of the first phone calls of the year was an inquiry if the store carried Joyce Meyer. There are thousands of authors in the store, but this person’s judgement of whether it was worth a first-time visit to our store would be made or broken by the carrying of this one author. Interesting.

Joyce MeyerI got to thinking even as the conversation continued:

They really like her.

Followed by:

They really like her, but why?

Leading to:

They really like her, but why her?

Ms. Meyer is probably the top-selling non-fiction female author in most Christian book shops. Current runners-up would include Beth Moore, Lysa TerKeurst, Ann Voskamp, Stormie Omartian, Stasi Eldredge, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Sheila Walsh and Elizabeth George. For each of those, there are dozens of other women aspiring to be part of that elite Top Ten list. Despite the advances they may feel they have made in The Church over the last few decades, women have always played key roles in the history of Christian publishing.

So the cream always rises to the top, right?

Well, no. Christian book critics frequently note doctrinal concerns in the writings of some bestselling authors, many of whom also happen to have a Charismatic bent. (I’m referring to the denomination here, as in ‘Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics.’) So over the years we’ve seen Benny Hinn, T. D. Jakes and Joel Osteen under fire, and yes, rightly so. Osteen simply can’t hold his own in television interviews when the doctrinal questions are more than an inch deep. Conservative Baptists and Calvinists bring all of this down to a lack of academics, a lack of scholarship, or more simply put, a lack of study. And here there many times I might have to concede to them.

Joyce Meyer is undoubtedly the leading woman author in the Charismatic camp, but her appeal is even broader Hinn, Jakes or even Osteen. There are Presbyterian women who watch her. There are Baptist women who purchase her books. Heck, there are even some Reformed women who listen to her online.

So 91,000 internet pages of doctrinal concerns notwithstanding — and do, as I did, take some time read a few — she continues to outsell the other members of the Top Ten. They like her; they really, really like her.

In 2002, Hachette Book Group paid Meyer  more than $10,000,000 US for her backlist catalog of what had been formerly independent books. (See a recent article in Publisher’s Weekly.) They have no doubt experienced a significant return on that investment.

What would it take for someone to reach her sales pinnacle, and yet still be able to satisfy the critics? Of the women in our Top Ten list, two others, Voskamp and Moore are constantly under fire online as well. My feelings on this are similar to my feelings about Christian television: It’s a certain type of person who wants to be on television. That’s why we see the programs we see.

And maybe it’s no different in the world of publishing. Perhaps we get the books and TV we deserve. I don’t know. And I’m not sure how some Christian bookstores would survive without some of these controversial people.

As I wrote a few days ago, in my piece on Christian television, there are certain voices we seem to simply never get to hear from. I really wish we did, and I wish those mainstream Evangelical voices would rise to the top.

Update: I just want to reiterate here that popularity is no measure of orthodoxy. Sometimes the opposite is true. I’m just taking what is for others a criticism and turning into more of a lament; wishing that those who command a top position on the charts were more decidedly mainstream in their doctrines. This is also true of male authors, it is by no means limited to women.


Feelings about Joyce Meyer run strong, as I found out when I wrote this article many years ago. Please limit comments to why you feel Joyce resonates with so many readers and TV viewers.

 

November 12, 2014

Wednesday Link List

 

We continue our scintillating series of celebrity photos with this dinnerware shot by Matthew Paul Turner

We continue our scintillating series of Christian author photos with this dinnerware shot by Matthew Paul Turner

Welcome back to classic format Wednesday Link List…

Here’s a cartoon left over from our weekend look at Beetle Bailey:

i141104bb

December 20, 2013

Social Media: Putting Your Best Keystroke Forward

Brokenness

In the forthcoming book Clout: Discover and Release Your God-Given Influence, Jennie Catron writes:

I’m generally a fan of social media. I actively use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I enjoy meeting new people, sharing thoughts and ideas, and having a forum to chatter about the simple things. However, the dark side of social media may be the format to perpetuate the sins of envy and comparison. Social media by nature only give space for us to put our best foot forward. Our most aspirational self is portrayed while our fears, challenges, and unmet desires remain hidden. After all, who wants to follow a constant critic or an endless stream of depressing thoughts?

I think that partly explains the appeal of blogger Jamie Wright. Calling herself “The Very Worst Missionary,” she isn’t afraid to present herself as the anti-role model; the blog almost revels in her failures, until she writes a post like she did recently about her Christmas tree falling over, and it’s just broad enough to include all of us, to bear the weight of all our brokenness.

…I was fighting to find joy this year. I was struggling to make a place for the delight of Christmas because I was wrapped up tight in the pain of loss. When it fell, I was like, “Perfect. That is just effing perfect.” Because this Christmas was already well on its way to Sucksville and an unwilling Christmas tree was just the icing on the Birthday Cake For Baby Jesus. *rolling my eyes*

It’s been a rough one for me and for some of the people I love. Frankly, this is not the most wonderful time of the year for us, at least not this time around.

I’ve noticed this year (probably because I’m having a super lame horrible dumb stupid stupid stupid Christmas) that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space in our lives for hurting people during the Holidays. But, man, there are a lot of hurting people. There are a lot of people for whom this time of year is sad or bitter, hollow or lonely, or just plain painful.

While some of us are celebrating, others are aching.

While some of us are toasting to long life, others are mourning life lost.

While some of us feast on family time, others are starving to be loved.

The bustle of activity and togetherness in December only serves to make some houses feel all the more empty.

Canadian author Sarah Tun recently posted:

I seem to be in mid-life crisis. At 54 I guess that means I’m running a little behind. I just recently woke up to the fact that I’m over 50, aging and I’ve not accomplished what I hoped to do and time is running out!

The clock seems to be running and I’m slowing down.

My joy is only in the LORD and it is complete in Him. I haven’t slipped from obedience, faith or love for Him. But reason is telling me I need to make a shift in my strategy for living. Not because I’m tired, because I’m not. But because I doubt my ability to achieve what’s in my heart to achieve and I’m not sure how to move forward.

Click the graphic at the top for more (in  different article) from Sarah.

Perhaps that was the appeal of the article I linked to earlier in the week; where an author shares a story she originally planned to keep hidden; one of checking herself into a hospital psych ward, a story which also reminded of a similar brokenness in Shelia Walsh‘s story.

I hadn’t planned on only quoting or mentioning women today, but if this is helpful to someone today; I guess that was God’s plan. However, know that because there are more of them online, men who blog are equally guilty of a lack of transparency, and equally broken, but probably a lot less likely to express it.

June 26, 2013

Wednesday Link List

So, is Pope Francis a revivalist?

Saved - Pope Francis

Now, on to the links…

Some very, very high profile Christian sites and at least one radio show get their news stories here. We know who you are…

The Wednesday List Lynx might be getting a new home as early as next week.

The Wednesday List Lynx might be getting a new home as early as next week.

Stop the presses! Is this the last link list?

We’re cooking up a partnership that could mean more people than ever would get to share in what we’ve been doing here for five years. Just think of the larger number of people who would get saved just clicking on these same stories. They might not even have to click; conviction might come just by reading the teasers. 

Really, why are we considering this? It’s about power and the ability to take bribes to promote various blogs and websites.

So stay tuned. Same bat time. Same bat channel. But maybe not actually same bat channel.

October 1, 2012

Blogging: Where are the Women?

Fred Clark produced this labor of love at Slacktivist on the weekend under the title “Men on Top: Where are all the Christian Women Bloggers?”  The first part of the title is in reference to the Top 200 chart which comes out every year. Perhaps he should have explained that more clearly. One thing he didn’t explain is that embedded in this post is a link or two (or closer to 150) to some of the women that are out there. (Apologies to those of you on dial-up internet for whom this post might pose a challenge.) Since this blog wins the Sausage Award for the number of links it already contains, it seemed a shame to let all Fred’s work not get seen by the widest possible audience…

As Church Relevance faces another round of criticism for it’s latest male-dominated list of the “Top 200 Church Blogs,” Kent Shaffer looks to dig his way out of the hole with a post titled “An Open Letter to Christian Women Blogs.”

It’s not a terribly constructive response, although it does helpfully provide a neat illustration of why the critics are right.

This “Open Letter” praises “how far women’s rights have come,” and laments that “the inequality gap is still and may always be a great chasm.” And if Church Relevance’s list reflects that great chasm, that’s hardly their fault, right?

I mean, look, Church Relevance is focused on leaders — top-level, influential, transformational, inspirational, highly effective leaders. What could people like that possibly do to change the status quo?

Here’s a bit more from Shaffer’s “Open Letter” and from his earlier response to the same criticism: “Where Are the Top Christian Women Bloggers?

Almost  every  time  I  update  the  Top  Church  Blogs  listone  question  arisesWhere  are  all  the  Christian  women  bloggers?

We  are  not  trying  to  exclude  womenand  since  starting  the  listhave  spent  over  100  hours  trying  to  find  blogs  written  by  womennon-whitesand  non-Americans  that  fit  the  topical  scope  and  have  high  enough  traffic  to  make  the  rankings.

Historicallymen  have  occupied  the  overwhelming  majority  of  church  leadership  positionsAs  most  of  you  knowthis  disparity  is  deeply  rooted  in  denominational  and  theological  beliefsAt  the  same  timethere  have  always  been  more  male  bloggers  than  female  bloggers.

…  Within  the  church  blogosphereI  expect  that  for  every  female  blogger  excluded  from  the  Top  Church  Blogs  listthere  could  very  likely  be  3+  male  bloggers  excluded.

There  have  always  been  more  male  bloggers  than  female  bloggersAnd  there  have  always  been  more  male  church  leaders  than  female  church  leaders.

It’s a great chasm and there’s nothing to be done about it — at least nothing that influential, highly effective, Top Ministry Leaders can do.

(OK, too much cutting-and-pasting of links. Hands … cramping ….)

You should see the HTML for this post! To read at source, click here.

August 18, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This was a week for reconstructing the blogroll here.   “Oh, Oh, The Places You’ll Go” lists all the things that are NOT blogs, along with, for a limited time, a description of each one on-screen — you don’t even have to mouse hover — which for some strange reason Made Every Word Start With A Capital Letter.

The actual blogs are now found further down in a new section called “Blog Stops.”

And now on to this week:

August 11, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This was such a busy week already on this blog, that the link list seems almost anti-climactic…

  • Our opening cartoon above is from Sacred Sandwich and is titled “Baptist Bestseller.”
  • I’m trying to decide whether to run this Christianity 201 post here at Thinking out Loud.  It’s titled I Belong to a Cult.    I think it’s important to know the bare minimum about your spiritual lineage.
  • Zach N. posted this video embed which I believe is from a series Matt Chandler does at YouTube called Sermon Jam.
  • Here’s a full-screen CBN News item about Christian painter Ron DiCianni, currently working on a 12′ x 30′ picture of Christ’s resurrection; a picture with many unexpected features.
  • Here’s a really courageous — though not recommended — piece about a robbery attempt that fails because the clerk doesn’t want to be held responsible for the loss of the money; though she does feel responsible for the robber’s soul.
  • In all the talk about Keith Green last week, probably nobody mentioned Gordon Aeschliman.   He gave up his seat on the ill-fated plane at the last minute so one of Keith’s other kids could board.   Read about him and his book, Cages of Pain.
  • After a nine year hiatus, the book Operation World, first published in 1974, is ready to hit the streets in October.    The writer, Jason Mandryk, explains why the print edition is still needed in a world where the balance of the info is available online.
  • Over a hundred people at iMonk respond to Chaplain Mike’s invitation to explain why they follow the teachings of Beth Moore.
  • For this link, I’m going to plant you in the middle of a multi-part blog series by Dean Lusk, and then let you do the navigating to find the rest of it.   This is part five — and a personal favorite — from Is The Church Signing The Wrong Words?
  • Looking for a longer read?   Try this piece where initial-guy N. T. Wright considers initial-guy C. S. Lewis.
  • Albert Mohler weighs in on the back and forth status of California’s Proposition 8.
  • If you’re reading this in the U.S. before 6:30 PM Wednesday local time; ABC News has an interview with author Anne Rice.
  • With his comment level now reaching up into the stratosphere, Jon Acuff scores over 300 reactions to his piece on trying to find a new church.
  • Check out some new and different worship songs available free at Worship Corner.
  • This week’s comic:  It’s been six months since we last visited Jeff Larson’s The Back Pew

July 21, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The Christian Internet:  Charismatic, Reformed, Fundamentalist, Catholic, Mainline Protestant and Evangelical sites all sharing cyberspace and competing for your attention.   Here’s a few we visited this week…

  • Our own link list cartoon this week is Joe McKeever at Baptist Press.

September 13, 2008

The Male Domination of the Christian Internet

Filed under: Christianity, Church, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 pm

Although the blogroll at right lists a handful of sites I think are worth visiting, my personal bookmarks include some 70 + Christian blogs which I try to check out at least every other day.   That’s a lot of blogs.   And you know what?   They’re all written by men.  As in males.  As in not women.

Tonight I landed on a couple of blogs written by women that aren’t part of my bookmarks.   I immediately bookmarked both of them.  I need to hear their perspective.   I need to listen carefully to what they’re saying.   I realize there is a certain dimension, possibly even a certain depth of spirituality that I don’t find reading stuff by fellow guys.   A different understanding of God’s dealings with us in this broken old world.

I think that much of this has to do with the fact that men “publish” on the internet with the intention of reaching the widest audience.   Women tend to be truer to the idea of blogs as online diaries; they write about raising kids, about intimate feelings, about deep personal discoveries in their reading of the scriptures.  In that sense, women bloggers often tend to be more “Psalm-like” in their online composing.   In the Psalms, David (or Asaph, or whoever) unleashes both high praise and extreme frustration towards God, who is always there as listening friend, whatever David’s mood that day.   The Psalmist just wants to express something.

What do you think?  Is it just me, or is Evangelical Christianity totally dominated online the way it’s dominated in the church, and in Christian publishing?   What percentage of the bloggers you read are female?

~Paul Wilkinson

SEPT 14 UPDATE:  Turns out that ON THE VERY SAME DAY, the cartoon blog ASBO JESUS was running a post on the VERY SAME THEME.  Check it out and check out the comments, too.   Link here.

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