Biblical Feminism - Resources

Hey everyone! I sincerely hope you enjoyed our chat on women in the church and that you walked away feeling encouraged, inspired, and challenged. Here are all the resources we referenced in our chat (and a few extra!). Feel free to leave any other suggestions in the comments and let us know what you thought! We're on this journey together and would love to hear from you. 

 Books : 
 
Jesus Feminist - Sarah Bessy
Finally Feminist - John Stackhouse
Lioness Arising - Lisa Bevere
Paul, Women, & Wives - Craig Keener
After Eden - Mary Stewart Van Leeuwenhoek
God’s Feminist Movement - Amber Picota
Half the Church : Recapturing God’s Vision for Women - Carolyn Custis James
Two Views on Women in Ministry - James R. Beck
Partners in Christ : A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism - John Stackhouse Jr.
The Blue Parakeet - Scot Mcknight
Fashioned to Reign - Kris Vallotton

 Podcasts : 
 
The Liturgists (Episode 40) - Woman
Bethel Podcasts - The Theology of Empowering Women Part 1 & 2 
 
 Articles : 
 
 http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200102/082_paul.cfm
 
 http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/5-ways-bible-supports-feminism
 
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/why-you-should-be-christian-feminist

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I'll Take Boaz Over Christian Grey

*I wrote this post several years ago, when the first 50 Shades movie came out. It was deleted while transferring sites, but I thought now would be a good time to re-post.

Oh great. Another Christian woman writing about about 50 Shades of Grey. The only reason I'm even attempting to discuss the social phenomenon that is this movie/book is because this month, my Bible study has been in the book of Ruth. It's kind of ironic that I'm studying this book about a man and woman, of which I find striking similarities to Christian Grey & Anastasia (the main characters in 50 Shades of Grey), at the same time the movie is released causing a hail storm of discussion. So aside from all of the obviously negative things we can talk about inside 50 Shades of Grey, I just want to discuss the main men in these stories : Boaz and Christian Grey. These two many have many things in common and I'm going to break them down for you now. 

*necessary disclaimer : I haven't read the books or seen the movie, nor do I intend to.  My information about the book and characters comes from various online sources and blogs. * 

Both Christian and Boaz are men of influence, power, and wealth. Christian, a self made billionaire and owner of his own corporation. Boaz, a wealthy farmer, well known in his town and highly respected. The most significant similarity, in my opinion, is that both men were interested in weaker, vulnerable women.

Ana, Christian's "love" interest, is a 21 year old virgin. She has little relationship experience, has yet to graduate college, is shy and resistant to his advances. Ruth is a poor widow. She has no means of income and has to "glean" (collect grain that has fallen on the ground) to be able to feed herself and her mother in law. She is a foreigner with no rights to land or property, living in a society that is not friendly or respectful to a woman without a husband. Both women are vulnerable and weak, from a certain standpoint.

So we have two wealthy men, two weaker (so to speak) women. Now let's talk about how these two guys are totally different.

Christian uses his wealth and power to assert his authority and control over Ana. He goes as far as to buy the company she works for so he can keep tabs on her and control her even more than he already does.

Boaz uses his wealth to help the poor, giving generously to Ruth, even telling his workers to purposefully drop extra grain for her to pick up and harvest so that she'll have more than food to eat.

Christian completely and shamelessly takes advantage of Ana's weaknesses. He exploits her sexual immaturity and uses it to his advantage. When Ana expresses her nervousness about having sex, Mr. Grey lets her know that he intends to "rip through" her virginity and that he wants her to be sore afterwards. When the deed is done, he becomes even more possessive than he was before their relationship began (he had already bugged her phone and found out where she lived at this point) and tells her, "Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I've been here.  Only me.  You are mine." 

Boaz has a slightly different approach. He never pursues Ruth, she offers herself to him and asks him, in a very cultural and kind of odd way, to take her as his wife. Boaz is humbled and honored by her request and tells her that while he'd love nothing more, he was not first in line to take her as his wife. In those times, when a woman's husband died, the closest of kin would then take  the widow as his wife. Ruth's husband and his brother both died around the same time, leaving Boaz and another relative as the "kinsman-redeemer". Boaz acknowledged that there was a relative who was closer in blood line to Ruth's late husband and he must first go to that man and receive his blessing to take Ruth as his wife. A man of respect and honor. He tells her, "All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of nobel character. Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I .... if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it." 

Christian is verbally controlling and abusive. Here are just a few of his comments to Ana :

“Don’t start with your smart mouth in here, Miss Steele. Or I will f*ck it with you on your knees. Do you understand?”

"Alaska is very cold and no place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone-remember?" 

"So help me God, Anastasia, if you don't eat, I will take you across my knee here in this restaurant and it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification."

I'll just stop there. Let's look at some Boaz quotes.

"May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." 

"The Lord bless you, my daughter. This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier. You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask." 

Oh hey. Swoon.

So here we have two men, safe to say they're equal in stature and wealth and social standing. Both men have a younger, more vulnerable woman interested in them, and they have two totally different reactions to the situation. So when I read all these articles online from all these women saying Christian is the perfect man and they wish their husbands/boyfriends/sex partners were more like him, I'm just baffled. Because he sounds like a big abusive jerk. To say the least.

I'll take Boaz over Christian any day because I deserve more than that. Every woman deserves a man who respects her, honors her, and cherishes her. We don't know much about Boaz outside of the few chapters in the book of Ruth, but we know that he was a man of honor, that he didn't take advantage of a meager widow, and that he honored and respected the traditions and laws of his culture.

When did our standard become so depressingly low that Christian Grey would be an arousing fictional male character? Is it because he was abused as a child and that abuse is the driving force for his disgusting and repulsive behavior? Do we pity him? Do we want to be the woman that breaks the abusive cycle and teaches him to truly love? Is that really appealing to women? To be abused for the sake of true love?

In high school, I hopped around from guy to guy. Nothing serious. Never anything that I would ever deem a "relationship", but two specific guys stand out. I actually "dated" them (if that's what you want to call it) at the same time and kept it a secret from them both. Neither one of them had a car, one of them was jobless, and both of them were verbally abusive. It was like a drug to me. I took it as a challenge. I loved the emotional vulnerability I experienced when they called me names, when they got mad because I wouldn't have sex with them, and even when one of them threatened to rape me if I didn't consent to having sex with him, I didn't break it off. I loved the attention. It was addicting. Until it wasn't. Until I was actually afraid that the one who had threatened me would actually follow through and I had to rush from his house in a panic while he was in the bathroom. (I've never seen or talked to him since.)

So when I hopped from those destructive relationships to my first serious, long term relationship, you can understand that my standards were kind of low. During the relationship, I didn't notice the emotional hold the guy had on me, or how his words manipulated and controlled me, but looking back on those years of my life now, I'm repulsed. Not just at him, but at my response to the stupid and offensive things he would say. His cruelty (whether intentional or not, I'm still not sure.) is what kept me attached to him. I wanted to try harder, to be better, to be prettier, to be somebody worthy of him. I never once asked myself, "Is he worthy of me?" Eventually I broke up with him, but the damage was done.

But then I met my Boaz. My well respected and honorable man. I was weak. So weak. I was vulnerable and afraid and considerably messed up. He saw it, acknowledged it, and gave me my space. As much as I wanted to jump into a relationship with him, he took a step back, and let God work in our lives separately, before we even tried to walk together as a unit. He didn't try to fix me. He prayed for me. He didn't take advantage of my neediness, he turned away from it and pointed me towards the Cross. He drew lines and established boundaries and while it drove me crazy at times, it set our relationship up for success. He respected me. He respected my past. He respected my fragile heart. He was strong and assertive and sexy, but he never used his obvious power against me. If anything, the idea that he could control me based purely on my fragility and weakness turned him away and made him become more intentional about helping me focus on things other than him. On positive things like friendship with other people, on my schoolwork, on my relationship with Christ, on my prayer life, on my ministries, on my calling. I married my Boaz. He earned my love and I earned his. And by the way he treated me, honored me, and respected me, he proved himself to my family and in turn, earned their respect and honor as well. (I'm pretty sure they prefer him over me these days.)

It breaks my heart that so many women find the persona of Christian Grey appealing. It's heartbreaking and tells me that there is clearly something deeply wrong with what our society deems a loving and respectable relationship. Christian Greys are a dime a dozen, but a Boaz? He's worth waiting for. He's worth so much more than you can ever imagine.

And you, young woman reading this, are worthy of him.

Scripture & Feminism - a live chat!

Over the past year or so, I've started to really question and wrestle with my role as a woman in my family and in my church. I've always wrestled with the traditional role that the church often places on women as nurturers and homemakers and as much as I tend to lean away from that identity towards a more "progressive" (if you will) role, I've never been able to identify with the social definition of the word "feminist". So I started digging into Scripture more, reading books about culture and history, and began reconciling what I know to be true of me with what I know to be true of God's word. That's when I started talking about these frustrations and questions openly and I found that a lot women are wrestling with the same things. That's why I am SO excited to announce >>>>> 

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Have you ever had a conversation with a friend that lasted for hours and by the time it was over you felt uplifted, encouraged, and inspired to change the world? That's exactly how this live chat was born. Incredible things happen when women come alongside each other and say, "You feel that way too? I thought I was the only one!" If you watch this chat, I promise you, you'll walk away feeling the same way. Kim, Molly, and I have known each other for over a decade now and I am truly honored to share this experience with them. We come from different backgrounds and perspectives and I know our combined experiences and education will bring a well rounded approach to these difficult, sometimes controversial topics. I hope you'll join us! The chat will be happening on my blog facebook page and you'll be able to ask questions, make comments, share with your friends, and if you miss anything, you can just rewatch it when it's over. So click on over to my facebook page and click "get notifications" so you'll be notified when the chat goes live. (Don't worry, I don't post often on that page so I won't blow up your notifications.)

If you already have questions on your mind, go ahead and put them in the comments and we'll be sure to answer as many as we can when we go live. Here are a few that people have already sent us that we'll be answering :

Can women be pastors and/or church leaders?
What do you do when your husband isn't leading spiritually?
What is the role of women in the church?
How can a Christian woman be a feminist?

A little about us :

Molly lives and ministers in Connecticut. She is the Executive Director of a pregnancy resource center that offers life affirming services to pregnant couples in need and she and her husband have been youth pastoring together for seven years. This year, they'll be welcoming their first child through the department of children and families services and are really looking forward to growing their family through adoption. She loves coffee and thoughtful conversations.
 
Kristen and her husband, Zach, live in Springfield, Massachusetts and serve as youth pastors at Zach's home church. She has spent the last six years having babies and building her writing career and now wants to use her voice to help women realize their potential and embrace their God given callings. She is currently training to teach writing workshops to women who are incarcerated or in drug recovery programs, but she spends most of her time breaking up fights between her three kids. 

Kim  (bio coming soon. She's legit, though. Promise.)

Katie is a wife, mom and soul sister. She met her husband Percy 10 years ago, married in 2008 and have been serving in ministry together ever since. They currently serve as youth pastors in North Providence, RI. She is passionate about mobilizing the church to love and serve their communities and currently works with communications and giving Cordinator for the Boston Project Ministries. Her greatest joys in life include nightly dance parties with her family and inviting others to walk with her as she walks with Jesus.

The Idol of Financial Freedom

When my husband and I were in Bible college, we tried not to think about the exorbitant amount of debt we were acquiring. We didn’t even discuss how we were going to pay off $60,000 of debt with our ministerial degrees. We blindly trusted that we were doing what God wanted us to do and that He would provide the means of paying off our debt. So we got married, moved into our first apartment, and started looking for jobs in ministry. We quickly realized that most churches (even the mega ones) didn’t want to hire two B.A.s in Biblical Studies, so we agreed that he would be the full time breadwinner. I would technically be unemployed, contributing zero income to our checking account, but would serve alongside him in every aspect of ministry.

When we accepted our first ministry position, it was like we’d been given a 400% pay raise. We had been living off side jobs and inconsistent paychecks, so having a consistent stream of income was exciting, to say the least. When my husband brought his first paycheck home, we just sat on the floor of our new home and laughed. If he’d been paid in cash, we would have thrown it on the floor and swam in it. But no matter how much money you make, when you’re irresponsible with it, you’re still left scratching your head at the end of the week, wondering where it all went. We were totally reckless. We once lost $200 cash and didn’t realize until the next winter when I found it in one of our coats. Saying we were out of control is a bit of an understatement.

At the start of our second year in ministry, our church hosted a class on financial responsibility from a Biblical perspective. I had exactly ZERO interest in being a part of it. Numbers are not my thing, but my husband insisted that we go, so I begrudgingly tagged along. Our world was turned upside down in the best possible way. We went from living paycheck to paycheck to having thousands of dollars in savings. We sold our car to rid ourselves of the $1,000 a month expense and rode our bikes everywhere until we’d saved enough to purchase a car with cash. Since 2010, we have not taken out a single loan or credit card. While we learned many crucial financial lessons, something else happened during that season of getting control of our finances : we grew discontent.

Up until then, we’d been happy with our income and had accepted that there was little to no hope of a raise in the foreseeable future. We were ok with Zach being the only one working in the field we both went to college for and I was content to work side jobs and stay home with our new baby. I was heavily involved in several ministries and loved what we were doing, but then we heard that we needed to be hustling to get out of debt. We began reading books about location independence and “hacking” work and sent ourselves on a path of distraction and misdirection.

We went from being content to yearning for more. We didn’t want to be stuck in debt, slaves to our jobs, never to be free from the weight of our student loans. The only way we saw to achieve financial freedom was to start our own businesses. We caught the entrepreneurial bug and it consumed us. Eventually we were so discontent in ministry and thirsty to find our fortune and launch our million dollar businesses that we resigned from our church. While that wasn't the only reason we left, it was definitely the most compelling. 

We convinced ourselves that God was calling us to get out of debt, but looking back, I think he was just letting us have what we wanted. We definitely weren’t listening to what He wanted for us and as a result, life knocked us around. We believed that we were struggling because we were being obedient and were being tested, but the reality was that we had abandoned God’s call on our lives. We started chasing fortune and it almost destroyed us.

We struggled and strived for two years. We were evicted from our apartment, moved in with my parents, went on government assistance, and welcome our third (surprise!) baby into our lives. We continued to try different business ventures, few of which stuck for more than a month or two. I had a blog that was doing rather well, but my success only served to further distract me from my calling. I was a fairly popular internet person with sponsorships and ad revenue. I was being recognized in public and received e-mails from around the world from people who loved my writing and wanted to chat with me. My pride and my income were at an all time high I was loving every second of it.

During this time, we were leading worship at the church my dad was pastoring. We didn’t want to be there. We didn’t want to be in ministry at all. We both grew increasingly angry at God and could not understand why He hadn’t rescued us from our frustrating situation yet. It took us almost three years to ask ourselves the question, “Should we have left ministry?”

When we finally admitted that we had veered far of course, we were humbled, embarrassed, and full of regret. We were chasing dollar signs instead of Jesus and had made idols out of fortune, fame, and importance. We began the painful process of shutting down all of our side hustles, income streams, and for me : a lucrative writing career. It hurt, but for the for the first time in a long time, we felt like we were taking a step in the right direction instead of just leaping blindly. God was leading, we were following. We pulled a full stop on our pursuit of financial freedom and sat back and waited for God to show us what was next. A few weeks later, my husband was offered a full time ministry position and he accepted without hesitation.

Now that we’ve been freed from the bondage of obsession with financial freedom, we’ve noticed a pattern in many young ministers’ lives. Our culture is saturated with the lure of wealth and prosperity and every day, more and more people are abandoning their callings for the pursuit of “financial freedom”. But is it really freedom if the pursuit of it requires that you bind yourself to a life that is outside of God’s will for you?

God’s word says, “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20) This is exactly what happened to us. I can tell you first hand that there is no greater weight than knowing that you are not where God has called you to be. There is nothing more lonely, isolating, and frustrating. There is only striving. But don’t get me wrong, you can achieve what you set out to achieve. You can launch a million dollar business. You can be your own boss, be location independent, and be successful at all of your endeavors. You can do it and you will, if you hustle hard enough. But at what cost? Is your calling worth your financial freedom?

In the early 1900s, missionaries packed their belongings in coffins to leave everything they knew and share the Gospel where God had called them. They were willing to abandon everything to see God’s Word reach the furthermost parts of the earth. And here we are with more abundance than our ancestors could have ever imagined, and still we pursue excess. We are obsessed with the idea of being wealthy and “free”. We convince ourselves that we will be freed up for more ministry, or that we will be able to give more, or that God wants us to be blessed, but those are simply justifications for worldly desires. The pursuit of money is all consuming. It consumes your mind, your heart, your relationships, your conversations, and your time. Financial freedom can quickly become a destructive idol that is difficult to recognize and almost impossible to walk away from.

I do believe that Christians should be financially responsible. I am all for living on a cash budget, not using credit cards, and not acquiring debt. My husband and I take full responsibility for our student loans and are committed to living within our means so that we can pay them off quickly. We want to save, invest, give, and live an abundant life. But financial freedom is so much more than getting rich and being debt free. True freedom is walking in obedience to our Father. No amount of money can compensate for walking away from what God has called you to do. You may achieve all of your financial goals, but if you abandon your calling in the process, you will have gained nothing.

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