In various blog posts, I have encouraged women in the church to realize their potential for the Kingdom of God, instead of inadvertently limiting themselves. Author Carolyn Custis James is good at this emphasis, especially in her book Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women. Sarah Bessey, in her recent book Jesus Feminist, also tried to light a fire under women to help them see their capabilities for God.
I’ve emphasized that women need more than what traditional or typical women’s things (ministries, books, devotionals, etc) have tended to focus on in the past. Too often things for women are superficial/light in nature, or have a purely emotional/relational approach, or are focused entirely on a women’s role as wife/mother/housewife. Note that I put in bold the two words need more. It is not that an emotional/relational approach is bad or should be obliterated, but women simply need more than this.
Yet, when emphasizing these things, there is always the risk of misunderstanding. Some women feel slighted or condemned. Sarah Bessey addresses this in a chapter of her recent book. Critiquing certain women’s activities in the church can unfortunately make women who enjoy these activities feel judged or dismissed. That is not the intent, as there is a place for these things, but again it is simply that women need more…they need more depth of learning and service. The Kingdom of God is at stake.
In a recently updated paper entitled “The Scandal of the Evangelical Women’s Mind”, the opening paragraph mentions the misunderstandings that can result, particularly when addressing the mind.
There are dangers all around. Many of the past conversations on this subject have gone…poorly. Some men were made uncomfortable by my pointing out the widespread problem of their being intimidated by smart women. Others have gotten mad that I called out their consistent prioritizing of beauty over brains in their dating relationships despite professing support for thinking women. Likewise, more than a few women have gotten upset. Some have felt I was denigrating women who aren’t academically-inclined. Others felt I was insulting those women who are gifted intellectually yet who’ve chosen to prioritize other values over the life of the mind. For my part, all I’ve intended to do is help create space for women of faith to exercise their cognitive gifts right alongside men.[emphasis added]
The point of my post? Hmmm? Well, to simply point out the unfortunate misunderstandings. I’ve experienced this personally, as it appears I have lost a local friendship over this issue – which deeply saddens me. My concerns and passions seemed to make my friend perceive that I think most women are incapable, brainless twits. Sigh. That is certainly not true. And it has always been difficult for me to be misunderstood.
Perhaps there is no way to avoid offense? I mean, we need to approach this issue in an encouraging and diplomatic way. Yet perhaps when trying to create a paradigm shift, it is just a matter of fact that there will be some misunderstanding along the way? While Carolyn Custis James and Sarah Bessey have many fans, they have their critics too.
Any thoughts welcome.