Freeing Men From Patriarchy’s Chains

Carolyn Custis James is president of the Whitby Forum, a ministry dedicated to addressing the deeper needs that confront both men and women as they work together to extend God’s kingdom in a messy and complicated world. She is also the founder of Synergy Women’s Network, a national organization for women emerging or engaged in ministry leadership. She is the author of six books, including Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, and Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing Worldwhich is scheduled for release this month. In Malestrom, Carolyn explores how our culture’s narrow definition of manhood is upended when we consider the examples of men in the Bible and Jesus’ gospel. She shares with us today how Jesus’ gospel liberates men from the strictures of patriarchy and restores them to their true calling as God’s sons. 

What is the malestrom?

The maelstrom—a powerful whirlpool in the open seas that threatens to drag ships, crew, and cargo down into the ocean’s watery depths—offered the strong image I needed to represent the power and seriousness of what men and boys are facing. A slight alteration in the spelling, and Malestrom was born. Put simply,

The malestrom is the particular ways in which the fall impacts the male of the human species—causing a man to lose himself, his identity and purpose as a man, and above all to lose sight of God’s original vision for his sons.

These currents can be overt and brutal, leading to the kinds of atrocities and violence we witness in the headlines—wars, school shootings, ISIS beheadings, and the trafficking of men and boys for sex, forced labor, and soldiering. The number of male casualties on the giving and receiving ends of the violence is beyond epidemic. But these currents also come in subtle, even benign forms that catch men unawares yet still rob them of their full humanity as God intended.

The repercussions of such devastating personal losses are not merely disastrous for the men themselves, but catastrophic globally as the world is depleted of the goodness and gifts men were originally designed to offer.

You can read the rest of my interview with Carolyn Custis James on the Red Letter Carpet.

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Arrested for Being Poor

On Feb. 8, civil rights attorneys sued the city of Ferguson, Mo ., over the practice of jailing people for failure to pay fines for traffic tickets and other minor, non-criminal offenses.

And to this I say: It’s about time.

Growing up with an attorney father — a “yellow dog Democrat” one at that — who often took on poor clients in return for yard work and other non-cash payments, I heard early and often about the unfair — and illegal — practice of debtors’ prison. A poor person could not be jailed for failure to pay a fine, my father told me. I trusted his words were true.

So imagine my surprise when at the age of 18, I was arrested for unpaid traffic fines.

At that time I was a stay-at-home mom, trapped in a too-early marriage I would one day leave. My son was probably 6 months old. When the knock came at my door and I saw a police officer standing outside, I didn’t hesitate to answer.

The officer confirmed my identity and told me I was under arrest for failure to pay traffic tickets I had received for driving an unregistered vehicle.

You can read the rest of today’s post — and about my arrest — at Sojourners.

Rachel Held Evans and The Nines

Earlier this week, a friend of mine asked, “Have you heard about what happened on Twitter between Rachel Held Evans and The Nines?”

Of course I had.

My online microcosm has been all abuzz with what happened, a Twitter storm of accusatory and angry tweets, as Evans—well known Christian blogger and author—criticized the online leadership conference, The Nines, for having too few women speakers in this year’s line up.

Having four female speakers in a line up of over 100, she wrote, is “not what the church looks like.”

Read the rest of today’s blog post at Christian Feminism Today by clicking here.

Realizing What Matters

In my family, politics runs the gamut from Tea Party to Green Party, from Fox News to Al-Jazeera. My family is the melting pot of voter registration. And I’m not talking about see-them-at-weddings-and-funerals family, but close family who are deeply loved as well as deeply intelligent and opinionated.

This could be tough. It could cause awkward silences, silent fuming, exasperated incomprehension, and ruined holidays. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case. We instead understand that our love for one another has absolutely nothing to do with where we fall on the political spectrum. That we are all worthy of respect, even when disagreements arise, and that some things are simply better left unsaid rather than fought over.

Over the last year or so, I have come to view my political leanings and affiliations in a very different light than I did, say, ten years ago. For the record, I have a lengthy history of marching on various capitols for various causes, both “conservative” and “liberal.” I previously co-hosted a political talk show, and loved the back-and-forth with my co-hosts, callers, and guests. I have been an elected official, and I have worked at the White House. I have made and carried protest signs, signed petitions, and been part of many, many political advocacy groups. I have cried and worn a baseball cap and sweats for days when “my” candidate has lost.

I have found, however, that I am no longer interested in this mold of politics. I am instead much more interested in recognizing the motivation behind various so-called political beliefs, and how individuals can work within the structure of their daily lives to be a living, breathing example of those motivations.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for the types of things I mentioned above. Of course there is. But as I begin to recognize and name the emotions behind my beliefs, and as I begin to better understand where other people are coming from, even on issues where I completely disagree with them and they with me, I see very little need for political wrangling in day-to-day life.

I can count my motivations on one hand: love, justice, mercy, faith, and the belief that we are all God’s children worthy of dignity, respect, and equal treatment. If someone else feels all those things but disagrees with a foundation in faith, that person and I should not move forward from that difference in a way fraught with vitriol. That fictitious person and I should instead move forward by emphasizing the places where we agree, and by acknowledging where our end goals are the same. If another fictitious person should choose to leave out the words “equal treatment,” I have no business hating or condemning them, because after all, isn’t that what my motivations specifically rally against? I can disagree with them, of course. I cannot, however, direct judgment towards them.

We must all work towards the good we believe in. The best way to do that is through living out the impetus for having those beliefs. We live in a world where people do have ill intent. Where selfishness reigns supreme, and self-interest is too often the reason for decisions made. If we have in our lives people who are instead motivated by good, whether we agree with them or not, we are lucky indeed.

For further reading:

A Politics of Love, Part One

Defining a Politics of Love

The Separation of Church and Hate

Why I’m No Longer Mad at Monsanto

Manic Monday Crossover Post: The Difference with Daughters

Also found here, but with pictures.

My daughter is beautiful. Actually, let me rewrite that: my daughter is BEAUTIFUL.

Sometimes I feel an almost physical shock at how adorably precious Rachel is. And while she is far (far!) from all grown up, she is no longer a “baby,” no matter how often I tell her that she is. Everything we do and say to Rachel now will influence who she becomes in the future, and how she perceives herself and her role in this world. Our words and our attitudes will give her the foundation upon which to base all of her worldviews and will create the lens through which she sees herself and others.

I find that I tell Rachel, over and over again, just how beautiful I think she is. I can’t help it—it just spills out before I can stop it. I say, “you’ve got such a pretty smile!” Or, “you are the cutest daughter I have!” (She has yet to think about the fact that she’s the only daughter I have, but we’ll leave that for another day.) I want her to be confident in her appearance (just think Dove commercial, which is a whole other can of worms), but I also am worried about how frequently we comment on how she looks. Lately I’ve tried to follow every involuntary blurt of “your curls are so gorgeous!” with, “Are you going to be an engineer or an architect when you grow up?” (because I want her to recognize and value her intelligence), or, “Do you know how much we love you just for being you?” (because I want her to know that neither beauty nor brains are what make her special).

We don’t use negative adjectives such as  “fat,” or “ugly,” or even say overly positive things about other people in front of Rachel, in part because we don’t want her to fixate on looks or think that other people will be critiquing her in the same way. In my house growing up, intelligence, kindness, and independence were revered, but so too was a person’s appearance. And when that is combined with society’s emphasis on beauty, bad things can happen.

So I’m worried. Collin is almost grown, so you might think I’ve had to address this issue before and have come to am enlightened viewpoint. Nope! I think Collin is as handsome as Rachel is beautiful, but I don’t worry about him in the same way. Why? Because society isn’t fixated with how men look or dress in the same way it is with women. It’s also understood that even if a man is outrageously handsome, his worth is in his personhood. His job. His intelligence. Good looks are just the icing on the cake. With women, the opposite is true… Beautiful AND smart? Intelligence becomes the icing. And of course, both of those cakes neglect to note that a person’s true worth is found in neither brawn nor brains.

How do we teach Rachel otherwise? She is beautiful. She is smart. She can create intricate machines out of Legos, a stroller, and random bits of paper and tape. She can organize three-hundred and thirty-seven toys into a symmetrical repeating pattern that spans the entirety of our main floor. She also makes my bed, feeds the baby, begs me to use the iron (don’t worry, I don’t let her). And after she does all these things we smile at her in her princess dress and tiara and tell her how lovely she is. How precious she is in piggy-tails. And she parrots back when she feels especially needy, “Look how cute I am!” And darn it, it both scares me and angers me. We should be able to enjoy all of who Rachel is without fear of repercussion. Without fear that she will not only be objectified in the future, but will objectify herself because she thinks that’s where her value is.

How many times in a row should I compliment Rachel about things other than her appearance so she will get the point that there is so much more to life? So much more to who she is?

As a woman, I know all too well the internal struggles Rachel will face in junior high. In high school. In college. And even into adulthood, when just as she is sure she is finally where and who she wants to be, something will happen to make her question herself all over again. And when that happens, I don’t want her to demand, “Look how cute I am!” but rather to say, “I am loved and special.” Period. No justification or explanation needed.