Archives For Gender

 

Oriented Toward
Justice and Hope

 
A Feature Review of 

Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love 
Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by David Swanson
 
 

In Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, theologian Grace Ji-Sun Kim writes consciously and unapologetically from her social and historic location: a Korean woman, an immigrant to Canada, familiar with gender and racial prejudice even when enveloped in the subtle model-minority and honorific white myths so prevalent in North American society. In doing theology from such specific ground Kim implicitly, and occasionally directly, undermines the concept of a hyphen-less theology, as though feminist-theology, liberation-theology, and others were different somehow than some sort of neutral, orthodox theology. This particular foundation is not the primary focus of Kim’s book, but it is necessary for the work she does in these pages.

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There is no scarcity. There is no shortage.

A Feature Review of

Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering
Rosemarie Freeney Harding with Rachel Elizabeth Harding

Paperback: Duke University Press, 2015
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Ric Hudgens

Near the end of this utterly unique mother-daughter memoir Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930-2004) writes: “Grandma Rye and those old Africans put something in the ground. When they got here, they stepped off those boats, chained up and weary. They looked around at this new land and they could see the heartbreak and suffering that were waiting for them and their generation. They saw these traumas waiting for us here. And they knew we were going to need something strong. Some medicine. Some spirit medicine to carry us through these storms.”
 
Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering is a record of Harding’s journey, the journey of a generation, in drawing upon that spirit medicine as a resource for healing and transformation. Harding is perhaps not as well known as her husband Dr Vincent Harding (1931-2014) and yet this volume is a testament to the individuality of her creative imagination, her deep mystical spirit, and the core of her sacred activism. She was an organizer, teacher, social worker, and co-founder of the Veterans of Hope Project at the Iliff School of Theology.
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Re-examining our assumptions about Sexuality

A Feature Review of

Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships
James Brownson

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2013
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Paul Chaplin.

 

“The church needs this book,” begins the foreword by former general secretary of the RCA, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. It’s hard to disagree. Debate around same-sex relationships, both within and across denominations, is commonly characterised by marked hostility and frequent attacks on participants’ respect for received scripture. For far too many this question marks a “line in the sand” for authentic or inauthentic Christian faith. In this very challenging climate, James Brownson (who, in addition to being Professor of NT at WTS holds the interesting title – unique to the RCA – of “General Synod Professor of Theology”) makes a timely and valuable contribution.

Brownson’s goal in the book is to press the rewind and then slow-motion buttons on debate regarding same-sex relationships, asking us to take a long, hard, honest look at the assumptions we carry in to our arguments. So much evangelical discourse on this issue takes certain basic premises as given and essentially irrefutable. Brownson asks us to take a step back, re-examine these assumptions, and see if we find ourselves in the same place afterwards.

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“The insistence to relegate church roles based on gender, rather than gifting has meant the minimizing of untold numbers of women solely because of their femininity.” So says writer Pam Hogeweide, both from personal experience and from hearing the stories of many other women. Those are the stories she tells in Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church.

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** Note: Due to our efforts to get the print issue completed
this week, we our postponing our next full online issue until next week **

Redeeming Our Own
Muddled History Toward Women

A review of
Holy Misogyny:
Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts
in the Early Church Still Matter.

by April DeConick.

Review by Jasmine Wilson.

HOLY MISOGYNY - April DeConickHoly Misogyny:
Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts
in the Early Church Still Matter.

by April DeConick.
Hardback: Continuum, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In the new book Holy Misogyny, April DeConick is answering two different but related questions: first, “Where is Lady God?” or putting it differently, “Where are the feminine aspects of God’s nature?” The second question she tackles is, “How were women understood in the early church?” These questions are related, because as DeConick concludes, when the female body was devalued, it is no wonder the female Spirit of God did not remain.

DeConick first traces the femininity of God in the ancient Jewish tradition, and how that carried over into the Christian tradition. She talks about how the “Spirit” of God had been understood by its original audience as feminine. Giving the example of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism, when the skies open up and a voice is heard, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased,” DeConick asserts that modern readers most likely hear that voice as either male or genderless, coming from the Father. She argues the original audience would have heard it as female, coming from the Spirit of God, and that in some places Christians wrote about the Spirit being Jesus’s true mother. DeConick also gives fascinating historical evidence for how the early Christians might have understood their own baptism in more feminine ways, with baptismal fonts in the shape of a womb, and along with consuming the bread and wine during the service, how some would also drink milk, as if from Mother Spirit.

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Individual, Unknowable Man

A Review of
The Book of Men: Poems.
Dorianne Laux.
Hardback: W.W. Norton, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by Thomas Turner.

The Book of Men, Dorianne Laux’s latest offering of poetry, is a tableau of the male archetype. The poems, far from presenting the stereotypical nature of man or the masculine, are linked together by the diversity and plainness of different men. Men are captured here in their habitat, specks operating in a humungous and incomprehensible world. No matter how small or great, whether trailer trash or Superman, the men in the poem are set adrift and forlorn but for the simple satisfaction they find in life, women and the world.

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“Dance, Rise, Chew, and Swallow

A review of
Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ

By Marcia W. Mount Shoop


Reviewed by Angela Adams.

Let the Bones Dance:
Embodiment and the Body of Christ

Marcia Mount Shoop.
Paperback: WJK Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Let the Bones Dance - Marcia Mount Shoop.Let the Bones Dance is based on Marcia Mount Shoop’s premise that the body is ignored in and exiled from Reformed spiritual experience because “the body is a liability, a conspirator in our fallenness” (2). As an overweight woman over 30 struggling with infertility, the idea of the body as liability is nothing new to me. More often than not –in social situations, in the business world, at baby showers – I try my damnedest to prove my worth based on the value of my intellect, my acerbic wit, and my spirit; that is, I try to convince myself and the world to ignore all of this extra flesh. Frankly, I’ve taken some comfort in the fact that church has been the one place where I can check my body at the door. And now Shoop’s gone and screwed up my coping mechanism.

See, Shoop sees it as a problem, a dis-ease, that within church walls we usually relate to our bodies in terms of pain and disease that need healing or weaknesses and lusts we need deliverance from, forgetting that Christ came to us complete with vertebrae, hunger pains, and feet that were probably desperately in need of a good pedicure with all the walking and dirt and dust. Shoop believes this dis-ease does none of us any favors because it cements our own negative opinions of our bodies and prohibits us from healing.

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“Defining Emerging Christianity

A Review of
An Emerging Dictionary for
The Gospel and Culture

By Leonard Hjalmarson.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.


An Emerging Dictionary for
The Gospel and Culture

Leonard Hjalmarson.

Paperback: Resource Publications/Wipf and Stock, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

EMERGING DICTIONARY... HjalmarsonLen Hjalmarson has been in the middle of conversations about emerging forms of church for many years now. His blog, NextReformation.com , has been not only a place for him to post his keen insights, but also a place for conversation and exploration. Thus, I was excited to hear that he had recently published a book rooted in his experience in these conversations.  An Emerging Dictionary for the Gospel and Culture is indeed as it sets out to be “a roving, eclectic dictionary that is both ridiculously current and particular, and at the same time broadly inclusive, reaching back to Augustine and St. Benedict … the ABC’s of the emerging and missional conversations.”  Hjalmarson does a superb job introducing the topics that he has included here, which basically fall into the two categories of biographical entries and conceptual entries.  All entries here are brief (rarely more than 2 or 3 pages), engaging and helpful in their introducing the person or concept at hand.  I imagine that most readers, even those who have been deeply invested in the emerging and missional church conversations for many years will find at least a few entries here that are surprising or unknown.  For instance, the philosopher of science in me was delighted to see the entry on Thomas Kuhn here, as his work is essential to our work of understanding the times in which we live, and yet his name does not pop up often in church conversations.  There are also a number of terms here that are essential to understanding postmodern criticism – e.g., difference and L’avenir.   Hjalmarson also does a wonderful job at interweaving the entries here; one does not typically think of a dictionary as a book to sit down and read from cover to cover, but this engaging and well-written work flows along nicely and is certainly an exception to that rule!

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Two New Books on Early Christianity

What’s With Paul and Women?
Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2
.
Paperback: Ekklesia Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Commentary on the Gospel of John
(Ancient Christian Texts Series)

Theodore of Mopsuestia
Hardback: IVP Academic, 2010.
Buy Now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Jon Zens’ newest book with the Seinfeld-esque name What’s With Paul and Women? offers a brief, but pointed critique of the literal and superficial reading of I Timothy 2 that understands that passage as saying that women should categorically never be able to teach men in churches.  Zens, who is editor of the engaging and long-thriving periodical Searching Together, does a wonderful job here of confirming my intuitions (and I suspect those of others as well) that Paul’s instruction was contextual – for the church in Ephesus in that time – and not universal.  Many objections that might be raised are identified and delicately dismantled.  This clear and thorough treatment of this passage is essential reading for anyone who has questions about the place of women teachers in the church, or for anyone in dialogue with those who doubt that women should teach.

The newest volume in IVP’s Ancient Christian Texts Series is Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentary on the Gospel of John.  Before I picked up this volume, Theodore was not a figure with whom I was familiar, and there is good reason why Theodore’s name is not a familiar one: in the mid-sixth century, more than a hundred years after his death, his writings were condemned as Nestorian and thus heretical and were in large part destroyed.  However, as described in the book’s introduction, the latest scholarship (and specifically variant versions of this text that have survived the centuries) calls into question Theodore’s condemnation as a Nestorian.  Since the Nestorian controversy centered on the nature of Christ’s person, this commentary on John’s Gospel gives us a excellent vantage point for exploring Theodore’s position, and for broadening our own perspectives on Church History, reminding us of the reality that historical situations – even within the Church – are almost always more complex than what we learn in our basic historical introductions.

 

A Review of

169162: Father Fiction: Chapters for a Fatherless Generation Father Fiction:
Chapters for a Fatherless Generation

By Donald Miller.

Hardback:

Howard Books, 2010.

Buy now:
[ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Writing in a conversational tone that is both humorous and engaging, Donald Miller is a superb writer, certainly one of the finest living writers of spiritual memoir.  And yet, for most of his adolescent years, he struggled with his schoolwork, wondering if he really was incapable of learning and doing just well enough in school to get by.  The son of a single mother, who worked slavishly to provide for their family, Miller attributes many of his academic and emotional struggles to the lack of a father in his life.  In his newest book, Father Fiction: Chapters for a Fatherless Generation (which some readers will recognize as a reworking of his 2006 book To Own a Dragon), Miller bares the scars on his soul left by growing up without a father figure.  Miller tells the stories here of the many men who mentored him on his journey, serving as surrogate fathers for various lengths of time and to varying degrees of success.  It was, for instance, a youth pastor in his church, who befriended him and saw the gift of words in him, encouraging him to write — even in a phase of his life where he had yet to read a book from cover to cover.

Father Fiction is not a light book, full of brutal honesty that will get its readers (presumably mostly men, or women who want to understand the experience of maleness in world dominated by fatherlessness) to think about their own formational experiences with their fathers, fatherlessness.  Miller observes that this book is about “the hard, shameful, embarrassing stuff … me secretly admitting to you I needed a father, and how I felt like half a man until I dealt with those issues honestly.”   Indeed, the road that winds its way through Father Fiction is a bumpy one that must be taken slowly and attentively.  Underlying Miller’s spinning the yarn of his life and speaking frankly about the wounds he suffered from growing up in a home without a father, is a deep stream of social criticism, a poignant assessment of the contemporary brokenness of the family and its psychological and sociological implications that never waxes nostalgic (as many religious conservatives are wont to do) for the stereotypical nuclear family of a bygone era.  Indeed, his frank critique of the Promise Keepers’ concept of masculinity — which has dominated evangelical understandings of masculinity over the last two decades — was a breath of fresh air.

Ultimately, Father Fiction is a hopeful book, inspiring those of us who are fathers to be more attentive to our fathering and to reach out in compassion to those young men around us (or even one young man) who are growing up without the presence of fathers in their lives.  It would be a fabulous book to be read in our churches, especially by groups of men (and even moreso if a diversity of ages are represented in the group).  This is perhaps the finest book I have ever read on the topic of masculinity (a topic on which, admittedly, I have not read all that many books), steering a wise course between the authoritarianism of the traditionalists and the drum-pounding psychobabble of new age men’s movements.