“Let them eat cake!"

What sounds like an unimaginative idea for a birthday party or a standard option for a wedding reception is actually the appallingly insensitive remark historically attributed to Marie Antoinette on hearing that the poor in France were without bread.

The princess’ inability to think beyond her own lavish lifestyle and abundant resources to contemplate the realities of famine and the resultant suffering of her people boggle the mind. History has given us distance from the dire conditions plaguing France during her time, and we make light of her heartless remark without realizing we have detected a speck in someone else’s eye, when we are guilty of a similar blindness.

It wasn’t until 9/11 tore apart a curtain that comfortably sealed us off from the rest of the world and we began to see the images of women concealed by sky-blue burkas, that I began to realize our localized discussions (and sometimes heated debates) over God’s calling on the lives of his daughters is taking place in isolation from the rest of the world and depriving countless women and girls of meaning and purpose the gospel intends for them no matter where or how their lives are playing out. What is worse, our isolation is causing us to set in stone a theology of women that doesn’t hold up in the lives of many women here and is irrelevant elsewhere in the world where situations aren’t as favorable as those we enjoy.

The difference between prosperity and deprivation is one thing. The desperate plight of women and girls in the world opens up a whole new dimension of existence that is wholly is missing from this discussion. Read Half the Church, if you wonder what I mean. When we ask what is the Bible’s message for us, do we include the girl who has been trafficked, the widow who has been cast out by her family to beg for a living, or the woman who has been gang raped? Does the message we embrace offer them just as much hope, redemption, and purpose as we seek for ourselves? Or are they too broken, too damaged to enjoy the blessings we savor to answer the calling God places on the lives of all his daughters? Are we settling for a prosperity gospel for women, when the gospel offers all women so much more?

What may surprise is that by opening our discussion of the Bible’s message for women and girls to include every woman and girl, bar none, we will discover the Bible’s message for us is richer, stronger, and more empowering for all of us than what we’ve been willing to accept. No matter how well life is going for us at the moment, none of us can count on answers for ourselves that collapse under the weight of other women’s lives or of an unexpected change in our own circumstances.

We need a whole lot more than cake to live with hope in a fallen world.

To explore this discussion further, read Half the Church to see how this larger global conversation helps us recapture God’s global vision for women and gives us an indestructible identity and purpose no matter how our stories play out.

About carolyncustisjames

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4 Responses to “Let them eat cake!"

  1. metargemet says:

    “When we ask what is the Bible’s message for us, do we include the girl who has been trafficked, the widow who has been cast out by her family to beg for a living, or the woman who has been gang raped?”
    We don't even need to look this far. What about the millions of women who are living a life of “quiet desperation” in one of the cultures that do not allow women to be educated while telling them that they should be grateful to their husbands etc. etc.?


  2. Carolyn says:

    Metargemet, So true. While we must “look this far,” we must also look close at hand and consider countless behind the scenes lives of “quiet desperation” to stress test our theology re women against every conceivable scenario, instead of assuming women's lives will follow a formula. We should be fearless in doing this. God's word to us will hold up no matter how severely we test it, and in the end we won't be clinging to a flimsy gospel for women that can only be sustained by prosperity.



  3. Anonymous says:


    At the time that the queen supposedly uttered the infamous quotation “let them eat cake,” the word “cake” did not refer to the familiar dessert item that the modern-day French call le gateau. The operative term was brioche, a flour-and-water paste that was “caked” onto the interiors of the ovens and baking pans of the professional boulangers of the era. (The modern equivalent is the oil-and-flour mixture applied to non-Teflon cake pans.) At the end of the day, the baker would scrape the leavings from his pans and ovens and set them outside the door for the benefit of beggars and scavengers. Thus, the lady in question was simply giving practical advice to her poor subjects: If one cannot afford the bourgeois bread, he can avail himself of the poor man's “cake.”


  4. dubaloop says:

    Thank you for sharing the info. I found the details very helpful.



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