“Honestly, Though” Podcasters and the Malestrom

Needless to say the conversation with Honestly, Though podcast host Rebecca Carrell and cohost Nika Spaulding was both deep and wide. Hard for it to be otherwise when engaging two women with seminary degrees and are actively engaged in ministry. It was definitely reminiscent of the days of the Synergy Women’s Network and conversations we had back then.

The podcast’s central topic was Malestrom: How Jesus Dismantles Patriarchy and Redefines Manhood, which started shipping on April 12. This new edition of Malestrom contains new material that connects the content of Malestrom 2015 with the ongoing #ChurchToo crisis documented in Kristin Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne. Malestrom 2022 includes powerful biblical narratives of men who embody a whole new counter-cultural redemptive brand of manhood. The manhood they embrace is the birthright of every man-child born in the world. It bestows on him an indestructible identity, meaning, and purpose that points to Jesus, the perfect imago dei who empowers them to live out their calling as reflections of their Creator.

And yes, our discussion naturally wandered onto other topics of mutual interest. As I said, it was deep and wide, and also a lot of fun!

Hope you’ll check it out: Episode 29: What the Bible Says about Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

Then order your 2022 copy of Malestrom, if you haven’t already!

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Look What Just Arrived!

The second, revised edition of Malestrom: How Jesus Dismantles Patriarchy & Redefines Manhood is now in print and available for pre-order. Many are saying the 2015 edition of Malestrom was ahead of its time. Now Malestrom is back to re-engage the issue of patriarchy that in recent years has dominated national headlines and devastated an unsuspecting white American evangelical church.  

Malestrom engages disturbing issues centering on patriarchy that Calvin University history professor Kristin Kobes DuMez researched and exposed in her bestselling book Jesus & John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (J&JW).  Professor Du Mez wrote Malestrom’s new foreword, and two esteemed biblical scholars—Walter Brueggemann and Michael Bird—added their endorsements to the original line-up of strong endorsers.

Malestrom 2022 picks up the disturbing questions Du Mez’s book provokes. In good conscience, we cannot allow the current ever-changing news cycle to distract us from focusing on the ongoing destructive impact of #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. Much progress has been made since these two movements exploded on Twitter. Experts have focused on addressing the traumatic effects on survivors and bringing consequences for abusers. More work remains. 

But here’s the worrying truth: this problem will continue to rage and inflict unspeakable damage if we fail to confront this crisis at the source. Our job isn’t over if we stop short of probing to uncover and uproot abuse before it starts. If you haven’t yet read Du Mez’s book, you need to get moving! Then read Malestrom and join this urgent discussion. Jesus’ gospel contains great good freeing news for men and boys—far better than versions of masculinity they’re hearing today. 

J&JW is an urgent call to action. Do this for the vulnerable. Do this for the men you love—husbands, brothers, sons, colleagues, pastors, and men and boys both inside and beyond church walls. 

Jesus’ gospel is good news for men and boys. He offers and embodies a version of manhood that is life-giving and infinitely superior to patriarchy. 

Read more here: Jesus, John Wayne, and the Malestrom

To order: Malestrom: How Jesus Dismantles Patriarchy & Redefines Manhood 

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Celebrate National Women’s History Month with Bold Ezers in the Bible

Image by Roman Grac from Pixabay

March is National Women’s History Month and an opportunity to spotlight the incredible contributions of women to national and global history. It is also a golden opportunity for us to rediscover the strong legacy bequeathed to us by women in the Bible.

This will involve addressing the injustices done to women and girls whose stories are recorded in the Bible but who are casualties to widespread cultural assumptions that men are leaders and women are born to follow.

Consequently, vital stories of women in the Bible—lots of them—have been downsized or marginalized and lost to us. Portraits of strong, courageous women leaders in the Bible have been removed from their rightful place as role models for women and girls at a time when strong godly female role models are desperately needed.

We are cautioned not to get excited or to entertain big ideas for ourselves from the stories of women like Deborah, Esther, Priscilla, Lydia, Junia, and Phoebe, when their stories are in the Bible for our instruction and should fill our hearts and the hearts of our daughters with fierce passion and determination to give our all in service to Jesus.

We aren’t alerted to notice or called to aspire to the the radical brand of bold and selfless leadership of Ruth the Moabitess or to follow the example of the hungry-to-learn Mary of Bethany and her courageous solo affirmation of Jesus’ mission on the eve of his crucifixion.

We completely miss how, for example, the young slave girl Hagar, barren Hannah, and the washed up childless widow Naomi are at least three female shapers of Judaeo-Christian theology. Hagar teaches us the intimate side of the God “who sees me.” Hannah’s theology informs us of God’s sovereign rule over everything from the womb to the throne.  Naomi reassures us of God’s stubborn relentless love (hesed) for us, what Sally Lloyd-Jones described as “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” The theology of all three women shows up in the writings of King David and is indispensable truth for believers in every generation.

It’s worth mentioning that men lose out in this arrangement too for, not only do they also have much to learn from these strong women, ignoring them causes  men to expect less from their sisters in Christ which, in turn, deprives them of strength, courage, and wisdom they need and that God means for them to gain from us.

It is time we reclaimed these women’s stories and reinstalled their portraits in their rightful place as Role Models for women and girls today. Without them, we will inevitably lower the bar for ourselves and our daughters when kingdom matters are every day at stake. Earth is emitting a distress signal, and we cannot spare anyone in the monumental gospel movement Jesus entrusted to us.

So celebrate National Women’s History Month and rekindle your own passion to join the stream of godly female history by reclaiming the bold legacy of women in the Bible.

Although every book I’ve written (including Malestrom) offers a fresh re-look at the stories of women in the Bible, a great place to start is with Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women. If you already have a copy, March is a good time to re-read it and re-ignite the fire in your bones for Jesus!

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Something to ponder . . .

To learn more, read: Jesus, John Wayne, and the Malestrom

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Jesus, John Wayne, and the Malestrom

Every once in a while, a book is ahead of its time.

In the years following the June 2015 publication of Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World, a torrent of unforeseen events transpired that have dramatically intensified the relevance of this book. Who imagined the deadly Covid-19 pandemic paralyzing the planet—now going on over 2 years and autocrats seizing the moment to threaten smaller nations and their political rivals? Or a violent attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election stoked by the defeated candidate? Who can (or ever should) forget the indelible image of a policeman’s knee on George Floyd’s neck while he pled for oxygen and died? The rapidly escalating gun violence? And then there is the ongoing tsunami of clergy abuse scandals that established white American evangelical churches and ministry organizations as an epicenter of clergy sexual, verbal, spiritual, and financial abuse. 

Is there a common thread? It has not escaped our attention that male leaders have played a decisive role in these tragedies of recent years. Could it be that we need to reexamine our understanding of male-ness? Recent history puts an exclamation point on the relevance and urgency of what I have called the Male-strom—an appropriate word play on the legendary and deadly whirlpools (a.k.a. “maelstroms”) in the open sea that pull hapless fishing boats, crew, and cargo down into its watery depths. 

“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.”

                            —Malestrom (18)

In her bestselling book,  Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Calvin University history professor and author Kristin Kobes Du Mez has given historical gravitas to the challenge of the Malestrom. We owe her a lot for researching and documenting the theological trajectory that moved evangelical leaders to embrace the militant masculinity that opened the door for male leadership over-reach, exploitation, abuse, and cover-ups. It has been going on for decades. Even now more scandals continue to spill out—even some posthumously, such as Ravi Zacharias and internationally beloved Jean Vanier.

Anyone who doubts the seriousness of this crisis needs only to observe the current stream of life-long evangelicals heading for church exit doors. They aren’t abandoning their faith. They’re leaving to search for Jesus and to re-examine their beliefs and what the church has taught them. They want to distill what’s true from falsehood. What they’ve experienced inside isn’t Christianity, and they have the scars to prove it. This is not a problem we can afford to ignore. The damage is already significant, and this problem isn’t going away on its own. 

Du Mez’s work begs the question: “What does the Bible say about patriarchy?” and leads readers to start asking, “What comes next?” Which brings us back to Malestrom that provides the biblical and theological lens through which we can gain a better understanding of the plague of patriarchy and the important role patriarchy actually plays in unleashing the counter-cultural gospel power of the Bible’s message for men and for women.

Kristen knows the importance of deciphering the Malestrom. That’s why she graciously agreed to write the bold preface to the new updated 2022 softcover edition, Malestrom: How Jesus Dismantles Patriarchy and Redefines Manhood.

“It is one thing to critique the abuses of a domineering masculinity and lament the religious and societal consequences, but Carolyn Custis James takes the next crucial step and offers us a better path forward. For those asking “What now?”, Malestrom serves as a surefooted guide. . . . This is a message that the church desperately needs to hear and take to heart.”

                    —Kristin Du Mez, Malestrom 2022 Foreword

Malestrom focuses on men in the Bible who too often go missing—especially when it comes to evangelical discussions of what it means to be a man. Excluding them has been costly for, by overlooking them, we’ve missed the Bible’s radical, counter-cultural version of masculinity. God is in their stories, and that changes everything. All of the men in Malestrom ultimately embody a whole new way of being male that liberates men from the relentless and often unattainable demands as well as the dangers of patriarchy. Malestrom also recenters Jesus as the true embodiment of God’s vision for his sons. 

Malestrom‘s release date is April 12, 2022. So how is Malestrom 2022 different from Malestrom 2015? Glad you asked!

First, rest assured, the internal content of Malestrom 2015 remains the same. What does change in 2022 is that now the original body of Malestrom is firmly set within the current 21st century abuse issues that are destroying the evangelical church from within.

Second, the new softcover jacket also displays a more pointed subtitle. The original subtitle, “Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World,” is now “How Jesus Dismantles Patriarchy and Redefines Manhood.

Third, Professor Du Mez has written a strong foreword that connects Jesus and John Wayne to Malestrom as the logical next phase of the issues she raised. Her foreword alone is worth the price of the book.

Fourth, I’ve written a new preface and an afterword to anchor Malestrom 2022 firmly within the context of our current cultural moment—including evangelical politics, sexual abuse, and lessons learned from Covid-19.

Fifth, although Malestrom 2015 contains a sterling line-up of endorsements that remain in this second edition, two highly respected biblical scholars have added their endorsements.

“Bold! Honest! Urgently needed! Persuasive! These are the words that come to me in reading this summoning book by Carolyn James. She offers a deep reread of Scripture that voices a sharp critique of our usual accommodating reading of the Scripture that domesticates the Bible into our comfort zones. While her critique is sharp, James’s word is elementally emancipatory. Her word is addressed, first all, to the evangelical community that so much is in need of this rereading. It is my hope and expectation, in addition, that her good word will move well beyond evangelical circles to a much wider readership for which this good word will pose a welcome challenge to re-hear the gospel.”

               —Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

“Carolyn James has written the book that every Christian man needs to read. For so long our conception of manliness has been shaped by cultures and media that promote patriarchy, power, and violence as the metric of masculinity, against that, James seeks to redeem masculinity by a Christ-culture, so that men and women can flourish together. A powerful mix of personal story, biblical commentary, and cultural analysis that is hard to put down.”

                Michael F. Bird, Ridley College, Australia

Yes, once in a while a book is ahead of its time. But Malestrom is back and more important than ever. Its message frees us to be honest about the current evangelical crisis and reminds us the hope Jesus gives us is indestructible. We have important work to do. If you haven’t yet read Jesus and John Wayne, order a copy, get reading, and let the facts sink in.

Then read Malestrom 2022, and let’s get to work! 

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Another Great Awakening!

Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

One by one, women and girls are awakening to the fact that God’s vision for his daughters is bigger than they thought—much bigger than the narrow vision the church so often proclaims for us. I’ll never get over the thrill of hearing one more ezer has awakened to the fact that God’s hand is in her story and her whole life matters.

The most recent email came from a book club’s study of Lost Women of the Bible. The writer is single, gifted, and thriving in a successful career. The church’s message for women never included her. I know first-hand that lost feeling that comes when the “biblical” roadmap for women is out of reach. I also know first-hand the life-giving awakening—the discovery from the Bible itself—that God’s vision for his daughters is big enough for all of us and that he can be very creative in how he advances his purposes through his daughters. I’m grateful that Sarah gave her permission for me to share her email to encourage others.

Dear Carolyn,

When I was growing up, I lived in a strict, evangelical Christian culture that idealized women who followed the path of marriage and motherhood. Men had voices, women had their place. I liked football and politics and hated being powerless and voiceless; treated like some passive object in a world run by boys and men.

In February 2008, I was in my 20s, living in Chicago, and fuming(!), exasperated that the culture I grew up in had been ruling our country and imposing the same frameworks at the national policy level that had hurt and angered me so much.

I was working through my grievances, trying to articulate myself, but I was fighting from the outside. You dug in. You dug deep into the Bible and challenged the theology and treatment of women at a time when the patriarchy was at one of its highest heights in the US. You defended these women and lifted to the light the way that God honored and cared for them. I know what power can look like and I don’t imagine that many people in authority embraced these new, but well-founded, arguments. You had to have taken soooo much heat for it, but you stayed within the community and then advocated for women who also saw that they could to reframe their narrative as an ezer, a warrior, part of the Blessed Alliance, a chosen child of God, etc. 

What’s more, you took on the task of calling out patriarchy but not engaging in “the war of the sexes” in a conventional way. You kept the focus on God and validating women, not any effort to degrade men, victimize women, or tip the scales so that women would replace men in power in some kind of vindication. Honestly, I’m sure you had enough trouble even with this more tempered approach!

You must have learned so much and come a long way since that book. I enjoyed your podcast, “Rethinking the Book of Ruth” with Paul Caminiti and Glenn Paauw, where you really drove home the truth that the Bible is not an American book and that understanding the patriarchy gives us truth and insight that is so much more incredible than if we just hold its words up to today’s standards. 

I’m so glad I got to read your book. It was a heartening experience to see all the facts of these women’s stories being told, examined, and brought into the light. It challenged me (and somehow also read my thoughts and responded back as I read each chapter).

Thank you for taking that seriously brave step to speak up for women, especially in the climate that you did. I don’t know if I could do the same. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Thank you again so much for paving a way for so many of us.

In love and solidarity!

Correction: The podcast referenced above was “Rethinking the book of Ruth,” on the The Bible Reset Podcast with Paul Caminiti and Glenn Paauw—a ministry of the Institute for Bible Reading. They’re engaging people, young and old, (whole congregations, book clubs, and individuals) to read the Bible—and having a major impact. I’m honored to be on their Advisory Board.

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Ruth Goes to Uganda!

Photo Courtesy of Lifesprings International

Monday’s email made my day with this incredible photo of Christian ezer leaders in Uganda.

It was a scramble, but 2021 ended with an opportunity to help Lifesprings International wrap up their training session in Uganda by giving each attendee a copy of The Gospel of Ruth—Loving God Enough to Break the Rules. Close to the wire as Lifesprings leaders were leaving the states for Uganda, I got an SOS email saying they’d bought all the books they could find, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough.

So I was privileged to help out. I shipped a box of books to Klamath Falls, Oregon where Terri Labri, a member of the leadership team, packed them in her suitcase and delivered them to this class of Ugandan students.

The photo was accompanied by this good news from Terri:

Greetings from Kampala Uganda! Wow what a historic moment for Lifesprings Int! If you look closely you will see your books were transported safely in my suitcases! . . . The women upon receiving their books opened them thrilled, to begin reading! Despite lots of obstacles and curveballs thrown at us, we were able to gather 85 women from all 5 districts of Uganda! We are full of praise for the work God is doing there! Such a privilege to have been the only one of 4 travel mates that made it. One got Covid the night before travel, one was prevented from getting the yellow fever shot, and the other recovering from cancer! But thank God I did arrive, only after a delayed plane and reroute thru Kenya, no small journey and God was faithful!!

Lifesprings International was birthed when women missionaries in France and their stateside friends grew concerned that Bible training wasn’t available for women, and the demand was growing. I joined their efforts several times as speaker for women’s retreats in Lyon, France and twice co-teaching courses in Switzerland with Fuller Seminary Church History Professor Nathan Feldmeth, first in Zurich and later in Geneva. And the ministry continues to expand.

Now 85 Ugandan ezers are reading The Gospel of Ruth and following through with their Lifesprings course homework. May God bless these women and may Uganda feel the life-giving impact of their ministries!

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Something to ponder . . . 

Image by Patrick Gregerson from Pixabay

The timeless article below was written by my husband and posted on the Missio Seminary website in honor of Martin Luther King and republished here with permission.

When Moderation and Justice Collide

Today we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. We remember his stance on non-violence, his bravery in the face of racism. We remember the soaring rhetoric in his sermons and speeches that still inspire us. But we must also remember his words that continue to haunt us as a society.

Sitting in a Birmingham jail, he wrote his famous letter that troubles my soul and weighs on me to this day.

“The Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the …Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”
———————————————————— Rev. Martin Luther King

For much of my personal and my professional life, I have sought to be moderate—to be a mediator who looks for the ‘golden mean,’ the middle way that allows sisters and brothers in Christ, who have real differences, to live and work in peace and harmony for the greater good of God’s kingdom. After all, the Apostle Paul tells us that moderation is a good thing: “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” (Philippians 4:5)

But what if, in the historical moment, moderation collides with justice? What if our moderation perpetuates injustice? That is a deep and agonizing question for all of us.

When I read MLK’s poignant words about ‘white moderates’ I inevitably hear the echo of the prophet Micah: “He [God] has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). The prophet does not call us only to mercy and humility. Somehow justice, mercy, and humility belong together in a Christian social ethic. I think that is at least part of what MLK was telling us. I don’t have easy answers amid the brokenness of our world. But neither can I ignore the call for justice, mercy, and humility. Perhaps the collisions along our journey will shake us awake and lead to repentance, restoration, and redemption

Frank A. James III, DPhil, PhD,
President and Professor of Historical Theology
Missio Seminary

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International Ezer Day!

I was born on Memorial Day. When I was old enough to understand, my father used to tell me people were flying flags on their houses because it was my birthday. To those whose loved ones have served in the military, this may sound like sacrilege. But for me, it was better than Santa Claus. Seeing all those flags on my birthday always made me hold my head a little higher.

Then, in 1968 Congress passed a law that took effect in 1971 changing Washington’s Birthday, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day to Mondays to create 3-day holidays for everyone.  Veterans were not pleased because the change seemed to elevate long weekends over remembrance of those who have served our country.  I’m sure if Washington were alive, he’d have a thing or two to say about his birthday being moved.  You can be sure I was disappointed when flags stopped waving on my birthday except for that rare year when my birthday lands on the last Monday in May.

Mother’s Day is the one day on the calendar when you could say the church is waving flags for women.  Yet ironically, a day that brings enormous joy and much deserved gratitude and love to many women, is at for many others a day of utter discomfort and grief. Maybe it’s part of the way FaceBook is changing things, but this year I received an unusual number of messages from women who were dreading church that day because of infertility, singleness, the loss of a child, or heartache over a prodigal.

Those emails reminded me of a blog I wrote on Mother’s Day 2009 to wish everyone a Happy Ezer Day!  Afterwards Caryn Rivadeneira suggested we declare an International Ezer Day.  I loved the idea. But at the time, we were selling our house in Orlando and moving to Massachusetts, so a great idea got lost in the chaos. This year, Memorial Day falls on May 30, and Old Glory is flying on houses again. Seeing those flags and recalling what my father used to say has me thinking we do need a day to celebrate ezers we love, pay tribute to ezers who have impacted our lives, and cheer on the rising generation of young ezers. 

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2021 National Love Your Red Hair Day!

It’s that time again, and we are celebrating our favorite little red head! Arden is 7 now and happily in second grade. So much to learn and discover. She and her little sister Avery (6 and first grade) are both reading, playing soccer, and becoming competent swimmers. Arden is also making steady progress in physical therapy. Thank you again for praying!

This official once-a-year national celebration is a daily event around here and includes celebrating Arden’s little beautiful brown hair sister too. We have a lot to celebrate and the reasons for celebrating continue to multiply.

The pandemic is a sober reminder that every life is a treasure, invested by our Creator with gifts, strengths, and potential waiting to surface and thrive and that the world desperately needs. The impact of global events on women and girls remind us how much the world is squandering when those gifts lie dormant.

When girls are banned from school or overtly discouraged from pursuing their education to the highest levels, when families sell them into child marriages, even when inside our own churches the message comes through loud and clear that the gifts, wisdom, and contributions of women and girls are only marginally needed, but not by the whole church—the consequences are severe and widespread.

Whether we’ll admit it or not, we all pay a price.

The joy of watching a little girl’s mind and gifts come alive and thrive is impossible to describe. I pray these two little ezer-warriors and countless others like them will flourish as God intends, will thrive in the goodness of his love, and will discover possibilities inside themselves just waiting to surprise.

Happy Love Your Red Hair Day Arden! And Happy Love Your Little Brown Hair Sister Avery too!

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