Monday, April 13, 2009

Is it Safe to Come Out and Sing?

hidden at window

Life as jazz. Sweet improvisation. Singing one’s song for the world. Such thoughts should inspire, but ironically this chapter in Make the Impossible Possible made me tire of Strickland’s hopeful refrain.

True, he warns that 'choices we make are incredibly risky. They could lead to surprising and sometimes disastrous consequences.' And he reminds, 'when a jazz artist launches on a solo, he takes a frightening leap of faith. Every note, every phrase, every bit of color and texture he or she brings to the music is a risk that could backfire and make the player look like a fool. He could play himself into a corner. Worse, he could play himself out and find he had nothing to say.' But he concludes we can still achieve the impossible if we 'risk ourselves, our time, our careers for what we believe…' (p105)

In a world with all things being equal, this should hold true. And because Strickland comes from a world where all things were not equal, he should be a convincing voice (which, at some level, he certainly is).

But what if the world isn’t ready for our song? I consider a conversation that began over at Scot McKnight’s blog. I asked one of the participants to tell me more and let me share her thoughts here. This is what Barb answered, and I wonder what systemic dynamics work against her song.

Says Barb, 'I don’t like women’s bible studies because women’s groups seem to like to read women’s books. Prime authors include: Beth Moore, Joanna Weaver, etc. No men I know have ever read any of these books—even if the topic could be seen as gender neutral.'

She continues, 'The authors of these women’s books presume that women need woman-friendly examples to understand theological truths—that if it can’t be translated into cooking, child-rearing, house cleaning, or getting along with your husband then women just won’t get it. Favorite topics of books for women, by women, usually relate to personal devotion. A woman’s emotional experience trumps her intellectual experience.'

Finally, Barb asks, 'Where are those gifted women who write like Scot Mcknight (just one example)? He can proclaim a profound theological or biblical truth in a visual and conversational way—I’m thinking about ‘blue parakeets’ and ‘water-slides.’ I’m not really interested in what someone writes in her personal journal. I’m interested in how she (using both sides of her gifted brain) connects what she finds in scripture with her faith and her world. And I would love it if she would write about it in a detached enough way so it’s not limited to her gender’s perspective. I know that women are gaining ground in many areas, but when I look at the big stack of books by my chair—none are written by women. Is this a problem? What can we do?'

The song Barb is singing… is there a place in the world where it can be heard? Or do Strickland’s promises fall flat to women who feel this way? (Men, I’m interested in your response to this too. And, to everyone, it probably goes without saying, but I'd like a cordial discussion, since I'm thinking we all have our sensitivities regarding the issues Barb raises.)

Hidden at the Window photo, by Sara. Used with permission.

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Anonymous Marcus Goodyear said...

Hmm. I'm a guy, and I don't know if I read women's books or not.

I loved Stone Crossings, for instance. (Pay me later, L.L.) But I also love Jane Austen, some of Anne Lamott, some of Madeleine L'Engle, Annie Dillard, Emily Dickinson.

My big problem is not the women's books, its the way publishers have narrowly defined the women's non-fiction market.

If you ask what's on my night stand, though, I'd have to confess to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Is that a woman's book? Or a guy's book? Or the perfect blend?

As to whether I need to world to be ready for me to achieve the impossible... sometimes I don't care. I'd be perfectly happy to levitate impossibly in some cave alone whether the world is ready or not. Achieving the impossible doesn't necessarily lead to recognition for the achievement.

That is the longest comment I've left in a long long time.

11:27 AM  
Blogger sojourner said...

i agree with Barb and believe that her song can be sung and women that share her voice should step out and sing loud and clear - and as those women do, those that hear the song should encourage them to do so by listening and entering into dialogue with them - women can be co-constructors with the culture to change the bounderies that are set - it has been done in other areas and can also be done in the area of theology and spirituality without infringing on God's truth - many female writers like Beth Moore believe they are called to minister only to women - others like Barbara Brown Taylor write for all to hear - i'm not reading Strickland's book I like the message you have shared from it. I don't think it matters that in this world all things are not equal - I think God would have us change those inequalities if they don't fit His purpose and Stricklind's message to sing one's song in the world invites God into the equation of changing the impossible.

11:51 AM  
Blogger RissaRoo said...

Wow, LL...what a great topic.

I agree about the way publishers define the market. It's narrow and limiting. Why is it a given that we don't want to delve deep into the intellectual pool, to discuss theology at the same level that is available in literature aimed at men (or at least...not aimed at women specifically)?

Rant over.

I have written and deleted a ton of additional thoughts on this, and I think I'll just think things over for awhile. Thanks for the food for thought!

12:38 PM  
Anonymous heather said...

This post resonates with me for several reasons: first, because I consider myself a Jazz Christian, and
second, because I struggle with the same ideas of women's ministry.
Honestly, most of the time, I don't understand why we need to be gender-exclusive as we approach the Bible. We aren't in any other type of classes (outside of junior high health class), nor are we in our work places. I understand that some issues (such as lust and pornography) may be easier to discuss when the genders are separate (although even then, I think it would be helpful in a small, trusted group for men and women to be able to share how they struggle in these areas). But I don't care what gender, age, or personality you are when I approach the Scriptures. In fact, I enjoy seeing different perspectives.
I think, too, sometimes (not always), this affects which Bible studies women and men do. How often do you see a men's ministry studying Ruth together?
I wrote a couple of Bible studies I've taught over the years and considered trying to get them published. But I don't think these are "women's bible studies," and without labeling it as such, marketing departments don't know what to do with them.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i can relate to this...not relating...hehehe.

seriously though...lately

i continually come up against walls

in my mind

where "i do not agree" with how something is being said or done.

what church is, a blog, a book...yes "this" very book.

sometimes...lately especially... God is telling me to "look" past the wall

and to "take-in" what He might want to tell me

through, or in, a person, place or thing, such as this,

where i am not comfortable.

in a place that is not all about me

and not about how i think things should look or be.

it is becoming a lesson on looking, listening, focus, attention, and relationship with God in the midst of a life of human sense and sensibility.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

ok so I didn't click over and read the original post so I am just spewing out thoughts from this post.
Women minister to women for precisely the reasons Barb listed: they meet women where they are, they connect with them on an emotional level, and so what if it's through a medium of housekeeping and children? God did make wombs.
I think men (and women) are more comfortable with men teachers. (is this opening another Pandora's box?) Women teach women. Men teach men...and women. I personally would like my husband to "listen" to a man teacher rather than a female teacher. Kind of rubs me the wrong way if he listens to another woman: the only woman he should be listening to is me!!
That being said, I can get taught very well on an emotional level and "woman's level" through a man teacher. (my pastor, John Piper are two that come to mind.)
Just throwing out thoughts. This is such a "kitchen table discussion." Oops--is that showing my "woman side" too much? ;)

4:01 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Marcus... I think you read books by women, and that's probably different. :) (Some would argue that Jane Austen's work is for women, but any literary buff knows this isn't quite true.) PP&Z, now that's a concept! Love your point about recognition not always being important; sometimes it is, but sometimes... who cares.

Sojourner... I liked what you said about certain writers feeling drawn to write for a particular gender. In a way, we needn't get down on anyone who's up for sister or brother talk. We are multi-faceted beings, yes? But that's also why I can hear a perspective like Barb's (and your agreement with her) and say yes... sometimes we want non-gender-specific talk too. I know I like to speak of art, music, nature, philosophy; these things interest me as much as talking about my children (which I admit can also be loads of fun and inspiration! :)

Erica... sometime you can privately send me your deletions. :) It's not an easy topic, so I did hesitate to raise it... so simple to let it get framed in simple terms or "either/or." The bible itself speaks to both men and women through a variety of images from snakes and birds to fire and clouds, from nursing to war. God is not bounded as we are, I think.

Heather... maybe there is a place for both? Women talking to women, men to men, women to men? What really holds us back? Lack of materials? Fears? Distaste? Disinterest?

nAncY... I love the spirit of your comment. An openness there that is generous, even if you have your ways of being.

Andrea... you make me smile. Yes, we have wombs, and isn't it wonderful that there are things in the bible (at the level of Hebrew roots) that say, from the mouth of God, "my womb trembles for you". (Yes, that's usually translated as "I have compassion", which is perfectly legitimate, but God certainly seems to have no qualms in the original language with talking womb-talk :) I think women relate deeply to this kind of talk, and certainly to sister-talk too. Sometimes I think the problem is that women's examples aren't seen as valid (is this why we don't speak of the Holy Spirit "sweeping" over the waters in Genesis? That's one translation.) Other times I see the flip side... women are more than wombs (let's hope so... not all women choose to marry; some cannot have children) so we might need other language that goes beyond strictly feminine experience. Anyway, getting long here. It's a huge topic. :)

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am fascinated by this... I had never thought about this before, I read from both genders, and both resignate strongly to me.

as for studies... again... both... anyone that is willing to get into a good knoweledgeable discussion is fabulous in my eyes!! but I do like to sit down in the same room and engage my instructor.

But as for women's groups, there I am a little left out. I try, I go, but for whatever reason each experience has left me feeling it was fake. I'm sure it's just the mix, but it is my experience.

I'm a nuts and bolts reader. I, personally, am not affected by gender... but perhaps it is more about the participants than then leaders or authors.

I participate in several groups, and I've noticed more a generational gap than a gender gap. finding middle ground between the younger and older linguistical differences, theological and just plain thought processes can be a profound hurdle to overcome.

thank you for sharing these thoughts... time to notice more along these lines!!!

4:59 PM  
Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Intrigued and listening... thinking.
Thank you for the stoking.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barb's feeling, as you've posted it here, resonates with me.

Often, even in a group dynamic, I'm drawn to the conversation the men seem to be having, rather than that held amongst the women. I want to speak (and hear) about art, culture, the world. Big things.

I'm one of "those women," I haven't been blessed with offspring, so sometimes conversations that center on day-to-day child rearing is not only irrelevant to my current life, but also painful. In the scheme of things, this is a small piece. I don't know if this is why so much nonfiction aimed at women doesn't appeal to me or not.

I keep starting new paragraphs and then deleting them. I don't think this thought is complete, but nevertheless I'm hedging, cautious. As it is, I read this twice this morning and starred it in my Google Reader to come back to this afternoon.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

L.L.--certainly. My "womb talk" was merely meant to say we are created as women. We as women, generally all have wombs, whether they are used or not. Every cell in our female being is woman. I wanted to clarify that off the cuff comment.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This conversation echoes my (as yet limited) publishing experience. Two articles written by request for a journal were deemed too deep for their audience. I was greatly saddened by that. Women do not need more of the same off the surface of life; I believe women want to wade deep into intellectual pools of thought and debate to wrestle out things of faith and God. How can we be in the midst of delivering this to spiritually thirsty and hungry women? I would love to be included in this wave of change. Count me in!

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yep...todays post was born here.
after reading ted's post and yours.

i like all of the different views that have come to the table here today. very interesting.

7:30 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Cindy... it's an interesting question, as to what your experience relates to. I wonder how many small groups of any kind really get beyond the surface?

Ann... and I'm happy to have your presence here. :)

Wordlily... I think you're not alone in the hedging. And Erica said she deleted paragraphs too. I wonder what we are afraid of... I know I don't want to offend anyone; that's part of it. Maybe it's okay to think out loud, to not have fully-formed paragraphs that make total sense. Such big topics almost seem to demand a slow process, vision, revision. This blog is open to such a process (well, that is to say that I am open and most of those who dialog here are flexible too.) Thanks for speaking up! :)

Andrea... always welcome, these clarifications. As I was just saying to Wordlily, we're thinking out loud here. So each of us is bound to want to say and re-say, if we're trying to work through the ideas. Thanks for coming back. :)

Erin... it's interesting to consider what's going on here. Who holds the reigns? Readers (buyers)? The providers of content (editors, magazines, publishers)? Sometimes I think this is why blogging is so appealing; we circumvent some of the gatekeeping that may be supporting the status quo. And that's not a bad first step towards changing larger systems, for those who are seeking such change.

7:34 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

nAncY... oops, you sneaked in! I love that your poem was born here. That is a beautiful thing.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Cindy Bunch said...

This is a very interesting conversation and topic. From a publisher perspective I can tell you that (1) it's difficult to market a female author toward both men and women--and we tend think that's due to attitudes in the evangelical church about women, and (2) many women are limited in where they can go in their education and careers due to family commitments. Female authors may be less open to travel and speaking. Some women with Ph.D.s never take a permanent post due to the high demands of the job and so on. I agree that there are loads of talented women out there whose voices aren't being heard. The same is true for both male and female minority voices. So it's great to hear from readers who want to seek out those voices.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

these are the pages that faith intersect with life, where the seeds of thought move from one breath to the next...
both genders are spiritually thirsty, how that thrives within a group dynamic, whether led by a feminine or masculine spirit, depends entirely on engagement and expectation. How we nurture those seeds, well...
I'll spare the monologue!! :)
I say if you have a song, sing it. If the only person it touches is yourself, you have sung well.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Nikki said...

First, my apologies for the length of this comment! This is a tricky topic.

I tend to think that the question may ultimately be one of whether there are legitimate gender roles when it comes to spiritual expression, writing and teaching. Sure, we have gender roles in our culture and even in our churches, and we have experiences that are informed by our genders. I'm inclined to say that these gender traits/roles are sort of the chords and rhythms in which the Jazz artist improvises. Improvisation is rarely pure experimentation, it almost always occurs in a defined structure (this I say from my experience as a jazz singer in LA). Improvisation is taking a few givens and creating within that space.

I have embraced a more patriarchal form of Christianity, and the traditional gender roles are preserved in my daily church experience. I'm not uncomfortable with it. In fact, if I didn't feel there was something very right about it, I wouldn't have embraced it to begin with. On the flip-side, I am also a woman whose vocational goal at one point was to get a Ph.D. and pursue a professorship in philosophy, so I clearly believe that women can have a place in the deepest theological and philosophical thought.

I suppose my worry is that in our efforts to make our spiritual offerings appear equal in any arena (as I believe they already are, regardless of roles), that we may undervalue what is unique and beautiful about the feminine and that we fail to embrace the differences that are part of our created essence. God, who has revealed himself in male form in the person of Christ, chose to do so through the person of Mary. From the female Mary came the humanity that makes Christ fully-human -- the redeemer of our flesh. From her came the flesh of God incarnate. God chose to use a woman to bear His only Son.

I don't tend to read the women's spiritual genre, and I probably never will, outside of the odd parenting book or memoir. I tend to want the heavy stuff when I read spiritual books, and most of those books have been produced by male seminarians, pastors and even monastics whose life's work has been immersion in spiritual things and theology. My life's work at present is different in some sense - it is immersion in spiritual life in the form of practicalities like cleaning the kitchen, cooking, embarking on the journey of motherhood and learning to be a godly wife. Our church tends to speak of the home as a monastery - it is the place where we build community with other Christians and learn to serve. It is where we pray and live. And, yes, even there, someone has to clean the toilets.

If this life produces something with which other humans of either gender can relate to and find uplifting, then I think that's great. If not, then I'm content to leave the theology to the theologians and, at least for now, embrace the sublimely mundane that is my work as a woman in the home.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

I'm going to piggyback on your comment, Nikki, if you don't mind.

Male seminarians, pastors, monastics... the bulk of the intellectual and teaching peoples... they were all taught and influenced by women.

They all had a mother. (Wives, sisters, grandmothers come into play too.)

Is our understanding of the term "influential" too narrowly defined to mean only that which gets published, broadcast or syndicated? Does one have to read a book penned by a woman in order to say they've learned something from her?
If that's the only way one can be influential, I think many people have a lot going against them indeed.

Obviously, I don't feel called to break through any glass ceilings. I find plenty of opportunities at my fingertips to be a person of influence. Granted, my circle of influence is smaller, but my influence is concentrated as a result of this smallish circle.

Women have a gargantuan role in teaching Biblical truth. For most women, it just takes place in an entirely different context than publishing books and Bible studies. (Come to think of it, men do too. How many of us have actually published a book or an article? And yet, how many of us have had a significant conversation with a colleague or a neighbor?)

The daily investment in a living and breathing relationship carries such a huge influence in forming worldviews. using our power as Christ would like.

I've read a lot here that I agree with: the generational gap is often times a bigger stumbling block than the gender gap; I don't care very much if a book is written by a man or a woman- if it's good, it's good and ought to be read; and I'm one of those women who does have children and does stay at home, and probably makes the philosophers roll their eyes, but here's the thing...
I have so little time to devote to engaging literature, theology and philosophy (you know, I'm busy with influencing my small circle via dinners, family devotions and laundry) that I beg you please give me meat!! Please make it accessible. Drop the war/football, carpool/recipe swap metaphors, don't pigeon hole yourself in too narrow of a genre, don't dress your thoughts up so they're too precious to grab a hold of and make my own. I want them. I need them. Please share. Whoever you are.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Lorrie said...

To quote: "I don’t like women’s bible studies because women’s groups seem to like to read women’s books."

I don't consider this a "bible" study but rather a book study. There is no gender with the author of the Word :-D

2:28 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Oh! So many good thoughts here. I fell behind. It's definitely interesting to hear the publisher's side (thanks, Cindy Bunch, IVP editor :)

One thing I began thinking about is how easily this becomes a conversation about roles. And I'm thinking maybe that's partly a separate conversation. I'm a stay-at-home-mom, a home educator, um... and I grind my own flour. :)

But I am not a women's writer. In my book I use mostly non-women-specific examples: Salvador Dali, scope-of-justice research (using beetles!), John Donne poetry, Rembrandt, Thomas Merton, Harvard's Ellen J. Langer on mind-research, and so on (I've seen the book reviewed by men, including pastors, who've asserted this is "not a 'women's book', so I think I'm accurate on this one, beyond my own viewpoint).

Which is to say that regardless of the roles we choose, we can easily write and read beyond our gender. Many of us do.

As I've been working on my next book, delving into certain biblical territory, I've actually decided it's important for women writers to also bring perspectives that might not otherwise see the light of day (as in how the "Africa Bible Commentary" recently brought a whole regional/ethnic perspective that is underrepresented). Not to turn the whole endeavor into a feminine view of the bible, but certainly not to ignore the possibilities that deserve attention. (I was going to give some examples, but I think I'll save that for the book, where I have more room to develop and defend my ideas :)

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Greg D. said...

There are a number of women religion authors who have transcended the gender gap and are read widely by men, including Phyllis Tickle, Anne Lamott, Lauren Winner, and Karen Armstrong. Notice that none of those are aimed primarily at the CBA. Women authors who are writing very clearly to ONLY a CBA audience are pretty much confined to an audience of women.

2:35 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Greg, thanks for that agent's perspective. I wonder about the dynamics. Publisher driven? Reader driven?

2:39 PM  
Anonymous pam at beyondjustmom said...

Fascinating discussion, L.L. It strikes so many of the themes I've been contemplating lately about the roles of womanhood and motherhood. We certainly are influenced by our genders, but we don't have to be completely defined by them.
I just started reading Carn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira's book Mam's Got a Fake I.D.: How to Reveal the Real You Behind All That Mom which speaks to many of these same issues in the Christian community.
Thanks for opening up this important conversation!

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Greg D. said...

It is some of both, plus author-driven, and topic-driven. It begins with asking honestly whom a particular book is really aimed at and how to reach that audience (through mktg and publicity) most effectively. If it's a book on raising kids and written by a woman in very CBAish language, it's gonna be read by women, plain and simple. If it's a book on rethinking hell, such as a book recently sold to Westminster John Knox by a female author/theologian, then clearly the marketing and publicity needs to be aimed as broadly as possible, and I'll venture to guess right now that the audience will be just as many men as women.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Joelle said...

I love a comment Lorrie made: "There is no gender with the author of the Word." God is beyond gender, yet we use the metaphor of male (as in Father) or female (such as a mother bird or the feminine birther) to help us imagine God better, find a way to meet God from our finite perspective. So I think writers who appeal to the unique aspects of each gender have their place. But I'm drawn to women writers of theology such as Roberta Bondi, Cynthia Bourgeault, and Kathleen Norris (non-CBA market, as Greg pointed out) who speak across genders, who point me to a God that is bigger than I have experienced or comprehended before. They take God out of the box and let Mystery blow my mind.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Bought as is said...

Wow, I'm hearing so much about Jazz lately. [& listening to much of my jazz stuff lately too] I feel like I could write a book, instead of a comment.
[&, while it's not Jazz, listening to "A Box" by King's X
"...there is no room inside a box..."]. I've often told people that "i don't fit in any box that exists, currently."
I don't by a book because of the sex or race of the author. [it never occurred to me that I should bother to think about it. Music is the same.] God made all humans. There is no Bible that says: "God created ____, & said 'oops, didn't MEAN to do that, sorry."
Should guys only read books written by guys? [gee, I hope not.] If that were true... I guess I shouldn't read Seedlings in Stone, or Vertical Creativity blogs. [good luck getting me to quit!]
Do I feel safe putting my thoughts or poems "out there"...ah, no. Do we make/watch films about people who played it safe? No.
Aren't there loads of stories [most of them?] in the Bible where God spoke to someone [men & women] & the first words out of their mouth was... You're kidding. ARE kidding, right God?
As for the "sex of God". I'm a bit different here. You know, "Is God male or female?" I believe He's both... & neither. [yes, I said and]. I believe God is THE Artist. [He's MY favorite artist, anyway] So color, sex, God loves variety. And each of us is unique. [God doesn't do reprints! -only originals] That said, I often say as a joke [but feel it's true, though it's not] We're all fearfully & wonderfully made. When God made you He was feeling a bit more wonderful that day. When God made me He was feeling a bit more fearful.
When I worked in a "Christian Bookstore", I was often asked what music I listen to. "Lyrically, the Christian side of secular, & the secular side of Christian." [this way both sides can hate me. Hey, everybody needs a hobby]
This leads me to a thing about Christianity that I kinda don't like. People decide how/where/what/with what God is going to speak to them. Know what? I don't listen to God that well that I can limit things for Him. I pray that God helps me listen to Him [no matter what He uses to dialogue with me in/through]. I don't tell Him He can't talk to me during a TV show, a movie or certain kind of movie, song, conversation, etc. HOW WOULD I KNOW?!?!? HE'S God, not me. I pray that I hear Him. That He helps me listen. That He [gulp] helps me act on what I heard, if that's necessary.
[ok...approaching a book here...]
And I agree with RissaRoo, I have [both here & on my own blog, at times] written more than appears here, but I like to be careful what I share. [& this jumped all over the place as it is!]

10:56 PM  
Blogger Barb said...

Thanks to all of you for the varied and engaging comments to my questions.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Warren Baldwin said...

I'm joining this discussion late, so I hope it keeps going for a little while.

Sojourner mentioned Barbara Brown Taylor as a writer whose material is not gender specific. Her book "Speaking of Sin" is a masterpiece. Greg mentioned Lauren Winner. Her book, "Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity" is about her struggle as a young single Christian. It is not gender specific, either. She is a young author to pay attention to.

Marva J. Dawn is an amazing theologian, with a Ph.D. in Ethics (I think it is). She writes on worship, community life (church) and morals. Her book "Sexual Character" should be much better known than it is.

I think Barb is right that most women writers, though, at least for a Christian audience, write for women. I don't know if that is bad.

My wife has spoken for a number of Christian women's retreats. She will ask me for help in determining some of the theological ideas and back ground of biblical passages, then she is done with me. When I say, "Now, how I would handle this ..." she'll put up her hand and say, "I don't need your help with how to present this. I'm not going to present it the way you would. I'm going to present this for women." And she does a very good job.

But, I do agree with what I perceive to be Barb's concern that we, men or women, should raise our concerns to something higher than just what resonates with me today on an emotional level. The emotions change daily; faith commitments and character transformation issues do not. We must feed on something deeper so we can can be nourished and sustained deeper.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Solveig said...

May bring in some negative vibes? Because the Blue Parakeet sounded interesting, I bought a copy yesterday, expecting to be challenged. I've read the 2 intro chapters and Book I, and I've scanned the rest--so my reaction is not based on the total--but I've noticed some glaring problems. He never once mentions repentance or the Kingdom of God. Now, granted, he makes a case for selective observation--but when dealing with the "story" of the Bible, can he ignore the OT kingdom and Jesus introductory message?
Second, his approach is not new. Anyone who comes from a literary background is well-acquainted with the Bible as story. My background has been that every time I've tried to step out of that mode, I've encountered death. And I'm not alone.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous dianne said...

Interesting topic. On the flip side, I have often wondered where were the books for men that parallel the kind of topics women write for women - you know, to balance the room a bit! (And if those books exist, what men are reading them?) Not to throw a wrench in the subject but it's something that always bothered me.

And might not personality as well as gender and generation come into play here? I finally have learned to let my interests and bent drive my reading, rather than the "shoulds" - so hopefully there are women writers who are responding to their bent and writing what they're passionate about, and hopefully that will be some of the kind of stuff Barb is looking for.

4:45 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Pam... cool book title! Glad this discussion coincides with some thinking you've been doing.

Greg... thanks for that additional perspective. So, if an author wants to write for men and women, she can? :) (As long as she doesn't speak CBA. Which, for those who want to know is the Christian Retailing marketing as opposed to ABA which is the American Booksellers Association)

Joelle... I hadn't heard of two of those authors. (Time to go on a hunt. :)

Bought as Is... oh! You crack me up. I loved that meandering comment, complete with talking back to yourself (or us?). And I loved the "both." Daring. Defendable.

Barb... and thank you for letting us spring off your very personal thoughts!

Warren... good recommendations. And I like the personal touch, sharing about your wife.

Solveig... not negative. Critique is critique and you've been kind in the way you did it. Your comment reminds me of bookseller Byron Borger's response (which he emailed me and which I'm editing and adding right here. To your thoughts, I think the first question he poses is apt):

First question: what do you mean "like Scot McKnight"? How would you characterize his work and writing and style. He does a lot of blogging, some very scholarly work and some mid-level inspiration stuff. He's culturally savvy, a bit postmodern, ecumenical. I don't know if you just mean newer, thoughtful yet accessible writers, or do you mean top-shelf Bible scholars?

Do you know, by the way, Cold Tangerines (Zondervan) by Shauna Niequest? I like her writing, although she's not Scot McKnight.

Margaret Feinberg has some potential... You may know her Organic God or Sacred Echoes.

I think the writing in Catapult is often remarkable, don't you?

Ravi Zacharias' daughter has a book and she's pretty sharp. Her name is Sarah Zacharias Davis and she has two books for women, one, Confessions of an Honest Wife and another on being "real" and authentic called Transparent. They are not serious scholarship, but you can tell she is thoughtful and a good writer.

Interestingly, there is a new very smart book about fear, written by a young woman with Zacharias as a last name, Karen Spears Zacharias, but she is not related to Ravi at all as far as I can tell....Her book is called Where's Your Jesus Now?]

Have you read any of Nancy Ortberg? She has two. One sort of a coming to faith seeker sensitive memoir for hipster women; another is about women leadership, which is pretty thoughtful and well done. I like her.

I suppose you know I love Lauren Winner. Can't wait for her next. What a reader she is, and, I think, an excellent writer.

You know Luci Shaw don't you? Her memoir of the loss of her first husband was so good, thoughtful and interesting (her confidante was Madeline L'Engle, whose nonfiction I also adore...) Phyllis Tickle is another I love, too, even though some of her cultural analysis is critized for being too broad-sweeping. She sure is fun and has tons of insight and energy. And quite prolific.

There is a woman named Jonalyn Grace Fincher with a degree in apologetics who wrote Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home. She is a very good writer and becoming a good cultural critic. She's one to watch!

AND, you have to know Lisa Callian Barger whose book on body image (Eve's Revenge) is brilliant, and her recent, on Jesus personifying the wisdom tradition is very, very good. Her "damarias project" fosters good conversation and dialogue, mostly, it seems, with an agenda to bring together evangelicals and secular feminists in mutual learning and common ground. She's an amazing person and an important woman scholar. Check out her website! Do you know about their on-line salons?? You'd love 'em...

There are so many good women scholars within the Christian college circuit these days, but I really like Mary Stewart Van Leuuwen (Gender and Grace is an all time fav, and her book My Brother's Keeper has a paragraph about Beth and I and our bookstore.) Her next work is gender in C.S. Lewis, due out maybe yet this year...

Did you meet Esther Meek at Jubilee? She is a published author and prof at Geneva (philosophy) and although she wasn't speaking this year, was around the book table a bit. Her book Longing to Know is a laypersons intro (without really saying so) on Michael Polanyi, the personalistic philosophy that tries to get around the objective/subjective dichotomy, and show "knowing" in a more wholistic, Biblical way. I love that book, published by Brazos.

AND, of coruse, these few are just evangelical, mostly younger, women who are thoughtful but not particularly scholarly. (Well, Mary Stewart V L has some very exceptional scholarly work on feminism and such.) There are scholarly writers, too, in various fields.

AND, there are non-evangelical women, women who teach at mainline seminaries, female homiletics profs, women who are major mainline theologians or Bible scholars within the academic guilds...

Did we show you, at Jubilee, the book by IVP called Finding Calcutta, written by Mary Poplin---a woman that came back from working with Mother Theresa, asking what difference that experience has upon her as a college teacher? (Mother T says to "find your own Calcutta" that place to serve.) It is a really, really amazing book.

4:48 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Dianne... oops, you slipped in while I was editing my VERY long comment. I love that question about men's books. I love flip sides. :)

4:50 PM  
Blogger Barb said...

I don't have much to add to except a need that I see. I have had several women say the same thing to me recently and it is this: "I just can't read the OT because it is so violent and I just can't deal with all of that." I would love to see a really good theologically sound book, accessable to layman, gender neutral, meaty, etc. etc. that would help us lead actual Bible studies (vs. book studies) of the whole Bible story. How to read the OT today and understand all of these more violent blue parakeets.

10:14 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Barb, at the risk of simplifying things too much, I think this is one reason we need female voices to interpret and dialog with Scripture... not to say that females can't be violent (remember Jael and the friendly little tent peg incident?) and not to say that males can't be nurturing (remember Jesus longing to be a hen?)... but it seems to me that certain themes dominate from our pulpits and in interpretive literature: war, father, overcomer, etc.

Might women be able to delve into sides of God that have been neglected in the Story? Perhaps. Much the way that a mosaic of ethnic groups could provide much-needed variety of perspective.

11:07 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Barb... this obviously isn't going to meet your needs totally, but I wanted to mention that I do deal with some of these more thorny issues of violence and suffering (by looking into the bible, particularly the Old Testament) in my book Stone Crossings. Also, I did a talk last year that discussed the occasional violence of justice, and many of the women who heard it found it helpful. It's just one small look at the issues and is called A Recorder, a Drawer and Kalashnikovs: Revisiting Grace (poke down on the page the link leads to, to find it)

11:24 AM  
Blogger Warren Baldwin said...

Dianne asks a good question about if there are books written by/for men that correspond to the books written by/for women. I think there are, if I fully grasp her question.

One of think of is "Point Man: How a Man Can Lead a Family" by Steve Farrar. It is about the character growth a man needs in his life to be the kind of husband and father his family needs.

"A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders" by Reggie McNeal could actually be for men or women, but since he looks primarily at male role models from the Bible, I suspect his primary target audience is men.

Do enough men read these books? Probably not Dianne! Now, if they would make them into a movie ...

12:16 PM  
Blogger Cindy Bunch said...

Another book to check out is the IVP Women's Bible Commentary, edited by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans. As to the Bible study question, IVP has a very nice LifeGuide Bible Study called "The Story of Scripture" that surveys the Bible in twelve sessions. It's written by Robbie Castleman (a woman), who is a professor at John Brown University.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Eve said...

Amen, Barb! Love this discussion and the photo. I stopped going to women's retreats for over a decade because every one was the same thing....organise your time and submit, submit, submit. O.k., so I have no problems with doing either of those things, so what else you got? Oh yeah, parenting. It's funny, my husband gets cheesed off about this subject so much more than I do. He thinks many book for and by women give women license to act strictly on their emotions. We are ALL made in God's image, with seemingly conflicting attributes. This discussion brings this quote by Dorothy Sayers to my mind, "But the fundamental thing is that woman are more like men than anything else in the world. They are human beings. Vir is male and Femina is female: but Homo is male and female."

11:01 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

haha. This reminds me again of this L.L. Barkat who kept leaving comments on my blog, especially, seemingly if no one else did. And I thought this L.L. was a guy!

Your book, "Stone Crossings" is a wonderful book for everyone. We need more Dorothy Sayers, and the like, who appeal well to everyone, regardless of gender. And you are one of those, L.L.

And I love "Blue Parakeet" as well, and hope it helps many women take their place in service in God's kindgom in Jesus. I love it when I see women like that, Alice Matthews who is on RBC Ministries radio program with Haddon Robinson and Mart DeHaan is an excellent case in point. May God add many many more to that "tribe."

11:08 PM  
Blogger elaine @ peace for the journey said... many good ponderings here, worthy of a long chew. All I can say is "Barbara, we need to chat!" I'm with you and all the more! Let's get to our singing, whether gender specific or not. What matters is the words contained within the song and the willing voice to sing them.

Ummmmm...ummmm...ummmm. That's southern for "Now, that's something!"

Love it.


9:32 AM  
Anonymous Sam Van Eman said...

Good topic here, L.L.

I'm plowing through your book and enjoying it. Thanks!

Byron mentioned a Barger who wrote Eve's Revenge, but it's Lilian Calles Barger. I interviewed her at New Breed of Advertisers.

He's right: she's great!

I had a delightful time with you and Marcus and Scott last week. Until next time...

2:07 PM  

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