When Kendra and I began this project, we talked about the potential soul-sucking nature of our endeavor: about how over-exposure to certain aspects of Christian culture might become too depressing, might make us—and potentially our readers—more cynical and snarky about Christianity. Don’t get me wrong: snarky can be great fun, and goodness knows, there’s plenty about evangelicalism to stoke my cynicism. But, despite our desire to deconstruct problematic images of women in Christian culture, we also wanted to make sure to provide alternative redemptive messages about what it means to be a woman created in God’s image.
So this post is an interlude to the snarkiness, an attempt to show that there are Christian women who—while not embracing many (or any) of the supposed traits of biblical women dictated in evangelical culture—model for me the kind of life I want to lead.
I just returned from faculty retreat. For 48 or so hours, faculty at George Fox University gather at the Oregon coast to prepare for a new school year. We eat too much great food, play games, sing songs, and listen to lots and lots of speakers. Some years are better than others. This year—despite damp, gray weather—was spectacular.
The retreat was designed to help us consider spiritual formation, in our students and in our selves. It featured sharing by a number of my colleagues, as well as time for small-group discussion. What impressed me most was the honesty and vulnerability of my colleagues, their willingness to forego pretense and posturing to talk openly about their spiritual practices—or lack thereof. For a bunch of professors more inclined to academic pissing contests, this was refreshing.
Because I’ve been thinking so much lately about the role of women in the Christian church, I was especially awed by my female colleagues and their realness. Not in the sense prescribed by the Harris brothers: not at all. Because some of my colleagues are single by choice, and have not invested their life in seeking a spouse. Some are working mothers, hoping to find a center between their vocations and their children. Some are boisterous and loud, voicing their opinions with confidence. A few (too few) are strong leaders in our university, with positions of authority over men. Most have a passion for what they do, a clear sense that God has called them to their roles as teachers and scholars, and a longing to mentor other students into becoming all God intended them to be.
I imagine a number of our students have been raised to believe a Christian woman embodies the qualities described in books like Captivating, or on lists like the Harris’.I am grateful that my colleagues model for them another kind of Christian womanhood. I hope my students can see in these models as potential for their own future selves. I am blessed to serve with a number of female colleagues who truly strive to be what God created them for.
And, I’m (almost) excited to begin another school year.