Q&A with Carolyn Custis James

When I first sensed a call to write the book that later became Women, Leadership, and the Bible, people — and I mean an extraordinary number of people — suggested that I needed to contact a woman named Carolyn Custis James. I’d not yet heard of her and she’d only published one book by that time: When Life and Beliefs Collide. I found her, got involved with something she’d launched called Synergy Women’s Network, read When Life…, and have been blessed and stretched by her thoughtful approach to faith and thinking theologically ever since. Also since, she has published prolifically a handful of books that have influenced thousands of women to think more biblically, consider life more theologically, and engage the world’s spiritual and physical issues more robustly and responsibly (book list at bottom of this page)

Today’s Feature: Malestrom (Including a Book Giveaway Contest!!)

Today, we feature a Q & A with Carolyn about her latest book, Malestrom.

We’re also doing a book giveaway contest for it using the “Rafflecopter” app:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Carolyn, please tell us how you came to title your book Malestrom.

When I started researching what is happening to men and boys in today’s world, I was stunned and disturbed by what I found. Powerful currents are bearing down on them, causing them to lose sight of who God created them to be as his sons. These currents can be overt and brutal leading to the kinds of atrocities and violence we witness in the headlines—wars, school shootings, beheadings, and the trafficking of men and boys for sex, forced labor, and soldiering. The number of male casualties on the giving and receiving ends of the violence is beyond epidemic. But these currents also come in subtle, even benign forms that catch men unawares yet still rob them of their full humanity as God intended. The repercussions of such devastating personal losses are not merely disastrous for the men themselves, but catastrophic globally as the world is depleted of the goodness and gifts men were born to offer. The maelstrom—a powerful whirlpool in the open seas that threatens to drag ships, crew, and cargo down into the ocean’s watery depths—offered the strong image I needed to represent the power and seriousness of what men are facing. A slight alteration in the spelling, and Malestrom was born.

Has the church embraced a fallen notion of manhood? And if so, what should replace it?

To answer that question, I point to the fact that there is a chapter missing in the Bible—the chapter that would show us what unfallen manhood is supposed to be. The Bible opens with a spectacular display of God in creative action and issuing the exalted mandate for human beings—male and female—to reflect him and to do his work in the world together. But before we witness a single moment of unfallen image bearer living, the Enemy invades and God’s image bearers rebel. They are cut off from their Creator and divided from one another. We are left in the ruins of a fallen world to figure out what God had in mind for us. If our reference points are broken, our conclusions will be broken too. Jesus didn’t come to endorse any human social or political system, no matter how we may try to “Christianize” or improve it. He calls those who follow him to a kingdom that is “not of this world.” Not a kinder-gentler version of how the world does things, but a Jesus, gospel way of living that is foreign to us and to our world. So to answer this question, yes, I believe we have embraced fallen notions of manhood. The Creation narrative doesn’t contain the slightest hint of one image bearer ruling over any other image bearers. Humanity’s call is outward to rule and care for creation for the good of all. What puts this whole discussion in an entirely new and alarming light is the fact that Middle Eastern experts now are linking “the struggle for identity, meaning, purpose” as a major factor that explains why disenfranchised young men (even from the West) are being drawn into the ranks of ISIS and other radical organizations. Social scientists describe an “insidious link” between masculinity and violence that fuels many of the wars that rage across our world. Malestrom is a call for the church to be fearless in putting anything and everything on the table that may stand in the way of reconnecting with God’s original vision, including patriarchy. We should care enough about men and boys—our fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers—to do this. The stakes are serious. We now have ISIS to consider.

How does patriarchy color the understanding of men’s stories within the Bible?

The fact that patriarchy is on virtually every page of the Bible means that in some way patriarchy matters. And in fact, patriarchy is an essential and powerful tool that helps to unleash the Bible’s radically transforming message. Here’s the crucial point:  Patriarchy is not the Bible’s message. Patriarchy is the backdrop to the Bible’s message.  Against this fallen cultural backdrop, the Bible’s message stands in sharp relief, and we begin to catch eye-opening glimpses into that missing chapter. Interwoven in the stories of women I have been studying in the Bible are the stories of remarkable men whose stories have been eclipsed by someone else who attracts more attention or who have been downsized because we’ve looked at them through an American/western lens. These missing men battle the malestrom and emerge to embody a brand of manhood that reflects the newness that Jesus brings. One of the reasons I wrote Malestrom was to recover the stories of these incredible men.

It is unusual for a woman in evangelical circles to write about men, yet you believe women are in an especially good position to offer insights into manhood. Why is that?

Actually, this is familiar territory for us. For decades women have been wrestling with what God calls us to be as his daughters against the tide of cultural and church expectations. The focus of gender discussions and debates has been almost exclusively on us. We want to know what is God’s calling on our lives and how, in this fallen world, we have been disconnected or prohibited from answering that call, and what we can do to get back on track. I’ve searched for a vision, and what I’ve found is moving us in that direction. The assumption has been that men don’t experience similar restrictions; that they really didn’t have problems with identity, purpose or meaning, until women started speaking up. But men are also disconnected and hindered from answering God’s calling on their lives. All of them are. No human being can escape the effects of the fall. Even men who live at the top of the power pyramid can seem to “have it all” one day and plummet to the bottom the next because of a misstep, a bad decision, or because another man (or woman) displaces them. Manhood definitions even lock them off from essential aspects of themselves that should characterize every Christian—love, mercy, gentleness, kindness, compassion, and the readiness to weep with those who weep. Not only have I come to this discussion with the conviction that we need to ask the same questions for our brothers that we’ve been asking for ourselves, I’m convinced that part of God’s calling on me as a woman is to battle for my brothers. I don’t have all the answers, but I am willing to open the conversation and raise questions. The stakes are high, for this is in many, many situations a matter of life and death. Not only that, but the very purposes of God in the world are hindered until God’s sons and daughters answer his call together. Daunting as all this sounds, it is a venture that is saturated with hope—for we have it on good authority that God loves his sons and has empowered them along with his daughters to be agents of good and blessing in the world and we have plenty of powerful stories in the Bible where that is actually happening.

Book Giveaway: Reprised

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About Carolyn James

Carolyn Custis JamesCarolyn Custis James (M.A., Biblical Studies) thinks deeply about what it means to be a female follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. She travels extensively both in the US and abroad as a speaker for churches, conferences, colleges, theological seminaries, and other Christian organizations. She is an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, blogs on www.whitbyforum.com and Huffington Post/Religion, is a consulting editor for Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary Series on the New Testament, and a contributing editor for Leadership Journal. Her other books include When Life and Beliefs CollideLost Women of the BibleUnderstanding Purpose, The Gospel of Ruth, and Half the Church. Carolyn and her husband live in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

Carolyn’s Books

JULY EXTRAVAGANZA Blog Tour — Day 1!

To celebrate July 4th well, I decided I needed to post in two places! Huzzah! This time, however, I’ve gone (rather unpatriotically, I suppose) to the southern hemisphere – I’ve gotten a gracious invitation to post on a Kiwi’s blog! New Zealand encourager-of-women (especially mamas) blogger and business-owner, Sarah Wilson, was kind enough to allow me to post to her blog, Lattes Laced with Grace today, and highlight my book.

I imagined a world in which all Christian women—including tired, distracted mamas and busy business creators—handled Scripture with deft accuracy and skill; sorted through conflicting opinions and interpretations on difficult cultural issues and theological questions; and stepped boldly into forming their own informed beliefs about what God says in his Word about an issue, over and above what everyone else says God says.

Can you see it? Maybe not yet. But can you imagine it? What would the world be like? Would it be like a Bible-Mama Utopia?

Many thanks, Sarah! Go read the post here.

 

Announcing Author-Insanity!

Are We Crazy?

Road Trip Griswolds Vacation perfect_road_trip_map_1

The Blog-and-Book Tour Road Trip Extravaganza!

Probably.

We’re excited (and, yes, a little nervous) to announce…

The 2015 Blog-and-Book Tour, Road Trip, and Product Launch Extravaganza!

You know, when I go, I go big. It’s just me. It’s usually fun, sometimes messy, typically stressful, and hopefully fruitful for the Kingdom and helpful to the Body of Christ.

In fact, this year’s effort will be much more than “just” a book tour, if that were possible. Here’s what’s involved:

  • July 2–9—Blog Tour, a series of blog interviews and posts hosted by various active Christian bloggers and authors
  • July 8 or 9—Blog-and-Book Tour Road Trip Kickoff Party
  • July 8 or 9—Official Launch of Biblical Breakthrough! Online Coaching Program (warning: the site’s still getting some final touches, as in the front/welcome page; but the site is live)
  • July 1–August 1—Book Tour Road Trip promoting the book and online program — and you can have me come speak to your group and/or friends and/or your bookstore and/or your church and/or whatever you want to add on here!!!

Click Here for All the Details!

 

#stopFGM

More “light” reading.

Not.

Buckle up.

Thanks to The New York Times’ contributor Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian woman my age, tonight’s reflections (conveniently just before bedtime) are on FGM, or “female genital mutilation.” Ye-gad, just the mention of it gives me the shivers. So, I needed to process it a bit before retiring.

Do Not Be SilentClick here to see the article I read tonight.

I’ve been familiar with the ghastly practice for some years now, although I wasn’t 100% sure I understood exactly what the procedure entails. So, for some real fun, I checked out some images on Google.

WARNING: If you follow suit, be prepared. You will see some horrifying sights, including a hand drill, horribly dirty and rusty razors, pliers, and other crude instruments. You will see entire families, often the males (mainly those appearing to be the pater familias, but also including some who look age-wise to be brothers) but also the females, holding down screaming girls who look to be about 5 or 6 years old with the most gut-wrenching facial expressions – often with their eyes being covered by family members and such.

It’s a bloody mess. Literally. Wrap-up and recovery? Their legs tied together with some scrap material to immobilize the legs.

Why on EARTH would these practices have originated in the first place? It goes part and parcel with the general misogynistic bent of our world, to which even women subscribe. This practice of FGM, among others, unequally places the “burden-of-proof” weight of sexual purity on girls and women over and above the weight placed on boys and men in many, if not most, cultures. In Islamic cultures, Mohammed is said to have prescribed circumcision (for both genders), but, in an addendum, not cut too severely. Apparently, some folks didn’t get the memo for the girls.

Even though hundreds of girls die annually from this practice, even under medical conditions, and even though grown women suffered their own gruesome experiences of the practice, it continues to be perpetuated because of the fear that a girl will not be marriageable if she is not “cut.”

It’s viewed to be the way that a girl will not let her sexuality “get out of hand” and so that she will not “get out of control.”

I just have no words. Well, that’s not true. I have no words that I can post here and not create quite a ruckus, especially among my Christian family, both brothers and sisters, young and old.

So, here’s what I will say:
Please be aware that this happens. It is real. Just like sex-trafficking of children is real. Just like the fact that the stats of sex-trafficked people will always rise as long as the number of “johns” remains so horrifically huge is real. Just like the fact that most “johns” in the world are caucasian, “western,” and could very well live in your U.S. suburban neighborhood, statistically speaking, is real. These things are REAL. Way too real.

Also, FGM happens NOT only among Muslims and tribal peoples, but among Christians in certain parts of the world. It happens among the uneducated and the educated, although the stats (at least anecdotally) say that the rate of education is inversely proportional to the rate of FGM. The higher the education; the less likely a family is to “cut” their daughters.

#stopFGMSo, please become aware. In some way, whether it’s sharing that article I’m sharing here, please advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Let the Holy Spirit nudge you on this, or on whatever God is laying on your heart – do refuse to do nothing.

[Nod to my colleague Shayne Moore’s co-authored book “Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery”]

Who’s She? Hannah More

A lot of people know William Wilberforce’s name. Many saw a movie (“Amazing Grace“) or read a book or two about his passionate and tireless zeal for the end of human slave trade and were appropriately moved. But very few have heard of an unsung heroine named Hannah More, the author of the many tracts and pamphlets used by Wilberforce and the other abolitionists. As the only female member of the Clapham Sect, the group that was the epicenter of the movement, she quietly wrote the words that slowly, eventually helped awaken an nation, and ultimately the world, to the atrocity of human slavery.

Just hours ago, I was reintroduced to More. My colleague Bronwyn Lea sent me a review she posted tonight on another of our writing colleagues’ (Karen Swallow Prior) books on Hannah More: Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014), which made its debut about a week ago.

I could not keep either from you because

  1. Prior has written what looks to be a lush biography of Hannah More’s life and involvement with the abolitionist movement in England through writing and other strengths.  Prior highlights these contributions, but makes us aware that More did much, much more (sorry – couldn’t resist, even though this is a serious post). The book’s trailer calls her a woman “whose faith compelled her to both engage her culture and transform it,” and “woman writer who helped end the slave trade and taught a nation how to read.” Whether you’re a woman or a man, you will probably realize, after reading this post and hopefully the biography, that we all owe a debt of gratitude to her, along with a great deal of honor and respect for her writing, along with her courage, resilience, and ingenuity on behalf of education for the poor and in other arenas.
  2. And why through Bronwyn’s post? Why not just a direct link to the book? Well, first because I haven’t read it yet. I just learned about it hours ago, as I mentioned. But second, and more importantly, I wanted to introduce you to Bronwyn’s writing. This post is not “amazing”; it’s rather bread-and-butter: a book review. Meh? Not really. It still shows Bronwyn’s amazing facility for the distillation of large ideas and concepts, particularly when it comes to complex and often emotional issues. Just as I am typically inspired after reading Bronwen’s writing on just about any topic you might name, after reading her post on More, I instantly decided upon inaugurating an ongoing series of posts to highlight and bring attention to unsung folk, with women being my primary focus, who have effected change for all of humanity and for the Gospel of Christ. And so, her post bringing attention to Prior’s biography of Hannah More graces the first post in the series.

I encourage you to read the work of both authors – blog posts, articles, and books, especially this book on Hannah More.

Thanks for reading!

To encourage others to read and learn about More, as well as two other Christian authors, feel free to share this image on your FB page or Pinterest board, and please link it to this post (link: https://natalieeastman.com/whos-she-hannah-more/):

http://www.natalieeastman.com/whos-she-hannah-more/

Lecture and Book Signing at City Seminary of New York – Oct. 18

You're InvitedOne Day Only: Dr. Natalie Eastman will Give Lecture in New York City on 10/18/14

Dr. Natalie R. W. Eastman, author of Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe? A Practical Guide to Biblical Interpretation (Wipf & Stock Publishers, May 2014; http://www.womenleadershipbible.com), will lecture on

“Cutting through the Words to Get to the Word:
Discerning What God Says in Scripture
– for Yourself
(Rather than Simply Relying on What Everyone around You
Says God Says!)”

[alert type=”notice, warning, success, error, info” icon=”star” close=”true”]Free Admission. Light lunch provided, so please RSVP by Oct. 15.[/alert]

Details:

Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014

Time: 11:00 am–1:30 pm

Book sales and signing will follow the lecture.

Location: Walls-Ortiz Gallery and Center, City Seminary of New York

2204 Frederick Douglass Blvd (at W 119th St.)
New York, NY 10026

This event is sponsored and hosted by Women of Wonder! Inc.

About Women, Leadership, and the Bible:

Dr. Eastman’s book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible, pays particular attention to the often-difficult issue of women’s roles in church leadership. Yet, it’s not another book telling women and men what to believe about women’s roles. Rather, it teaches them how to interpret the Bible so they may understand it and discern their own viewpoint.

[testimonial author=”Jonalyn Fincher, author of Ruby Slippers, vice president of Soulation.org”]I have heard women tell me their one life wish is to study the Scriptures. I am delighted to be able to say they finally can, without going to seminary. Natalie Eastman dignifies women’s minds with her careful steps for understanding the Bible. You will finish prepared to face those ‘problem passages’ not just about women’s roles but about everything. Natalie Eastman is an ideal guide because she refuses to tell you what to think; instead she delivers the tools that all teachers of the Bible use to unlock meaning and application.[/testimonial]

Paperback:                            Kindle:

     

[callout title=”Help Us Spread the Word to New Yorkers!”]Please click on the SOCIAL icons just below to SHARE this page socially with your NYC friends. Thank you![/callout]

Dr. David Eastman to Run in 2014 Columbus Marathon: Fundraiser for Children’s Home in San Salvador

On Oct. 19, 2014, Dr. David Eastman  (my Awesome and Absolutely Favorite Husband) will run the Columbus Marathon for the second time to raise funds and awareness for the fabulous kids of the Love and Hope Children’s Home in San, Salvador, El Salvador.

Click here to support David and give for the kids of Love & Hope!

 

https://www.crowdrise.com/davidsrunforloveandhope/fundraiser/natalieeastman

Every $10 and $20 will raise that $0 toward our goal of $2k! (But, truth be told, $50s and $100s will get us there faster…)