Is the Bible Good for Women? Review

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Is The Bible Good For Women? I’m gonna spoil the whole book for you. Yes, yes it is.

But really, in this well-researched, well-reasoned book, former Presbyterian deacon Wendy Alsup makes the case in this post-Christian, feminist world why the Bible is actually really really good news for women. The main premise is that you have to read the whole book through the lens of Jesus, which all Christians are really supposed to do anyway.

I had heard all the time in my Graduate studies that the Old Testament should be read in light of the New. In this book, she gives very solid examples of just that, tackling head on some of the hardest parts of scripture such as the rape of Dinah. All of these difficult parts of scripture look very different in light of the Savior.

As a Catholic reading this book, I still got plenty out of it. Yes, she probably has a much heavier emphasis on scripture than I do (“Sola Scriptura” and all that), but that does not mean that anything she says about Scripture is wrong. In fact, I love her concept of “The Bible is the best commentary on itself.” One can go crazy with all the commentaries and translations of the Bible out there, but as it was all inspired by God, often the best way to understand a difficult passage is to look at other related passages where the same word or phrase is used or the same topic is discussed. As a Catholic, another one of my favorite commentaries would have to be the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but what she says is still sound advice.

I also really, really loved her analysis of Genesis. She really skirted along the edges of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in her discussion of the God-given dignity of women and their role in the world. I wonder if Wendy Alsup has ever read about Theology of the Body or John Paul II’s Letter to Women. I think she’d appreciate his work.

In short, I’d recommend this book to anyone trying to defend the Bible in today’s world. She gives a fair hearing of the other side of the debate and then defends the Bible very well.

I was given the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Blogging for Books. It will be available at your favorite bookseller on March 21st.

The Well: Review of a Retelling of a Familiar Story

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As I said a couple months ago, Walk in Her Sandals made me a fan of Stephanie Landsem. So I went out later that week to get a couple of her books from the library. Due to life and everything else, I am just now publishing the review from that reading. (Blame NetGalley and Blogging for Books for having such an awesome selection this fall.)

Two things I usually don’t like reading, novels by other women (I know, that sounds horrible 😔) and historical novels, are both here. Normally, I wouldn’t have given this book a second look, but after reading Walk in Her Sandals, I knew I could trust the author, so I specifically looked for this book. I’m glad I found it and I intend to buy a copy.

The Well follows the story of the daughter of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-26). Not a terribly far stretch that a woman with 5 husbands has two kids. The first half of the book introduces the situation and connects you to the characters. Then, we reach the visit from a mysterious stranger and everything changes.

Just like in Walk in Her Sandals, I’m impressed by how much homework the author clearly did. And not only did she do her homework with the story she told, but with the way she told it. The two main characters, Mara and Shem, illustrate very well the feminine and masculine genius, the sexual complementarity that our Church teaches. From a Theology of the Body perspective, this book is very illustrative of what John Paul II was talking about.

The story has something to say for everyone. It has sacrifice, hard work, love, healing, hope and a wide variety of characters. Wherever you are in life, this book has a message for you and I’m sure that message is from the Holy Spirit.

One reviewer on Amazon complained that it has a sad ending. I wouldn’t call it a sad ending. I don’t think Mara, the daughter, would consider it sad at all. I think she would say it was all for the glory of God. I don’t want to give too much away, but it does touch on another popular story from Scripture.

The Well is available at your favorite book seller now. It was the first in the Living Water Series and I look forward to reading the whole series.

 

 

 

Walk In Her Sandals: A Book Review

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I know it isn’t Advent yet, but plan now to get some of your favorite girlfriends together this Lent to read this book!

Walk in Her Sandals is a deep and unique look at Christ’s Passion and the events after His death from a woman’s perspective. Each chapter contains numerous reflections on various aspects of Holy Week and beyond. There is something for everyone in this book. There is a fictional retelling of the events of the Passion told from the perspective of a woman who watched it all unfold. There are reflections connecting these foundational events to aspects of our feminine genius. There is a guide to pray through important scripture passages using the ancient practice of lectio divina. There are good reflection questions to discuss as a group. The book features authors that most Catholic nerds are familiar with like Teresa Tomeo, Lisa Hendey and Pat Gohn as well as many more authors that you will want to learn more about.

I was a little surprised to see that one of my favorite parts was the fictional retelling of the Passion. I’m usually not a fan of that kind of thing (funny, because I do enjoy writing it, but that’s another story). Stephanie Landsem clearly did her research bringing stories such as the Last Supper and Pentecost alive. You could really sense that these women could have actually been there, were actually the kind of people you would have expected to see there. I had never heard of her before and I’ll have to look her up and try some of her other books.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to pick this book up again as part of a book club. That would be awesome! I’ll have to tell you about it when I do. Not to say that the book isn’t good to read on your own. I certainly enjoyed it.

I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Ave Maria Press! This book just came out yesterday and is available from your favorite bookseller now.

NOTE: I have been informed by the wonderful people at Ave Maria Press that there will be at least two online book clubs this Spring (just in time for Lent!). One will be held at CatholicMom.com and the other will be at WomenInTheNewEvangelization.com. Join me there!

Mothers of the Church: A Book Review

Mothers of the Church

I ❤️ this book. It was over far too soon, but it will encourage you to read more about these awesome women.

You hear about the Fathers of the Church, the early leaders and scholars who contributed so much to our understanding of God and His Son. But you don’t hear much about the Mothers of the Church. These are the women who were scholars also in their own right who lived the faith in their actions. They often inspired and supported the Fathers and the early Church. 

In today’s environment where you hear people frequently complain about the role of women in the Church, it is ever more important to hear these women’s stories and to understand that in the pagan Roman Empire, Christianity was truly a liberating force for all women. In a society where baby girls were left to die and women were the property of their husbands, Christianity brought with it the radical idea that women and children were people, too. This is still a radical idea needed in the world today.

This book is a reader and would definitely be a great addition for a Church history class. By “reader” I mean that it principally contains samples of early writings by and about the women featured. These writings have been cleaned up to be easily read by modern readers. 

It definitely is not limited to an academic audience, however. With short, easily digestible historical bites and entertaining background information, this book is really for anyone wanting to learn more about the Mothers of the Christian faith.

It is available at your favorite booksellers now. I got mine a year ago at Catholic Supply of St. Louis. It is among my favorite purchases there and it now has a well-earned place on my reference bookshelf.

My Badass Book of Saints- The Review

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Are people so offended by the title of this book the only picture I can find of the cover online is from Amazon with “copyrighted image” printed across the top? Seriously, you can find worse language on daytime network TV. But anyway…

If you’re offended by the title of this book, get over it and buy it. You’ll be glad you did.

There has been several books out in recent years by women reflecting on the role of the saints in their lives. My Badass Book of Saints is definitely my favorite of the group.

Like other books in this category, it’s part memoir, part hagiography, and part spiritual reflection. Unlike the other books in this category, it’s relatively light on the memoir, which I like. Her writing is always spunky and engaging. It’s full of fun and inspiring facts. She makes all of the (official and unofficial) saints in her book relatable and interesting. You’re guaranteed to learn something and enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.

A couple of her choices of saints mystify me. She lists Christina the Astonishing, a woman who practically came back from the dead and then spent the rest of her life doing strange and dangerous acts of penance. The lesson Ms. Johnson gets out of it is how inspirational Christina is to come back from the dead and go through all these trials for the souls in purgatory. What I get out of it is that even the mentally ill can become canonized saints. I guess you can say “potAYto, potAHto.” Part of the beauty of the saints is that different Catholics can get different ideas from the same figure.

Other saint stories include little-known facts about well-known figures such as Audrey Hepburn and other inspirational people you may have never heard of such as Nancy Wake.

Overall, very fun read. It’s currently available at your favorite book seller. Get it!

 

Misreading St Paul on women…

Having trouble with St. Paul’s views on women? This writer will help clear some of those up.

“The truth is I was reading the passage with secular eyes. I was seeing child-bearing and motherhood, because of its obvious challenges and sacrifices, as something to be despised. Being a mother is hard because it demands the totality of the person, body and soul. The sacrifice a mother makes for a child goes beyond that of the father as she literally gives her body for the life of the child. She says to her unborn child ‘this is my body given for you’. After the child is born she says to the baby ‘take eat, this is my body’.”

Pure In Heart London

‘women will be saved through child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness and self-control.’ 1 Timothy 2:15 

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I remember studying that passage in my theology undergraduate class at university and prickling with anger. So, I thought to myself, men are saved by the cross and women are saved by having babies?!  I remarked wisely to my lecturer after the class that it was clear that the misogynistic attitudes of the age in which St Paul’s lived had not been purged away by his new faith. This was surely biological determinism painted onto the canvas of Christianity? She heartily agreed, however as soon as I had made the remarks I felt a voice somewhere in my heart protest. I knew I was missing something that would flip the whole passage around.

The truth is I was reading the passage with secular eyes. I was seeing…

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Woman in the Bible: Esther

Tonight begins the holiday of Purim for our Jewish brothers and sisters. It’s one of their bigger holidays. People dress up in costumes, feast and give to charity. They attend services twice, once tonight and again tomorrow. Between the two, they hear the entire story of Esther, one of the coolest women found in Scripture.

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“Queen Esther” by Edwin Long

The story goes thus:

The King of the Persian Empire called for his wife. She refused to come to him and so he had her executed. In search for a new Queen, he put on a beauty pageant. Esther won. He didn’t know that Esther was a Jew and she certainly wasn’t going to tell him. The Jews were under the power of the Persian Empire at the time and there were anti-Semitic movements afoot.

Meanwhile, the King’s right hand man, Haman, plotted against the Jews. Everyone was supposed to bow to Haman, but Esther’s cousin (who had raised her) refused. As a faithful Jew, he would only bow to God. This served as a catalyst for Haman to call for the extermination of all Jews in the empire.

Esther saw all of the Jews in mourning and wondered why. Her cousin explained to her what Haman was planning to do and asked her to intercede. She was afraid to do so because anyone who went to the king without being called was executed, but her cousin argued, “Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” She agreed to intercede and asked her cousin to have the Jews fast for her success.

She succeeded in getting an audience with the king where she invited him and Haman to dine with her. She wined and dined them a few times and then finally let her wishes be known to the King. She revealed Haman’s plot and Haman was executed. The entirety of Haman’s estate is given to Esther’s cousin and he is elevated to Haman’s old position at the King’s side..

My brief summary does leave some things out. I highly recommend reading the story yourself. It is only 11 pages long in my Bible. It is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament.

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Plaque found under the picture shown above.

 

What can we learn from her?

  • Being open to God’s call and realizing that everything is part of His plan
  • Courage, lots of courage
  • Interceding for one another. The Jews prayed for Esther as Esther argued for them.
  • The feminine genius in her gentle, almost seductive way of making her wants and needs known and her openness to the feelings and needs of others.

She is one of the greatest heroines in Scripture, more than worthy of all of the music, writings and other art inspired by her.

Chag Purim Sameach! (Hebrew for “Happy Purim!”)

Learn more:

A Brief Guide to Purim

Wikipedia

Note: If you are having deja vu in reading the description of Purim, you are not going crazy. Some scholars believe that there is a close relationship between Purim and Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), that the holidays borrowed customs from one another in the Middle Ages.

A picture from a Purim parade.

A picture from a Purim parade in Israel that would easily fit in the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.