Welcome to CBE’s Library

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Recently, a friend asked me an unexpected question. “Do you identify first as a Christian or as a feminist?” I was surprised by but not unprepared for her question. I’d considered it before, and the answer is complicated. Stick with me here.

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I know that lack of sex and consent education harmed my husband’s and my sex life in the early years of our marriage. But as I look back, I realize that’s only one side of the coin. The other was biblical illiteracy.

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We are more than our bodies. We are more than what we do or don't physically "give away." We are not well-oiled machines, defined by words like "malfunction," "deterioration," and "market value." We are complex and our value is not rooted in whether we do or do not retain our virginity.

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I have been ashamed for so long. I have been afraid. I have felt like no matter what I do, I will always and forever be man’s demise. My body will always be a threat to someone else.

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I was raised in something of a theological echo chamber where my complementarian convictions went undisputed. All diligent Bible readers would obviously conclude that men were to lead, and even more obviously, that women were not to be pastors. What could be simpler?

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I have my own particular kind of body shame, but most women have experienced similar mortification about their physical beings—a heritage of enmity with the structure of skin and bones and viscera in which we daily move. 

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What we learn from 1 Corinthians is that sometimes good actions that we are free to do can keep us from doing the first two words of chapter 14: "pursue love." Love is more important than our freedom in Christ. We have to work on our ability to love.

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In recovering from anorexia, I had to relearn how to read Scripture, not as separate, disjointed messages colored by the voices of male “authority” around me, but as a whole, creative, redemptive narrative of God’s journey of trust with God’s people.

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By paying attention to the context and specific word usage of 1 Corinthians 14, it becomes clear that Paul was not asking anyone—tongues-speakers, prophets, or women—to be quiet permanently.

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We just saw the end of January, the month of fresh starts and new beginnings. For many Christians, it also marks the beginning of an attempt to read the Bible in its entirety, from Genesis to Revelation, in a year. In light of that, I’d like to cover a few basic egalitarian principles that can help us read and understand the Bible.

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