Defiant: What the Women of Exodus Teach Us about Freedom
by Kelley Nikondeha!
Kelley Nikondeha serves up powerful insights from the stories of the women of Exodus, the stories of women who resisted historical and modern injustices, and her own experiences as an adopted Latina American woman married to a Burundian man and mother to Burundian-born, American-raised children. . . . The result is a compelling and hopeful call to action; a call for women to partner with God, sometimes in subversive ways, to set his people free in our churches and neighborhoods.
Read CBE’s blog interview with Defiant author Kelley Nikondeha here.
Kelley joined us for a Zoom conversation where she talks about her book, how women can move from recognizing privilege to building partnerships, and the role of lament in the process. Kelley also shared a bit about her next book project.
Watch it here and be inspired!
Foreword/Introduction and Chapter 1
- In the foreword, Sarah Bessey says that what Kelley Nikondeha offers in this book is a better definition of “biblical womanhood.” Rather than a “cookie-cutter vision of a 1950s sitcom,” Bessey says that Nikondeha shows us that true biblical womanhood contains “the resistance, the strength, the civil disobedience, the collaboration, the truth-telling, the drumming, the wit, the holy liberated power of women who know their God.” What aspect of this definition resonates with you? Do you hesitate when you hear this description of womanhood? What excites you about this definition?
- On pages 6–7 of the introduction, Nikondeha says that the Exodus women can serve as an archetype for modern women in two ways: (1) the actions they took are still available to us today, and (2) these women challenge us to notice our social location. How often do you think about your social location in relation to how you might help your neighbor? What does that look like where you live and in the life you lead?
- In chapter 1, Nikondeha focuses on her realization and understanding of women’s leadership and mutuality between women and men being key to transforming our world. What do you think of this idea? Have you noticed similar examples in your own experiences?
Chapters 2 and 3
- How did the author’s reimagining of the biblical women’s experiences and conversations in these chapters open up the Bible story for you in a new way? Was there anything that surprised you? Have you ever imagined these women’s stories in a different way?
- In chapter 2, Nikondeha tells several stories of women doing the right thing by disobeying the powers that be. As Christians, and perhaps especially as women, we tend to shy away from disobedience or even the perception of disobedience. What are your current perceptions of civil disobedience? Did reading this chapter change the way you think about disobedience in some circumstances?
- In chapter 3, we explored the stories of women who acted in hopeful defiance, particularly in ways that are often hidden or hard to see. Were any of these women’s stories new to you? What are the ways you have participated in hopeful defiance in your life?
Chapters 4 and 5
- In chapter 4, Nikondeha imaginatively builds on the story of Pharaoh’s daughter who she calls Bithiah, borrowing from Jewish tradition. On page 64, the author reasons that we might be able to identify most closely with Bithiah because we are likely people who are “privileged yet seemingly powerless, paralyzed.” Do you identify with Bithiah? In what ways do you feel different and/or similar to her?
- In chapter 4, Nikondeha tells the story of becoming friends with Tahany, a Muslim woman, and being present for the birth of Tahany’s child. Have you ever shared a friendship with someone that caused you to notice your own power and privilege where you did not see it before? How did that change you?
- In chapter 5, we focus on Miriam’s youthful passion and her prophetic boldness; she’s one of several young women whose stories Nikondeha tells. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt that kind of prophetic urgency? How did people respond to you? How do you respond to women who speak prophetically, when it might be hard to hear their words?
Chapters 6 and 7
- In chapter 6, Nikondeha explores the “modality of motherhood” and how “the work of mothers is often pivotal when it comes to outcomes that benefit communities” (107). Particularly, she talks about her own process of learning to feel solidarity with black mothers because of her own fears for her black son. If you are a mother, how have you experienced solidarity in motherhood with other mothers? If you are not a mother, how have you learned solidarity and or freedom from mothers?
- At the beginning of chapter 7, Nikondeha emphasizes how the sisters of Midian were workers. She talks about how the lens we’ve inherited from patriarchy resists noticing women first as workers, and thus we miss the discrimination women face on the job. How have you experienced discrimination in your work as a woman? If you are a man, how do you work to amplify the voices of your female colleagues?
- In chapter 7, Nikondeha tells the story of how a group of women in North America helped to make sure women in Burundi had the identification cards they needed. She says this experience taught her how “[her] own freedom is intertwined with the freedom of other women” (125). How do you experience your own freedom being intertwined with others’? What are some ways we can use our freedom to help others gain freedom in our own communities and around the world?
Chapters 8 and 9
- In chapter 8, Nikondeha explores sacraments and ritual as vehicles that can move us toward freedom. How have you found freedom through particular rituals or sacraments?
- In chapter 9, Nikondeha emphasizes the power and importance of neighborly networks of women who work against injustices in their communities. Have you ever been part of the kind of network she describes? What was that network like, and how did it work to transform you and teach you to advocate for others?
- Do you find it difficult to reach out to others, or do other circumstances in your life isolate you from others? How can we reach out beyond ourselves to find the kind of neighborly network that Nikondeha describes in chapter 9?
- In chapter 9, Nikondeha connects our sense of neighborliness to making reparations. When you hear the word reparations, what is your gut reaction? Does the way Nikondeha describes reparations change anything about the way you understand reparations?
- How have you found freedom to live out God’s calling on your life?
- Now that we’ve read the whole book, what do you think about Nikondeha’s claim that the women of Exodus can be archetypes for us today? Which woman of Exodus do you think models the kind liberating practice that your community needs you to live out?
- What is the most important thing you’ve learned from this book?
CBE book club members reflected on their journeys with Defiant through the many questions we considered and the next steps that flowed from reading this powerful book. Read their thoughts here.
CBE hosted a conversation on Facebook: CBE’s Summer Book Club Facebook group.
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