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The pastor to whom I was speaking was adamant: God definitely had roles for husbands and wives to play in marriage. The husband was the leader, the decision-maker, and the wife was to submit to his leadership. “If a woman is single, who makes her decisions?” I asked. “Why, she does!” he replied. “And when she marries, then who makes the decisions?” I persisted. “Her husband does,” was the predictable answer. “So, then, is a woman diminished by marriage?” I asked.  Read more
My friend excitedly shared how much he’d enjoyed Dr. Dobson’s September 1999 letter. “Though I support Focus on the Family’s work,” I responded, “I strongly disagreed with one point Dr. Dobson raised in that letter. I am not encouraged by increased support shown in evangelical circles for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Statement on the Family.” My friend stared. He could not understand how any Christian could object. Dobson states that over 100 Christian leaders have signed their support for the SBC resolution, including Denver-based Promise Keepers, Colorado Springs’ Navigators and Focus on the Family, and many other organizations. Dr. Dobson adds that Family Life Ministries and Campus Crusade for Christ have also adopted an expanded version of the SBC statement. How can this be bad news? Isn’t the unity among Christians praiseworthy? Why should I be concerned? I thought about how to answer my friend, and here’s what I concluded: Read more
As a couple, we have always valued equality, even if we haven’t always practiced it. It seemed to be not only an issue of basic fairness but also a practical way to share the joys and burdens of our life together. But implementing this ideal has been an incremental process. Like most newlyweds, we came to our marriage with great optimism, but also with ambivalent beliefs about roles. Our ideals of equality competed with traditional expectations of who would actually cook the meals, take out the garbage, change the oil, earn the money, and change the diapers. One of the first arenas where we faced this incongruity was meal preparation. It seemed easy at first. We have always loved to do things together, so as newlyweds we planned meals, shopped, cooked and washed dishes jointly. We enjoyed experimenting with new recipes and re-creating old family favorites. Read more
Political polls unnerve me. The questions are carefully phrased such that one’s answer must support the perspective of the pollster (not unlike the classic question, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”). When those who provide the answers also pose the questions, the debate easily veers off into conceptual territory that is favorable to those who are framing it. We need to keep an eye out for questions that serve more as assertions than genuine queries. Read more
In the last issue of Mutuality we asked a critical question—why does it take so long for certain truths to become part of everyday life? For example, the Royal Navy knew for decades that drinking citrus juice would eliminate scurvy, saving the lives of thousands—yet no one adopted the behavior. Even after watching sailors recover within hours of consuming citrus products, few changed their behavior. Why is this? Read more
Imagine a medium-sized room filled with high school boys and girls. You sit with your friends laughing and joking, discussing the week while the band sets up their equipment. Welcome to high school youth group. Tonight’s message: modesty. The boys are escorted off to another room for this conversation—modesty is an issue for women. This captive audience of young women listens as their youth pastor outlines why and how a girl should be modest. Read more
Anna and I met when we were students at Beeson Divinity School. From almost our first meeting I was drawn to her sharp mind, her sensitivity, her sense of humor, and, I might add, her striking beauty. Both of us were, at that time, considering careers in the academy. Anna had served two churches, one mainline and one evangelical, as a lay youth minister before seminary. She had altered her vocational path, however, largely owing to the influence of the conservative Presbyterian denomination of which we were a part. She now had set her sights on a doctorate and the academy—a place she rightly identified as more congenial to women. We were both evangelical, both soft patriarchs, and both interested in the life of the mind. It was a match made in heaven. Read more
I am a fervent patron of the “chick flick;” don’t get me wrong. These films offer a specific promise that my sensibilities won’t be rocked, that the experience will be safe. Before settling into my sunken movie seat, with compressed popcorn blooms held fast, I know how it’s going to end: gratifyingly gushy. Yet at the same time, I know it is going to reiterate the fixed roles that men and women supposedly ought to play in finding true love. I know it is going to showcase the specific gender identities for which the chick flick genre is known. Typically, the man is the one to realize his failings, atone for his sins, and recoup the relationship before it’s too late. Ideally, the woman indulges his appeals, quickly mounts his contemporary stallion, and rides off into dusk to be with him forever. Read more
It is rare to encounter people in the United States who understand what I do. “You’re an anthropologist?” They say. “How interesting! Is that like Indiana Jones or more like Jurassic Park?” I exaggerate (a bit), but anthropology is not a widely understood discipline in this country. I would also say, based on my highly unscientific study, that it is even less understood in the church. Anthropology’s traditional anti-missionary bias, combined with a general distrust of “-ologies” of various sorts, has led anthropology to be a weak voice in U.S. Christianity. Read more
Imagine yourself a teenage girl, strolling through your local Christian book store, when a small book that sounds too good to be true catches your eye. Someone actually wrote a book that claims to expose the workings of teenage guys? “It’s the inside scoop you’ve been waiting for! You’ll come to not only understand him, but also know what he might really be thinking about you,” the back cover reads.  Read more

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