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Priscilla Papers

Rape is a timeless and worldwide1 epidemic that violates the divine image and personhood of a human being and renders its victims voiceless, powerless,2 and fragmented from self, others, and God. Rape causes a desolate and disordered reality psychologically, relationally, and spiritually, often resulting in theological and “existential crisis.”3 Although this crisis impacts millions each year,4 rape has a history of silence, denial, and serious misperceptions.5 These misperceptions include blaming the victim and minimizing the multidimensional impact and trauma of rape. Healing requires breaking the silence, which many voices are doing today, including one particular community more than two thousand years old. Rather than silencing, denying, or minimizing rape, this community speaks relevantly and powerfully by voicing outrage against rape. Read more
Former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China said, “The speed of a fleet is judged not by the fastest ones in the front, but by the slowest ones trailing at the end.” This imagery, unintended though it was for the women’s movement, provides a vivid depiction of women and girls who are left behind. Though gender equality has seemingly made significant strides inside and outside the church in the past few decades, there remain many overwhelmingly horrid stories of women and girls whose lives are severely broken by extreme abuse and exploitation. In the biblical framework of creation-fall-redemption, and against the cultural backdrops of China and Cambodia, we look into God’s intention in restoring lives of these violated girls. Read more
As a boy, I lived on a small family fruit farm. When springtime came, grasses and weeds that coexisted between the rows of fruit trees were ripped and carved so that the soil could breathe and be prepared to support the trees for the coming season. As the weeds were turned over, an important cycle of life was encouraged. When the spring rains came, the enzymes did their work to break down the organic matter to support new growth. The parable of the sower is included in the three synoptic gospels of our Bible. The parable describes scattered seeds that fell on hardened paths, where the birds have a feast; or in shallow soil amid rocks, where, after a brief life, the plants shrivel for lack of moisture and nourishment; or some that fell among thorns, where life was short as the vines and dominant plants monopolized the moisture and nutrients, smothering the fragile plants. Each picture represents the life-giving word of God, which does not take root due to unwelcoming conditions. In the lives of the people I work with, as it is for all of us to some extent, God’s invitation to true wellness is unable to be fully realized due to various, often significant, hindrances. Read more
Ideas have consequences. This is particularly true in addressing domestic violence. Men who abuse hold ideas—or, as we will term them, beliefs—that support their abusive behaviors. And, like the verbal abuse and lethal neglect of Nabal in the biblical account of 1 Samuel 25 that nearly led to his own and the death of his servants and children, such behaviors have dire consequences for the men themselves and those who live with them: wives, aging parents, partners, and children. To understand the cycle of abuse and the beliefs that support it, we must first understand the details and reality of those living in abusive homes by defining terms, reviewing the types and frequency of abuse, and examining the beliefs of men who abuse as well as assessing the consequences of these beliefs—and the subsequent actions they engender—on their female partners and children who witness abuse. Finally, I will close with some basic tenets in challenging men who abuse and their belief systems. The standard in the domestic violence field is to address the issue using multidisciplinary teams or coordinated community responses. Read more
The unilateral authority of males is evident in shaping nearly every culture throughout history. Further, when patriarchy is framed as a biblical ideal, it is not only at odds with the teachings of Scripture and the purposes of God’s covenant people, it also becomes a deadly spiritual disease that chokes life all around it. As Jesus said, if the fruit is bad, the tree also is bad (Matt 7:17–20). This is not to say that gifted men should not exercise authority, but, at the same time, they should affirm the gifts and authority that God grants women as well, working mutually to lead and serve the church and the world. As a balance, it was thrilling to see three women receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for their courageous activism in advancing democracy and justice for women. Three days later, a blog appeared by CBE member Jenny Rae Armstrong, who wrote: I haven’t stopped grinning since I heard the news about the Nobel Peace Prize recipients. You see, it was in Liberia that I first witnessed the true ugliness of gender injustice, first understood that a tiny seed of pride and superiority dropped into the heart of a man would blossom not into a sheltering tree but into an ugly, invasive weed that choked...life...around it. Read more
This issue is about ideas having consequences, finally centering, as we always do, on our target area: making sense of gender relations. As all issues of Priscilla Papers, this present one has been pieced together over months (and sometimes years), and each editorial is written on a topic relevant to the issue. But, at the same time, each editorial is also written within a life context.  Read more
Could Mary have refused, when it was offered her, left her fingers open around the gift, releasing the weight of it from the palm of her hand? Read more
As with Mary, it was the sound of angel wings that broke the silence. My ears rung with gold, I felt fire sprouting up from the dun earth.   Read more
One of the most hotly contested passages in the New Testament these days is 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The cultural reason for this is clear: The ordination of women in the Church is a major issue of debate among traditional and evangelical denominations. Biblically-minded Christians are rightly concerned about the meaning of this passage for ministry today. And, in response to that concern, a large number of scholars have written articles, commentaries and now even entire books on these few verses.   Read more
Plato said ideas rule the world. All action begins with an idea. Paul said, "Take every thought captive to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). Why? Because ideas have consequences. The most prominent indicator of whether a girl will be sold to a brothel, killed as a fetus, abused in her marriage or family, or denied a place of decision making in her church, community, or marriage is not based on her gender, but the value ascribed to the female gender. Read more

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Book Review: Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood

Nate Pyle is a pastor in Fishers, Indiana. His recent book, Man Enough, tackles the question of biblical gender roles from a fresh perspective. His offering is the latest in the recent influx of gender studies in the “spiritual memoir” genre. While authors like Rachel Held Evans (A Year of Biblical Womanhood, 2012) or Sarah Bessey (Jesus Feminist, 2013) have provided important insights on the ongoing complementarian versus egalitarian debate, they have commented largely on how this debate has affected women.

Finding Their Voices: Sermons by Women in the Churches of Christ

D’Esta Love is no stranger to writing and editing; as co-editor of the Pepperdine University based ministry journal, Leaven, she has often encouraged the ministry of other women.1 She is also no stranger to “finding her voice.” In the introduction to Finding Their Voices, Love reflects on the number of years she waited for the opportunity to preach in her own heritage, in a Church of Christ (she was seventy years old).

Wild at Heart: Essential Reading or “Junk Food of the Soul”?

It seems a discussion of masculinity can scarcely commence at Gordon College without mention of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, a book enthusiastically endorsed by Christians nationwide. Many would agree with writer Charles Swindoll, who calls Wild at Heart “the best, most insightful book I have read in at least the last five years” (Eldredge, i). Eldredge’s immense popularity, however, must not be allowed to disguise the fact that his suggestions are often incongruent with the teachings of Jesus.

Book Review: Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women

I have read nothing quite like Elaine Storkey’s book, Scars Across Humanity. It tells the story of violence against women in today’s world. The book is very well researched and accessible; moreover, it is spine-chilling. As I sat with the book in hand after reading it I felt both pleased that someone had so powerfully told this awful story and depressed by what I had read.

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