Monday, March 26, 2007

How Christianity Gave Women a Soul

Last week Dale and I spoke in Tucson, AZ about apologetics, the woman's soul and Christian purpose in the academy. Perhaps my favorite event was the open forum at the University of Arizona where I addressed a group of 100 on "How Christianity Gave Women a Soul."

Universities provide a place for intellectual energy to nest and settle. It's different from a church or camp event where you don't want to overwhelm or bull-doze your audience with too much information.
At universities I get the feeling that the audience expects, even requires, the speaker to give all they've got. Don't hold anything back because they will question and doubt you with freedom that is both intimidating and invigorating. It motivated me to speak with clarity and gave me just enough nervous energy to keep praying.

What a thrill to be able to speak from the work of Ruby Slippers to a group of eager, intelligent students. I saw eye-brows go up as I said that Christ might be able to lighten the load of the curse on women and men. I saw women writing down notes when I talked about Mary at Jesus' feet. I closed with these words, "Some of your are looking into different religions. Let me suggest you look long and hard at Jesus of Nazareth, who thought women's souls were worthy of his life, death and resurrection, who found women could handle picking up their crosses and following him."

One pre-med female student came up afterwards and told me that she had never seen the significance in God choosing women as the first witnesses at the empty tomb. "And that God really wants to meet with me!" She walked out with eyes sparkling.

Many of them had questions for all three us of (Dale Fincher, my husband and co-founder with me of Soulation and Alison Thomas, apologist with RZIM joined me) during a Question and Answer session afterwards. Here are some of my favorites:

* What is it that makes women ontologically unique?
* What does it mean when Paul says the man is the head?
* How do you understand I Tim 2? (for our answer see here.)

This week Zondervan has chosen to spotlight a first-time author here. After events like Tucson, AZ and seeing Zondervan's support, I feel buoyed up with enough energy to tackle another week of writing, planning, e-mailing, reading. The work never stops, but it is good.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Ruby Slippers" Hits the Pavement

Today my book arrived in a nondescript, yellow manila envelope. Dale kindly let me have a moment alone as I tore it open.

My heart raced as I reached inside and felt the reality. Three years of work, all those ideas and frustrations and re-makings were made real as I felt the smooth dust jacket and pulled it out.

It felt like it was Christmas, Easter, my birthday and a new baby all rolled into one. It is 3/4 of an inch thick and covered in sparkles.

I took time to read the front and back (whew! no errors) I opened it to see my picture on the inside flap. I slowly turned the introductory pages to read my dedication page and first few paragraphs. Then I flipped to the middle to experience the layout.

It is a day to remember. Tonight I'm going to curl up with my book, to see how it feels to read it in hardcover. Oh the joys of word made reality!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tipping Toward the Trinity

I remember one sophomore English teacher nudging me out of my moderate worldview. "If you are a follower of Christ," she said, "You cannot be ultimately loyal to anything else." Her words still caution me from respectable, innocuous "churchy" ideas and the balancing acts of our Christianity.

We attend churches flanked by Christian and American flags, indicating an uneasy loyalty to church and state. We forget Caesar's meager claim, our worship and unmitigated allegiance was never Caesar's territory.

We eat and exercise so religiously that we have no regular experience with that unbalancing discipline of fasting. We excuse ourselves, complaining of headaches, weak-knees, and overall grumpiness, forgetting that fasting is supposed to tip us into the Maker of strong knees and clear heads.

We proudly point to a weekly Bible study or church membership to prove the depth of our commitment to Christ, as if . . .
Read the rest of this article in the new M.O.P.S. magazine for women leaders. Click "Your Voice" at

Monday, March 12, 2007

My original thesis

One of my original motivations for writing was to vindicate poor, misunderstood Paul who I was sure had a reason for warning women against teaching and authority over men. I wrote to encourage women to embrace their role, to accept their soul’s differences and to find joy in submission.

I expected to find some ontological difference, a difference in being, a difference grounded in nature making women’s souls irreversibly unique, a difference proving why we must not crave authority or demand control. For when women take charge, I would conclude, the natural order of things dissolves and chaos crashes into our homes and society.

This was my original thesis, but it was sieved out of my writing, not by editors, not by my agent, but by me. I stopped believing I had to defend Paul. And I stopped believing women are naturally unfit leaders.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Jesus Family Tomb: A Conspiracy for Jacobovici

Last week we crowded a group of Christian friends into our living room to watch the most recent skeptical response to the resurrection: The Jesus Family Tomb. Once again (funny how it's always around Easter) we had an opportunity to verify the story of the four gospel accounts.

Some of the commentary that piqued my interest was the bit about Mary Magdalene, who appeared as Jesus' wife. With a Da Vinci code feel (see Charlotte Allen's psychological analysis of Da Vincites in the L.A. Times article "'Tomb can't keep Christianity Down") the film-maker (a journalist with the scintillating name of Jacobovici) suggests that Mary Magdalene was a vibrant teacher, a key partner in sharing Jesus' message and someone the male-dominated church tried to keep down.

I was, of course, emotionally drawn to the dramatically re-enacted moments when Mary was preaching. But I imagined it was Priscilla (see Acts 18:25-26) since she is the one the Bible specifically mentions as instructing men in the way of the Lord. Funny that the chauvinistic Bible writers kept that in Scripture, perhaps they weren't so anti-woman as Jacobovici et al believe.

In reflecting over the Discovery feature story, I have my own little conspiracy theory that's been brewing. It goes like this . . .

There were plenty of people who wanted to prove the Christians wrong. Gnostics, in particular, would have been eager to produce Jesus' body, since Gnostics claimed all matter was evil. They even refused to believe in Jesus' bodily resurrection.

Perhaps a few clever, deceptive Gnostics planted the bodies in this tomb, etching the names to substantiate the mythological story they were promoting: Jesus never resurrected and he had a wife, Mary Magdalene and a child, etc. It would have been archaeological evidence for later generations to prove their gospels.

Maybe I'm going a bit too, far, but if you think about it, the labels on each tomb suggest something funny going on. I mean, even if, as Jacobovici explains, the disciples carried off Jesus' body from the tomb and secretly buried him. Would they really have labeled his sarcophagus? Since the disciples were willing to die for the story they, according to Jacobovici, made up, wouldn't they refrain from cataloging the evidence, too?

Perhaps Jacobovici ought to give ancient mystic cults more credit, as conspirators against the Christians, with as much guile as he's crediting to Jesus' disciples.

The tomb of Jesus may be ancient, but that doesn't prove it isn't an ancient fabrication. To read more evidence indicating Jacobovici's zeal without knowledge see a historian's response.

Monday, March 5, 2007

How I pushed women into boxes

I will fondly remember my editor for her endurance through my fluctuating ideas of femininity, like when I reduced women to three stereotypical traits, something easily packaged and marketable. Agnieszka Tennant notes how inadequately books like Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul treat women’s depth and variety (See for Tennant’s thoughts). Books have been penned ad nauseum about how women are most feminine when they do one thing over another, when they are submissive, gentle, quiet, followers, helpers, etc. “Good” and “godly” women tack on these requirements to our already long to-do list. We assimilate them in our hunger to be loved, adding the things we wish we were but aren’t. As a result our femininity streams from our doing, not our being. Femininity becomes a corset, a mask, or a lacy get-up we wear.

In my original proposal I was seduced into the same easy path. I forced womanhood into three essential words, a formula modeled on what I thought women SHOULD be. My intention being to prove how women are made to be all the things I valued: sensitive, emotional, nurturing and above all dependent on male leadership.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Finding a publisher

I waited for two months wondering and hoping that someone would want my manuscript. My agent, 003, worked hard to collect several interested editors, the most incredible being a woman—I’ll call her Mary—an acquisitions editor at Zondervan.

Mary met me at Starbucks in my hometown, she was all poised and classy sipping her coffee. I met her with all the frustration and frazzled feelings you feel when you receive—and I still think it was—an undeserved parking ticket.

Mary could boast both literature and philosophy in her background, a deep and abiding love for small dogs with short legs and a hunger for how Christ dignified women. She was a kindred spirit from day one.

Mary became my advocate at Zondervan and worked my proposal through all boards and VIPs to land me a contract. After one final nerve-wracking month of passing board meeting approval in summer 2005, She’s Got Soul, the working title at the time, was formally invited to join the Zondervan team. In the summer, I visited Grand Rapids and took a tour of Zondervan. Mary pointed out the board room where she presented my book proposal. I sat in the same chair Philip Yancey honored with his presence. But the highlight of my visit was meeting Mary's boss who extended his hand in a warm handshake and said, "Jonalyn, thank you for the honor of publishing you book." I walked out on clouds.

Encouraged that this book was good enough for Zondervan and vital for Christian women everywhere, I was instructed to write my heart out. And better yet, Mary would work with me through the whole process.