Coming Out Egalitarian: When Relationships Change


I married a somewhat Catholic man. By “somewhat,” I mean that he no longer receives communion at Catholic churches. By “Catholic,” I mean that he still values his Catholic background (as do I, now that I’ve gotten over my prejudice). We navigated our relationship from my anti-Catholic Calvinism to our mutual love of Orthodoxy. We married in a Baptist church without a Catholic dispensation and without Erich formally renouncing the Catholic Church. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, that makes our marriage invalid.

We’ve had quite the ride with Catholicism, and I occasionally get asked for Catholic/Protestant relationship advice. I got asked, once, how to build relationships with Catholic in-laws who were upset their son left the Catholic Church.

I shared a general truth that I think underlies almost all relationship tiffs regarding religious beliefs: do your best to affirm their lives and choices, because they’re afraid of your rejection and judgment.

It’s a hard thing to see someone you used to agree with take a turn she swore against taking, especially if she joins forces with the opposite “side” like Catholicism — or egalitarianism.

Things get awkward. Words no longer have the same connotations, so “feminism,” “trigger,” and “rape culture” are now legitimate concepts rather than the butt end of jokes. You can’t rant about the same things in the same way without one of you feeling a little uncomfortable. You now avoid topics you once spoke about solely with that other person. You rack your brain to remember if complementarians agree with the side comment that almost came out of your mouth. Your heart-to-hearts sometimes sound like polite discourse between two strangers sharing “interesting opinions.” You find yourself saying, “Well, kind of” rather than, “Exactly!“, and you get familiar with that frustrating phrase, “Let’s agree to disagree.”

You don’t want it to, but sometimes, when issues and positions are so polarized, it feels like a Yankee and a Confederate soldier meeting over the river at Christmas to share a cigarette. You’re both Christians. You both ought to feel like you’re on the same side, but there’s that obvious egalitarian/complementarian battle between you, and your camps lie on opposite banks of the river.

I wish I could say that was hyperbole, but in my experience, it isn’t.

It breaks my heart when complementarians begin, “I’m complementarian (please don’t shoot me).” They feel the need to apologize or go into a submissive posture so they don’t get gunned down by angry feminist rhetoric. They’re used to hearing how sexist, oppressive, and unjust complementarianism is, without hearing a calm, reasoned explanation from Scripture. They worry if egalitarians view them as less-than women, as illogical, as stupid, as whatever negative stereotype operates behind egalitarian lines, these days.

Because of this, some complementarians walk on eggshells. But some of them come at you with both barrels blasting.

They call you “liberal.” They insinuate you’re going to hell. They bully, name-call, and manipulate. They question your motives. They see you only as an egalitarian stereotype instead of their friend, sister, daughter, and fellow Christian.

I’ve seen that same thing over and over again with women who leave hyper-complementarian and patriarchal families and churches.

And I want to tell them, to tell any woman who’s coming out egalitarian, that it’s not you. It’s them. Particularly, it’s their fear of rejection. They’re afraid you see them as misguided and un-Christian. They’re afraid you’ll call them “fundie” and “judgmental.” They’re afraid they, their convictions, their beliefs, and their relationship with you will be lumped in with what you feel oppressed you,* that you’ll begin to fire away at them in your war on patriarchy.

So they shoot first.

That’s what I told the girl who asked me about her Catholic in-laws: above all else, demonstrate understanding and respect, and make it clear that your husband’s rejection of Catholicism is not a rejection of his family.

The dynamics will shift a bit, yes. There’s definitely isolation and awkwardness when you part ways with, much less oppose, something fundamental to your family or social group.

But personally, I’ve found that grace, openness, and respect go a long way to maintain and even deepen relationships with people who no longer share all my convictions. You start to build a new, better foundation — one built on your commitment to each other and to those fundamentals, whether human or Christian, that will always unite you.

*Obviously, many women have experienced oppression from their families and churches and must make the hard decision to walk away from the people as well as the ideology. That’s an issue I’ve never personally faced, but my heart goes out to those women. I hope this post doesn’t seem simplistic or discouraging in light of their more difficult situation. 


Why I’m Leery of the Word “Biblical”

A photo by Lukas Budimaier.

Sometimes “Biblical” feels like a trigger word.

My introduction to Vision Forum and the Botkins’ So Much More coincided with a budding desire to know, love, and serve God. I fell hard into patriarchy, particularly its pitch for “Biblical womanhood.” That was all I knew about the Christian life until age sixteen, when I discovered that a loving God was not a liberal fairy tale.

Now that I’ve been there, done that, bought the denim skirt, I see that “Biblical” really just boiled down to “formulaic.” “Biblical” meant principles, rules, blueprints, and paradigms. (Fun fact: I learned those last two words from reading and re-reading patriarchal literature.) It meant a cookie-cutter way to do life that trimmed out important parts of my soul and body.

This is my cynical side speaking, but it often seems to me that fundamentalism, which hijacked the word “Biblical” to often imply these things, did a lot of trimming out of the most important parts of reality, Christianity, God, and people.

Fundamentalism, of course, would say that it’s just remaining faithful to sola Scriptura, preserving the sacredness and inerrancy of Scripture by returning it to the central place in Christian life and practice. But fundamentalism operates on a radical sola Scriptura that tries to connect the Bible to every single aspect of a person’s life and spirituality. (See a hilarious spoof of this attitude here.)

That seems orthodox, but frankly, there simply aren’t enough rules, regulations, and identical heroes of the faith to figure out a “Biblical womanhood,” “Biblical manhood,” or “Biblical anything.” The Bible doesn’t speak about many of the issues we wish it did, and when it does, it’s often painfully unclear. How else do we explain the thousands of post-Reformation Bible-based denominations that all disagree?

We’re seeing the consequences of that, especially those of us who grew up under fundamentalism’s influence. We’re learning we can discover things about God, ourselves, and the world apart from the Bible. We’re learning the Bible’s messier and murkier than the perspicuity doctrine admits. We’ve bumped into the limitations of “Biblical womanhood,” the purity culture, and modesty rules to protect ourselves, bring happiness, and draw us into deeper communion with God.

And many of us, when we learn those things, walk away from God and Christianity entirely. For those of us who were taught the Bible is central and the prooftexts must govern every aspect of our lives, particularly our womanhood, we cannot distinguish Scripture from oppression.

So the word “Biblical” has become for us a heavy bag to carry.

But I’m not leery of the word “Biblical” just because of its baggage — that is, not just because I’ve personally been wounded by a “Biblical” lifestyle. I’m leery of it because of the reason that lifestyle hurt me: it made the Bible, rather than Christ, central. It made Christianity all about being “Biblical,” often to the exclusion of being “Christ-like.”

To some, it may seem like a quibble, but to me, it’s the difference between life and death.

I spent my most zealous years pursuing “Biblical womanhood” and never thought about pursuing an imitation of Christ. I was told to imitate the Proverbs 31 woman as the model for living. I was never told to imitate Christ in the same way, not beyond doing basic loving things. I was told submission was my role as a wife, that my husband was the one doing the Christ-like thing. I was never told that my “submission one to another,” including to my husband, was linked to imitating the Christ who emptied himself for those he loved.

Jesus’s summary of living well was “love your neighbor as yourself and love the Lord your God.” How’s that for a Biblical paradigm?

Being “Christ-like” is harder than being a “Biblical woman,” to be honest. It was easier to wear skirts, learn homemaking, and browbeat the world as an expression of my love for God than die to self, love others when I resent them, and seek peace.  Being “Christ-like” is a lot vaguer — how exactly do I love others as myself, when nobody is slapping me on the cheek or attempting to stone a woman? Who is my twenty-first century neighbor, and how do I honor them? Why didn’t you say anything about consensual gay sex and birth control, Jesus?

I think the Bible holds the answer, insofar as it introduces us to Christ. But the true answer, the true word, the true way is Jesus alone, who is not, by any means, a “Biblical principle.”

Personhood and the Color Orange

Nikon D5000, Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di. Processed in digiKam.

A friend of mine, Rebekah, shared this heartwarming story with me in response to this article and was gracious enough to let me share it with you. 

My mother’s decisions to affirm my personhood over gender stereotypes at key points in my life are cherished memories that have helped shape my sense of self and that encourage me still.

When I was five years old, I was obsessed with Ernie from Sesame Street, mostly because he was orange. I really wanted to have some clothes that had images of Ernie on them, but there were none in the girls’ department at the store. (Things are a lot different now than they were in the late 1990s!) Orange, though I didn’t know it, was perceived as more of a boyish color.

But as soon as I had become old enough to bat at the toys on the mobile over my crib, I had always batted at the orange one. After I started attending Sunday school, I always picked the big orange crayon for my coloring book page creations. When I was three years old, I began asking for various permutations of Ernie—Sleep and Snore Ernie, Rock ‘n’ Roll Ernie, etc.—for every birthday and Christmas. Soon that desire for Ernie spread to wanting clothing with Ernie on it. My mom first looked in the girls’ section with me, but then she realized that we had to go to the boys’ section.

My sister, then six, objected vociferously. “But we don’t go to the boys’ section! We’re girls!”

I became worried. I thought that maybe it was somehow wrong to want to go the boys’ section, although no one had ever told me that. (Of course, I don’t blame my sister for her interjection. She didn’t know any better.)

My mom instantly said, “Rebekah likes orange, and there are more shirts with orange and Ernie on them in the boys’ department.” She refused to let my sister make a big deal out of it, although she tried to. (“But why does Rebekah have to go to the boys’ department? We’ve never gone there before.”) I can’t tell you what a relief this was to me; I still remember it vividly.

A few years later, I must have expressed some concern at my realization that I didn’t like either girly or tomboyish things. I had always had an almost pathological aversion to glitter, the color pink, Barbies, etc., but I also hated sports, most physical activity, and getting wet or dirty. But as a preteen, I was bothered by the fact that I didn’t fit into the socially constructed categories of girly girl or tomboy.

My mom said something along the lines of the fact that I didn’t have to do girly girl things or tomboy things, and it became a family byword that I did “Rebekah things.” We joked about “Rebekahland,” a place I would retreat to in my mind, sometimes when I should have been paying attention to schoolwork.

“Rebekah things” meant, among other things, relishing everything orange, reading for every moment possible, living in an imaginative world, and enjoying woodland animal toys more than dolls.

Once I got to college, my mom came across a comic where the main character, Agnes, is questioned by her grandma about what she’s doing. It turns out that she’s making up some kind of pretend world. Her grandma asks her if she’s doing girly things or tomboy things. She says, “I’m doing Agnes things.” My mom sent the comic to me and said it reminded her of me.

I am incredibly grateful that my desire to do “Rebekah things” was respected, appreciated, honored, and celebrated in my family. These events may sound insignificant, but they were actually very formative. To this day, I love the color orange, I glory in the beautiful and the imaginative, and I delight in woodland animals, and doing so always feels like being me.

I Finally Figured Out the Problem of Evil

My breakthrough? I couldn’t figure it out. Nobody has. And I don’t think anybody can. I don’t think anybody can figure out how good and evil, polar opposites that should swallow each other up, coexist in a broken world with an all-powerful, good God who permits horrendous things to happen to those he loves.

None of that even begins to make sense. But taking anything out of that scenario doesn’t make sense, either.

So, after a couple philosophy classes, Dostoevsky, and twenty-two years of agony, here it is, my “Non-Explanation of the Problem of Evil.” Let me know what you think!

Why Honoring Woman Might Be Keeping Women Down


I ran across this article a few days ago, hailed as a “spot on” understanding of gender and marriage. It’s called “Why Man and Woman Are Not Equal.”

I thought, at first, it was a click-baity title, but no, for real, the point of the article is

Man and woman are not equal. He owes what he is to her. … Woman is the most powerful living force on the globe. She creates, shapes, and sustains human civilization. The first step in weakening her power is to convince her that she must overcome her femininity.

This article is a typical complementarian trope I call “pedestaling woman” — elevating the feminine, “the woman” singular, to untouchable heights on account of her world-changing femininity.

It seems nice, of course, for a man to say that man and woman are not equal, but then name woman as superior — the moral force, the hand that rules the world because it rocks the cradle, the good woman behind every great man. This sort of humility and reverence feels refreshing after all the catcalls and the criticisms for women’s career and home choices.

I think pedestaling woman is a major draw for complementarian and patriarchal women. Finally, a gender theory that values women for their more “feminine” side, their contributions to the home and family, their homemaking hobbies and heart. In this circle, women don’t feel second-class because they choose to homeschool or manage the home full-time. Women don’t need to climb corporate ladders to gain power. They just need to marry, rock the cradle, and bake the homemade bread to be “the most powerful living force on the globe.”

I’m glad for safe places that honor so highly the “feminine” (and with it, marriage, motherhood, and homemaking), especially for women who face opposition in those areas.

But that is the problem with this gender theory: it values woman but not necessarily women. It values femininity but not necessarily females.

Those who pedestal woman see next to no problem affirming the awesome value of femininity in the world and getting red-faced at the idea of a woman actually using all of her gifts, particularly in the church. Women like me, whose gifts and personality do not easily lend themselves to the “woman” this theory pedestals, are criticized on the grounds of their lack of femininity. Unladylike. Unwomanly.

It’s an awkward moment when your own personhood conflicts with womanhood, and womanhood wins.

According to this theory, regardless of women’s virtues, gifts, or personality, they fall short as persons if they fall short of “woman.”

This is an ancient idea, present in even the most oppressive, misogynistic cultures. Prudence Allen, author of The Concept of Woman, calls this gender theory “reverse sex polarity”: men and women are different, and women are superior.

For example, the Neo-Pythagorean female philosopher Perectione I (a rarity, since most philosophical schools prohibited women on account of their “mental and spiritual inferiority”) juxtaposed the lascivious, intemperate husband with the virtuous, pure wife who maintains the household, the marriage bed, and the family reputation. This situation makes woman the superior gender.

Since woman is the largest moral force on the globe, you see, a lack of femininity will cause the world to collapse under the weight of immoral single men in want of a wife.

As I quoted above, a woman’s greatest contribution to society in this theory is her “femininity,” loosely defined in this case as her moral reforming force on men. Above all else, the article warns, women must preserve their femininity. And yes, sure, of course “woman should have equality in the workplace, in politics, and in the public square,” but none of that matters if a woman is in any way unfeminine.

In other words, inequality isn’t great, but it’s not as devastating as the blurring of the feminine with the masculine.

Pardon my feminist interjection, but seriously?

This article operates on the naive assumption that “equality” and “inequality” are easy words to bat around when discussing gender, as if equality still isn’t an issue for many men and women today, as if misogyny and discrimination don’t exist, as if it’s not offensive in any way, shape, or form to call anybody, male or female, “unequal” on account of their gender.

In fact, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why, after writing an article on how men and women are different and how women, in particular, make men better, the author concludes that men and women are not equal. Why not conclude that men and women are “different” or “dependent”? How does men and women being different and dependent make them unequal? What is the correlation between difference and equality?

But then I remembered all the times sensible complementarians told me they couldn’t ever be egalitarian because they believe men and women are different. It seems that complementarians struggle with the concept that being equal does not exclude being different and that saying someone is “unequal” is offensive, period.

Unwittingly, complementarianism has emphasized the importance of women staying women and men staying men at the expense of pursuing equality. Complementarians tend to err on the side of worshiping the woman on the pedestal rather than seeking justice for the women right next to them.

I don’t buy into the flattering but laughable idea that women rule the world and reform people in any greater way than men do. It’s not true that the women in my life are any more nurturing and morally influential than the men in my life. Every man and woman affirms and contradicts what’s “feminine” and “masculine,” to the point where those terms are nearly useless.

I can’t say with a straight face that I’m more virtuous and responsible than my husband. I’m more Type A, yes, because I’m me. I’m nurturing enough to work with kindergartners because I’m me. And my husband has always taken care of me, particularly when it comes to eating, and he has always been great with comforting, supporting, and accepting others in a distinctly Erich way.

There’s a dark side of pedestaling woman, the shadow from the pedestal, if you will. It ignores injustice against women, plural. It hurries over the individual virtues, gifts, and personalities of actual women and men. It wants to preserve something nebulous — the difference between the sexes — sometimes at the expense of promoting actual virtues and protecting actual people.

Honestly, reverse gender polarity is just as sexist as regular ol’ sexism. Any theory that limits, maligns, or misunderstands men and women on account of their sex — that’s sexism. And that’s exactly what pedestaling woman does.

In the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. — St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:11

First Day of Kindergarten


Today is the first day I teach kindergarten.

Kindergarten and I, we have an interesting relationship. Since I was homeschooled, I have zero school experience with any other grade. My kindergarten credentials are volunteering in a public kinder class for a couple years, and going to kindergarten myself.

I attended half-day kindergarten when I lived on an air force base. They fed us frosted animal crackers and Oreos, which got me in trouble once.

I felt a bit under the weather one day, not understanding that sometimes (…all the time) you can wake up and just feel physically blah. I think my tummy felt off. I wanted to stay home. I wanted to go to the nurse. My mom tried to nip my melodramatic bud and told me I could do neither, but, always aware that I might have a rare and interesting (but non-life-threatening) disease, I went to the nurse anyway.

She bought my pity story and sent me to hang out on the wood-chip playground with the other students until my mom arrived early. Somehow, I ended up hoarding a packet of chocolate cookies to eat later that day, even while solemnly informing anybody who would listen that I was too sick to play.

My mom didn’t buy that story, not with chocolate cookies in the hand of a girl complaining about tummyaches.

Other than that, I was the perfect student. No, I take it back: there was the time I asked the teacher if I could stop writing my numbers to 100 because I already knew them, and she had the nerve to tell me to keep writing them, anyway. I think I sat there for a good while confused about the inefficiency and monotony of this task. Maybe that explains why I’m so bad at math.

But yes, I was a goody-two-shoes. I hung out with a goody-two-shoes blonde and felt sorry for the rather ditsy but goodhearted girl named Taylor. I stopped feeling sorry for her and started envying her profundity when she shared in gym class, “Whenever my brother and I would say, ‘They started it,’ my dad would say, ‘Well, who will end it’?”

(I felt equally profound when I started butting into my mom’s disciplinary moments with this wisdom.)

Taylor, the blonde, and I were all day, every day green card students. I never got my green card pulled. Not once. I was the only student who managed that feat. And I do mean manage, because I happened to stop running in the hall right as a teacher rounded the corner and pulled the green card of every running child — which was all of us, even the blonde and Taylor.

They were mortified. I felt bad, because I knew I should ‘fess up and get my card pulled too, but I was no Abe Lincoln, not at age five.

That’s part of the reason why I don’t use clip charts or stop light cards in my class (yet). I work with inner city kids, and I’m told they’re a tough crowd. But I’m hoping that respect, kind words, reason, and a look of withering boredom will keep them in line. And Play Dough.

Well, I’m off to make sure seventeen kids learn how to read and don’t stab each other with pencils. Wish me luck, and share your kindergarten memories with me so I can have something entertaining to read if the first day goes horribly. :)

P.S. Fellow nerds: I learned how to do a close reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This is literally the best thing that happened to me all week.

Favorite Wedding Moments


I went to six weddings this summer — including my own — and witnessed many beautiful moments. I rode on a trolley to a gorgeous country club, discovered all Catholic weddings involve open bars, and saw five beautiful brides grin up at their new husbands.

Some of the moments weren’t so beautiful, of course.

Erich and I nearly asphyxiated on the cloud of Febreze in our motor lodge room. I forgot to write down which hotel I booked and had to track down the place by tracing the outgoing call for the reservation and Googling the number, all on a 4% phone battery. I couldn’t say no to soft pretzels, with grave gastrointestinal consequences. I forgot to pack pajamas every. single. time. we stayed overnight. And I spent way too much money on overpriced McDonald’s frappes at the Chicago oases.

Good, good times.

But by far, the two wedding moments that stuck out to me as the sweetest happened at wedding number six (the wedding where a thunderstorm followed us the entire way there, and we arrived at the church right as the bride walked down the aisle).

During the first dance, the bride’s toddler nephew ran out onto the dance floor to join the newlyweds. Like the good and giving people they are, they picked him right up and danced their first dance with a little red-head in their arms. Heart. Melt.

I don’t know what was sweeter — envisioning them with their own little one a few years from now, or feeling that this moment perfectly captured their love for others.

And then, we got to throw Fruit Loops for the departure. Yes, you heard right: Fruit Loops. The bride had always wanted to run through Fruit Loops after her wedding. So my wedding season concluded with pelting Fruit Loops at one of the happiest, most caring couples I know.

Let me know what wedding moments stuck out to you this summer!

Sticking to a Tight Food Budget

A photo by Webvilla.

Even if we weren’t poor post-grads, I’d stick to food budget. It’s amazing how much moolah food costs, and, though I’ve tried it on days when I’m too lazy to cook, cutting out food from one’s life just doesn’t work.

We give ourselves a $200 per month budget. It’s tight, but we’ve got some secrets to keeping our small budget.

We shop for two or three weeks at a time. It’s nearly impossible to make wholesome meals out of a $50 weekly budget, but it’s more than doable to drop $80-$110 dollars on one shopping trip that stretches for several weeks.

This means we buy in bulk as much as possible, hunting for the lowest price per pound on almost everything. The few cents we save adds up. Anything that spoils quickly, we freeze. (This does cause problems when it’s 8 PM and I remember that food is a thing but all we have to eat is frozen solid. Just a forewarning.)

We’re still using our gigantic bag of rice we bought as newlyweds. Rice, potatoes, eggs, beans, and huge bags of Great Value cheese are our staples. It’s mind-blowing how many yummy, filling recipes you can cook up with those ingredients and a few dashes from your spice cabinet. By the end of week 3 (maybe into week 4, if we’re lucky), we’re chowing down on potato cheese scrambles, bean burritos, and seasoned rice.

That’s another secret to sticking to our budget — we don’t do much meal planning. Sure, we’ll think ahead if we’re craving something in particular, but we just buy flexible ingredients that work with each other. We’ve always got some tomato sauce and ground beef to whip up a noodle dish or a chili, tortillas for fajitas and quesadillas, and veggies for stir fry, salad, or snacking with some ranch dressing.

When our food starts dwindling, I Google recipes involving whatever random ingredients I want to pair until we’ve eaten through everything and the  backup potatoes, eggs, and beans. No food gets left behind — except the bare bones staples like flour and oil, and condiments.

I might make another run or two to buy fresh milk or butter (or Japanese cookies), but we’re pretty much done shopping for the month. All of this for under or at $200, no problem.

What are your tips for shopping or cooking on a budget?

Before You Vote, Consider These Pro-Woman Issues

women voter

Erin Zoutentam is a fellow Hillsdale College alumna and an intelligent voice on women’s issues. Today, she brings to attention some crucial issues we Christian feminists need to know. 

I can’t pinpoint when feminist issues became part of my life. It was a gradual warming that happened sometime after I left college and before I started my graduate program four years later.

During my undergraduate years, I thought “gender studies” was a byword for “liberal” nonsense, but by the time I started my master’s in theological studies, I saw gender as a gift. I experience everything — the world, other people, God, texts that I either read or write — as a woman, and my husband experiences these things as a man. To acknowledge this is to acknowledge our humanity, to affirm the image of God that we each bear.

My graduate studies have taken me to new territory — some good, some bad. I sometimes run across articles with titles like “The Psycho-Sexual Politics of Orifices in Israel.” (OK, that’s not actually a real article, but it’s close!) Frankly, these articles bore me to pieces and seem to serve little tangible good.

On the other hand, some of my work has focused on obscure women whose voices have been lost but who deserve our rapt attention. Being on the margins of theological discourse turns out not to be a disadvantage but a great advantage, and these women have things to teach us that no one else can. My favorite contemporary writers on gender write with one eye to the contemporary realities of women, even when they’re writing about Hagar or Hildegard of Bingen.

I’ve tried to model this same virtue in my own thinking lately. I’m researching Catherine of Siena now, and her involvement in the political situation of her day is both an inspiration and a challenge.

I don’t know how to sort out the mess that is the current presidential election, but I do know that the policies that concern me most when it comes to women are just as important at the local and state level as they are at the national level. I ask different questions of politicians now, because I believe that neither of the current political parties care for women’s well-being in the radical way that the Gospel calls us to.

Even though I’m not Catholic, I recently joined an emerging third party whose platform is based on Catholic social teaching, in part because their platform better cares for women’s well-being. But we can all advocate for women’s safety and equality regardless of our party affiliation.

Here are some of my top issues, and I encourage you to research these and to dialogue with political candidates at every level about these things. Politicians aren’t going to suddenly adopt pro-woman stances unless they believe these things matter to constituents.

  • Offering maternity/paternity leave. Compared to other developed nations, the United States has exceptionally poor maternity and paternity leave. Supporting paid maternity leave is part of creating a robust pro-life culture, since women do not have to fear for their financial viability when they give birth.
  • Caring for women during pregnancy and beyond. Simply legislating against abortion is inadequate — being pro-woman and pro-life is so much more than this! Calling for better access to education, adequate social services, and reasonable healthcare gives women more confidence about carrying a pregnancy to term. They don’t have to feel as if they are choosing between giving birth and their future well-being (and the well-being of their other children).
  • Pursuing justice for women in the criminal justice system. It’s almost hard to believe, but in some states women are still shackled during childbirth if they give birth while they are incarcerated. These women pose no security threat, and this practice is inhumane. Some states have made this practice illegal, but not all. Another issue to keep an eye on is whether women are being transferred to prisons hundreds of miles away from their children. Mothers should be incarcerated as close to their family as possible.
  • Taxing feminine hygiene products as “non-necessities.” Many states provide sales tax exemptions for necessary purchases, but tampons are not usually included on this list. I didn’t know until quite recently that many poorer women in the United States use things like napkins from fast food restaurants because they can’t afford tampons. Tampons are a necessity — let’s tax (or rather, not tax) them accordingly.
  • Honoring the dignity of women. How do political candidates speak about women? Just as importantly, how do they speak about rape and sexual assault? How we speak matters, and it often betrays how we view women. Hold politicians accountable.

Pro-woman Christians can and do have widely varying political opinions, and that’s OK. Sometimes we disagree about policy or execution even when we agree in principle. But the more we speak up about women’s issues, the more responsive politicians will be.

I believe that advocating for women’s well-being is part of seeking justice, and I hope that’s something that all of us can agree on — no matter who we vote for.

Erin Zoutendam is a ThM student at Western Theological Seminary and the co-chair of the Women’s Committee for the American Solidarity Party. She blogs with her husband (less now than she used to) at Human Drama Thing.

PC: Underwood Archives/Getty Images

A Simple Way to Empower Christian Women

women prayer

I don’t know how it worked in your churches and family, but it seemed to me that whoever had the most “authority” or “spiritual clout” blessed the meals during church potlucks and private hospitality.

Nobody had any ulterior motives; it just seemed reasonable, when it came to that awkward moment when somebody had to pray out loud, in front of people, to ask the pastor or the father or the husband to pray the blessing.

The head of the house (or the church or the Christian group) got to pray the dinner blessing. All men, of course, just like only men prayed out loud during the public worship service.

All of the men in my life who prayed over these communal meals certainly deserved such a recognition, so it never occurred to me to question that practice.

Then I got married to a man who hated praying extemporaneously in front of me, much less in front of any friends and family we might gather together in our little apartment. I found myself in the position of “assigning” who got to pray the meal prayer.

(Why didn’t I just say the blessing myself? I don’t know. My family often asked our guests to pray, as a courtesy, I think, as a sign that we respected their spirituality and contribution. Plus, I don’t like praying out loud either. Introvert. Sorry.)

Whenever we got together with Christian families, the wife always asked the husband to pray. In any situation where a layman could pray, men always prayed. When my family visited us, I asked my dad to pray, without hesitation, for the head of the household reason. I later thought, “It didn’t even occur to me to ask my mom, and she’s equally the head of our home and a spiritual servant deserving of recognition per The Arbitrary Rule of Who I Ask to Lead the Meal Prayer.”

I started noticing this trend, and I decided to break it. When my married friends came over, I asked the wife to bless dinner. (This also made sense, because we’ve been besties forever.)

This is an ingenious (and a little devious) way to scramble the patriarchy and introduce women’s prayerful voices to a Christian community who silences or unintentionally passes over them.

I don’t have the authority to order church leadership to allow women to pray during the worship service, but I do have authority in my own home to request who prays. I think asking godly wives, daughters, and single women to do the traditional, head-of-the-household prayer is a simple way to empower Christian women. It would work in any situation where men traditionally take the lead — co-ed Bible studies, prayer groups, or lay(wo)men ministries.

Some women have never even heard the power of their voice before.

Of course, the ideal would be for everybody to pray one prayer at once, but the church split and each denomination changed up the group dinner prayer. Might as well use a broken system for the advancement of women’s spiritual rights!