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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: her-meneutics

My Relationship with Phyllis Schlafly? It's Complicated.

jenmichel@me.com

Phyllis SchlaflyThe kids are finally off to school. And I am finally back to work. Before the kids were even out the door yesterday morning, I had written an email to my editor, pitching an idea for an article that, because of its time-sensitivity, would need to be written STAT. It was one of those now-or-never moments. My fingers hovered over the keyboard, the "never" reminding me that I already had a thousand (or five) deadlines waiting for me, the "now" reminding me that writers must strike when it's hot. I hit "send" and when the assignment was green-lighted, I furiously worked to send off a first draft before afternoon pick-up. The piece is published today at her.meneutics, and one reason I wanted to write this particular essay, "Phyllis Schlafly Defended Women Like Me," was to make use of the mounds of research I did for Keeping Place. Schlafly become a person of interest for me, and while I haven't read any book-length biographies of her, I'd like to learn more about this polarizing figure in American politics and feminist history.

Read more about my begruding admiration of Schlafly here.

And by the way, did you see the cover for Keeping Place?

keeping-place-11

(She's lovely, isn't she?)

My video interview with Katelyn Beaty, author of A Woman's Place

jenmichel@me.com

A Woman's PlaceThis post is a FIRST. With the help of my technologically-inclined son, Nathan, I'm uploading my first video: an author interview. Last week, I interviewed Katelyn Beaty, Christianity Today's managing editor, about her new book, A Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the WorldWe talked specifically about a Christian vision of work, the mommy wars, and the process of book writing. ( I apologize in advance for extraneous "likes" or "you knows." Additionally, there are points in the video where our internet connection gets a little wonky.) Katelyn's book releases on July 19, but you can pre-order now at Amazon.com.

 

[embed]https://youtu.be/HDUfmh5FXso[/embed]

(0:00-5:50)

Introduction: I start off with the most awkwardly constructed sentence: "Katelyn Beaty is the currently managing editor at Christianity Today." Then I gush a little bit about Katelyn's foreword for Teach Us to Want and her important role in my publishing journey. We talk about the writer/editor relationship - and our fragile moments as writers. (Even Katelyn has had some!)

(5:50 - 10:30)

"Go vulnerable, or go home." Katelyn explains why she begins her book with a very personal story: how her broken engagement interrupted the plans she had for her life and provided the occasion for discovering a more robust Christian theology of work.

(10:30 - 12:20)

I ask Katelyn whether or not her singleness gave her a unique angle in the conversation about women and work. "I don't want to say that only single women have the opportunity to invest in their professional work."

(12:20 - 15:00 )

I ask Katelyn about the book's commitment to telling the stories of many different women. "Let's not just make pronouncements about how the world should be," Katelyn explains. "Let's flesh it out."

(15:00- 18:32)

Does "femaleness" inform the way that women understand work? Katelyn explains that one common factor in her research was the community emphasis often evident in women's professional ambitions and choices.

(18:32 - 22:07 )

Katelyn discusses the origin and evolution of Christianity Today's popular women's blog, Her.meneutics, which has amplified women's voices and worked to correct the gender imbalance at CT. Shout out to Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Kate Shelnutt, and Andrea Palpant Dilley.

(22:07 - 27:33)

Is the church playing catch-up to culture in regards to validating women's professional ambitions? Katelyn explains that churches have, in general, neglected to develop a robust theology of professional work for both men and women.

(27:33 - 31:18)

We dig a bit more deeply into the desire question: what caution should we exercise in looking for cultural validation of our desires? Are there contexts where desires for home and family need to be reinforced? (Most importantly, we joke about finding a date for Katelyn: "Act now: this offer is going fast!)

(31:18 - 32:52)

"It is okay to disappoint Andy Crouch." We gush mutual respect and admiration for Andy.

(32:52 - 37:37)

"You can't write a book geared toward women without discussing motherhood in some capacity." Katelyn identifies that wide variety of choices available to modern women seem to promote greater self-doubt, even suspicion and judgment. "My hope is that this book will give us better language [for these conversations]."

(37:37 - 42:55)

Why are women's professional desires considered "selfish" or "careerist" while men's professional desires and ambitions are validated? Katelyn takes us back to the Industrial Revolution for a little history lesson. (And I unabashedly plug my next book, Keeping Place.)

(42:55 - 49:15)

Has professional ambition stalled for Christian women? Katelyn reminds us of our fear, as Christian women, in asking, "What do I really want?" She also reminds us that we can begin by simply naming our desires before God—even our professional desires. "Maybe God wants to use those unnamed desires to accomplish his work in the world and to invite us to partner with him in kingdom restoration work."

(49:15 - 57:22)

Katelyn discusses her process of writing, A Woman's Place. (No, neither of us has the creative genius of Ann Voskamp!)  And she also talks about the immense help she received from her editor, who pushed her beyond her "very safe" first draft.

Thank you, Katelyn!

If it feels good, do it. Or don't?

jenmichel@me.com

A couple of days ago, Her.meneutics published a piece I wrote on desire. (I'm sure that you're surprised I chose that as a topic.) In the essay, I summarized some of the conversation I had with my class at church last week when I asked them: what does our culture say about desire? What does the church say about desire? We all agreed that culture says this about desire (in general):

If it feels good do it. Desire can't be repressed; it has to be expressed. Nothing you ever want is wrong.

And here's how many of us interpreted desire based on what our churches had taught:

If it feels good, don't do it. Desire is evil. The highest calling in the Christian life is sacrifice.

Did the church have it right? Was desire evil? Obviously, I don't think so. I think we need desire for our lives of faith. But I also think there's incredible tension in the act of wanting - because it's not always easy to want God's will. Read the rest of my essay, "Jesus Never Said, 'Be True to Yourself'" here.

My Take on Time Management: Newest post at her.meneutics

jenmichel@me.com

I need a time management conversation today. Today - when the morning has me jittery, working to find my way through the piles of work (and laundry) that have mounded up since Ryan and I left the country last Friday. We're home. I'm jet-lagged. And tomorrow I'm running a large meeting for our children's ministry volunteers. All of this has me in a state of physical tremors, where I feel the voltage of anxiety surging through my hands while I type.

Today, I need a time management conversation. And I need it in the way that Matt Perman has framed it in his new book, What's Best Next.

What's best next

If we try managing our time only in terms of efficiency (How can I get the most done?), we miss the better question: what is really worth doing? And that's what is really powerful and provocative in Perman's book. The first half is dedicated to constructing a theology of productivity and answering the most important question first:

What's Best Next?

You can read my take on Perman's book and time management at her.meneutics today.

This is 40

jenmichel@me.com

gloria steinem "Gloria Steinem recently turned 80. In a New York Times essay on the eve of Steinem's birthday, Gail Collins celebrates how the "face of feminism" has aged. Though Steinham's name is synonymous with the historic movement, she remains modest about her accomplishments.

"It's a big gift to be recognized as part of something that matters to people, but that's not the same thing as being responsible for something."

Steinem, in her 20s, had planned to write, "The Death Book," which would have included "great stories and last words and other anecdotes about dying." Not surprisingly, the young Steinham failed to interest a publisher in the book, and ironically, the old Steinham has lacked the disciplined quiet to write it. (She celebrated 80 in Botswana, and as Collins writes, is resolved toward "moving the movement forward.")

I now wonder if Steinem's legacy is owed to her understanding of life's brevity, if her achievements can be attributed to her preoccupation, even as a young woman, with death.

In a month, I'll turn 40. I am now reading essays on aging with avid interest, and I'm even brooding on death (which will no doubt seem extraordinary, if not morose). I feel myself to be an oddity among my peers. Who thinks of death when there is still so much life ahead? Why give thought to life's wintering when it is summer and we are young? Forty is the new 20—right?"

Continue reading my essay at her.meneutics.

Beyond Red and Blue in the Fight for Food Stamps

Ben Goshow

I am very politically ambivalent, and it's no secret that I chose not to vote in the last national election. I do not believe that every societal problem can be solved by our government. In fact, as a person whose hope is centered fully on the person and work of Jesus Christ, I believe that the world will continue to languish under oppression and injustice until the day of his return. The Bible calls this creation's unfortunate state of groaning (Rom. 8:18-25).

And while my hope depends on a future event, I also believe that Jesus Christ has asked his followers to work and pray for good as they wait. Today matters in the kingdom of God, and it is Jesus who taught us to pray for this day - not just for our daily bread, but for the coming of the righteous and faithful rule of God.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

I am deeply saddened to learn that the American House of Representatives has just passed a bill, which would cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. The New York Times reported that the program has kept about four million people above the poverty line. Although it's an imperfect program, it does serve to feed many millions of hungry Americans.

I've written my argument for the protection of the food stamp program, and I hope you'll read - and consider sharing - this essay, which is profoundly personal: A Rich Christian in the Age of Food Stamps.

"The solutions we propose for reducing poverty will always provoke an important question: How do we help the poor without creating systems of dependence that inevitably entrap them? Welfare—and work—are both legitimate answers in their own right. As the Church, we will continue to wrestle with how best to live into our calling to "seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause," (Isaiah 1:17), but I suggest we might begin, in this time of economic insecurity and rising inequity, by defending the food stamp program, which, for many millions of Americans, is an answer to the prayer our Lord taught us to pray:

Give us this day our daily bread."

Arguing against kindness? Who, me?

Ben Goshow

Sometimes you write a piece and enjoy a certain sense of (albeit smug) self-assurance. It says what you wanted it to say. It says it how what it how you have wanted it be said. This, of course, may or may not resemble the truth, but no matter. You feel good. Sometimes you write a piece and know that you have almost said what you had wanted to say. You recognize the ideas that still hang suspended, you see them waving in the breeze of all those words you've expired, but you cannot, for the life of you, figure out what more you could do to tie them down. Were you a better writer than I, you'd persevere. But I am a mere mortal, friends. Often, I go to bed.

I wrote an article recently for her.meneutics about the convocation speech George Saunders gave this past spring at Syracuse University. It's a beautiful speech, which I insist you must read if you haven't already. You can find the text here.

My piece, on the other hand, was less beautiful. It would even appear to some that I have argued against Saunders's advice to graduates, which was simply and profound as, "Err in the direction of kindness." One Patheos blogger had this to say about my piece:

"I have some advice for Christians (if they want it): When someone says that “kindness” is important, don’t argue against them. You won’t win. You won’t look good. And you’ll just give people like me blog fodder."

Well, then.

It's an important reminder to me, not only to work for the final 5% of every article I write (because my article probably could have been clearer), but also to consider the variety of people who read what I write. The Patheos blogger calls himself, "The Friendly Atheist." He's obviously reading what Christians write. Also, another person, who calls himself the "Cranky Humanist," tweeted in response to my article, something to the effect of "thanks for proving why Christians are witless and Christianity stupid." He's a reader, too.

I've made some friends apparently. (Or I might say, I wish I had.)

I don't back away from my argument -be kind is NOT the ultimate life advice the Bible has to give-but I do wish I had said it better.

If you're interested, I'll link to my piece as well as to the Patheos blogger's response. It's my gift to you today.

The Misguided Theology of Kindness: Why George Saunders's speech misses the mark for Christians

If Kindness is Your Guide, You're Doing it Wrong, Says Christian Writer

Also, tomorrow, I'll catch you up on other pieces I have been writing. See, I'm alive!

 

 

 

 

 

Fact or Feeling: What's the Basis of Evangelical Faith?

jenmichel@me.com

Think of how evangelicals may describe the Bible: unchanging, inerrant, authoritative, truth. Well, "in the world we are entering, the concept of the Bible will be completely different," said David Parker, theology professor at the University of Birmingham. Speaking recently at the Hay Festival in England, Parker predicted that technology will prompt personalized digital versions of the Scripture, "like an individual copy" of the Bible.

If Parker is right, we evangelicals might have some major questions. How would this editorial control affect our faith? Could it lead to an eventual erosion of sound doctrine? Would the capacity for changing our sacred texts ultimately diminish their authority?

Biblical has become the evangelical "brand." We read the Bible; we quote the Bible; we live by its truths and teachings. For us, much would be lost if biblical authority eroded and eventually disappeared.

However, according to T.M. Luhrmann's recent book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, there may be a difference between how evangelicals perceive their commitment to the Bible and to what extent it actually influences how they articulate and live their faith.

* * * * *

Read the rest of what I wrote on "The Feel-Good Faith of Evangelicals" at her.meneutics.

How to faithfully meet your divine surprises

jenmichel@me.com

If you've been reading here for anytime now, you probably know that I have five children. You might also know that two of them were "surprises." (No, we do not call them accidents.) It's been five and a half years now, and those twin boys have gone and gotten big on me. Life isn't as chaotic as it once was, and I'm finally enjoying time and the distance to look back and love the monsoon that swept through our family when we brought two five-pounders home from the hospital.

Finding out I was pregnant with twins and subsequently learning to love the life I've been given plays a huge role into wanting to write a book about desire. Often, I think we want something very different than what God chooses to give. But faith grows in the soil of divine surprise, when we're forced to relinquish our plans and projects and embrace the "otherness" that is God's will.

Here's a favorite line from the piece I wrote about our two little "surprises" for Christianity Today: "All of us will meet moments where we're handed a part we haven't intended to play in this drama. What then? Rail against the heavens? Curse God and die? Maybe at first. But in the company of men and women who can believe on our behalf at the moments we cannot, we can tether ourselves to the important truths we do not hold to be self-evident in a life of faith: God is good. We are loved - even when life does nto go as we have planned or wanted."

Read the rest of, "The Double Shock of Unexpected Pregnancy: How faith meets this scary, stressful, but ultimately divine surprise" here.

What I'm writing (and my recent post at CT Women's blog)

jenmichel@me.com

Yesterday, I tell Ryan that I have a new version of chapter one. "Chapter one?" he asks, shooting me a look to indicate I have no chance of finishing the first draft of my manuscript by August 1.

I am suddenly terrified.

But this morning, I read this new version of chapter one and find the consolation of relief. The revision I have done has been good and necessary, and chapter one now hangs together better than it did before. Perhaps it would seem foolish that I have revisited chapter one when I more obviously need to move ahead. (I am still 1,000 words away from finishing the first draft of chapter four. Yikes.) And of course I don't have the foggiest idea about how to write a book. I'm making this up as I go. But it has seemed to make sense to me, at least for now, to make sure each chapter is sufficiently distilled and says distinctly what it is supposed to say. Otherwise, I could easily imagine arriving at chapter nine with absolutely nothing to say that hasn't already been said. (We've all read books like that, haven't we?)

This is probably what I am finding most difficult now about the process of writing: how does one actually manage this amount of material, every chapter 6,000 words? How do you not end up sounding like a playlist on repeat?

I am hard at work, writing, reading. I am also praying again. (This is best of all.)

I will be checking in here, not as frequently as I'd like, but especially to send you to the other places I'm writing.

In fact, I had a recent piece published with her.meneutics entitled, "Hashtags Won't Heal Us," and it's, I hope, of particular help to people who are grieving.

"As a culture, we tend to think of grief as healthiest when abbreviated and restrained, as seemingly quick and efficient as other aspects of our fast-forward, high-tech lives.

Even mental health experts disagree over what "normal" grief looks like. Although the depressive symptoms of bereavement have long been considered standard to the grieving process, doctors proposed a revision to the newest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to eliminate the bereavement exclusion from the definition of depression, allowing doctors greater freedom to diagnose and treat grief as a pathological condition.

Move on. This is the cultural imperative imposed on bereavement. We picture the season of mourning as a hurdle to clear and sadness as something to be eventually left behind. We're distinctly uncomfortable with tears. Grief, as a category of human experience, has grown closer to becoming something clinical in America, a condition worthy of a prescription."

If you're interested in finishing the article, you'll find the rest here:

Blessings for your day.

 

I Pledge Allegiance to the Local Church

jenmichel@me.com

This was my original title for my recent piece at Christianity Today's blog for women. I think it captures something that is tremendously important for me: the church. Church, little c. Church in the neighborhood or city in which you live. The local church: yes, the one with all its baggage and beggars. Because the local church, even insofar as it is beautiful, is also a very complicated mess. As messy, I suppose, as real people are. The tension of the church is the very same tension of our loves: the hope of what will be and the stubborn realities of the not yet.

I have been deeply wounded in the church. Yes, there. It isn't as if I see the church with some kind of Pollyanna perspective that nothing goes wrong in the church.

A lot goes wrong. The wheels fall off our good intentions, and people are hurt as a result.

This is true. And - still.

Still!

The church. I can't help but loving her, can't help falling for the beautiful idea that Jesus has embodied Himself here, in us.

The church. I can't do without her, can't find my place apart from the church.

The church. I think what I'm saying is that I believe I belong here and find my calling in and through the church.

The church. That's the destination of my writing and words.

Allegiance to Christ through the church.

So read the piece that I recently wrote and read the comments.

And fall in love today with the church.

 

I'm at Her.meneutics today talking about MAKING BABIES

jenmichel@me.com

"It's not often that a company asks you to "go make babies," but Chicago's National Public Radio Station, WBEZ, is imploring listeners to "Do it. For Chicago." Their surprising marketing campaign, called the 2032 membership drive, also prompts their audience, saying "Hey Interesting People, get a room already. And then put a crib in it." But NPR may have failed to do their math. In her New York Times essay, "Opting out of Parenthood with Finances in Mind," Nadia Taha estimates the cost of raising a child at a whopping $1.7 million. At that amount, if WBEZ listeners follow the station's advice, they wouldn't have much left for philanthropic contributions.

Recognizing the potential economic disadvantages of starting a family, Taha and her husband decided "that the single decision that can best help us achieve [our financial goals] is one that many newly married, affluent young adults don't usually consider: Don't have children."

. . . Should economics decide the size of our families? I challenge that assumption in my post today at Christianity Today's blog for women. You can find the rest of the article by clicking here.

New Year's Resolutions (and my piece today at her.meneutics)

jenmichel@me.com

I had resolved to write this post weeks ago, and it's now January 23. Does this give you any indication as to the success I'm experiencing so far in my New Year's resolutions? I think I've finally realized why we meet each New Year with so much renewed energy about personal change. It's because we're on VACATION when we think about the New Year. We're swimming in more time, we're getting a little more sleep, and life generally feels a bit more manageable when we're not schlepping the kids off to school or ourselves off to work. Heck yeah, I'll exercise when I'm not required to be out of my pajamas before 10 a.m.

Three weeks into January, when life's normally relentless pace has resumed, we're back to our old habits and flagging faith, feeling less like the world is ours for the conquering.

I have had a little of that experience so far this year with my own New Year's resolutions. THIS was going to be the year I was going to be more organized. I would work harder to put things away (and keep the kids accountable, too). I would keep a less messy desk. I would empty out my purse and wallet every night. I would write outlines. I would prioritize my to-dos.

And I am mostly failing every one of those resolutions, with the exception that yesterday I wrote a detailed outline for chapter three of my book and sailed through an afternoon of writing, finishing, if you can believe it, a first draft of the entire chapter! (Oh, have I forgotten to mention that a friend and I have tucked ourselves away in a cabin in Ontario's cottage country for a three-day writing retreat? The outline may not deserve all the credit for this accomplishment.)

Resolutions can be unsuccessful, often because we don't think realistically about the ways we'll have to shift other parts of our lives to accommodate the new activities/ideas we want to pursue.

Resolutions are also unsuccessful because we are pursuing goals that we're not totally committed to. Maybe intellectually we think the proposed change would be good for us, but deep in our gut, we still have a lot of inner reluctance toward making the change. If we were to poll our inner self, we'd have to admit: we really don't want to change.

Desire is a KEY part of personal change, and I've been reading a lot on the subject considering that my book manuscript tackles questions of our wanting and praying.

I think there's a lot of momentum behind desire, and I think intentionality can be born of desire.

Ask yourself this: when was the last time I had trouble committing to something I REALLY wanted to do?

I, for example, have very little trouble making sure I find an hour every week to watch Downton Abbey. Actually no trouble whatsoever.

But exercise? Eeek.

It's been months, maybe years, that I've not exercised regularly, and that neglect has been a source of spiritual uneasiness. But this year, I'm back at it although for different reasons.

I've written about this at Christianity Today's blog for women, her.meneutics, and you can find that article here: Being Skinny is Not a Christian Virtue

(P.S. There's almost no better way to stick to your resolutions than to announce PUBLICLY what you've committed to. FYI.)

 

 

A View from the Kitchen: Why your pile of pots and pans matters this Christmas

jenmichel@me.com

"It must be nice to be a man," I told Ryan in the aftermath of our family Christmas. We'd shared our traditional dinner and unwrapped gifts with the children before leaving Toronto for the holidays. All the responsibilities for cooking and shopping, cleaning and wrapping had, like most years, fallen almost entirely on my shoulders. And goodness, can I really complain about that? I mean, if Ryan works hard enough to bring home the bacon, can't I at least cook it?

But to what degree I cook it with a charitable spirit is always up for grabs.Though Christmas should traditionally be a season of joy, in truth, I can battle with resentment about the extra domestic work it requires of me.

And this is why I wrote my most recent post at her.meneutics. If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know well enough that I don't often write about the areas of my life over which I feel mastery or control. (And by the way, I'm not even sure what those areas are.) Instead, I write in order to preach the sermons I most need to hear. I write as a way of living into what I know to be true but have a harder time absorbing.

This is true of my most recent post, which I hope you'll read and find as a source of encouragement for your kitchen work this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Keeping Company With More Than Paper

jenmichel@me.com

"It should surprise no one that the life of the writer - such as it is - is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience. Writers read literary biography, and surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper." -Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I've been in brilliant company this last week. Thankfully, it was neither pieces of paper nor my laptop.

Our family drove to Chicago to spend the week visiting with family and friends. Because we'd planned our trip to accommodate our children's fall break, we didn't stay long enough to participate in any real Thanksgiving feasting.We did, however, hold a three-day birthday celebration for Nathan, which was lots of fun but now that I think of it, might be the very kind of thing perpetuating the notion that his birthday is a national holiday.

It's always a good thing to step away from my otherwise normal writing life and the technology, which supports it. When we cross into Michigan and my iPhone tells me that I no longer have access to data (except for an exorbitant charge), I feel relieved. Radio silence descends, revealing just how reflexive my digital habits are: all those empty minutes inhabited by a quick scroll through Facebook status updates and tweets; rabbit trails of mental activity, as I follow one article after another. Not a bad thing - but not always defensible and certainly a source of distraction.

I welcome a pause when it arrives.

And although I didn't write this last week, I did make some writing connections.

I met Katelyn Beaty, the managing editor for Christianity Today, for breakfast one morning. About halfway through the conversation (at which point I'd finally slowed my nervous chatter to a normal speech cadence), Katelyn made the wonderful and unexpected offer that I join Her.meneutics as a regular contributing writer. (P.S. I forgot to tell you I wrote another article, which they published last week: "What You Don't Know About Complementarian Women.")

I'm grateful for this opportunity, knowing that great readers make for great writing. And Her.meneutics, with its outstanding roster of women writers, certainly courts a theologically thoughtful audience. At the same time, the offer makes me feel all jittery inside, wanting alternatively to do cartwheels or move to Montana.

There's courage needed for the writing life: to keep at it, to keep risking the sound of your own voice. Which is one of the many reasons I am grateful to belong to Redbud Writers Guild, a community of women writers. For the first time last week, I had the chance to meet some of the buds in person.

Shayne Moore, author of Global Soccer Mom  and the soon to be published, Refuse to Do Nothing

Teri Kraus, a seasoned fiction writer who has published 13 books

Aubrey Sampson, a newbie like me

Margaret Philbrick, who is working on her first novel

And a friend I've known a long time, Alisha Venetis.

So there's my update, friends: I've spent a week living not just recalling the real world. There was even a lazy morning spent at a coffee shop with the my beautiful daughters: hot chocolate for them, a latte for me, and several rousing rounds of Checkers and Clue.

And if that's not life . . .

How Canada Convinced Me Not to Vote: Why I won't be casting my ballot in two weeks

jenmichel@me.com

A friend e-mailed weeks ago to ask my political opinion. Because of her newfound faith, she’s approaching this election differently. Like most Christ-followers, Democrat and Republican, she wants to cast a “Christian” vote. Her e-mail arrived the day Her.meneutics released its first eBook, What Christian Women Want This Election Season, which I advised her to read and which I've reviewed here. Apart from this recommendation, however, I was stumped. In fact, I was feeling—and still feel—politically ambivalent. Voting is a great freedom and an important civic responsibility. However, a vote for president cannot express the breadth of Christian conviction.

Although political disengagement may not be a “moral option,” I have decided I won’t vote next month. Now that I am living in Canada, I would have needed to obtain an absentee ballot to vote, and I simply lacked the political will to bother.

* * * * * You'll find the entire content of my essay here at Christianity Today's Women's Blog, her.meneutics.

eBook review: What Christian Women Want This Election

jenmichel@me.com

Mitt Romney has “binders full of women” that he’ll need to open in a couple of weeks -  because it’s likely American women who are deciding this presidential election. The gender pay gap, abortion, access to contraceptives: these are only a handful of the issues that the candidates are talking about in their efforts to win women voters.

But the issues I care about aren’t limited to those I’ve cited, largely because my faith as well as my gender influences my vote.

This is why I chose to read Her.meneutics new eBook, What Christian Want This Election Season -  and why I recommend it to you. First, I appreciated that the book captures the real tension of voting “Christianly.” In the essay entitled, “What Do Evangelical Women Want This Election Season,” author Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra explores the ongoing political tension for Christian voters. Is fighting poverty and other social ills more important than standing against abortion and gay marriage? Appreciating the Christian convictions that undergirds both Democratic and Republican political commitment challenges us not just to tolerate one another, but deeply honor each other despite our political differences.

And Rachel Held Evans implores women to follow a honor code this election season in her essay, “Why We Can All Opt Out of the War on Women.” “The decisions we make – for ourselves, for our families, for our churches, for society – rarely fall into neat and tidy categories of liberal or conservative.” Evans argues that politicians want to divide women, exploiting us as “spoils in a political war.” “While we should certainly speak up for what we think is right, as followers of Jesus, war is not an option.” This is a message that resonates with me, a woman embattled by the Mommy Wars. I’m grateful for her reminder.

What I may have gained most, though, from What Christian Women Want This Election Season is historical perspective. Elesha Coffman writes, “A Brief History of the Evangelical Woman’s Vote,” which explains the historical trends of both the female and evangelical vote. (Did you know Billy Graham was a registered Democrat?) Historical evidence confirms that we as voters are products of our era, regional culture, and race, and that is properly sobering when we’re ready to go to blows over political “principles.”

Anna Broadway’s essay, “Health-Care Reform and the God of Salvation” was of particular interest to me, especially now that I live in Canada, where government-funded health care is available to everyone. If there is a political issue that is driving me this election, health care is it. Broadway provides theological perspective for a very complicated issue and reminds us more broadly that, “Orthodoxy is not defined by what positions we or others take on the law, but by the creeds. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” I might have wished, however, that Broadway considered the real failures of our current system, rather than simply identifying the weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act.

Another essay of interest was Trillia Newbell’s piece, “Why This Black Christian No Longer Toes the Democratic Party Line.” She challenges us to consider how race often trumps our Christian identity when we vote, and she cites her reasons for breaking with the Democratic party. Alongside Newbell, the editors may have done well to include a similar story of demographic breaking with the Republican party. (Maybe that’s the essay I should have written.)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey ends the book with her interviews with Condoleeza Rice, Nikki Haley, and Michele Bachmann. I don’t know that you’d hear these speak so candidly about their faith elsewhere, which is another reason for acknowleding What Christian Woman Want This Election Season as a unique and important resource.

I found Her.meneutics first eBook helpful and even-handed, and I’ll look forward to more like it in the future. While it can do only as much as a short eBook can do, it manages to succeed in framing some of the bigger political complexities facing Christian women as they vote. For women like me who are eager to dig further into the details, they may be think in future eBooks to include a list of additional resources. Overall, What Christian Women Want This Election Season is a book I recommend, as it is well worth $4.99 and a couple of hours on the couch.

And if you're interested in knowing how I'll vote this election, catch me at Her.meneutics Monday, October 22.

 

 

Moms on Trial: How Judgment Became Today's Parenting Advice

jenmichel@me.com

It’s not yet 6am, and I am ticking today’s to-dos off the list. I add mayonnaise to the mental grocery list and feel life breathe hot on my neck. These past 11 years, I’ve given birth to five babies. Most days, the responsibilities heap like laundry and sit heavy on my chest while the sun sleeps. Motherhood is hard work. It is a sacred calling as well. So I can appreciate Michelle Obama’s recent remarks at the Democratic Convention. “My most important title is still ‘mom-in-chief,” declared the First Lady. I can also be made to agree with the woman who tweeted post-Convention that she longed “for the day when powerful women don’t need to assure Americans that they’re moms above all else.”

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Read more of my post about how Christian women can opt out of joining the public juries facing American moms today. I'm writing at Her.meneutics, Christianity Today's blog for women, and you can read the full-length article here.