Tag Archives: religion

God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission


University of California Press; 1997

Griffith’s work[1] centers on research about prayer-filled women within an international, Pentecostal, evangelical, parachurch organization (still running today) called Aglow Women’s Fellowship. While reading and analyzing her research about the initial attraction, then success, of this international women’s organization, it made me wonder why and how it was so effective. It seemed obvious at first—Aglow was an opportune space for evangelical women to find community. Yet, there were other available spaces for evangelical women like the local church. So,what role did the local church play in the unintentional push of people towards the parachurch and what did the parachurch offer people that they pulled people away from the primary commitment to the local church?

Religious leaders have contested amongst one another about the the tension and fragile relationship between local churches and parachurch organizations time and time again. In “The Church and the Parachurch: An Uneasy Marriage,”[2] Dyrness explains both sides of the argument. Local church leaders feel concerned that parachurches “drain leadership and finances and often lack doctrinal or operational accountability.” They hold very strong convictions that the church, which is Christ’s bride, is the most important earthly organization that will last when all others will fade. It is the brand that it most common worldwide. The article mentioned was written in 1984, but the topic has not ceased to bubble up again in this decade.

Recently, there was a publicly aired interview conversation between two mainstream, evangelical, male church pastors, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren. Driscoll asks Warren “Why are you still in the local church? Why not something else?” Driscoll implies that Warren could be creating nonprofits, parachurches, or doing other things that could make international impact. Warren answers, “I learned a long time ago that the church is God’s agenda. The church is the only things that is going to last.” Warren clearly states the primary importance and position of the church in God’s kingdom plan and his current ongoing work above other even Christian organizations.

On the other hand, White states that parachurch leaders believe that churches are “either insensitive to or incapable of meeting specialized needs.” Aglow is a parachurch that encourages members to be loyal members of their local churches because they understand that the church is primary, while parachurches are supplementary to religious followers. However, the problem is that time, financial and emotional commitment to this group would seem otherwise. The strength of Aglow was that it focused on the specialized needs of women, thus helping the women feel more important and personally connected through the network of small groups. These women were being regularly heard and even supernaturally healed, opportunities that weren’t as readily encouraged within some local churches—especially depending on the denomination.

The rise and success of evangelical Christian parachurches can be seen as manifestations and symptoms of the lack/gap that the local churches have in meeting the needs of people. Thus, there needs to be a healthy partnership and communication between local church leaders and parachurch leaders to work together in serving the people of their communities.

[1] Griffith, R. Marie. God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission. Berkeley: University of California, 1997. Print.

[2] Dyrness, William A. “The Church and The Parachurch: An Uneasy Marriage.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 8.3 (1984): 135-318. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. Dec. 2012.

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Thank You, St. Jude

Yale University Press; 1996

Robert Orsi’s work[1] resurfaces a long fought battle among women universally—finding their own voice and then finding a space that allows their voices to be heard. The Voice of St. Jude, a widely popular American Catholic magazine that began circulating within the U.S. in the 1930s, provided that specific public space for immigrant daughters who wrestled with balancing the life in between dual cultures of Americanism and Catholicism. Letters were sent to this magazine by young immigrant daughters of the Catholic faith who desperately pleaded for help by praying to St. Jude asking him to intercede to Jesus on behalf of them.  Part of this desperate longing for external help arose because traditional support networks through ethnic enclaves (once available to the older first-generation immigrant community) were no longer useful as young, second-generation, Catholic daughters were forced to work outside of their homes and neighborhoods to help the family make ends meet. The majority of the men in these women’s lives were unemployed, unmotivated and often depressed. These burdensome circumstances recurrently led this specific group of women to fall deeper into hopelessness. What these women needed and desperately desired was their own community and network of support—in other words a space to speak, be embraced and heal.

Reading this text through the lens of Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own[2]gives an opportunity for another layer of analysis. Woolf initially uses the backdrop of the fiction writing industry as a way to construct her argument about the lack of physical and figurative space for women in the workplace, but this critique also allows a way for others to use her text to speak about the larger reality of the lack of women’s space in the world of patriarchy. Woolf confidently states, “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” She understood that often the act of writing (then secondly the publication of that text) unleashes, releases and rescues individuals from feeling suffocated, imprisoned and insignificant about their lives. Writing is self-voicing. Having a voice that is heard reinforces significance and a certain amount of power. This power affirms the potential to influence others with the words that one writes or says regardless of who it actually affects. Writing used as an outlet can also heal.

Interestingly, their loyalty and trust depended on a mortal, mediator saint whom they believed would petition on behalf of them to Jesus Christ (the ultimate Savior in the Catholic faith). Unlike Jesus, Jude’s mortality and unknown identity provided the perfect foundation while the magazine provided the perfect platform for these women to imaginatively reform and renegotiate their own understandings of womanhood for their generation. It was women affecting other women’s lives under the label of a man. Much like women writers in the past who used pseudonyms to publish their works for others to read. If looked at simply, St. Jude’s voice was actually a literary vocal team of women who molded The Voice of St. Jude to continue to provide the women a vehicle that could be used to form and shape their voices—because speaking and being heard was enough to give them hope to continue living just a while longer. All in all, regardless of the limits that existed in their society, the space existed—constantly growing, transforming and encouraging women to enter into a greater abundant life filled with gratitude and hope.

So, a few closing questions arise. How would their religious experience and understanding of womanhood have been different if St. Jude had been a woman? If the person whom the magazine was dedicated to had been someone other than St. Jude, would the women have been as devoted to him/her? How much of their devotion to St. Jude was due to the supernatural religious hope and how much of it was due to the alternative enclave community it provided? At large, has the Internet (especially blogging) replaced magazines, radio and other older forms of communication to be used as modern places of expression, healing and community? Which community has blogging benefited the most and which has it hurt the most? Has the Internet further restricted or expanded spaces for Catholic women and other women of faith rooted in patriarchy?

[1] Orsi, Robert A. Thank You, St. Jude: Women’s Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1996. Print.

[2] Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway ; A Room of One’s Own. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Print.

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Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey

Indiana University Press; 1989

Abigail Abbot Bailey’s account[1] of domestic violence neither seems atypical nor surprising from many other women’s accounts of what they’ve experienced in abusive relationships. However, Abigail’s faith and trust in God coupled with her understanding  of it—what it actually means and the way in which it should be manifested in her life—is what sets her story apart from other women’s stories.

Abigail’s family upbringing explains how her understanding of trust in God had been shaped. She had a relatively peaceful and loving family. Submission to her parents was never a problem because they provided care and sacrifice. Her lack of experience in struggles and hardships did not allow her to understand what it meant to fully trust God and activate her faith.

Early on in her marriage to Asa Bailey, she notices that he exhibits sinful behavior in his life, but she is eager to show him grace because she believes he has yet to be converted and that every human being has sinned before God. Thus, she has no right to judge, but only to impart forgiveness on her husband. Abigail honestly explains that she “would rather suffer wrong than do wrong” (Taves, 57). Her first and foremost devotion is to please God and live in holiness. Her belief could also be explained through her understanding that any kind of earthly suffering was endurable because Christ’s life entailed the ultimate suffering on behalf of the world. She would simply be partaking in Jesus’ life and her duty as a Puritan woman to conform to the image of her Savior.

Multiple times she “trusted in the Lord to deliver” her (Taves, 60). Abigail believed that trusting in God meant praying and idly hoping that he would either rescue her hardships by changing her husband to be a better man even to convert. In fact, her hope that Asa would change was probably one of the main factors that encouraged her to remain in the marriage for so long. One psychology article[2] states that one of the factors that contribute to a person finally deciding whether or not to leave an abusive relationship is “belief that the abuser would change” (Strube, 837). If her own previous definition of “trust in God” did not change, I do not believe that she expected to separate from him by leaving him or attaining a divorce.

Nevertheless, in the latter part of their marriage (after Asa’s incest with their daughter was made known to her) together she began to consider a new definition—“that trusting in God implies the due use of all means” (Taves, 174). Her faith became active and she became a participant in the decisions she made for her life.

[1] Bailey, Abigail Abbot, and Ann Taves. Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Print.

[2] Strube, Michael J., and Linda S. Barbour. “Factors Related to the Decision to Leave an Abusive Relationship.” Journal of Marriage and Family 46.4 (1984): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. Sept. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/352531&gt;.

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