"The moment the word 'why' crosses your lips, you are doing theology."
—When Life & Beliefs Collide                

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Seminary Dropout & Malestrom

It isn't every day that I hang out with a seminary dropout. In fact, the main guy I hang out with (namely my husband) is a "seminary-lifer." He was a student when we met. Persevered through two doctorates. Then launched his career as a professor and seminary president. 

Marriage to Frank comes with a lot of interesting conversations with him and with other seminary professors, students, and graduates. 

I thrive on those conversations.

Hanging out with Shane Blackshear, an unapologetic "seminary dropout," to discuss Malestrom was a lot like that.

Like a true seminarian, Shane Blackshear does his homework. He reads a lot of books including the ones he features in interviews. (Evidently old seminary habits die hard.) The upside is that he asks thoughtful well-informed questions that give an interviewee plenty of opportunity to get their ideas on the table. Our discussion of Malestrom is a perfect example. He also has plenty of interesting things to say himself.

To listen to our discussion and gain a good sense of what Malestrom is all about, go to:  http://www.shaneblackshear.com/carolyncustisjames/

If you haven't yet purchased your copy of Malestrom or want to order extras, Amazon is offering a special price of $11.64 for the hardcover! 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson on Malestrom

Perhaps the primary deception of the human race since the fall is the belief that any one 'type' of human being has dominion or power 'over' another human being. This incorrect narrative has played itself out in various forms of sin throughout history, including genocide, gender-based violence, slavery, human trafficking, sexual and other forms of abuse. The author challenges the reader to consider that although a society and culture of patriarchy is the backdrop in which God has chosen to present his drama of scripture, patriarchy is not God’s plan for his human creation. God’s plan is presented in Genesis 1, where it is clear that both men and women are created in the image or likeness of God, with the authority to cultivate or cause all things on earth to grow and flourish. In this work and for this purpose, God designed Adam and Eve to labor together.
—Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Today, Gifted for Leadership is featuring Natasha Sistrunk Robinson's review of Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World. 

Natasha is a blogger you should know. She blogs regularly and is becoming an important voice at A Sista's Journey. You can also find her weighing in on major topics that concern all Christians on other blogs as well, such as Her.meneutics and Missio Alliance.

Read her entire review here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Teaching Boys a Different Kind of Manhood

“We have got to show our sons a new definition of manhood. Now the definition of manhood is already turning upside down. You’ve read about how the new economy is changing the roles of caregiver and wage-earner and throwing it up in the air. So our sons are going to have to find a new way of adapting to this—a new relationships with each other. I think we really have to show them and model for them how a real man is someone who trusts his sisters and respects them and wants to be on their team and stands up against the real bad guys who are the men who want to abuse the women. . . . . to seek out the heroines who are there who show real courage, who bring people together, and to nudge our sons to identify with those heroines and to say, 'I want to be on their team.' Because they’re going to be on their team.”
—Colin Stokes

Colin Stokes has tapped into a serious issue. False views of manhood start early and are often wrongly portrayed as an aspiration to pursue, a prize to win or a milestone down the road—not as the high identity and calling God invests in every man-child at birth and that trumps every other definition of what it means to be a man. And cultural changes are shaking up categories that seemed fixed for many in previous generations.

The church belongs in this important discussion—not to offer boys a kinder-gentler patriarchy that pales in comparison to other voices they're hearing and doesn't reflect the message of the Bible. 

We have something infinitely better to offer them—an identity and purpose that endures no matter what life throws at them.

What are we teaching young boys? How are we summoning them to embrace God's indestructible, life-long, exalted calling on his sons—to bear his image and do his work in the world

The malestrom is the impact of the fall on men and boys that causes them to lose sight of God's high calling on them as men and to settle for something far less.  Malestrom unpacks God's unrivaled calling on men and boys. It features the stories of overlooked men in the Bible who courageously battle the malestrom and emerge to display a radical brand of manhood that reflects the "not-of-this world" Kingdom of Jesus. 

Continue this important discussion and take it deeper by reading Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World  If for no other reason, do it for your sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, and other boys in your life. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

First Responders

"The maelstrom is the seaman’s nightmare, but the “malestrom” poses an even greater threat to men than the hidden dangers of the open seas. . . .  It isn’t overstating things to say there isn’t a man or boy alive who isn’t a target. The malestrom’s global currents can be violent and overt, but also come in subtle, even benign forms that catch men unawares. The malestrom is the particular ways in which the fall impacts the male of the human species—causing a man to lose himself, his identity and purpose as a man, and above all to lose sight of God’s original vision for his sons. The repercussions of such devastating personal losses are not merely disastrous for the men themselves, but catastrophic globally."      

Here are comments from three readers—first responders who read the book before its release and gave permission to share their thoughts.

Lesa Engelthaler
From Lesa Engelthaler:

"Wow, just wow. Carolyn, I finally had a chance to read the introduction to your Malestrom. So many new thoughts. So many thoughts I have never said out loud. So many men I know that came to mind as I read.

This sentence made me cry with can-it-possibly-be-true nodding of my head: "Jesus didn’t come just to tweak things, but to overthrow the kingdom of this world."

You so GO GIRL!!!!!

Lori and Tom Lambelet
From Lori Lambelet:

I finished reading yesterday. My husband plans to finish in the next couple of days. Last night at dinner, I purposely did not want to discuss the book until he had completed the read. However, we were discussing a Bible study that he was to start this very morning. One of the ramifications from our ousting at our church, is that Tom has become a chaplain at an auto shop. He is building relationships with the men there and this was a step to encourage relationship with God.

As we were discussing his approach. I was struck with the consequences of your book.

You have given a name to the real ill of our existence. You have allowed for the truth of an image bearer gone awry. The gospel of sin, always felt incomplete to me, it felt like we were huge mistakes and nothing worth redeeming, yet by the mercy of God we were. Your message allows for the reality of our image bearing selves that God as our parent so desperately wants to rescue.

We are indeed lost children, sinners yes, but offspring of God. I felt in my discussion with Tom the true fact that we have been lied to. Since the beginning with Adam and Eve, who chose to believe the lie, we too have been given a bag of goods that are not in any way gold. The lie of patriarchy has been passed on, enforced and fought over in ways that leave carcasses of humanity scattered world wide. The truth of Malestrom is sobering and devastating. It also is really the point of our focus. It resonates deeply to the battle at hand and the circumstances of our existence.

Personally, this was a hard read. Carolyn, since I was born the message of patriarchy had been drilled into my little girl’s head. As a 2nd generation Italian, the “truth” of my value was solely placed on my appearance and ability to attract a man. I fought this my whole childhood. I then proceeded to marry (a very good, godly man), but who also held tightly to the lie of patriarchy. I fought with him, most of our married life. I also was fighting the church. I have often found myself isolated and alone in this battle and that is why your first book was such a relief to my spirit.

I was not alone.

My husband, as you know realizes the lie that he had been given and now embraces the truth of the Blessed Alliance. This change resulted in our dismissal from a church we had pastored for 22 years. I am still smarting from this. I too have started to write. I need to express the reality as a woman and pastor’s wife that have not been given an avenue to validate my story. (As a child of divorce, we were never allowed to grieve, since it didn’t happen to us. As a pastor’s wife, despite feeling the call of God and giving my life to ministry, I found again the lack of other’s allowing my grief, since I was just the wife.) The truth is, I am “Twice Divorced”.

My parents divorced when I was 12. The reason? My mother wanted to be more than the caretaker of 5 daughters. She wanted to go to school, she wanted to go to work, she wanted to challenge her mind and self. My father, denied this due to his view of women. She left. The true reason: patriarchy. I didn’t understand this at the time. Three of my sisters went with her to Florida, but I refused. I could not stand the thought of my father entering an empty home. I talked my sister into staying with me. I was raised by my father. All that to say, while reading your book it brought forth so many feelings. So many thoughts of pain and anguish of how we have gotten it so wrong. How God desires a better way and despite the many incidences that demonstrated a plan for something better, we have clung to the lie of patriarchy. Malestrom is so very real, it is so very ugly and it is really the battle at hand. I find myself at times quite discouraged, I really am battle weary.

My husband and I were talking last night and the wounds from the dogmatic rod of the Malestrom are painfully true. Counselors have told me it will take five years for me to recover from our latest battle. I am in year three. I am not a victim. I have been the warrior that you, so plainly articulated in your first book.

You have fought on so many levels and I am amazed that you got this book out!!!! You give me strength to keep fighting. Every time I step into a church, it is a victory for me. I am teaching this Tuesday, which is the first time I have placed myself in this position for a very long time. So very thankful for your faithfulness and your fight to speak the truth.

From Tom Lambelet:

Thank you for sharing your book with us. I have been burdened by the way so many in the church see the Bible’s culture as the Bible’s message. In my opinion it is a huge stumbling block to embracing God’s plan for men and women. Your book really helps to expose that issue.

It also has helped stir up in me a greater passion for educating Christians about how the gospel story doesn’t soften patriarchy but replaces it. This needs to be known and I can’t just sit back and do nothing. Your book has motivated me and provided me with a helpful resource in this important work. In particular I appreciated your many insights in the character studies you presented. The cultural nuances you brought out were very eye opening to me and made the stories so much more powerful.

Thank you for your leadership in this vital work!

Malestrom officially ships tomorrow (June 2)—just in time for Father's Day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hanging out with Ezers in Hong Kong

I arrived in Hong Kong just hours ago and am settling into my hotel room to sleep off some of the jet lag.

Friday is the start of the Island ECC (Island Evangelical Community Church) Women's Conference 2015. The theme is Half the Church. Kwen Ip, Director of Women's Ministry, is leading the charge. Although she's never been to a Synergy conference, she is definitely one of us! Just being with her is worth the trip over. By her account there are other kindred spirits here, and I'm looking forward to meeting them. Already I'm encouraged.

But for now (and before I say something jet-lag muddled) it's time to hit the sack.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Publisher's Weekly on Malestrom

"Wounds in the relationships with fathers are seen as frequent catalysts for a maelstrom—a term cleverly tweaked for the title—that sweeps men away from their true nature and diminishes the value of women. This is an insightful, Bible-based take on relations between women and men."

To read Publishers Weekly full review of Malestrom go here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Not for the faint of heart!

"Malestrom‬ is not a book for the faint of heart; Carolyn’s work serves as a prophetic challenge."
Paul Louis Metzger,
Christian Theology; Theology of Culture,
Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Virtual Frank

The church history recordings Frank made at LOGOS/FaithLife in January are available now for pre-order. They are brilliant if I do say so myself. (Having said that, if you have to choose between buying this incredible series and buying Malestrom, choose Malestrom. I love him, but not that much.)

Frank's course presents an honest look at church history. You won't encounter hagiography here. He also brings the past into the present. His students will tell you, he has a way of making history come alive. You won't find a better glimpse at church history than what you'll get in this series.

This video series—two complete courses—is available now at a special rate that will go up when the series releases.  To learn more, hear about it from Frank, and order, go here

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Doubleheader in Virginia

"The full flourishing of God's sons requires and even depends on the full flourishing of his daughters. It works both ways." —Malestrom

After all the talk, the promotions, and the waiting, the 2015 Missio Alliance Conference lived up to every expectation and more!

It would have been worth going if only to be back in the bracing company of strong Synergy ezers. (If you've ever attended a Synergy conference, you'll know exactly what I mean.)

L to R: Sarah Shust, Pamela Rossi-Keen, Natasha Robinson, Lesa Engelthaler, and me.

But we were doing more than "getting together."

This event marked a leap forward for Synergy, as we officially joined forces with Missio Alliance. The conference theme was Being Truly Human: Re-imagining the Resurrectional Life. A big part of how Jesus' resurrection changes everything is how it transforms our relationships—including relationships between men and women.

We saw for ourselves that the Blessed Alliance of men and women serving God together is not a new idea to Missio. It isn't wistful thinking or all talk. Nor is it simply window dressing to give the impression of an alliance that doesn't truly exist.

Woman have been essential to Missio from the start—as leaders and participants. Everything about the conference breathed the fact that the Blessed Alliance is already in their DNA.

They want to do more.

With the addition of Synergy, Missio's intention to be a Blessed Alliance has taken on an even more deliberate form.

Twice(!) during the conference, Missio leadership held gatherings to hear ideas from women and men about how best to move forward. We were all heartened by what we experienced.

But the second reason this Missio Alliance conference was a big event for me was that Zondervan hosted a breakfast launch of my new book, MalestromManhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World

"The malestrom is the particular ways in which the fall impacts the male of the human species causing a man to lose himself, his identity and purpose as a man, and above all to lose sight of God’s original vision for his sons. The repercussions of such devastating personal losses are not merely disastrous for the men themselves, but catastrophic globally."         —Malestrom

Books won't be available from retailers until June 2, although you can pre-order now. But books were available at the Missio conference.

See, you should have come!

Malestrom is an essential expansion of the conversation we've already been having about women in my earlier books.
"No matter how much ground we've covered in the discussion of the Bible’s message for women, until we join that discussion with an equally robust discussion of men, significant pieces are missing and we're left hanging."      —Malestrom

Missio is the perfect home for Synergy. If you haven't done it already, put Missio Alliance on your radar. Subscribe to their emails and keep an eye on events they sponsor. There is more to come!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Male Violence

If I ever doubted the reality of the malestrom's destructive powers in the lives of men and boys or the need for a book that addresses this threat, the day’s headlines—just about any day’s headlines—easily quell such doubts.

This week Baltimore dominated the news with a crisis saturated from start to finish in male violence. The unexplained and unwarranted death of Freddie Gray while in police custody sparked mostly peaceful protests in Baltimore and across the nation. But then the crisis escalated into an outbreak of violence of black youths in Baltimore against police that resulted in serious injuries and the destruction of property.

The whole city has been on edge.

Calls for calm, a city-wide curfew, and a beefed up police and national guard presence may stop the violence for now, but they don’t get to the root of what’s wrong. Toya Graham, the mama-ezer videoed yanking her son out of the violence, admitted to CBS that she can’t supervise her son’s life forever and has legitimate fears for him if things don’t change. She doesn’t want her son to be “the next Freddie Gray.”

Male violence was one of the many disturbing issues that drove me to write Malestrom. All through the writing of my book, the media was ablaze with non-stop reports of male violence around the world. Israel and Hamas exchanging rocket fire and guided missiles. The bloody civil war in the Ukraine with rebels fueled by Russian military support. And of course, the relentless march of ISIS militants, accompanied by savage executions of Iraqi citizens—not only Shia Muslims, but also Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities—that shock the sensibilities of the civilized world. 

Sociologists are all too aware that there is an insidious link between masculinity and violence that fuels many of the wars that rage across our world. Researchers probing the root causes of male violence now have ISIS to consider—one of the most insidious and large scale manifestations of male violence ever.

Why are so many young men (including some from the United States and Europe) drawn to this violent movement?

While there are many contributing factors, one explanation is profound and echoes issues I’ve been addressing about women in my previous books. Men have lost sight of who God created them to be as human beings and as men.

A key factor according to Huffington Post Religion Editor, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, is “a lack of meaning and purpose in life.” John L. Esposito (Professor of Religion and International Affairs, Georgetown University) believes men are drawn to ISIS in search of “a new identity, and for a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging.”

That explanation was confirmed for me in a recent conversation with a man who grew up in Northern Ireland. Unemployment among Irish men was rampant, and he was among the unemployed. He winced as he recalled his experience. “I felt worthless,” he mused. He and other young Irishmen in his situation had two options: join the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and engage in violence or immigrate to another country where jobs were available. Joining the IRA invested young men with instant credibility and stature—the missing and longed-for “identity, meaning, purpose and belonging,” but at a terrible cost.

The same questions women have been asking—about identity, meaning, purpose, and God’s vision for our lives as women—are festering for men beneath today’s tragic headlines. Those same questions surface in the ordinary lives of men who one day seem “to have it all” and the next are losing their identity as men through unemployment, foreclosures, health issues, divorce, personal failure, or some other bend in the road they didn’t see coming.

The church belongs in this discussion. Malestrom puts the subject of identity and purpose for men and boys on the table for serious engagement. These are issues the church is equipped and responsible to engage—not with calls for men to “man-up” and take charge (which many of them are not able to do) or by man camps and making church “more manly.” This crisis is not resolved by such superficial measures that cannot promise what men are seeking and need. Furthermore, this is no mere academic debate and never has been. It is a matter of life and death as these horrible events demonstrate.

Today’s world presents a plethora of challenges. We must dare to ask twenty-first century questions of the Bible, no mater how tough, taboo, or unsettling they may be. Casting a vision for women is not enough without an equally robust biblical vision for men. 

The gospel is equal to these challenges—not a triumphalist American gospel that relies on prosperity—but a gospel of indestructible identity, hope, and purpose that trumps other options and will preach in the smoking ruins of Iraqi cities, in the slums of Nairobi, on the streets of Baltimore, and to the utterly lost men of ISIS.