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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Manhood Crisis

Trouble arrived in the mail today. And the truth is, I’ve been looking for it.

UPS dropped off the envelope containing the advance copy of my new book. Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World is my sixth and possibly the most provocative book I’ve written. After five books that focus on women, this book pulled me out of my comfort zone to understand what is happening to men and boys globally. My study led me to examine patriarchy—a social system which many evangelicals have a vested interest in maintaining.

The timing couldn’t have been more apropos. Last night Frank and I watched the documentary on Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s new book—A Path Appears—about domestic violence against women, appalling poverty, the sexual abuse of little girls, and the battle to educate girls.

At points it was unbearable to watch.

At every turn, patriarchy was the root cause of what was happening. It was a painful reminder of the importance of what I've been learning about men.

While it is widely recognized that patriarchy is demeaning of females in particular, the truth of the matter is, patriarchy is a devastating male issue as well. Men and boys are victims every bit as much as women.

I’m not the first to raise the alarm about patriarchy. But Malestrom raises the alarm about how patriarchy is not only bad for women, it’s bad for men and boys. This book takes the unusual approach to examine the pressures patriarchy brings to bear on men in which they lose their God-given identity and purpose.

I have no interest in stirring up controversy. But I cannot stand silent in the face of this egregious disparagement of men and denial of their true identity.

Ironically, writing about women was what convinced me to take up the subject of men and the manhood crisis. When the title of my latest book about women contained the word "half," it was hard to escape the fact that I had more work to do. Until men are included in the gender conversation—not merely as interested observers, but as subjects who are facing a crisis of their own—any discussion about gender is woefully incomplete.

Once I started researching, it didn't take me long to discover the malestrom and to realize men are in desperate trouble too.
"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."
Malestrom raises issues as serious as anything I've written about women. I am not exaggerating when I say it has me every bit as concerned about men and boys as I have ever been about women and girls. What's at stake is far more serious than subjects that occupy the church such as who leads and who follows or which roles are for men and which are for women. Issues surrounding concepts of manhood and masculinity are driving the violence in today's headlines—including wars, terrorism, brutal ISIS executions, the radicalization of young men, shootings on American streets—and the violence that takes place behind closed doors.

As I researched the various currents that converge to form the malestrom, it didn't seem to matter which current I considered—the father wound, the rise of women, the marginalization of men, gender role reversals—every current ultimately led to patriarchy. It's not a subject I could afford to ignore. The stakes are simply too high for both men and women. So Malestrom puts patriarchy on the table for an honest, healthy discussion. My hope is for a civil discourse on this most significant issue.

The conversation that Malestrom invites couldn't be more timely, more urgent for both men and women, and (I hasten to add) more hopeful too for it centers on the imago dei and gets to the heart of Jesus’ gospel.

I'll be writing more about Malestrom in the weeks ahead.

Copies will be available at the 2015 Missio Alliance Conference, May 7-9, in Alexandria, Virginia. (It's not too late to register.) Books will be on the shelves in stores and shipping from Amazon on June 2.

I am grateful for those who have read and endorsed this new book. Here are what some of them are saying:

“This is the book I've been waiting for—as a wife, as a mother of a son, as a woman committed to the blessed alliance God intended between men and women. This book will be healing and restorative for so many. It’s a beautiful invitation to manhood in the Kingdom of God.”
Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts

“God’s intention for the appropriate flourishing of human life has been severely thwarted by culturally captive expressions of masculinity that have oppressed both women and men. Malestrom offers us a reminder from Scripture that God’s intention for men was not for a dysfunctional masculinity that devastates the image of God within us. Thank you, Carolyn Custis James, for your historical and theological insights that will reshape how I live out my faith in the world. Thank you for a book that benefits both my son and my daughter.”
Soong-Chan Rah
Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, Northwestern Seminary and 

“Men have indeed lost sight of who God created them to be as human beings and as men! The signs of this reality are visible all around us. From bloody violence on an international scale to the abuse of the most vulnerable little child in the privacy of a home, from ‘fatherless’ children to abusive marriages, there just seems to be no end. Malestrom does a masterful job of first articulating the catastrophic mess we are in, and then walks the reader through a journey unfolding God’s divine vision and plan for man through an engaging study of the men of the Scriptures. I simply could not put this book down. Does it offer a final and definitive solution to the problem that began in Genesis 3? Perhaps not. Has it begun a conversation in my mind? You bet! And this conversation is long overdue within the global church today. A timely, well-articulated, and thought-provoking book!
Abraham George, Director of International Church Mobilization,

“Women aren’t the only ones bombarded with conflicting and harmful messages about their identities. More than ever men face an onslaught of expectations, both from the culture and the church, about what it means to be a ‘real man.’ Through this treacherous landscape, Carolyn Custis James proves a trustworthy guide. With her characteristic warmth and wisdom, she examines manhood through the lens of Jesus Christ and offers a better way forward for men, a way characterized by partnership, joy, and humility. There are few writers who bring as much clarity and conviction to their work as Carolyn Custis James. This book is biblically faithful, immensely timely, and delightfully readable. Every last page is charged with healing power."
Rachel Held Evans, author of 

Malestrom takes a close and provocative look at the dangers of patriarchy by taking a close look at what Scripture says about it. This book will lead you to ponder the type of person God asks all of us—male and female—to be. It is a good question to meditate on.”

Darrell Bock
Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and 
Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, 
Dallas Theological Seminary

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Celebrating April 11 and Moving Forward!

April 11 has never been a day on the calendar that held special meaning for me.

All that changed last year.

On April 11, 2014, I was a patient at Fox Chase Cancer Center—groggy from surgery and commencing what proved to be a longer-than-I-expected road to recovery.

Thankfully, I had plenty of friends who spoke from personal experience and kept reassuring me that my "slow" recovery from surgery was normal.

A year down the road from that surgery, I'm am profoundly aware of God's mercy to me for an early and "accidental" discovery of the cancer and for the highly skilled incredibly compassionate doctors and medical staff at the FCCC. I'll always be thankful for so many of you who prayed and who ministered to me in countless ways during that ordeal.

Despite everything, this past year has been remarkably—miraculously—productive.

Barely a month after surgery I was able to be with our daughter Allison in Orlando for the birth of our first grandchild—an ezer! By October, I resumed my speaking engagements starting with the Lifesprings School of Ministry in Geneva, Switzerland.

In early December, Frank and I vacated the "Hobbit Hole" and moved into our above-ground house where, instead of unpacking boxes, I wrote the final chapter to the manuscript of my next book: Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World—scheduled for release June 2, 2015!

My calendar for the immediate future is packed with some incredible opportunities—beginning with a 10-week course I'm teaching at Biblical Theological Seminary on The Gospel of Ruth, starting Monday, April 13. I am really looking forward to some interesting discussions with the seminarians in my class.

On that same day, Discover the Word begins broadcasting a 12-part series (airing weekdays on radio) of interviews I did with Mart DeHaan, Elisa Morgan, and Brian Hettinga on The Gospel of Ruth. To find a local radio station, go here. Otherwise, the audios will be available on their website.

Another exciting development that occurred during my recovery was when the Synergy Women's Network became part of Missio Alliance. Our first event together is Missio's 2015 #trulyhuman Conference, May 5-7, in Alexandria, Virginia. A bunch of us are going to be there participating.  Please check out this spiritually meaty conference and come if you can!

It's a great mercy, I know, to be up and running again, in good health with a good prognosis, so many great friends, and to look back over a year where God has enabled me to keep moving forward.

Multiple reasons to highlight April 11 as a banner day on my calendar.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Join the Future of Synergy!

The Missio Alliance welcome mat is out for the Synergy Women's Network, and we are walking through that door!

May 7-9 is our first opportunity to join this national gathering. Besides promising to be an outstanding conference, the Missio Alliance 2015 Conference—BEING TRULY HUMAN:
RE-IMAGINING THE RESURRECTIONAL LIFE—is going to be a joyous Synergy reunion. The women you see above will all be there.

We'll also have plenty of opportunity to contribute to the conference content and to practice what we've been preaching about wanting a Blessed Alliance with our Christian brothers.

Here's the Missio Alliance Special Synergy Invitation with all the information you'll need. Even if you're not a part of Synergy (yet!), check this out and come!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Ezer-Kenegdo: Ezer Unleashed

"My first serious encounter with my calling as an ezer happened in the middle of the night. It was around 3:00 a.m., and it changed my life. I wasn’t tossing and turning in bed, but wide awake, pouring over books, smuggling volumes out of my husband’s study, and searching for answers. I felt like a detective and I knew I was onto something. For years I had been troubled by interpretations of Eve that left me and a lot of other women out in the cold. I was looking for answers, but I was not at all braced for what I was about to find."

To read the full article (an excerpt from Half the Church) go here: www.faithgateway.com

I love to see this message spreading!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five Brave Women . . . and More


"God alone lights the way out of the darkness in Genesis. But in Exodus, God has many partners, first among them, five brave women.”
—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt

This morning Huffington Post/Religion ran Lauren Marko's great story on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's commentary for passover in which Justice Ginsburg draws out the stories of women who play powerful roles in the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. "Yocheved, Moses’ mother, and Miriam, his sister. . . . Shifra and Puah, the midwives who rejected Pharoah’s decree to kill all the Jewish baby boys. . . . and Batya, Pharoah’s daughter, who plucked baby Moses out of the Nile River."

Read "With New Commentary, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Turns Passover Into A Feminist Celebration Of Biblical Women" for yet another reminder of why it is so important for men and women to study the Bible together. Together we see so much more, and there is so much more to discover!

And for the record, God has many brave women partners in Genesis too!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Sociology Professor Assesses Half the Church

Matt Vos is a husband, the father of two daughters, and a college sociology professor with a lot of gifted female students—all reasons for him to read Half the Church.  Which he did, after his wife read it first and kept reading parts to him.

Not only did he read the book himself, now he has his students reading it. 

His wife, a professional guidance counselor (who also read Half the Sky), described Half the Church as "invigorating and inspiring." His female students were "energized" by the book. He felt strongly enough about it to write a review essay, just published in the March issue of Dordt College's Pro Rege Journal.

In the review he writes,
"In the Evangelical community in which we are centered, my wife and daughters almost never see visible symbols reminding them that women’s leadership is important and valued, let alone vital. However, on the male side of the gender divide, my son and I continually observe men (like us), and the symbols they produce, guiding and shaping the institutions that frame our collective lives. I’ve come to see this imbalance as equally problematic for my son and my daughters."
—Matthew S. Vos, 
Professor of Sociology

Here's the link to the entire essay (third article in this issue, starts on page 19):

Carolyn Custis James’ Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women: A Review Essay

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Off to Balmy Boise!

After the worst storm of the winter—incredibly beautiful but disruptive (my flight for this morning got cancelled)—I'm heading to Boise in the morning and looking forward to a warm weekend with the women of Cole Community Church.

Temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s. Who knew Boise was so warm in March!?

I love the theme of this conference, which was inspired by Hagar's story, and am eager to meet another great group of women and warm up too.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Synergy Challenge

I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was our second Synergy Conference. Zondervan had just released my second book, Lost Women of the Bible. I had spoken for the first time on Eve and God's vision for his image bearing daughters as ezer-warriors in a Blessed Alliance with his sons.

It was a pivotal moment for Synergy. The room was electric. It was clear, during the interaction that followed, that the women were energized by that vision as they expressed their passion to live into it. They embraced their identity as ezer-warriors and wanted to shout "ezer" from the rooftops. But as enthusiastic as these ezer-warriors were for their recovered birthright, more than anything they wanted to see that Blessed Alliance become a reality.

This year Synergy reached another pivotal moment.

By becoming part of Missio Alliance we not only have regained a national forum in which to continue supporting and learning from each other, we have joined a predominantly male organization as committed as we are to the Blessed Alliance God envisioned in the beginning. I've been to a couple of the Missio conferences, and already I've seen evidence of their dissatisfaction with the gender status quo in the church. They want to see things change.

Not to suggest the path before us will be easy, for the oneness Jesus calls us to faces many obstacles—gender is only one of them. And we already know from experience that the process of forging strong partnerships for the gospel can be messy and even painful. But this opportunity is truly golden and utterly worthwhile.

What ezer-warrior in her right mind would walk away from a challenging opportunity like this?!

Come Join us at the 2015 Mission Alliance this conference—those of you who are part of Synergy and those who are new to us and/or new to Missio Alliance.

The conference is May 7-9 in Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Friday morning Zondervan is sponsoring a special Synergy Breakfast Event where I'll be speaking.
  • Conference presenters include Synergy women: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Judy Douglass, Halee Gray Scott, Lesa Engelthaler, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, and yours truly.
  • To register go here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Call to Pray for the Persecuted Church

Christians in the Middle East are suffering. They are also leading the way by living out their Christian faith within the furnace of brutal persecution. Many believers—young and old—have suffered violent deaths with the love of Jesus on their lips.

The mass beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian men—the latest horror in a litany of barbaric ISIS executions of countless Christians—is prompting Christians in the West to rise up together in an urgent call to prayer. This call comes on the heels of a video published by HuffingtonPost/Religion where a grieving Beshir Kamel, elder brother of two of the martyred men, Bishoy Astafanus Kamel (25) and Samuel Astafanus Kamels (23), responds to his losses as a believer whose feet are planted firmly on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. He is unbending in his pride of two younger brothers who died for their faith, calling them "a pride to Christianity." Along with his grieving mother, he is forgiving of his enemies and extends a hand of grace and hospitality to his brothers' ISIS executioners.
"My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [the killer] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her sons entered the kingdom of heaven." 
"Dear God," Kamel prayed, "please open their eyes to be saved and to quit their ignorance and the wrong teachings they were taught."

Kamel's example is a call for the rest of us to join in praying for those who are persecuted as well as for those who persecute them. Jesus' Gospel is powerful and large and his Spirit easily penetrates behind enemy lines.

Last night, Gabe Lyons sent out this announcement and the video at the top of this post that can be downloaded from the 21martyrs.com website:
I know it's late on a Friday evening but this couldn't wait. Over the last 48 hours we have focused our creativity and resources on supporting an appropriate response to the 21 Egyptian Christian martyrs. In partnership with many other leaders and organizations, our team created 21martyrs.com as a simple place to call for action in two specific ways:
FIRST: Join thousands of churches for a 'Moment of Silence and Prayer' this SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22nd and play this video before offering a prayer of reflection. 
Please invite other church leaders in your area to participate as well for a moment of unity.  
SECOND: Engage the growing PRAY 703 initiative created by Ann Voskamp to guide us towards repentance and renewal during this Season of Lent at 7:03 each day. Use #Pray703 on twitter to follow her posts and mobilize others to join in here.
I'm thankful for your participation.
Please join this rising tide of prayer and help spread the word to others.