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

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.

Monday, April 27, 2015

More Men in Support of Malestrom

"Unchristian patterns of culturally conditioned models of masculinity are the norm for many Christian men, with disastrous and, far too often, tragic consequences. By surveying the diverse biblical landscape with wisdom, insight, and conviction, Carolyn Custis James calls for a Christ-centered understanding of “male,” where men and women are equal image bearers of God, truly one flesh, and thus co-workers in the mission of God on earth. James’s Malestrom is a prophetic and healing voice."

—Peter Enns, Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies, Eastern University (St. Davids, PA); author of The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It

Malestrom is not of this world, just like God’s kingdom to which it bears witness. Carolyn Custis James is a modern-day Deborah, whose work serves as a prophetic challenge to all men to image Jesus. Against the backdrop of patriarchal and radical feminist perspectives that degrade and discount men, James invites Adam’s progeny to display profound courage and dignity as they gain a biblical sense of their true identity. This is not a book for the faint of heart: liberated male readers will join forces with women to conquer despair and celebrate the transformative power of God’s cruciform and unifying love.”

Paul Louis Metzger, Professor of 
Christian Theology; Theology of Culture, 
Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University

“Finding a crack in the door of patriarchy, which still patterns the life of both the church and the world, Carolyn Custis James swings it wide open, redirecting the gender conversation towards its rightful focus: the malestrom. Through careful biblical exegesis and an intersectional awareness of the actual social currents that daily sweep over men and boys, this book rightfully articulates a vision for men rooted in the imago dei particularly revealed in the life of Jesus Christ. The church is indebted for this resource for opening up a new set of questions at an accessible level, and for remembering that ultimately what makes something Christian is its ability to conform image of the Son.”

Drew Hart, writer for Taking Jesus Seriously
a Christian Century hosted blog and 
PhD candidate, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

“With wisdom and fresh imagination, Malestrom challenges business-as-usual patriarchy and calls men and women of faith to a deeper and richer Blessed Alliance. In this inviting and absorbing book, Carolyn Custis James probes the narrative of Holy Scripture and concludes that patriarchy is “in, but not of” the Bible. As I read, I began to envision what masculinity might mean when redefined from a kingdom perspective that inverts the social pyramid that so distorts our gendered lives. With more in mind than just a kinder and gentler patriarchy, James opens up the scriptures, directing the reader through the pitfalls of traditional thinking about men, women, power, and hierarchy. As you turn pages you’ll meet anew people like Abraham, Judah, Barak, Boaz, Matthew, Joseph, and pivotal women of the Bible who, through God’s grace, come to stand against the malestrom and enter into the new hope of Jesus of Nazareth. A bracing book for an embattled world; I read hungrily and came away nourished.”

Matthew S. Vos, Ph. D., Covenant College Department of Sociology

“Carolyn Custis James writes with urgency, clarity, and meticulous research about issues that don’t just concern every man, but relate to the health and stability of the entire church and our wider world. This is a call for men and women to live in the health and freedom of God’s calling for both genders.”

Ed Cyzewski, author of 

Malestrom, Carolyn Custis James takes us by the hand and leads us through the story of how God dismantles patriarchy in the Bible. By the time we’re done reading, a new space has been cleared. Men can now be men. Women can now be women. And together we can live God’s gendered salvation. It is a remarkable accomplishment.”

David Fitch, B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary

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.