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What Will I Write About Jordan Peterson’s Pen of Light?

A few months back, increasingly anxious about Jordan Peterson's growing influence among Christian men, and wanting a fuller picture (beyond the eek-inducing soundbites) of exactly what it was they and so many others were embracing, I gritted my teeth and, to Mr. W's horror, read 12 Rules for Life. It left me with Many Thoughts, but too disturbed and weary to share them straight away. I hope I will get around to doing so properly one day – I'm especially keen to unpack the aspects of the book's ideology that seem to me so flagrantly at odds with Christ-like self-giving and the subversion of dominance hierarchies characteristic of God's royal reign. In the meantime, here is a poem which it may or may not have had something to do with.




'And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord [...] He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.…
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Brothers and Statistics

The other day I enthusiastically embarked on a book by a male theologian popular with some people whose opinions I rate considerably. It took me to the end of the preface to start wondering whether it was too late to cancel the Kindle purchase. Of the 30+ luminaries, mentors, colleagues and assistants mentioned by name as having helped make the book happen, precisely one was female. [1] Now, such cases are hardly rare: I've read plenty of similarly-prefaced books without batting an eyelid, and probably many more where the data would have been on a par had they been available. But for some reason – perhaps because I'd had such high hopes for the author – I just couldn't let this one go. Here was a book which purported to instruct the church, and yet it seemed as though the author was quite content to disregard half the church in the writing of it. Was it even worth my reading? How relevant could it be to me, if I was irrelevant to it?

Meanwhile, Christian feminist Twitterl…

Lean In

In an effort to pre-empt all the "yeah, but"s that this sonnet invites, I invented the foot-sonnet...


LEAN IN Are you sitting comfortably? Then lean in.
Once upon a time there was a table
Where it happens. All the seats were taken
While we women were off menstruating,
So we waited, brought the drinks and snacks
And hovered in our heels and push-up bras
Pretending to a winsome cluelessness,
While they made laws and wars and wrote out cheques.
But we took notes. And when the moment came,
We’d take it: nothing beyond sacrifice
To prove ourselves as fully man as them:
We’d fight, pollute, exclude and brandish choice
With laughter, all to gain a seat or two –
And after, who knows what we might not do.†  † Sure, many men have led with wisdom and
The best of motives; many women feel
Empowered in a push-up bra and heels;
Our bodies do not warrant being scorned,
And nor do acts of service for the sake
Of others. Free market economies
Have made the poorest richer, militaries
Can help …

An autobiographical poem about walking on water

A decade ago, give or take – feeling at crisis point in my mental health and desperately socially disconnected – I "went up for prayer" at a church I was visiting. (I find it hard to do this at my own church when I feel desperately socially disconnected. It's hard enough even to be at my own church at such times). And the gentle, kindly woman who placed her hand on my shoulder and prayed some simple, general, healing words to suit my simple, general, hurting plea looked thoughtfully at me afterwards and said "just, if and when you can, keep taking each next step towards Jesus, whatever that looks like," or words to that effect. It seemed as good a plan as any, so I did. (Not instead of getting medical and professional help, I hasten to add; seeking out and receiving whatever support is available has always felt more like an action of faith than a compromise of it).

Since then, stepping towards Jesus has taken me (slowly, often painfully, and usually the long w…

The Sin of Onan

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. (Genesis 38:6-10) According to Google's answer to what (let's face it) must be right up there among the most-asked questions since the invention of the search engine, this story is the closest the Bible comes to saying anything directly about masturbation.

And it isn't a story about masturbation. It's not even a story, not really, about birth control methods – although they feature. It's a story about the denial of ju…

What's Alice got that Bob hasn't? [1]

"Those who call themselves feminists – whether "biblical" ones or otherwise – seem to have one belief in common, and only one that I have been able to extract from their arguments: They agree that there is no difference between men and women, apart from the physiological one. It is on this level and this level alone that they recognize men and women as functionally noninterchangeable." (Elisabeth Eliot, The Mark of a Man, 1981, p25; emphasis my own). As a "biblical" feminist myself, this (from a book that I read "for balance", but found too woefully unbalanced to recommend) is news to me.

Here is my best (deliberately brief and vague) stab at the "beliefs" that feminists mostly (perhaps, just about, on the whole) hold in common:
Women and men are of equal worth.Our equality is not borne out in lived reality.We shouldn't just accept this. So, "there is no difference between men and women, apart from the physiological one"?…

Where does marriage get you if no-one takes the lead?

When Mr. W and I embarked on marriage, there was no doubt in my mind that he was the head of the household. There was no doubt in his mind, either, because I had been sure to make it very clear to him.

It hadn't quite got through to the minister who married us, though, as – in spite of my firm insistence on publicly pledging to "love, honour and obey" – when the moment arrived he led us in the edited, symmetric version of the vows, according to which we need only love and honour one another!! I was a little put out, but swiftly pardoned the faux-pas on account of the doctrinal soundness and evangelistic tenor of his sermon. Besides, my embrace of the theology of wifely submission required no officialising and would certainly withstand a mere liturgical hiccup. I stressed as much to my new husband in the car on the way to the reception, and he was every bit as reassured as I insisted that he should be.

Only in recent years have I thought to question whether it really was…