A few weeks back, I submitted my book manuscript (Nice Churchy Patriarchy) to Kirkus Reviews. When I saw last week that their review was ready, I was a little nervous to take a look. Apparently they have a reputation for being “unsparing.”
(The good news is that once you receive your review, you can decide whether or not to post it publicly. So if the review doesn’t feel like a net positive, you can make it disappear. But I hoped not to have to do that!)
Fortunately, I didn’t have to make the review disappear. I did feel like it was a net positive. Whew!
I would certainly quibble with the assessment of “evangelical overreach” in claiming that Jesus’ mother Mary was a historical figure. (I mean, she has a Wikipedia page…)
And I wouldn’t exactly say that “polite patriarchies…rule modern Christianity,” either.
(Maybe I’d be more comfortable saying that they “rule” much of modern evangelicalism. And that they also show up in insidious, sneaky forms in churches that say they want nothing to do with anything of the sort. I guess I find myself wanting to say, “not all Christians…”—which may sometimes be helpful, sometimes not.)
Anyhow. Quibbles aside, I feel like the review was generally pretty positive. And it was encouraging for me to see the book’s messages received and understood by a reviewer who doesn’t necessarily come from an evangelical context.
To me, the most meaningful part of the review was this: “The energy and optimism in this text will be a pure gift to her fellow Christians yearning for a more enlightened church.”
Meaningful—and also maybe a little healing. “A pure gift.”
We all have gifts to offer this world. Pure gifts. Wonderful gifts. And for those of us involved in faith communities, we have gifts to offer these communities.
But, often, these communities do not receive all gifts equally.
Sometimes it depends on who embodies the gift. If someone has a gift of spoken communication, for example, it might be seen and honored as a preaching gift in a man—but resented as overly verbose and annoying in a woman.
Or if someone has a gift of being especially organized, it might be seen and honored as leadership in a white man—but relegated to a subordinate, secretary-type position in a woman, especially a woman of color. (These administrative positions, of course, are crucial and should be seen and honored as such. But often they are not.)
I think of the times when I’ve felt like I have gifts to offer that no one really wants to receive.
There was the ministry organization I worked for, for example, where I had so many ideas of how we could create a better experience for the students we were serving. When I tried to share these ideas, it was sometimes received as entitlement, sometimes as insubordination. At least that’s how I felt.
Then there was the church I worked for, where my peers and teachers who heard me give practice “sermons” to our Bible study class affirmed that I had some gifts there. I did a lot of informal “teaching,” mostly for college students and occasionally for young adults. But I was never asked to consider giving a formal Sunday morning sermon—or mentored in what it might take to get there. Women weren’t trusted with the pulpit; my gifts were wanted, but only to a point.
So to have Nice Churchy Patriarchy called “a pure gift to…Christians yearning for a more enlightened church” means something to me. I do want it to be a gift. I hope it is a gift.
Like my ideas for improvement in one setting or my preaching gifts in another, the book might not feel like a gift to everyone who comes across it. Parts of it are critical. I wanted to be honest about my experiences and the ways I reflect on them. Some of that might be hard to hear.
But my hope is that those who might not feel like this book is a gift may still consider whether there’s anything they can learn from it.
And, more importantly, my hope is that people to whom it will feel like a gift will find it.
That it’ll feel like a big breath of fresh air.
Like being seen.
Like having your experiences named and taken seriously.
Like knowing you’re not alone.
Like feeling invigorated to keep pushing for change as the Spirit invites—and feeling permission to leave spaces that aren’t good for you.
That’s the kind of gift I hope this book is.
It’s highly imperfect. But it’s full of heart and passion and a ton of thought. And I hope it feels real and raw and compelling.
Yearning for a more enlightened church with you,