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(Credit: Good Women Project)

Last fall Church Relevance caused a bit of a stir when they posted a heavily male dominated list of the “Top 200 Church Blogs.” When it comes to prominent Christian writers, the gender balance noticeably skews to the men. This is not for lack of bloggers, I believe, but the content many Christian women are writing. I am intentionally not naming names because I primarily want to point out a disconcerting trend, not point fingers and make accusations.

Reading through some popular blogs authored by Christian women, I observe that many use an introspective and emotional approach. Personal blogs do lend themselves to this kind of writing, but its prevalence is troubling, and I don’t think it has come out of nowhere.

Somewhere along the way, being “authentic” and “vulnerable” became utterly important elements of Evangelical women’s ministry. Sure, there is still some focus on discipleship, but “being real” is a frequent topic of retreats, small groups, and yes, blogs. Authenticity and vulnerability do have a proper place in a Christian’s life when used to identify and work through sinful areas of our lives, but these qualities have been emphasized to an unhealthy degree.

This issue most recently came to my attention with the spurt of women blogging about the “Evangelical virginity cult.” A handful of bloggers have written about their experiences with the Evangelical abstinence culture, discussing the shame that can result from falling short of the standard, and the damaging message that “pre-marital sex” renders one “damaged goods.”

There is much to legitimately criticize about the “True Love Waits” approach, which has its share of shortcomings. I would hope this could translate into a search for an alternative way to articulate and teach God’s good design for human sexuality, but that has not been the case. From these entries, we mostly read about God’s unconditional love despite His knowledge of our raw, real, flawed selves. Accusations of judgment are thrown at supposed legalistic churches, deflecting attention away from sin. Although it is perhaps implied that sin was involved, (and yes, sin Christ forgives) the emphasis is mostly on the emotional wounds and ongoing therapeutic recovery.

Of course I don’t want to minimize or dismiss the real hurt these women experience, but I am frustrated by the overwhelming emphasis on emotion in their writing. The stories told are often not redemptive, acknowledging the sin as sin and the forgiveness found in Christ, but are sentimentalized and packaged into a “God loves me for who I am” message. The Christian call to live righteously in Christ is overshadowed by the emphasis on vulnerability and sincerity.

Women deserve a theologically deeper, more challenging message. We have issues and emotions, but we have brains and volition too. We, along with our brothers in Christ, are called to live lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). Yes, Christian women can live free from shame through the grace of God – this is good news! But we also need to move forward from the place of brokenness into a fruitful, vibrant Christian life.

There are plenty of good Christian blogs out there grappling with the challenges of living a Christ honoring life, answering theological questions, and faithfully thinking about cultural issues. I am happy to see that there are some women involved in these endeavors. To the broader Christian women blogosphere: it’s time to emerge from the emotional echo chamber.


9 Responses to The Emotional Evangelical Blogosphere

  1. J S Lang says:

    Being “sincere” and “authentic” are holdovers from the 60s, when Linus in Peanuts was sure that his “sincere” pumpkin patch would attract the Great Pumpkin (Schulz was making fun of the “sincerity” obession, of course). The problem with sincerity is that someone who is a sincere jerk is still a jerk. That might be a virute in our present culture, but the Bible calls us to become imitators of Christ, not “sincere” versions of our sinful selves.

    The gushy reviews of Rachel Evans’ silly book Year of Biblical Womanhood all praised her “sincerity” and “vulnerability,” as if these are useful things when writing a book about the Bible and gender roles. The reviews, like the book, were pure emotion, unadulterated with not even a pinch of rationality. The negative reviews took the time to analyze her flippant approach to the Bible and pointed out that she was putting forward a very toxic (and self-serving) hermeneutic. I’m not saying that she or her readers are bad people, but I think those readers (mostly women) were sucked in by her “sincerity” and turned off their brains while enjoying her “vulnerable” book.

    • Donnie says:

      Notice that the same words (sincere and vulnerable) are used to described memoirs of heroin addicts, p*rn stars, etc. etc,. Not that I’m comparing any of these bloggers to that, but I’m saying that there are better things in the world than being sincere and vulnerable.

      • J S Lang says:

        I hope so, Donnie. It says a lot about our shallow, vapid culture that “sincerity” is considered a prime virtue, also “passionate,” a favorite of liberals, since a “passionate” argument always trumps one that makes sense. As for “vulnerable,” I think that’s rooted in the obsession with equality – to get people to admire you, you put on this mock self-effacing attitude. Brian McLaren is a master at that, always the “humble guy” and “this is just my opinion, folks,” while he fires off his slurs at evangelicals (Rachel Evans must’ve taken lessons from him). I’m amazed at how many people praise him for being “vulnerable.” It’s a pose to conceal world-class conceit.

    • April K says:

      I think the reason so many people value “vulnerability” and “sincerity” these days is that for many years, evangelicalism has not allowed people to be vulnerable and sincere. There’s too much focus in evangelical/fundamentalist churches on “being holy,” which means smiling even when you feel like screaming and pretending like you’ve overcome your thorn in the flesh even though your life is a wreck behind closed doors. I remember while growing up that whenever I or my parents struggled spiritually, we almost never sought out support from our fellow Christians. Why? Because said “Christians” would then lecture us on everything we were doing wrong and treat us like outcasts for the next six months. How is that biblical when the Bible commands us to “confess your sins one to another” and “love one another”? Could it be that being vulnerability and sincerity are, at some level, necessary for adhering to Christ’s commands? Hmm…

    • April K says:

      I think the reason so many people value “vulnerability” and “sincerity” these days is that for many years, evangelicalism has not allowed people to be vulnerable and sincere. There’s too much focus in evangelical/fundamentalist churches on “being holy,” which means smiling even when you feel like screaming and pretending like you’ve overcome your thorn in the flesh even though your life is a wreck behind closed doors. I remember while growing up that whenever I or my parents struggled spiritually, we almost never sought out support from our fellow Christians. Why? Because said “Christians” would then lecture us on everything we were doing wrong and treat us like outcasts for the next six months. How is that biblical when the Bible commands us to “confess your sins one to another” and “love one another”? Could it be that being vulnerability and sincerity are, at some level, necessary for adhering to Christ’s commands? Hmm…

  2. Heather says:

    “We have issues and emotions, but we have brains and volition too.” Are those characteristics mutually exclusive? Or should one really be privileged over the other? More broadly, this makes me wonder why rationality is so often privileged over emotion. What is it about our theology/faith/dominant culture that continues to perpetuate the fundamentally (white, male) Enlightenment trope that rationality is the ideal of human existence and emotion only an aberrant manifestation of human weakness? Why do we continue to view emotion as unproductive – creating, as Kristin suggested, merely an “echo chamber?” Sincerity and vulnerability (though these should not be idolized more than any other admirable characteristics) seem to me to add depth and relatability to rational/reasonable arguments that can, on occasion, tend towards obscurantism. In sum, I just think it’s time we stopped believing the lie that we are either purely rational or purely emotional beings and began attempting to value experience, emotion, and reason equally, in whatever combination writers/speakers might choose to use those parts of themselves.

    • Ben Welliver says:

      Speaking as a “white male Enlightenment” type, I do NOT believe it’s a case of one or the other, reason v emotion. Both have their place, and the world would be pretty miserable without emotion. The ideal is balance, especially in regards to decisions that affect millions of people, such as, to take a recent issue, gun control. Emotion says “Do something about this, NOW!” Reason says “Don’t ditch the Second Amendment just because a nutty kid did something horrible in Connecticut. Let the matter rest awhile, and think clearly about what – if anything – ought to be done.” Ditto for gay “marriage.” Reason tells us the obvious: there is no way two men or two women can ever in any real sense form a “couple” (the anatomy is what it is). Emotion says “Oh, these poor people want justice and equality, give them what they want!” Obviously you need to let reason rule in these situations, because any clever person can come up with a sob story, sit down with those irrational shrews on The View, boohoo, I’m oppressed, help me, manipulate the audience. I’m sure the gay activists come across as “sincere,” but so what? Don’t other people’s opinions about marriage matter, and what do you do when two groups opposing each other are equally “sincere”? I don’t like this matter of basing public policy on which group can whine the loudest. In politics, let reason rule, because we can see all too plainly where emotion-based politics gets us. Some things are just wrong, period, and I don’t care how “sincere” or “vulnerable” someone appears, we shouldn’t let our country be guided by Drama Queens.

      • Heather says:

        My apologies if I caused offense with the observation that rationality has very often been the bastion of white male philosophers. I only meant to suggest that the idealization of rationality is historically problematic because it has so often been used to exclude and denigrate the experiences of women and non-European people of color, who have too often been accused of irrationality based on their biology.

        This issue, I think, still taints our discussions of the role of emotion and experience in argumentation or policy making. Expressing an experience of oppression too often gets labeled as “whining,” which leads to victim-shaming and cruel name calling (as evidenced, unfortunately, by your characterization of a specific group of women as “irrational shrews”). Please consider how hurtful these words and attitudes are to the people who have gone through these experiences. In the end, I don’t think legitimately hearing people out and acting with compassion towards others will ever preclude making reasonable policy decisions or formulating good theology. But again, it’s back to the issue of balance. At least we can agree on the first sentence of your reply.

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