Feminism

"Captivating" review: 188-203, "Warrior Princesses"

xena

With a chapter titled “Warrior Princesses,” I only had one option for the picture today. I don’t think it’s what Stasi had in mind when she wrote it, but I have to make up for this trainwreck of a chapter somehow.

First off, there are some good things about this chapter, my favorite being this:

Antidepressants are stigmatized in the church. Some call them “happy pills.” Others say that if you are filled with the Holy Spirit and walking with God in faith, you will not need them. They shame those who are responsibly taking them. But we don’t shame diabetics who take insulin. Why do we shame people with a chemical imbalance who need to take something to help them?

Honestly, I was sad I was a little surprised that Stasi wrote this. I wouldn’t have expected it from her, but I’m glad that she went out of her way to make this clear in her section on “emotional attacks.” This is one of those times when I understand why so many women have read this book and found it encouraging.

I do have a couple problems with this chapter. The first one appears in this passage:

Women are called to join in the Greatest Battle of all time– the battle being waged for the hearts of those around us … The war is a deadly one; the results devastating or glorious, but always eternal. We are needed … But we will only be victorious when we enter in with our feminine hearts– when we battle as women.

She explains what she means by this here:

Women warriors are strong, yes, and they are also tender. There is mercy in them. There is vulnerability … Offering our hearts wisely, living in the freedom of God’s love, inviting others to rest, alluring those in our lives to the heart of God, and responding to the heart of God in worship are some of the most powerful ways that a woman wars for her world.

Let’s take a second to evaluate what Stasi is claiming:

  • Women are needed to fight.
  • If we lose the “battle,” the consequences are devastating and fatal.
  • We can only win the battle when we fight “as women.”
  • Fighting as a woman means being tender, vulnerable, passive, and alluring.

This is a much nicer version of all the threats Helen Andelin made in Fascinating Womanhood. It doesn’t come across as a threat, but it’s what it is. Be the sort of woman Stasi thinks is godly– feminine, vulnerable, tender, passive– or you’ll be the reason why “The Enemy” destroys your life, your marriage, your children’s lives, your church . . . This is why people like the Eldredges push gender essentialism as hard as they do: they literally believe that if women aren’t their version of feminine and men aren’t their version of masculine that Satan will actually destroy the world.

I also dislike how Stasi paints Christianity as inherently violent. She says that “Christianity is not a passive religion. It is an invasion of a Kingdom. We who are on the Lord’s side must wield his victory. We must learn to enforce it.”

I understand that we’re in the middle of a chapter Stasi’s decided to call “Warrior Princesses” so all the war and battle metaphors are an outgrowth of that, but it’s pretty apparent that Stasi has never taken the time to read about things like imperialism or colonialism, and especially how American Christianity has been deeply affected by those ideologies. Talking about Christianity as an “invasion” and thinking of our purpose as believers in terms of “conquerors” and “rulers” is dangerous and damaging.

But, my biggest issue with this chapter is something that Stasi went very far out of her way to cloak. She spends a great deal of time emphasizing how women are part of the “Greatest Battle of all time,” and she is doing this on purpose because she desperately needs to convince all of her female readers to be the kind of woman she thinks is godly– beautiful, passive, and existing primarily to inspire men/others. She knows that a lot of us will read this and think “wow, that sounds really pointless and a total waste of my abilities,” so this chapter is about giving us an alternative. No really, she’s shouting, being feminine means that you’ll be super duper important I swear.

Except … it’s all fake.

She goes to extreme lengths trying to persuade us of how important we’ll be, and she includes a lot of stories about “spiritual warfare,” some of which are disturbing and involve a woman almost dying. No, seriously– a woman is asphyxiating to death, turning blue, and the reaction of the women around her isn’t “wow, maybe we should call 911” but let us pray over her and command the evil spirit assaulting her in the name of Jesus! Thankfully, the woman doesn’t die, but this is why I find the kind of Christianity advocated by people like the Eldredges so disturbing.

The problem is that because we’re women we’re not supposed to do things that are actually meaningful. Running companies, being take-charge women, being independent and dedicating ourselves to the areas that we are gifted in– none of that is possible for Stasi’s woman. She must be passive and beautiful, and dedicate her life to “arousing Adam” so that men can go on to do all of the physically, real-lived-life meaningful things. Instead, we get to be . . . spiritual warriors. We’re allowed to shout things into the air in empty rooms. And spend a lot of time praying.

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  • Crystal

    Dear Samantha,

    What wonderful things you right. (That was meant as a pun, to say that you WRITE the RIGHT things in answer to this hogwash). I’d like to say that I think that what Stacy is discussing is the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) teaching of “prophetess” in the church. The NAR is a very alarming movement in the church and it has taken over the social sector in it, i.e. conservative movement. Anyone who is interested in searching out “Word of Faith/New Apostolic Reformation” will find some VERY DISTURBING STUFF OUT. Please search it; you might find some links to the puzzle you were looking for.

    Crystal

  • I wanted to focus on this part of the quote, “alluring those in our lives to the heart of God.” An interesting choice of verb. Women can’t teach, can’t explain, can’t demonstrate, reenact, show, etc. No, women must allure – tempt, entice, seduce, manipulate. Anything straightforward, logical, action orientated etc is not in the realm of women. I hate that Staci writes women as so seeped in deceit that our service to God cannot be separated from trickery and manipulation.

  • Marie

    I’m a long time lurker and I always find your posts thought provoking. I remember being given this book as a teenager, and I remember reading it and then feeling somewhat inadequate and putting it away, never touching it again, so it’s been interesting to follow along in this series.
    I don’t always agree 100% with what you write, which is fine; I do want to just mention one thing about your last paragraph because I do think it’s important.
    You said, “The problem is that because we’re women we’re not supposed to do things that are actually meaningful. Running companies, being take-charge women, being independent and dedicating ourselves to the areas that we are gifted in– none of that is possible for Stasi’s woman.” Which I can totally understand and agree with the sentiment (although, I think your writing here is swinging a little bit to the extreme other side of the argument in reaction to Stasi’s prose: for example, I am not a “take-charge woman”, I don’t “lead a company” because that’s just not my personality at all. Yet I still work and lead; am I neglecting to do something “actually significant” by that?)
    And then at the end of the paragraph you say that ” Instead, we get to be . . . spiritual warriors. We’re allowed to shout things into the air in empty rooms. And spend a lot of time praying.” You are setting up the argument that doing things like leading a company and taking charge are significant and worth doing, and praying is not.
    I don’t disagree with you that women can and should be strong and active people in the world; but I think that praying and spiritual discipline is important too. All Christians, men and women, need to be active in BOTH. Prayer is important and significant work! Being a spiritual leader is significant work! Jesus took *a lot* of effort and time to pray himself–think about Gesthemene!–and to teach about prayer; it’s a huge part of being a Christian. It’s not shouting to an empty room (unless Christianity is completely false; in which case we might as well all go home).
    I think probably you were trying to make a point in reaction to the book, which swings way way too far in restricting women to a passive role, but you’re almost making the same kind of mistake. Maybe you didn’t mean to say this, but your phrasing in the last paragraph in a way is restricting women to be the kind of “active” person doing work that is assertive and visible and strong and (therefore) “significant”. I believe that as complete and whole human beings, women (and men) may or may not be gifted in ways that make them strong visible leaders; and that doesn’t mean they are of any less worth if they’re not; and work that goes on behind the scenes is usually essential and important and significant. I’m not saying that it’s women’s work. I’m saying that women who do that work are also doing something significant.
    In struggling to correct the gender/power balance in the church, I think it’s important not to demean the women and men who serve their society, community, families, and faith in ways that aren’t showy.
    Also, prayer is important.

    • I love me some non-showy faith, but I generally take the philosophy that prayer is more benefit to the prayer than anyone else, so I would have to agree with the idea that prayer is comparatively less helpful than, say, CPR. Or even the little old church ladies providing the ham dinner for a funeral. (It’s always ham. With weird casseroles. It’s not a church dinner if there are no weird casseroles.)

  • Mormonism pushes a lot of the same themes. The militarism, the idea of the intense ”spiritual war” that is very real and must not be underestimated. I think that’s one of the reasons my mother was so inflexible in her beliefs when I grew up and started questioning what I found unethical about the church. When you’ve heard for decades that ”it’s a war” and straying from the church even slightly is ruinously subversive – it didn’t matter how I appealed to her, she wouldn’t listen to me.

    I’m not saying all Mormons took the teachings to that extreme, but that’s what happened with my family. Not a theme I find beneficial.

    The passive role for women was there, too, just not explicitly connected. Men aspire to be apostles; women aspire to be apostles’ wives. The invisible supporting figure that we were taught exists behind every great man. The mother who changes the world somehow by having babies while men both raise children and lead the church and the world. The church teaches that the roles work that way because men still need to learn the lessons taught by leadership and responsibility, while women innately understand them already.

    They convince women to submit to passive roles by telling them they’re superior. It’s painfully ironic.

  • ‘…they literally believe that if women aren’t their version of feminine and men aren’t their version of masculine that Satan will actually destroy the world.’

    I came across this belief just a couple of days ago. I was reading an article on a homeschool mum blog about some recent designs which involved men wearing dress like garments at the London Fashion Show. The article said how appalling this was and how it would lead to Many Bad Things. I commented that in Biblical times men wore robes (‘dresses’). I suspected that they would just reply with ‘Well, yes but the women’s robes were cut differently!) so I also pointed out that women’s trousers are cut differently from men’s too 🙂

    My comment has not been approved – yet. Hmm…I guess they don’t want an evil woman spreading messages of darkness. Maybe I should have held my tongue and sent my husband to do it. Except oops I don’t have one! I guess I should try and be a little more alluring.

    • It’s also a Western standard. In many cultures they wear the lungi (sarong), which is basically a sheet of fabric, sometimes “shock” almost skirt – like. Many men like to wear them while chilling – although Indian men I know will put trousers on when leaving the house.

  • Cheryel Lemley-McRoy

    Knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is needed in the Church today; or teachers who have studied it. The Church, and especially women, need to know that a historically patriarchal Church has suppressed an important part of Scripture. In Hebrew, as in Spanish and French, every noun is either masculine or feminine. The rare exception is the word Elohim (God) which is not only plural, but both masculine and feminine. The names and attributes of God are either masculine or feminine, and the feminine names and attributes of God are embodied in the Holy Spirit. (El Shaddai, the God with breasts) (Shekinah (f.) the Glory) The Holy Spirit was a feminine figure in Hebrew and Aramaic, until the Bible was translated into Greek, where She became neutered, then into Latin where She became he. The first century church in Jerusalem referred the Holy Spirit as Eme Elohim, Mother God, as Abba Elohim is Father God. And in the most ancient Aramaic texts Jesus uses the pronoun, she, in referring to the Holy Spirit. Most Christians, and especially women believe that the feminine was created when God created woman. In fact the Feminine first appears in Genesis 1: 2 when the Spirit (f.) of God moves or hovers (f.) over the face of the waters. Many (men) Bible scholars dismiss this as poetic allegory. However, When a noun is feminine, the verb is feminine also. So God created Adam in His/Her image, male and female created He/She them. Adam, being a complete image of God was both male and female, until God took the feminine attributes of Him/Herself and created Eve. Eve was not created in the image of Adam, but in the image of God Him/Herself. And Eve was not created to be a help mate, an erroneous and unfortunate mistranslation. The word for help, ezar, appears only in reference to God (14 times) and to Eve (2 times) except for a couple of places where divine help is needed. It is embodied in one of the names for God, Eleazar. Ezar is a powerful Hebrew military term for a soldier surrounded in battle by the enemy, when another soldier breaks through the line and rescues him. No, the ezar is not the first soldier, but the second. God did not create Eve to be secondary to Adam, his assistant, sous chef, secretary, but his rescuer. Our society sees women as damsels in distress, and God had the opposite in mind. The Hebrew word for mete is a word more accurately translated in this verse as equal. Eve was equal to Adam until the Curse of the Fall, when God put her under Adam. Since the Fall, Judaism and Christianity have put the weight of sin and all that is wrong with the world on Eve’s shoulders. Now I have heard many a sermon about how Jesus came and died to remove the Curse of the Fall, but I have yet to hear a preacher declare that that applied to Eve’s daughters as well. I most truly believe that if the Church embraced these over-looked, or ignored facts, women would be treated differently. But most importantly, they would see themselves differently. After all, Jesus said He was leaving, but He was placing the Holy Spirit in charge of this world, “and She will lead you into all truth. Yes, a feminine entity is in charge down here. I had a Hebrew male teacher who stated that he believes that that is why women are more “sensitive” to the Holy Spirit. And I, personally, see Her influence in the women executives who proved, in the Great Recession, that the more women in high level positions in business, the more profitable the company was, because women tend to make decisions based on the long term, rather than the next quarter outcome, as men do. And once again, the world, even the business world, needs an ezar.

  • Patrick Prescott

    The tunic and toga were worn by the Romans for over two thousand years with battle kilts for the military. It’s not too much of a stretch in England to have fashions resembling women’s skirts with Ireland and Scotland still having men wear family plaid kilts on formal occasions and at the Celtic games. Even James Bond wore a kilt in the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

  • As a statement by itself, I would agree that the coming reign of God is indeed an invasion.

    It is not, however, an invasion of violence wielded by Christians against people. We believe that a new reality is coming, and yet, at the same time, is already present, breaking in to our current reality. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” were the first words of Jesus when he began his ministry. The invasion is one done by God, bringing all of creation back to God. It is not a kingdom far away that we go to, but a new reign of God here among us.

    We as Christians are heralds of the coming kingdom, called to proclaim it’s coming and to act as if it were already here. Can you find Bible verses that would seem to suggest that Christians should be violently bringing about the reign of God? Yes, in isolation. But that is not supported by the overall narrative.

    ——————

    Also, I get to tell people all the time that I wear a big white “dress” every Sunday. It’s fun to see the reactions.

  • Some of the comments here are so bang on- but the one so far that has really struck home to me was that of Cheryl’s. Wow, do I wish I’d learned that in my ill-fated spell in the church! I’m amazed that this is so buried, when it should be common knowledge.
    The Latinate version of Christianity (where God is always male) is what has survived and gone on to wreck lives, mine one of them for a while before I left the church. I am both angry and sad that this fallacy continues without the accurate scholarship behind it.
    Then again, thinking of it, the vicar who did the most damage to my head wouldn’t have accepted the raw scholarly facts anyway, despite being educated and despite understanding Hebrew. I suppose I had no way to emerge unscathed.

  • Crystal

    I think that the problem (as a very dear friend put it so succinctly) is as follows:

    1. Who said that dresses had to be women’s only garments, and when?
    2. Is tradition divinely inspired on the same level with the Holy Bible (good question for these people, as they believe in divine inspiration of every word.)

    I remember once speaking with a group of Independent Baptists from Singapore who did not subscribe to this nonsense because all the women were wearing jeans and they took us out to dinner. They were nice to us and I remember them with fondness. They were also exceptionally educated, especially one of them in English literature.

    I thought that might be some food for thought.

  • Crystal

    By the way, I also thought about men rescuing women (traditionally speaking) and women rescuing men (ezer kennedgo) and think that both are needed for balance. Men and women are meant to save one another; “and the twain shall be one (in purpose)”; also, if we downplay one; whether it is the role of the man to save and protect, or the role of the woman to be shieldmaiden, we miss a precious aspect of ourselves and God because God wanted us to protect each other. Why else did He give Adam Eve for wife? If the complementarians are right, why did God create Eve with the necessary skills to be ezer? Why would God deny a person an ability to use their gift after giving it to them? Could someone please offer a perspective on this question; it bugs me!!

    • Cheryel Lemley-McRoy

      Crystal, when I first learned that the average woman has a higher I.Q. than the average man I was in a (since failed) marriage, and in a church that taught obsequious submission. I, too, cried out to God, “Why did you make us smarter and then tell us to shut up?” No amount of praying and quiet submission made his decisions smarter. It was years later that I found a book, “Women, Men, and the Church,” Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, that made a case for mutual submission. “There is neither male nor female, but all are one…” And “Submit ye therefore one to another. ” That made sense to me, and it definitely works in my second marriage. Hope this helps.

      • Crystal

        Cheryel Lemley-McRoy, I’m so excited to get a reply at last! I hope that something I leave up there will help someone. As for that book you mentioned, I must check it out. It sounds frightfully capital and topping (see my fondness for ’50s speech!) after what you have been through.

        I’m thrilled you’re asking the question and I’m not alone in my search for truth. God bless you, keep you safe from harm and keep these cursed individuals far away from you. They’re a real bug as far as I’m concerned!

        • Cheryel Lemley-McRoy

          Crystal, thank you for your encouraging remarks and blessing. We do need to lift each other up in our swim against the tide. I also recommend VRM’s book, “The Divine Feminine, The Biblical Imagery of God as Female.” It is a good reference book to have in Bible study. Both of these books are old and may be out of print. I found them in Amazon.com. Blessings on you and strength for tomorrow.

  • KP

    Every time I see the name “Stasi” in this series, I think of the East German secret police (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stasi). Violent imagery? A plan to subjugate a large portion of the populace through propaganda? Getting people to self-police behavioral norms that disempower themselves? There are some things that don’t fit (e.g., this Stasi isn’t raiding people’s houses with government gunmen, because that would be far too masculine of an endeavor), but it’s not a completely inaccurate comparison.

  • abi

    That’s some pretty glaring cognitive dissonance there, for Stasi to argue on one hand that treating depression with meds is a good thing, and on the other hand hold up women who prayed over a choking friend instead of calling for medical assistance as examples of powerful spiritual warriors. It makes it sound as if she believes that illnesses/conditions that are truly physiological in origin should be treated physically, but that some conditions may be caused by Spiritual Warfare and should be treated spiritually. How is someone to know which is the cause of their condition? I’d be afraid that I could be mistaking a spiritual malady for a physical one, and with the Greatest Battle of All Time at stake, I would rather err on the side of praying harder instead of seeking medical treatment.

  • Alyson

    The spiritual warfare mentality often means making parts of ourselves the enemy and trying to destroy them: our sexuality, our emotions, our enjoyment of so-called “earthly” activities, our vulnerabilities. We cannot never be whole this way.
    As far as other people go, fundamentalists quote Ephesians 6:12 all the time, but they seldom act like it. At best, non-fundamentalists are hinderances.
    A relative gave me a book on spiritual warfare recently. Sigh. I know she means well, but I really wish she would stop trying to “help.”

    • Crystal

      Sorry about that, Alyson. Can you speak out the name of the book and I could see what it’s tied up with. Although I find the idea of spiritual warfare appealing and Staci is right to show that as an example of strength, doesn’t she understand that the driver behind the wheel taking the paramedic to the hospital or the doctor delivering the baby is also a sign of nurturing and strength? Spiritual warfare books don’t fix everything and they’re a real fad in the conservative church today (see Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets, and C. Peter Wagner for more information). Someone said that the most dangerous place to be for false doctrine and teaching was in your local Christian bookstore. May God help you continue to find the truth.