Browsing Tag

Nancy Leigh DeMoss


“Lies Women Believe” review: 243-281

Y’all should celebrate at the end of this post because we did it! We finished the Lies Women Believe review– this is the last week. Speaking of which, if you have any ideas for which book I should do next, I’m open to hearing them. Next week will be a break of sorts, since I’ll be reviewing Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood by Nate Pyle, which I’m excited about sharing with you.

But, let’s get this over with, shall we?

The last section of the book– “Walking in the Truth”– is divided into two chapters. The first one, “Countering Lies with the Truth,” explicates the process that Christian women are supposed to use when they encounter one of Satan’s lies, something that Nancy has not explicitly spelled out for us yet. Unfortunately, this process isn’t even remotely innocuous. It’s poison.

We have seen that the progression toward bondage begins when we listen to Satan’s lies … Once we permit Satan’s lies to gain an entrance into our our minds, the progressions continues as we dwell on those lies. If we do not immediately reject deceptive ways of thinking, but allow ourselves to entertain them in our minds, we will begin to believe them. (244)

What this does is make it impossible for women to evaluate what they’re being told by Nancy and other conservative Christians. If they’re exposed to a new idea– an idea they haven’t heard in full before, say like a biblically-based argument in favor of marriage equality– they are required to immediately reject it before they could even begin to give a new idea the engagement and attention it might deserve. Nancy is point-blank telling us that a knee-jerk dismissal is the only possible reaction to anything they’ve been told is wrong, and if they don’t, they will believe it.

That last bit is especially pernicious. It is possible to fully hear out an argument, fully investigate it, and still conclude that you don’t agree with its premises or conclusions. But conservative Christians can’t risk anyone going through a process of listening and engaging, because much of that culture is based on smoke and mirrors that won’t stand up to honest examination.

For the length of this book, Nancy has never really explained what she thinks “The Truth” is– she just sort of assumes that we get it, and it is likely that many of her readers don’t need to be told what it is, since “The Truth” is this nebulous and yet somehow self-evident idea that everyone just intuitively gets.

However, this chapter makes it clear what Nancy means by it: the Truth is Bible verses taken out of context and layered with conservative evangelical interpretations that function as adages for Christians. When she says we’re supposed to counter Satan’s lies with “The Truth,” she means we’re supposed to quote Bible verses to ourselves (246-47). However, like many other evangelicals, she’s incapable of admitting that it’s not that simple, that these verses come loaded with the way conservative Christians have been applying them (sometimes extraordinarily badly) for the last fifty years. Because, of course, they hold to the “plain meaning of Scripture” and deny that, in fact, no such thing exists.

Nancy rounds out this chapter with a personal story on how she herself overcome a series of “lies,” and how she used the Truth to eventually forgive a person who had wronged her.

I knew I could not wait until I felt like forgiving– that I had to choose to obey God, and that my emotions would follow sooner or later. There on my knees, with my emotions still battling, I finally waved the white flag of surrender. (249)

Reading this, it suddenly hit me why I’ve had a problem with conservative Christian definitions of “forgiveness,” and it’s because this model of forgiveness is just gaslight yourself into ignoring your feelings that a particular person is unsafe. That’s what it takes to “restore relationships” in many Christian circles: someone does something wrong to you, they “seek forgiveness,” and you are obligated to let it go and continue exposing yourself to someone with a demonstrated willingness to hurt you regardless of what your instincts say.

The last chapter is a rehash of all the things Nancy’s already said, so I won’t go over them again. The “Resources” section recommends the now-defunct Exodus International, the book A Full Quiver, child-rearing books that advocate abuse like Shepherding a Child’s Heart, and offers no resources for sexual abuse victims that are widely recommended by professionals (not even The Wounded Heart).

Final conclusion on Lies Women Believe: it teaches concepts that can and does result in murdered women, recommends resources that advocate child abuse, and expressly forbids women from seeking other avenues of help. Every copy should be burned and Moody should issue an apology for ever publishing it.


“Lies Women Believe” review: 215-242

If there’s one thing that doing all these reviews have taught me about writing non-fiction books, it’s to avoid getting repetitive in the last two chapters. A lot of what Nancy covers in this last part of Lies Women Believe she’s already been over in different ways before. However she’s not completely unoriginal, so let’s dive in.


That she thinks the above is a “lie” … all I could do was laugh– mirthlessly. Honestly, I’m even a little surprised she was able to write this section with a straight face, because it seems really obvious to me that if our circumstances are different, we would be different. If I hadn’t been abused, I wouldn’t have PTSD. If I’d been treated for anxiety as a child, I’d already have coping mechanisms for it as an adult. If I hadn’t been homeschooled … and it goes on.

Granted, that’s not the direction that Nancy’s thoughts went, but she’s ignoring a mighty big elephant to do so. She talks about things like frustrated parents who supposedly “wouldn’t have lost [their] cool if [their] child hadn’t filled the dryer with water and painted the living room furniture with butter!” (218), and what pops out to me is that these people aren’t really talking about how patient (or whatever) they are overall, but that they are acknowledging things like stress is real. They’re saying “these circumstances aren’t ideal for me.”

I agree that things like your kids trying your patience doesn’t give you the right to treat them or other people poorly. Being an adult means managing these feelings and responding appropriately. But, not all situations are created equal, and we’ll see that come out in a bit.


She focuses on the rhetoric of “prosperity gospel” proponents in this section, and on this I agree with her without reservation. If you haven’t seen John Oliver take down the various televangelists who made the prosperity gospel A Thing, then you should.

However, Nancy makes one mistake: she confuses people think they should always be perfectly happy with people generally want to avoid suffering. She paints this picture of how good it is that we suffer, that it makes us holy. This is nothing new for Christian rhetoric– I imagine almost all of us have heard something similar before.

I certainly don’t have a monopoly on suffering. But, one thing my life has taught me is that dealing with suffering is complicated. If you asked if me if I’d go back in time and stop myself from entering an abusive relationship, I honestly don’t know what I’d say. I ended up at Liberty because of the need to take my life in a different direction, and I met Handsome because I was there. My life with Handsome is pretty damn amazing.

But is being a rape and abuse victim “worth” this? I don’t know. What I do know is that I will do everything I can to make sure other people aren’t rape victims, and I’m concerned with this “suffering is good because it’s what makes us holy!” rhetoric. I want to make the world a “better place,” and that means eliminating suffering.


And by that she means:

The Truth is, a moment or two from now (in the light of eternity), when we are in the presence of the Lord, everything that has taken place in this life will be just a breath– a comma. (224)

This is another consequence of dualism: she reduces the value of this earthly, physical life in favor of the “light of eternity.” It’s a blithe dismissal of people like me, offering us nothing more than a “cheer up buckaroo, the next fifty years don’t really mean anything!” Except that they do, and we know that they do.

But that’s not my biggest problem with this. My biggest problem is that it naturally leads her to advocate that people stay in violent, abusive, unhealthy situations because, after all, if this “comma” of an experience doesn’t matter when compared to eternity, then we can put up with pretty much anything, right? A woman in a “painful” marriage, after listening to Nancy speak, says that “time is short and eternity is long” (224) and decides that she’s not going to do anything about the pain in her life.


First off, this section completely ignores those who struggle with suicidal ideations; she dismisses people who have chronic and severe depression with “all of us have had seasons when we feel we just can’t keep going” (227).

I mentioned earlier that Nancy seems unaware that not all situations are created equal, and we see that here:

  • I can’t take one more sleepless night with this sick child.
  • I can’t continue in this marriage.
  • I can’t bear to be hurt one more time by my mother-in-law.
  • I can’t keep making it with three teenagers and a mother with Alzheimer’s living in our home.

Some of the things she’s described in this chapter are flexible, and some are not. Staying up with a sick child is a fact of life, and you push through it– but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help or do something to help yourself. My mom took care of her grandfather with dementia and it was hard; she made sacrifices of time and even health.

But a mother-in-law who hurts you? That, you do have choices about. You can set boundaries– there’s nothing written in the universe that says you must speak to any person, even your mother-in-law. You can leave a bad marriage.

Nancy, however, sees all these things as the same: all must be endured. This is the natural conclusion of her “suffering makes us holy!” thinking. Even wanting to escape an unhealthy or outright abusive situation makes us a sinner in her eyes.


This is the most repetitive section– in a way, the entire book has been about this for Nancy. Two things lept out, though. The first one was when she was quoting Larry Crabb:

Helping people to feel loved and worthwhile has become the central mission of the church … Recovery from pain is absorbing an increasing share of the church’s energy. And that is alarming. (229)

I spat out my tea. Because what is this. It’s so theologically awful it compelled me to look up who Larry Crabb is– and oh, look, he’s the spiritual director for the American Association of Christian Counselors. A man whose entire profession is based on helping people said that about how “alarming” it is for the church to focus on the how Jesus said “they shall know you by how you love one another.” I’m sorry, if you have a problem with the church loving people then I don’t know what to tell you.

The second bit was this:

Over the next several years, her marriage and family life became increasingly rocky. There was a vicious cycle of abusive behavior and language … At one point, Cindy left her husband for two weeks, intending to divorce him; through a series of circumstances, God gave her a new compassion for him, and she returned home. (232)

She tells this woman’s story for three pages, and it is clear that her marriage never improves and her husband remains abusive– and her children refuse to have a relationship with either of them, unsurprisingly. Nancy also makes it clear that she thinks this woman’s actions are praiseworthy.

It fits perfectly into her permanence view of marriage, and it demonstrates how frustratingly clueless Nancy is. That “God gave her a new compassion for her abusive husband” is such bullshit, and it’s rage-inducing. Every abused woman thinks this. God had nothing to do with it. Women attempt to leave abusive relationships six or seven times on average because they have “compassion” for their abuser. Their abusers do everything possible to make absolutely certain their victims feel this way. We go back over and over because we’re convinced that our abusers need us.

This wasn’t compassion, and to refer to an expected result of being abused (seriously! This is Abusive Relationship 101-level shit right here) as something God did is just … it’s sick.

Thank God we only have one more week of this.


“Lies Women Believe” review: 193-214

I didn’t think it would be possible to be happy about writing another segment of my Lies Women Believe review, but it is 100x better than dealing with being hacked. I’m pretty sure we’re all good for now, and I am crossing my fingers that never happens again.

This week is Nancy’s chapter on emotions, and part of me just wants to refer you to the How to Win Over Depression review, because it covers a lot of the same ground. But, she throws in her own twists, so let’s tackle them.

The first problem is the gender segregation:

More than anything else, it is probably our female emotional makeup that sometime causes men to throw up their hands and say, “I give up. I just can’t figure you out!” And, in a sense, who can blame them? (194)

She’s been talking about the range of emotions women feel and how we’re shifting through emotional states constantly and how men don’t do that and those poor babies just look at how confused we make them. Two problems: men are not unfeeling robots, and this framing is sexist.

I looked at her list of emotions– confused, ecstatic, angry, frustrated, sad, confident, happy, lonely, and depressed– and thought back over this weekend with my partner. Over three days he was confused, ecstatic, angry, frustrated, confident, and happy (we did maintenance on our cars and watched Michigan crush Brigham Young 31 to nothing). One could argue that my emotional state over this weekend was actually milder and more stable than his (I wasn’t the one working on the cars, and while I know every word of “Victors Valiant,” I’m not a lifelong Michigan fan).

Second, because women are seen as being “more in tune with our emotions,” we’re required by society to do two things: provide emotional labor on demand, and be the “responsible” party in a relationship. Seen an ad recently that caters to just how lazy and incompetent men are at household tasks? It’s the same idea happening here: because men just don’t understand emotions they rely on women to carry the weight. Sure, it might paint men in a slightly negative light (I would argue in this case it doesn’t), but the end result is that women end up doing more of the work– relational or not.


Ok, on the surface, I agree with Nancy. Just because I feel someone might be lying to me doesn’t automatically mean that they are. However, this entire section is a problem because it reinforces one of the biggest problems I’ve had in my life: not trusting my gut.

I’ve read sections from The Gift of Fear, and the bits I’ve read were illuminating. De Becker argues that we should trust our intuition, that it’s telling us something important that our conscious mind may not be able to communicate to us fully. Looking back over the beginnings of my abusive relationship, there were several red flags that made me feel uncomfortable that I ignored because I totally agreed with Nancy: just because I felt something didn’t make it true.

Maybe not, but our feelings are almost definitely worth paying attention to, and are enough of a reason to further investigate an issue, or start a conversation. Our feelings are telling us something, and we can’t just skip on by them with this notion that feelings aren’t grounded in reality (195).


This entire section gets one big NOPE from me. She opens up with a series of hypothetical situations, including this:

You may not be able to help feeling apprehensive about an upcoming medical exam, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop worrying and fretting about the outcome. (197)

Uhm, no, no I can’t. That is the literal definition of anxiety. My anxiety is not usually severe enough to make me want to go through the process of figuring out which medication I need at what dosage, especially not in this strapped-for-competent-doctors area, but I have been diagnosed with anxiety. Sometimes, it gets really bad, like when I first figured out I had a wheat sensitivity. There were a few weeks when I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe I was allergic to everything now and I would never be able to eat again and I was going to literally starve. I knew those thoughts are the kind known as “intrusive” and that they weren’t real, weren’t based in reality, were contradicted by every shred of evidence, but it didn’t stop me from having a panic attack every time I tried to eat something for two weeks.

The next two pages are ripped-completely-out-of-context verses used as platitudes. God said you’ll never be alone so feeling lonely is a lie (198)! The Bible says “don’t worry!” so there’s no situation that could ever happen to anyone worthy of feeling anxious about it (199)!



She means menstruation and “PMS.” Quick note about PMS: I can’t tell you the number of times my totally legitimate frustration has been written up to “PMS.” Donald Trump did it recently when he said a journalist had “blood coming out of her … wherever.” PMS- as it’s commonly understood in my culture– is largely an urban myth. It doesn’t mean PMS isn’t real, or that the shifts in our hormone balances have no possible effect on mood, but that “PMS” can be used as a weapon to de-legitimize the female experience. We don’t have a real reason to be upset, we’re just bleeding out our vajajays.

But is that where Nancy goes with this? Of course not. She confuses emotions and moods with impulse control (200). Granted, nuerotypical people can have mild impulse control problems, such as things that belong in the realm of bad habits. It’s common for people to chew our nails, pick at scabs, that sort of thing. But then there’s a whole ‘nother plane of impulse control disorders (like trichotillomania, the compulsion to pull out one’s hair. If you’re not familiar with impulse control disorders, this YouTube channel is an excellent place to start).

So while I don’t use my hormones (which with PCOS are even more “out of whack” than for many women) or my pain as an excuse or a means to justify something like me being irritable and snappish, I do have to have grace for myself. No, I shouldn’t bite Handsome’s head off. But that doesn’t mean I need to make myself feel like shit if I do.


For most of this, see the How to Win Over Depression review because she just basically recycles everything LaHaye says. If you needed proof that LaHaye’s mode of thinking is endemic to evangelical culture, here it is.

Nancy does the same thing Tim does: she finds “reasons” for depression completely outside the realm of medical knowledge, like so:

What we do know is that in many cases, physiological symptoms connected with depression are the fruit of issues that are rooted in the realm of the soul and spirit– issues such as ingratitude, unresolved conflict, irresponsibility, guilt, bitterness, unforgiveness, unbelief, claiming of rights, anger, and self-centerdness. (205)

Right here she’s worse than Tim. Seriously– claiming of rights makes one depressed? I’m banging my head into a wall over this, because this is absolutely ridiculous! But it gets worse. A few paragraphs later she calls depression a “temper tantrum.”

Arg gablarg.

The last thing that frustrated me about this section is here:

In the last several decades, we have developed a mind-set that only “professionals” are qualified to help people who are plagued with various emotional or mental disorders. Even many pastors have been made to feel incompetent to deal with these issues and therefore routinely refer to troubled counselees to “the experts.” (210)

Nancy has just amply proven exactly why this “mind-set” is necessary. She just called depression a temper tantrum and talked about impulse control for two pages without ever once addressing the reality of things like trich. She thinks it’s possible for people like me to just “place our hope in God” to stop a panic attack in its tracks. And, hearkening back to her chapter on marriage, she thinks that battered women need to “revere” their husbands (read: not divorce them) or risk losing any chance of being “protected by God” (which gah you’d think if God was in the protecting-battered-women business they’d oh I dunno protect battered women).

For the rest of this, I high recommend these pieces:

Denying the Body of Christ Puts Abuse Survivors at Risk” by RL Stollar
Ministering to Adult Sexual Offenders” (pdf) by Victor Veith, Director Emeritus of the National Child Protection Training Center

Aside: I’ve started a food blog, focusing on oral-allergy-syndrome-friendly recipes, called Cussing Culinaire. I’m having a lot of fun with it.



“Lies Women Believe” review: 135-167

This week’s Lies Women Believe review covers the chapter I’ve been dreading– the chapter on marriage. It was as horrific as I was expecting, and re-reading the sections I’d highlighted when I was in abusive relationship with a rapist made me sick all over again. I know this for a fact: the ideas Nancy argues for in this book keep women in abusive relationships.

So, let’s dig into this miasmic pile of filth, shall we?


It’s a good thing she started this chapter off with this “lie,” because it’s the only thing she actually has any experience with. She’s been a single woman in a Christian culture obsessed with marriage, and it’s a good idea to bring this up. I’m a happily married woman, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I met him and we fell in love. But, I’ve been in abusive relationships and I dated a lot of lackluster people, and I can tell you without a shade of doubt that I’d rather be single than stuck in a marriage with some of the people I briefly considered “settling” for.

However, instead of focusing on “singleness can be fulfilling and happy,” something Nancy at least hopefully knows about, she instead concentrates on how women shouldn’t value being happy. Amidst a lecture on how marriage is about “sanctifying each other and glorifying God” (137-140), she stresses just how ridiculous it is to expect a “fallen” man to make you happy.

Personally, I sorta get this. One of my favorite lines from Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation is “there is something bewitching in the idea that all of one’s happiness can depend entirely on any particular person.” I don’t think it’s healthy to make one person the locus of all your desire, happiness, attention, interest, or activity. We are complicated individuals, with a variety of needs and wants, and it is impossible for only one person to fill all those needs. That’s why we have parents, siblings, friends, communities, peers, coworkers.

But that’s not the direction she takes this. Instead, she encourages women to focus entirely on how their unhappy relationship is supposed to make them a better person and glorify God.


Again, agree with the general idea but not the execution. I cannot fix my husband. If my partner has flaws (which he does, he is not perfect), it’s not my responsibility to get him to see the error of his ways, to “whine, nag or preach” (141) at him until he stops having that flaw.

You can probably hear the “but” coming from a mile away.

I can reasonably expect to have my boundaries respected and for us to communicate honestly about what we need or expect from each other. For example, right away Handsome made it clear that I could ask him to do something, but I could not specify exactly how it was to be done. He would do it his way, and if I wanted it done another way, I would do it myself. This sounded reasonable to me, and I agreed. The one exception is the shower– I’m not physically capable of cleaning it every time it needs cleaned, but because I have trauma-related shower stuffs, he cleans it exactly the way I showed him.

I also have an expectation– I react extremely badly to being told that something I’m upset about is “just a ____” like “just a bad haircut” or “just a random asshole on the internet.” He doesn’t intend to belittle or dismiss my concern, but I haven’t been able to adjust to that after three years of being together. If I hear the phrase “it’s just a _____,” I feel dismissed. He respects that, and doesn’t say that particular phrase anymore.

These are the negotiations of being married, of sharing a living space with someone else. Boundaries should be respected. Concerns should be listened to. Agreements should be reached. Communication should happen.

That’s not what she advocates for. Nope. Instead we get this:

The first weapon is a godly life, which God often uses in a man’s life to create conviction and spiritual hunger. When a wife … points out the things she wishes her husband would change, she is likely to make him defensive and resistant. But when she takes her concerns to the Lord, she is appealing to a higher power … that’s a lot harder to resist than a nagging wife! (141)

I call this Passive-Aggressiveness by Way of Piety.

Me saying “hey, Handsome, please don’t do The Thing” is not nagging. I have the right to say that. And I am absolutely convinced that walking around your house, your eyes upturned to heaven, your hands gently folded, hoping that’s going to get your partner to stop doing Whatever Thing is asinine in the extreme.


She says “nope, you’re his helper, you help him, silly” which just … lordy does no one have a dictionary, or a concordance? Here, Nancy, you should read up on what ezer kenegdo means and how it’s used in the Bible.

Second, does no one ever bother to read Ephesians 5:21? If being a “helper” means “serve your husband” and “submission” is part of being a “helper,” then … uh, there’s a thing Nancy should probably know about:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.


I was actually a little gobsmacked that Nancy baldly makes this particular argument:

The struggle with submission is not unique to women of our day. In fact, that was the essence of the issue Eve faced back in the Garden of Eden. At the heart of the Serpent’s approach to Eve was this challenge: Does God have the right to rule your life? …

He convinced Eve that if she submitted to God’s direction, she would be miserable … From that day to this, Satan has done a masterful job convincing women that submission is a narrow, negative, and confining concept. (146)

I can’t believe I have to say this: men are not God. They are full of flaws, they are imperfect, they can be selfish and cruel and mean and angry just like everyone else. Even if I believed that Eve’s problem was not submitting to God, it is a non sequitur to argue that all women must submit to men or risk “stripping God of his authority.”

Also, she immediately compares grown women to toddlers and likens not being submissive to your husband to running out into the street and being hit by a truck. Women have access to the same amount of life experience as men, to the same wisdom and decision-making abilities, and regardless of how much Nancy tries to insist that women are “not inferior to their husbands” (147), she is arguing that here, and she’s already made that argument when she said women are more easily deceived than men and that’s why the Serpent targeted Eve.

The next bit … I threw the book down and went and cleaned something.

However, even in such a case [physical abuse], a woman can– and must–maintain an attitude of reverence for her husband’s position; her goal is not to belittle or resist him as her husband, but, ultimately, to see God restore him to obedience. If she provokes or worsens the situation [again: PHYSICAL ABUSE] through her attitudes, words, or behavior, she will interfere with what God wants to do in her husband’s life and will not be free to claim God’s protection and intervention on her behalf. (149)



Nancy Leigh DeMoss has clearly argued here that if a woman “does not revere her physically abusive husband’s position” she has no right to “claim God’s protection.”

And I’m crying.

Related: in the section on “sometimes divorce is a better option that staying in a bad marriage” she heavily emphasizes how marriage is a permanent covenant and makes no exceptions for abuse. The resources she offers on “Domestic Abuse” in the back of the book (270) are two books, both of which argue that there are no exceptions for divorce, not even abuse.

This is catastrophically dangerous and unimaginably evil. An abuse victim must be able to divorce their abusive partner for the simple reason that marriage gives an abuser extremely dangerous privileges and rights that must be removed from them. Period. End of story. Encouraging any other attitude is recklessly irresponsible.

I will shout this into the heavens with my dying breath: complementarianism destroys lives. Complementarianism is abusive. Complementarianism kills.


“Lies Women Believe” review: 115-134

I hope all my American readers had a happy Labor Day– mine was spent reading Robert Jordan’s Winter’s Heart from the Wheel of Time series instead of reading for the Lies Women Believe review. I appreciated putting it off by a few days. Thankfully, this chapter was short.


I think this might be the only time Nancy and I come closest to actually agreeing on something, although the why behind it is, of course, drastically different. Here’s the crux of the section:

There is virtually never time in a twenty-four-hour day for me to do everything that is one everyone else’s “to do” list for me. There is seldom time to do everything on my own “to do” list. I cannot meet with every person who wants an appointment, call every person who wants to talk, counsel every person who has a need … It’s just not physically possible.

What a relief to know I don’t have to do all those things! (119)

Nancy goes on to explain that there is time in every day for us to do what God wants us to do, and we should prioritize the things God wants, not what we want or what other people want. This is where we differ– I agree with the premise that there’s more often more things to be done than I can accomplish in a day, especially on days like today when I’m having neck spasms so severe I’m having difficulty standing upright. I wanted to run errands and bake bread, but instead I spent most of today on muscle relaxers and heating pads. Not being able to do those things is totally fine, and I’ve learned to let them slide without guilt.

The problem I have with this section is that Nancy says “just do the things God wants you to do, and you’ll be fine!” without ever explaining how exactly we’re supposed to figure that out. I grew up having a problem with this, really– people were obsessed with “discovering God’s will for your life,” but it seemed mighty convenient how often “God’s will” perfectly aligned with “thing I feel passionately about” or “thing that will make me look good” or “thing that will make me powerful.”

I think, in general, that God’s will includes things like “drawing all peoples to themself” and “redeeming the world,” but when it comes down to the brass tacks of do I clean my apartment today or research my book, it seems a little ridiculous to expect God to have an opinion.

Realistically, I think we all order our priorities according to what we value and our ethics. I believe tackling this book is important, so it’s what I’m doing instead of laundry right now, and if I don’t have the energy to do laundry later tonight I’m ok with that. I believe that trying to do the will of God every day is important, but that’s summed up for me in love your neighbor as yourself, and I just try to operate by that principle.


I hope those of you who had a different experience than me can chime in, because, honestly, I never understood all the fuss around “quiet times” or “devotions.” I read my Bible and prayed pretty consistently through my teen and early college years, but when my schedule filled up with 8a-6p classes, I stopped doing that regularly and never noticed the difference. I tried picking it up again a few times over the years, usually out of guilt, but it didn’t contribute meaningfully to my day so I’ve never gotten back into the habit.

Nancy tries to argue that people will be ineffectual and frustrated without this, but that just seems really Christian-centric to me, and easily disproved. Billions of people don’t read the Bible and pray to the Christian deity every day, and they seem to be doing just fine, while many Christians do have dedicated time for this and don’t seem to fit Nancy’s definition of success– they’ve been depressed, burnt out, worried, stressed, and all the rest of the things she says that devotions will prevent.


The way she’s phrased this is extremely frustrating because it’s misleading. If she actually meant what those words say we might actually agree on this. I and many feminists believe that motherhood (and fatherhood! stay-at-home-dads are a reality!) can be just as fulfilling as a career– especially if a woman does not feel particularly fulfilled by her realistic career options. We might be troubled by societal patterns and the way stigmas contribute to women leaving the paid workforce, but most of the feminists I’m aware of fight for things like maternity leave and subsidized daycare in order to balance the demands on mothers. However, that’s not what Nancy actually means. Instead, she asserts that the “lie women believe” is that “a career outside the home is an option.”

Some feminists have denigrated those who choose stay-at-home-motherhood, or have written manifestos on why all women have an obligation to be in the paid workforce, but in my experience, those positions tend to be outliers.

However, those outliers are not who Nancy addresses; instead, she misrepresents feminist arguments about the unpaid labor involved in housework and childrearing by saying that feminists have “devalued homemaking to something less than that of a serf” (125). The reality that it’s mostly women who do the housework and childrearing and that this is essentially a form of slave labor–in that it’s culturally coerced and uncompensated–isn’t a statement about its ineffable value. In fact, most feminists have fought to equalize the distribution of household and childrearing tasks by forcing our culture to recognize how important these things are– so important, in fact, that they’re not beneath men doing them, too.

She spends a lot of time saying that it’s impossible for women to “have it all” in the sense of having a career and still shouldering all the demands of homemaking and mothering– and she’s right. The solution, however, isn’t to force all women out of the paid workforce, but to elevate these things to more than just “women’s work.” Men should leave work to take care of sick children just as often as women. Men should take off to get their kids to soccer games. Men should stay up half the night with the colicky baby. Men should learn to cook. Men should shoulder an even share of housework.

It is impossible for women to “have it all” as long as the definition for “having it all” is “be successful at work while still being maintaining a Norman Rockwell version of housewifery.”

She makes a few other frustrating comments, things like saying feminism has pushed our elderly into old folk’s homes without even bothering to acknowledge the extending life spans that make it impossibly difficult for those without medical training to monitor their care; or blaming the rise of the two-income household completely on feminism instead of being honest about the rising income disparities that are forcing middle-class families to take on more labor to maintain a middle-class position, but those are so wrong they’re not even worth the attention.

In short, once again it seems impossible for conservative evangelicals to attack feminism without being misleading, deceptive, and ignorant.


“Lies Women Believe” review: 91-114

I think dividing up the review by the various “Lies” Nancy uses worked really well last week, so I’m going to keep doing that. Sorry for the irregular posting schedule as of late– it’s been an interesting few weeks, but I think I’m back in the flow of things now.

What intrigued me about this chapter– “Lies Women Believe About Sin”– was that Nancy never actually got around to defining what she believes sin is; all through these pages, she just assumes we all know what she’s talking about. In a sense, she’s probably right, as most evangelicals probably share her nebulous understanding of “sin.” I don’t think I ever really examined my definition of “sin” when I was a fundamentalist– it was just this concept that encompassed all the things I wasn’t supposed to do.

However, Nancy does give us some hints to her perspective. She gives us two lists: one includes “worldly philosophies, profanity, immodesty” (94), and the other includes prostitution, abortion, homosexuality, embezzling, wasting time, self-protection, talking too much, gluttony, having a critical spirit, overspending, fear, worry, selfishness, and complaining (99).

It popped out to me that what Nancy considers “sin” is extremely subjective, and not something every Christian thinks of in the same terms. For example, I and many others don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin, and my eyebrows are always in my hairline when I see things like complaining or a critical spirit show up in these contexts, as they’re almost always silencing tactics. Nancy would probably look at my writing and conclude that I am sinning by having a “critical spirit,” but I look at the same thing and think that I’m “exposing the works of darkness.”

I’ve talked before about how my view of sin has shifted from “list of things I’m not supposed to do,” to something broader. Now I define sin by two questions: is this action loving, and could this in/action cause harm? If I read this chapter through that lens, I actually find myself agreeing with Nancy a good bit. I do believe that sin can destroy, produce fear, and break God’s heart (98). However, unlike a list that includes “wasting time” and “worry,” I have one that includes “white supremacy” and “ableism.” I believe Christians are called to a life of repentance and transformation, but I’m no longer bogged down by the pettiness of worrying about “immodesty.”


Nancy’s explanation for this supposed “lie” is what I and some others refer to as “sin-leveling.” A recent example of how some Christians tend to do this is in how a bunch of people wrote about how “we’re all like Josh Duggar.” I even had someone on my facebook page tell me that “no person is better than any other” on my post on the subject. Personally, I believe this concept is one of the more dangerous in evangelicalism: not all sin is the same. Me becoming upset and saying something ugly to my partner, while wrong, is on a completely different scale from rape and abuse.

Some people, including Nancy, try to make this go away by putting it purely in theological terms, like this:

The way to see the Truth about sin is to see it in the light of who God is. When we gaze upon the brilliance of His untarnished holiness, we become acutely aware of the hideousness of our sin. (100)

They’ll try to argue that all sin is the same in God’s eyes, but that while we’re on earth we have to have a “punishment to meet the crime” system that recognizes that some actions have more serious temporal consequences while still asserting that all sin has the same theological consequence: separation from God.

As we can see from the multiplicity of “there but for the grace of God go I” posts about Josh Duggar attacking his sisters and their babysitter, it seems safe to say that this attempt to differentiate between temporal and theological consequences has broadly failed in evangelicalism.


One of the common themes I’ve seen woven all through the books I’ve reviewed is that each author seems particularly blind to the damage that Christian culture can wreak on people, like here:

But I think that what many of these women are really saying is that they have never been able to feel forgiven for what they have done. They are still carrying a sense of guilt and shame over their failure. (101)

Passages like these are ironic, because Nancy is blind to how books like hers contribute to this problem: Christian culture is guilt-based. Unlike an honor-shame culture, which controls people through a focus on outward appearances and acceptability, a guilt society gives certain people (like Nancy) power because they are the arbiters of guilt and innocence. For example, sex is always bad except when you’ve been married in the Church. Or, we’re all born sinners, and the way to escape Inherited Sin is to Accept Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior, like what Nancy does here:

I often receive notes from women who are wrestling with doubts about their salvation … I believe that is because they have never truly repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ alone to save them. (110)

According to her, Nancy has the only way to stop feeling guilty. She also gets to decide that these women were “religious” but not “righteous.” She may talk a big talk about not wanting women to feel guilty, but without it, this book wouldn’t have sold a half-million copies.


And by “fully” she really means “solely” (105). This section I’d have a problem with, no matter the definition of sin we’re working with.

I’m white. That means in the culture I was born into, I benefit from and unconsciously contribute to the systematic enforcement of white supremacy. It is my responsibility to do everything I can to dig out the racism I’ve been steeping in since infancy and that when I do or say something racist I am to blame, but I am not solely to blame. I did not single-highhandedly create a system of institutions that give me advantages while enslaving others.

However, people like Nancy don’t like thinking in terms of community, culture, or society. Christianity in America is a cultural product of the Scottish and American Enlightenments, which place an undue emphasis on the needs and responsibilities of the individual. Many evangelical leaders are comfortable believing that we are responsible for our individual, separate lives, and that it’s possible to think of ourselves that way: as unique, as separate. They don’t want to recognize the reality of systems that affect us– systems like patriarchy and white supremacy, largely because the vast majority of Christian leaders directly benefit from those systems.


This is the last place where Nancy gives us a hint about what she thinks of as sinful: she frames all sin as an interplay between the flesh and the spirit. Giving into the flesh is sin, while ennobling the spirit is good, like so:

The Spirit says: Spend some time in the Word and prayer.
The flesh says: You’ve had a long day; chill out in front of the TV for the evening. (107)

Unfortunately, the logical outcome of this framework is asceticism. “The flesh,” in evangelical parlance, is an umbrella term for anything that feels good, and this concept is from Gnosticism or dualism, both of which are usually condemned as heresies. The false dichotomy between “flesh” and “spirit” that Nancy is advocating for here is one that has plagued the Christian church for centuries and seems unlikely to die anytime soon. I’ve written about overcoming this duality, and learning to recognize that my body is a part of the Imago Dei has been one of the most important steps in my healing and recovery.

So, not the most infuriating chapter I’ve read so far, but still… damaging and dangerous. Good news, though: we’re over a third of the way through the Lies Women Believe review!


“Lies Women Believe” review: 63-90

Fair warning: today’s post is a little long. Because of that, I’ve decided to break today’s review up into the same sections that Nancy divides this chapter– “Lies Women Believe About Themselves”.

Eve’s Diary

These diary entries are supposed to reflect in some way the similarities between this fictional Eve and modern women, especially concerning the “lies we believe,” so I wondered if Nancy was ever going to address one particular statement Eve makes in this entry:

I don’t know if [Adam will] ever trust me again. In a way, I can’t blame him. I’ve really wrecked his life. I feel so stupid. Adam just doesn’t understand the effect that Serpent had on me. (63)

But nope … she never does. This idea that Eve, and by extension pretty much any woman, is capable of wrecking a man’s life with the smallest of decisions, is a fairly common one in evangelicalism, and it has always infuriated me, even when I was a fundamentalist. Adam was standing right there (Gen. 3:6 says “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her“); according to the story, Eve might have made the initial decision, but Adam made it right along with her after hearing the exact same speech.

Men are adults. They are capable of making their own decisions. They’re not mindless, unthinking automatons that can be nudged into the path of a wrecking ball with the barest hint from their wives. However, it’s not exactly unusual for men to do horrendous things and then for women to be blamed for them– see any time a rape victim opens her mouth, ever.

“I’m not worth anything”

This is one of those times when I agree with Nancy about the existence of a lie, but completely disagree with the reasons for it and how to go about solving it. In the case of this one– feeling worthless– Nancy does what most conservative Christians seem to do and flip cause and effect. The clearest example of this is when she gives us this “testimony”:

For the longest time I thought I was not worth anything. Even after I was saved, I thought I was equal to pond scum. This threw me into depression. (67)

A lot of the stories in this section have the same thread woven through them, with feelings of worthlessness being connected to depression, but the way these women and Nancy frame it, the depression is caused by feeling worthless, which is caused by letting yourself believe a lie. To illustrate the “letting yourself believe a lie” point, she chose the story of a six year old girl who was told she “should never have been born.” This six year old failed to “counter the lie with the Truth,” and this allowed her to grow up believing she was worthless, according to Nancy, who seems unable to grasp simple concepts like children are impressionable.

Also, this happened:

For example, a playmate may accurately observe to a six-year-old girl, “You’re fat!” That little girl will one day find herself in bondage if she grows up drawing conclusions based on that comment. (66)

If you’re getting the feeling that Nancy is not a very kind person, I agree.

“I need to learn to love myself”

This section is extremely unoriginal– just more of the evangelical nonsense about how we all really love ourselves because our default state is selfish, self-motivated, and self-interested. Therefore, according to them, worrying about “self-esteem” is absolutely pointless and wrong-headed. What bothers me the most about this section is here:

To the contrary, Jesus taught that it is in losing our lives that we find our lives. The message of self-love puts people on a lonely, one-way path to misery. …

If I didn’t “love myself,” I would ignore the [toothache]. But when someone else has a toothache, it is easy to be indifferent to his need–that’s his problem. We naturally love ourselves; we do not naturally love others. (70)

I call bullshit. First, because self-esteem and empathy are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible to experience both at the same time, and just because I am confident and think of myself as valuable does not mean that I’m rendered incapable of caring about other people.

Also, I strongly disagree with the idea that we do not “naturally” love others. Empathy, compassion, kindness– these are almost universal concepts, they cross many cultural lines. How we act on these things may differ according to time and place, but many people have studied the existence of things like altruism from the earliest days of mankind. Caring for each other is in our blood.

I think she’s also twisted Matthew 16’s “whoever will lose his life shall find it” beyond recognition, completely ripped it out of context and obliterated any significant meaning; she’s reduced Jesus’ teaching that following him will require sacrifice to don’t worry about having self-esteem you’ve got enough of that already.

“I can’t help the way I am”

To a certain extent, I can kinda sorta agree with this one, but not in the way Nancy frames it. Some rely on excuses to justify their behavior, and I don’t think that’s acceptable. I’m sure we’ve all done this, probably repeatedly, and it can be a very convenient– and depending on situation– a very damaging lie. For example, the excuses of “boys will be boys” or “I’m a man, I’m visual, I can’t help but stare at you” are imbecilically wrong.

However, Nancy takes it too far when she chooses some supposed “excuses” people tell themselves:

I’m so exhausted, I just can’t function.
My parents never affirmed me, and I’ve never been able to feel loved.
I had an abusive childhood; I’ve never been able to trust people.
My ex-husband constantly put me down [read: verbal abuse]; he destroyed my self-esteem. (72)

There are others, but these were the worst offenders. I’d like to point out that many of these statements are not descriptions of a person’s identity, or “who they are,” but are means of expressing emotions, states of mind, and responses to situations and relationships.

I grew up with the line “excuses are just lies wrapped up in pretty paper,” usually handed to me, ultimatum-style, when I was trying to explain my rationalization for something I’d done, or offer a reason for why I hadn’t done something. It took me years to undo this programming and realize that our experiences are a part of who we become, that different situations and contexts place limitations on us.

I’m an introvert that grew up in a family of extroverts. To many people in my family, desperately needing to just get away and have some peace and quiet for a bit means something is wrong– I’m upset or something, and it’s a problem they have to solve in order to get me to rejoin The Activity. Needless to say, this was not conducive to me enjoying family visits.

My introvertedness doesn’t automatically excuse my behavior with my family if I get snippy or grumpy, but it is a limitation I need to accept about myself in order to function well and maintain my emotional equilibrium. I cannot help that I’m an introvert, and that part of my identity requires certain actions from me at times.

“I have my rights”

You can imagine how I feel about this section. I started chanting burn it. Burn it with fire as I read.

The modern-day feminist movement was birthed and has been sustained by persuading women to march and clamor for “rights”: the right to vote, the right to be free from the shackles of housework [read: unpaid labor]; the right to equal employment opportunities; the right to equal wages, the right to control our own bodies … the right to be free from every other form of “male domination.” (74)

The only thing you need to know about this section is that Nancy has put women’s suffrage in scare quotes, calls the Civil Rights Movement “turmoil and rebellion” (74) and then compares women wanting to be paid the same as men and black people demanding their right to vote to Jonah. As in, “His insistence on his rights caused him to be emotionally unstable, isolated, and estranged from God” (75).

“Physical beauty matters more than inner beauty”

Like with Stasi Elredge’s Captivating, it is supremely ironic to me that with one side of her mouth Nancy condemsn feminism wholesale and then goes on to say that beauty standards are ridiculous. Guess who’s fighting for women to be appreciated based on our worth as human beings, to place more emphasis on our character. Oh right. Feminists.

And, like every other evangelical I’ve ever heard on the subject, Nancy can’t help but go back on her point:

There is a growing aversion in our culture to neatness, orderliness, and attractiveness in dress and physical appearance.  I sometimes find myself wanting to say to Christian women: “Do you know who you are? God made you a woman. Accept His gift. Don’t be afraid to be feminine and to add physical and spiritual loveliness to the setting where He has placed you …

We as Christians should seek to reflect the beauty, order, excellence, and grace of God through both our outward and inward person. (80)

C’mon, Nancy. Either physical attractiveness matters or it doesn’t. Also, your opinion that our culture has a “growing aversion” to anything you consider “attractive” is based on nothing more than you acquired your fashion sense when women wore hose and you haven’t gotten used to a world without shoulderpads.

The last lie, about “unfulfilled longings” is a bunch of unintelligible nonsense. No, we’re not going to get every single last thing we want all of the time, but nobody but the most greedy and supercilious of billionaires actually thinks that’s possible.

Anyway, I apologize for the length, but this chapter was more than frustrating and I just wanted to get it done with after putting it off on Monday. So far, each progressive chapter has gotten worse. I hope that pattern doesn’t hold.


“Lies Women Believe” review: 45-62

This chapter of Lies Women Believe (lies we believe “About God”) illustrates rather perfectly what I was talking about in my last post– how Christians taught me that my own heart can’t be trusted because it’s hell-bent on deceiving me. Nancy spends a lot of time laying the groundwork for the rest of the book, which is primarily the idea that your life experience cannot be trusted.

But, before we get to that, let’s begin with something I agree with her on:

I have chosen to start by dealing with lies that women believe about God because there is nothing more crucial than what we believe about God. (47)

I say this sort of thing rather often– what we think about God affects what we think about ourselves and about each other. It’s a two-fold reality, I think: if we are created in the imago dei, then who we are as people is a reflection of the nature of God; and if we believe that God is full of wrath and fury and eager to rain brimstone down on us, then that is going to affect our relationships and our views of ourselves. Instead of basking in their love, we’ll spend our days walking around terrified that God is going to crush us for some misdeed.

However, after that, Nancy and I part ways.

The first lie she tackles is “God is not really good.”

In her personal anecdote, she describes God’s goodness not being readily apparent to her when her father died suddenly when she was twenty-one (49). I haven’t experienced that, so I don’t know what it’s like, and I am positive she suffered while she was grieving that sudden loss.

However, losing a parent, while incredibly heartbreaking, is not really on par with a lot of other suffering that exists. It will eventually happen to all of us. Y’know what doesn’t happen to middle-class white-picket-fence-childhood women like Nancy? Dying of starvation. Being forced to marry someone when you’re 16 and he rapes you every day (and yes, that happens in America). Being beaten and tortured by the people supposedly put on this planet to protect you.

This planet is full of so many cruelties, and yes, I do have a hard time with this “God is good” concept most days. The amount of evil so many of us experience every day is … incomprehensible. And I am heartily sick of people like Nancy spouting off on how good God is when they’ve been sheltered from a lot of that evil. Christian culture is extremely insulated– have a physical condition that bars you from going to church regularly? NOT A REAL CHRISTIAN. Have a background that makes you seem “angry” and “bitter” because you just will not shut up about being abused and raped? NOPE.

This ugly reality means that the people we most frequently see at our conferences, on our stages, and behind our pulpits are all sort of cookie-cutter, with a fairly limited set of experiences to draw on.

Event this book enforces those notions. She gives the following in a list of problems we run into:

… a loveless marriage, rejection by an ex-mate, grown children who won’t call home, approaching forty, and not a suitor in sight … (50)

I’m sorry, those things aren’t fun, but they just seem so petty. Really, Nancy? This is your standard for talking about the possible reasons why women might feel that God doesn’t love them?

The biggest problem with this chapter, though, is how she goes about completely redefining the words goodness, love, and need. Her opening salvo is this:

The Truth is, God is good. Whether or not His choices seem good to us, He is good. Whether or not we feel it, He is good. Whether or not it seems true in my life or yours, He is still good. (49)

And quoting from Hannah Whitall Smith:

But faith sits down before mysteries such as these, and says, “The Lord is good, therefore all that He does must be good no matter how it looks. I can wait for His explanations.” (49)

In other words: your personal experience is immaterial. The evidence does not matter at all. Whatever your own eyes tell you, ignore that. This definition reduces faith down to self-delusion. In my life, “how it looked” was a lot like physical abuse, rape, and spiritual trauma so deep I have PTSD from it. But yeah. That’s totally God being so good to me. I just can’t wait to hear them explain it.

She basically repeats herself in explaining why God actually does love us despite any evidence we might have to the contrary, saying it’s inconsequential “whether or not we feel loved” (51). The problem is, that does matter. In my marriage– which conservative Christians keep trying to tell me is a symbol of Christ and his relationship with the church– I can approach my husband and say “I don’t feel loved” and his reaction has to be more than “well, I do, and how you feel about it doesn’t matter.” In a healthy relationship, his response should be something like “oh, what can I do to show you how I feel?”

Except that’s not how conservative Christians are told to interact with God about this. Instead, in this “marriage” we’re supposed to just reassure ourselves that God really does love us even when our lives seem to prove they couldn’t give a damn. Gregory Boyd spends a while talking about this problem in Benefit of the Doubt, arguing that God does want to see us come to them with this. He talks about how Jacob wrestled with God, demanding answers, and how God rebukes Job’s friends for trying to tell him what Nancy’s trying to tell us. Job questions God, doubts God, flings his problems into their face, and God responds.

But, she takes the cake in the next section, on the lie “God is just like my father.”

First, she doesn’t do anything to point out that God is genderless, instead reinforcing an image of a masculinized God that doesn’t reflect the full breadth of Scripture (one of the names for God is “the god with breasts“). But then we get to this:

The God of the Bible is a compassionate, tender, merciful Father … It doesn’t meant He never allows us to suffer pain– in fact, at times, He actually inflicts pain and hardship upon us. Why? Because he loves us. Because he cares about us. (53)

Just … back the truck up.

This is completely nonsensical! This is not love. If you want to inflict pain on the people you supposedly love, you are not loving them. You love some version of them that doesn’t exist and are trying to force them through torture and coercion into being that made-up version. You love yourself in that scenario, and no one else.

It is possible to do something that hurts a person we love, but generally we consider those things to be wrong. They’re mistakes. They happen because we were angry or tired or hurting, and they damage our relationship. The things we do that hurt each other require reconciliation and healing.

Except for God, apparently. They can do whatever they want, they can intentionally hurt us, and it’s all good. That’s what it looks like when God loves us, and please ignore that it flies in the face of common human decency. If we don’t think that’s love, it’s just because their ways are just too “great” for us, too far outside our “comprehension.” When God hurts us, it’s love.

That is the cornerstone of every abusive relationship I’ve ever experienced or witnessed. In order for the victim to stay, they have to be absolutely convinced that the abuse is just a sign of how much they are loved. He flies into jealous rages because he just loves me that much. She starts screaming at me that I’m a disgusting worthless piece of shit because she knows that I’m capable of being so much more and she’s just trying to help me realize my potential.

Nancy is right– what we believe about God matters. It’s just that she believes in an abusive God.


“Lies Women Believe” review: 27-44

This chapter introduces us to the methodology that Nancy will be using through the rest of Lies Women Believe. If you’ve read the book before you’re probably familiar with “Eve’s diary,” where Nancy fictionalizes an autobiographical telling of Eve’s life, starting with the day she’s exiled from the Garden. The first time I read this in college, I actually skipped these sections because I found them boring– Nancy’s strength isn’t narrative writing.

Today, though, what jumped out to me in this diary entry was this:

Then he offered me some things I had never had before– things I’d never thought I needed. Independence–from God and from Adam. Position– I had always looked up to God and Adam; this creature said they would look up to me. (28)

Nancy’s extrapolation of Eve’s experience includes her never being looked up to by Adam. In our culture “looked up to” is synonymous with words like appreciate and respect. Nancy believes that Eve had never felt respected, had never thought she needed to feel respected by her husband, and intrinsically ties this to the single worst thing that has ever happened in the course of human history (according to evangelicals): Original Sin.

A woman feeling the need to be respected caused the Fall. Women wanting to be respected is a Lie. We’ll see this become glaringly apparent later on, but before we get to that, I want to take the time to point out a common misunderstanding about Genesis 3.

Many conservatives point to the order of events in order to bolster their position that women are “created to be more vulnerable to deception,” that we are “inherently more temptable” (33), because the serpent chose to target Eve first. There must have been some strategy on the serpent’s part, some reason. What they are blithely ignoring is that Genesis, like other ancient texts like Beowulf, is a recorded version of an Oral Tradition.

I don’t know of a culture that didn’t create storytelling in some form. Before writing, stories were preserved by some mnemonic trick– a rythm, poetry, a pattern of some kind. In this particular segment of Genesis, this pattern is called a chiastic structure, our best examples of which come from Homer and the Bible. These structures allow oral storytellers to easily remember all the events and characters of story– and that structure was preserved here. “Eve was deceived first” is a result of this structure and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the serpent’s motives.

If you haven’t read Man and Woman, One in Christ by Philip Payne, I highly recommend it– he goes into depth on the faulty conservative renderings of Genesis 3 from the perspective of someone who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, and lays out the chiastic structure clearly here.

All of Nancy’s talk about how the serpent deceived Eve reminded me of a question I’ve had since I was a child:

The Serpent further deceived Eve by lying to her about the consequences of choosing to disobey God. God had said, “When you eat of it you will surely die.” Satan countered: “You will not surely die.” He flatly contradicted what God had already said. (31)

This has always bothered me because the serpent was right. They didn’t die. This passage is usually accompanied by some mumbo-jumbo about how God meant a spiritual death and how Adam and Eve were immortal but at that moment they started aging yada yada … but the question that always niggled at me was that it seemed that God hadn’t been particularly forthcoming or straightforward. At the very least it seems obvious to me that Eve took God at their word: if she ate it, she’d be dead. As in dead. Not spiritually dead, but the six-feet-under-pushing-up-daisies sort of dead.

I know this means I’m “judging God,” which is a big evangelical no-no, but I can’t help it. It seems purposely obtuse to tell Adam and Eve “eat that and you’ll die” if you mean something else entirely. The blasphemous, sacrilegious parts of me go on to wonder if Eve didn’t deeply regret this decision (36), but shouted “No regrets, you lying, manipulative asshole!” as the angels with the big flaming swords tossed them out of Paradise. I mean, if Eve literally existed, which I doubt.

However, the most horrifying part of this chapter isn’t Nancy’s interpretation of Genesis 3, linking women to being inherently morally inferior to men, or arguing that a desire to be respected led to Original Sin. It’s her list of “Lies”:

Their teachings help justify

  • anger (“healthy expression of your feelings”)
  • selfishness (“You’ve got to place boundaries between you and demanding people”)
  • irresponsibility (“You are dysfunctional because you have been deeply wounded by others”)

At the same time, they make “the righteous” feel “sad” or guilty

  • for taking personal responsibility (“You’re codependent”)
  • for demonstrating a servant’s heart (“You shouldn’t let others take advantage of you”)
  • for being faithful to their vows (“God does not expect you to stay in that marriage”) (34-35)

Remember how I said earlier that “Nancy doesn’t think women deserve respect” will become apparent? Well, here it is. This made me so angry I could choke. If I came to this book vulnerable, trusting, and looking to Nancy for guidance or counsel … I know I say this practically whenever a conservative Christian opens their mouth on mental wellness, but I could literally be dead now. That’s not an exaggeration. If I had continued believing these filthy lies that feeling angry because I was raped is a Sin, or that I needed to “admit the part I played” in being raped, or that my PTSD and triggers and are a result of being “irresponsible,” or that being a “righteous person” meant being treated like a doormat, I think it’s likely I would have killed myself.

I couldn’t keep carrying the burden of believing that I was to blame for being raped, or that my PTSD was a moral failing. It was tearing me apart and destroying my life. It was taking away my ability to do anything but curl up into an extremely inebriated ball and sob. I was failing classes and unable to work. Because of how I agreed with Nancy. It wasn’t until I could say things like “my rape isn’t my fault” or “having PTSD doesn’t make me a bad, weak-willed person” that I started recovering and putting my life back together.

Right now I am grieving for every woman who’s ever believed Nancy’s lies.




“Lies Women Believe” review: 11-25

If you’re not familiar with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, one of the most common criticisms I’ve seen of her work is that she is umarried, although she is getting married in November this year. Since she’s spent so many years giving people advice on their marriages (sixty pages of Lies Women Believe are dedicated to it), it does seem relevant to point out that she’s talking about something she’s never experienced.

In a different way, Nancy also feels that her not-being-married situation is relevant. On her “Acknowledgements” page, she says this:

Dr. Bruce Ware — your love for the Truth is infectious. I am grateful for the spiritual covering and protection the Lord provided through your careful, theological review and your enormously helpful input. (11)

Women in Nancy’s position use the term “spiritual covering” as a superficial rationalization of what they do for a living. As a well-known speaker, Nancy inhabits a complicated space where other complementarians want famous women to come to their platforms and pulpits, but don’t want to admit that there’s a flaw in their ecclesiology. The “solution” is to say that women like Nancy aren’t technicallyusurping a man’s authority” because they have the spiritual covering of a man. It’s interesting to me that she felt the need for this even though the book is addressed to women– usually complementarians don’t have a problem with this as long as the intended audience is women.

Moving on to the foreword, which was written by Elisabeth Elliot. Obviously I’m not a fan of Elisabeth’s– Passion and Purity is awful, and she’s known for saying shit like “women should be grateful that God made them doormats for men.” That’s a paraphrase, but grateful and doormat were the words she used. So it was unsurprising that this was the first paragraph:

Nancy … has had the courage to plumb the depths of women’s illusions and delusions, of their hopes, fears, failures, and sorrows, so much of which might have been avoided were it not for lies propagated thirty or more years ago– such as “You can have it all,” “Don’t get caught in the compassion trap,” “Anything men can do we can do better,” etc. (13)

Huh. I wonder what could possibly have happened thirty years before 2001? Elisabeth seems unconcerned with facts, since “having it all” didn’t appear in the American vernacular until the 80s and comes with the baggage of Reaganomics and a reductionist and invalid criticism of second-wave feminism; I couldn’t find “compassion trap” in that order anywhere except in this book; and “anything men can do we can do better” is a reference to an Irving Berlin song from Annie Get your Gun, a musical written in 1946.

Yeah, those are all totally lies propagated by second-wave feminists in the 70s. Sure. This passage is important because it highlights what is going to be one of Nancy’s obsessions: how women have been damaged and dragged into “bondage” and “soul-sickness” by feminism (16). I’ve written on how she connects feminism with “soul sickness” before. She goes one step further in this book, accusing “feminist” lies of being the spawn of Satan (accompanied by the typical “Angel of Light” spiel, 19).

But, moving on to her Introduction. She spends some time regurgitating typical evangelical constructs about Eve (she’s ultimately to blame, and Adam went along with it to appease her), but it doesn’t take her long to jump straight into victim-blaming territory:

Many are in bondage to their past. Whether the result of their own failures or the failures of others, their pasts hang like huge weights around their necks. (17)

Most likely, you know other women who are living in bondage, though they claim to have a relationship with Christ. (18)

Bondage is another loaded term that many Christians use; it takes up a similar place as other words like bitterness and unforgiveness. Nancy doesn’t need to define it here, because when she says “bondage” her readers are picturing what she wants: a person who’s still affected by their past in a “negative” way. That I’m still affected by past trauma– that I still have triggers and panic attacks — means that I’m in “bondage.” According to her, that means I’m only claming to have a relationship with Christ. Considering most conservative Christians use “relationship with Christ” as synonymous with “salvation,” Nancy is calling my salvation into question.

I also really hate this equivocation between “our own failures and the failures of others,” especially in the context of “bondage” (which, honestly, is frequently use as a fill-in for rape trauma).

I tried to talk to my last pastor about his tendency to do this, because it is not at all ok to place “abuse victim” and “abuser” in the same sentence like this. That I and my partner were repeatedly ignored (or outright dismissed because “real attenders would understand what he was trying to say” even though my partner had been attending and serving on the sound team for two fucking years … digression) is one of the most significant reasons why I no longer attend his church. Connecting these two and then assigning blame to the victim for “carrying the huge weights” for their abuse is extremely unhelpful and damaging.

But oh, it gets worse:

I witnessed the power of Truth in another situation as I talked to a woman who had become emotionally involved with one of the pastors of her church. When I became aware of the situation, I called her at work because I did not know how much her husband knew. Since she was a receptionist for her company, I knew we might not have long to talk. After telling her who I was, I got right to the point ….

“I have to tell you that you are in a burning house, you are in grave danger. Because this is a desperate situation, I’m not going to worry about what you think of me or about hurting your feelings.” (22)

She called a complete stranger at work and had the gall to say “I don’t care about hurting your feelings.” It’s mind-boggling how she seems so utterly unaware of how inappropriate that is. But, I guess I shouldn’t expect anything different, since it’s a common relationship approach with Christians. It’s also reflective of Nancy’s beliefs:

Some of what I have to say will ruffle feathers. I have made not attempt to be “politically correct” or to merely write some nice thoughts that everyone will agree with. It is my belief that only radical surgery … will get to the root of our diseased hearts and make us whole. Sometimes the Truth hurts; it is rarely popular. But I would not be loving or kind if I failed to share with you the Truth that can set you free. (20)

Aside from the problems with equating actual love and I Need to Tell you Why I’m Right, what she’s done here is interesting in light of the reaction so many people had to her book. In the reviews I read, many people associated how bludgeon-y her writing is and how right she is. Apparently, this is an idea she gave them.

Aish. This does not bode well for the rest of this review.