A Book Review of Sorts
Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality
By Erin Wathen
Westminster John Knox Press, April 10, 2018, 176 pages
It’s not often that a book knocks me on my heels and makes me question my worldview (more accurately, what I do with my worldview). The title alone might take many a woman (or man) aback. After all, we live in an age where the world measures a woman’s worth by her abilities. Where a woman receives equal pay for equal work. Little girls grow up believing they can become the president one day or play on an NFL team. Whatever suits their fancy.
Or not. If all of the above were true, then why write a book about resisting and persisting? Why write a book about faith and the fight for equality? Why would a fellow blogger’s review of the book send me scrambling to Amazon to buy the book for myself? And my daughters.
Because for my entire life I’ve lived with the dis-ease of knowing that something wasn’t right and the people that should be fixing it weren’t.I've lived with the dis-ease of knowing that something wasn't right and the people that should be fixing it weren't. #church #sexism #racism Click To Tweet
As a young adult, I hesitated to call myself a feminist, because the requirements to join the club seemed to consist of a disdain for men, singlehood, bitterness, and a love for cats.
I enjoy the company of men, and I respect a lot of them. Shoot, I married one (he understood my desire to keep my maiden name and add his to the mix, as well as my insistence that we equally share childcare and housecleaning duties). I strive to find the positive in life and look for the positive (even through cancer and mental illness). Until recently, I’ve never wanted to own a cat (now that I know about the Savannah cat, my views could change—except I can’t afford one).
Am I Feminist?
I find myself uncomfortable with the title to this day. Men call women they disagree with ‘Feminazis’ and other unkind terms. I see myself as more of a quiet little granny speaking equality into my tiny corner of the world (some might disagree on the quiet part, but that’s ok).
I’ve decided that we need a new term—one that women and men alike can get behind and declare over themselves. The term ‘feminist’ makes people think they need to take sides. It also gets used as an insult—especially if a man declares alignment with the feminist movement.
‘Humanist’ is already taken, so we’ll go with ‘Personist.’ I am a personist, and proud of it. My belief comes from a deeply-held conviction that God created us—all of us people in the world—equal. Men have no right to have ‘headship’ over women (it’s not a Biblical concept—it’s a concept men cooked up to keep women subject them them—see Chapter 7).
Does the Church Perpetuate the Problem?
When we as a church get all tangled up in rules and regulations and who can stand behind the pulpit, lead the song service, or pray up front, the church loses its validity. The question every individual should ask of God is simple: How can I serve? And when God answers, none of us (especially authoritarian, headship-believing men) should get in the way of his reply.When God answers, none of us should get in the way of his answer. #headship #patriarchy #personist Click To Tweet
As Wathen says, “…if women are ever going to be fully free and equal in modern culture, it is going to take the voice of the church calling loudly for that equality.” In other words, our call to personism means we have to shed our patriarchal beliefs (which includes complementarianism and internalized misogyny Chapter 2).
Wathen goes on to say, “…it’s clear that many who claim to follow Christ hold the values of that patriarchal world as a higher priority than those of the kingdom.” Patriarchy gives the church a framework from which to systematically undermine the word of Christ—especially in the context of equality and justice for all. But before we can go out and bring equality and justice for all, we need to clean up our own act.
Raise Your Hand
Raise your hand if you’re one of the “87 percent of American women age eighteen to sixty-four [who] have been harassed by a male stranger.” It happened to me last night at a dinner put on by the conference I’m attending.
A waiter leaned over my shoulder to take my plate and said, “Let me get that, sweetie.” I’m a middle-aged granny with an advanced college degree. He’s waiting tables.
I see his ‘some-might-think-it’s-innocent-sounding’ term as harassment—a microaggression in today’s terms. As he moved around the table I heard him murmur endearments to each female—but not the six men. He remained silent while removing their plates.
Men who use endearments with women that aren’t their wife or girlfriend do so to ‘keep women in their place’—whether it’s the waiter in a hotel or the man occupying the White House. That’s misogyny at worst and blatant sexism at best.
And it’s not o.k. I shouldn’t have to deal with it, nor should my daughters, or students, or any other woman in the world.
Men might throw up their hands in despair, wondering how in the world they should relate to women in the workplace, on the sidewalk, or at the pulpit. I suggest that every man memorize the answers to the Rock Test. It helps clear things up.
Yes, we can treat each other as equals and work together for the good of humankind. It takes relearning, reframing, and grace during the process.
Who Shouldn’t Read this Book?
People with closed minds probably shouldn’t read the book. It will just make you mad and argumentative and raise your blood pressure. You’ll dig deeper into your trench and cover yourself with the satisfaction that you aren’t one of THOSE people.
People who believe that microaggressions don’t exist and that they haven’t a racist or sexist cell in their body probably shouldn’t read the book. After all, all the evidence in the world won’t budge their self-concepts.
People who have a problem with a little swearing, probably shouldn’t read the book. Personally, I prefer to read my books (especially ones that have a Christian bent) with G-rated language. But I’ll set aside my prudish proclivities and delve into a PG book. After all, every writer knows that a well-placed cuss word might help an author get her point across better. The value of the content far outweighs the mild expletives.
People who believe everything they read probably shouldn’t read the book. All books come along with the author’s biases and views on the things they research. There are a few things in the book that I’ll revisit and study on my own.
People who think discussing ideas can ruin friendships probably shouldn’t read this book. We don’t have to agree with our friend’s ideas to remain friends. Furthermore, our friends’ ideas help shape and inform us so that we can do better. (And if you only hang out with people who are just like you, you’re missing out on an awful lot).
Who am I kidding? I think everyone should read the book. Ask a friend or two to join you. Use the discussion questions at the end of each chapter to start honest conversations. All those bad ‘isms’ haven’t gone away. The world still struggles because of them. It’s time to invite everyone to the table and see what we can do.
In order to avoid walking away from the table with a savior complex though, we must listen, ask questions, and learn to empower others. We must admit that some of us have privilege* and some don’t—and that we aren’t entitled to that privilege.How did I miss this book when it came out? Why you shouldn't read Resist and Persist by @iRreverin #racism #patriarchy #socialjustice Click To Tweet
I don’t think those who have privilege should feel guilty about having it—rather, they should ask themselves how they can leverage that privilege to empower those who don’t share the privilege.
*The complexity of the whole concept of ‘white privilege’ makes it a difficult topic to discuss. Are some people privileged because of their skin color? Or because of their socioeconomic status? Perhaps a combination of the two.
I found these two videos helpful.
I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.