Are evangelical women missing from public life? At the Christianity Today blog her.meneutics, Katelyn Beaty makes a list of evangelicals influential in public life, and finds it one-sided:

pastors Rick Warren and Tim Keller

political leaders Joshua DuBois, Richard Land, Jim Wallis, and Frank Page

conservative pundits James Dobson and Chuck Colson

apologists Dinesh D'Souza and Lee Strobel

the hard-to-categorize Richard Mouw and Joel C. Hunter

But when it came to women on the same list, they came up short. Beth Moore, Anne Graham Lotz and Joyce Meyer, but they're all influential within the church instead of outside it. 

Interesting. I can think of female Religious Right leaders — Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum), Wendy Wright (Concerned Women for America — but their influence doesn't nearly rise to the level of the men on this list. A commenter reluctantly suggested Sarah Palin. I suppose, but she's a politician, not someone influencing political thought like Richard Land or Jim Wallis. All the female Christian authors I can think of seem to have more of an audience within the church than outside it.

That's what's interesting — women have more influence inside the church than outside it. Why is this? My guess is that the evangelical church accepts women in the role of spiritual counselors because of the lingering Victorian idea that women are gentler, more spiritual and just all around more naturally virtuous than men. They're good at Bible studies and exhorting people to live good lives. … But (so the idea goes) they should do it privately, not publicly since women's sphere is in the home. Not in the pulpit and not in the public square. Also (so they say) women deal with emotions and not reason. It's a way of putting women on a pedestal but also limiting their role, their development, and especially men's development, too. There's a reason women are more religious than men — men think that religion is just for women.

This theory of evangelical gender relations explains so much about the church to me, and this seems to be another example of it.

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Alisa Harris

0 Responses to Women’s role: Not politics but prayer?

  1. Anna says:

    The only person I can think of maybe is Joni Erikson Tada, who isn’t really that prominent anymore.

  2. Alisa says:

    Joni Eareckson Tada still has influence just inside the church.

  3. Andrew Tatum says:

    Nancy Pearcy and Phyllis Tickle – not to mention Lauren Winner – are some of the most influential women in public life. All of them – in one way or another – are connected to “evangelicalism.”

  4. Alisa says:

    Nancy Pearcey I love. She’s brilliant and thoughtful, but she’s actually a perfect example of evangelical sexism in that she did Chuck Colson’s writing for him for two years before he gave her any credit. Then she continued to do the bulk of his writing while he got the bulk of the credit. The book she wrote on her own is far superior to the one they wrote together, which I would interpret as an indication that he wasn’t letting her live up to her potential as a writer and thinker. She deserves far more recognition and respect than she gets.

    I haven’t heard of Phyllis Tickle, although I looked her up and she looks interesting. Lauren Winner may have an audience outside the church (I’m not really sure) but still …. compare her influence to the men on the list and it pales.

  5. Alisa says:

    Also, incidentally, I first read this theory of evangelical gender relations in Nancy Pearcey’s book.

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