by Rhoda Janzen
First Edition. 257 pages, Grand Central Publishing, $16
When I read Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, I once again found that the opposite was true. Really I should qualify that statement because I didn't actually read this book in its entirety. Instead, I read the first few pages and then opened the book to a random passage to see if it got any better. It didn't.
The writing itself is the current popular style of writing books like blog posts where the author tries to make you believe that she's your best friend, divulging extremely personal information which should remain, as the term suggests, personal. She also flaunts her PhD as proof that perhaps such an educated woman should not have returned to a conservative church, one that doesn't ordain women.
This is the fateful passage to which I opened:
The issue of women in church leadership had long been a tender spot for me. It was one of the issues that had propelled me away from my church of origin thirty years earlier. In the early 1980s the American Mennonites were engaging the issue, but their pace was much too slow for me. As a young woman I had zero patience for any group who did not instantly and wholeheartedly affirm inclusivity in both governance and practice. At eighteen I thought it was much more important to be right than loving. Go figure. Now, at forty-eight, I think it is much more important to be loving than right. (117)
What I find most compelling is her assumption that she is right. I am well aware of what the apostle Paul had to say about ordaining women (don't) and so I see the biblical precedent for this. If you're going to go to a traditional, conservative church that is what you can expect: adherence to an orthodoxy that has not been corrupted by modern ideologies.
I also see an innate difference between men and women. Does that mean that there isn't a woman in the world who can lead? Of course not. But most women are terrible at it. Then again, most people are terrible leaders. In an age of forced equality, no one really understands what it means to be a leader and what a difficult task leading is. Most people just see the power and the prestige and feel denied their rightful due if they don't get the chance to have that for themselves.
There is one thing that author Rhoda Janzen does get right and that's her insight into premarital sex. This is one of those realizations that doesn't require Christianity in order to be valid and valuable:
And our season of abstinence showed us something that we might not have otherwise seen. We learned directly, experientially, that both of us has misused sex in the past, and that our vision of sex had been blocking our spiritual growth. It's not that we had overvalued sex. It's that we had been using it as a substitute for real intimacy. (154)
I find it interesting that she can see the value in abstinence but not in different roles for different genders. Of course one of these exercises benefits her in ways that she can tangibly experience in the present. The other presumes a wisdom of order that she isn't able to comprehend because it seems to be limiting to her immediate personal experience. And it's also as if all of her "education" has led her to believe that she is much better equipped to understand centuries of theological discourse than her male predecessors which, quite frankly, seems to be the tone of her entire book.