Belief, Books, Culture & Race, Women

If Jesus was brown and non-Western, shouldn’t some of our other heroes be too?


In search of some role models of faith for my children, I recently began looking for biographies of Christians through history. I found several highly recommended series:

  • Encounter the Saints (Seton)
  • Hero Tales (Bethany House)
  • Men and Women of Faith (Bethany House)
  • Men of Faith (Bethany House)
  • Torchlighters
  • Christian Heroes: Then & Now (YWAM)

As I researched more deeply into these series, several themes stood out:

The Good

  • There are some AMAZING  people out there. The people featured in these titles were take-your-breath-away inspiring. Their examples of sacrifice, passion, commitment, and faithfulness are models for everyone. We need more people who live like they did.
  • We need to spend time hearing stories of those who have gone before us. While many lived in different times, the challenges they faced put our modern sensibilities to shame. Learning about their lives has more to teach us about our own journeys than obsessing over Justin Bieber.

The Needs-Improved

  • The majority of ‘heroes’ were white western men. Looking through the titles, I noticed a significant lack of diversity amongst the characters featured. Most, it seemed, were white men. The current state of the book publishing industry affirms the notion that history tells the story of the ones with the most power. Out of curiosity, I compiled the titles and researched each of the characters for gender, race, nationality, and marital status. Check out some of the results:

weneeddiversebooks (1)

  • Women need more equal representation. While the female figure was higher than I expected, when incorporating marital status, only 6 of the 49 (12%) women featured as the main character of a biography were married. In contrast, 70 out of 102 (69%) men were married. Only five of the biographies I reviewed had titles about men and women together. Who were the women behind the heroes? Why weren’t they featured as prominently as the men since their lives surely included equal levels of sacrifice and commitment? 
  • The Christian world extends far beyond the US, UK, and Europe. China is poised to become the world’s largest Christian country in 15 years. The church is exploding in Africa and the middle east. There is much to learn from the faithful followers in other nations and our faith would be deepened to know more of their stories.

Why does it matter?

Our children need to see that people from any background can follow God. If Revelations tells us that people from every tribe and nation will be in heaven, surely we can write a few books about them here on earth. The message behind the message when the majority of ‘heroes’ are white men is that this status is held only for a privileged few. Until our stories reflect this truth, children will subconsciously absorb this message.

Women need to see themselves as full participants in God’s story. We were not created to hide behind men but to walk beside them as equals. When we are relegated to the woman-behind-the-man, it becomes easy to shirk our own responsibility to heed God’s call on our lives, husband or not.

We need more diverse books. A popular Twitter hashtag, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement applies in equal measure (if not more) to the Christian publishing industry. Let’s dig deep into our history and publish the stories of our brothers and sisters who have followed Christ around the world, from places of low status and persecution rather than just privilege and power. Perhaps it would give us a deeper understanding of Christ’s call to make all things new.

Books, Women

Wonder Women: Navigating the challenges of Motherhood, Career and Identity | a book review

The Barna Group recently published a new book series called “Frames“, a series of short but meaningful issues people face in modern society. Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity packs its 84 small pages full of rich statistics and ideas for women to explore.  Their logo of ‘read less, know more’ proves quite accurate.

Since I’m forever sorting out how to prioritize and balance my life responsibilities, I appreciated the pause to sit with Kate Harris, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture, as she reflected more deeply on questions of how women in all stages and phases of life explore ideas like vocation, creativity, constraints, and community.

Wonder Women was a quick read (I finished it on the couch while my kids watched two episodes of Ninjago) that left me with a significant amount of both data and ideas to process.  Since I’m a visual learner, I especially enjoyed all the visual data included from the Barna group.  I also appreciated how the book addresses women in a wide variety of situations – single, married, mothers, professionals – without demonizing any of them. One of the most jarring statistics was the high percentage of how many women feel persistently lonely and long for connection with friends.

It left me thinking what a rich experience it would be to read and discuss Wonder Women with a small group of other women to learn how they work out not only the logistics, but the internal details of their lives.  It provides a thoughtful, do-able starting point for women seeking wisdom and wholeness while balancing so many things, and would beat a women’s ministry tea party any day in my book.

Be sure to check out Barna’s other titles in this series on hot topics like adoption, peace, information overload, career, church and education.

Families, Children & Marriage

In between the mommy wars

Junia Project Branding

While writing has been a bit slow, it is happening occasionally.  Visit me today at a new site on gender and equality, The Junia Project, where I explore what in-the-office and at-home mamas might have in common.

“Being on neither side of the mommy wars, I find myself wishing that working and stay-at-home moms could engage in a dialog that would allow each of us space to grow into our new identities…”