Cultivating a Life of Character: Judges/Ruth

I did this Bible study with my small group last year and had a few thoughts on this type of themed women’s Bible study.

First off, I appreciate the effort that goes into rendering such a book as Judges palatable to the modern Christian. Some of the subject matter is intensely graphic, unpleasant reading, and the author doesn’t ignore that or try to change what Scripture says. It is important to study all of Scripture, not just the parts we like and are comfortable with.

But I don’t think I will ever do another Elizabeth George study, and here is why. There has long been a market for what I’ll call the pink fluffy approach to women’s ministry, but I think its days are almost done (thank the Lord). It is patronizing and phony to say things like, “O my dear beloved sister and woman after God’s own heart, don’t you feel inspired to love God more after reading this?” (Okay, so that’s not a direct quote but it encapsulates the tone, especially of the little blurb at the end of each lesson.)

It’s sappy and makes the reader feel as if she’s back in preschool listening to the teacher enunciate every word carefully with a huge artificial smile plastered on. Instead of spurring me on to love God more, it annoyed and distracted me. Don’t talk down to your readers. Just because we’re women doesn’t mean we need everything dumbed down and decked out in pink bows.

Another example of this approach is what George calls “pink passages” in the Bible, passages that she claims speak specially to women. Creating a pink lens through which to view Scripture is problematic for several reasons, not least of which is the implicit notion that some parts of the Bible have more value for me personally than others, and that God’s Word is really all about me.

This female-centric approach is so self absorbed. There are parts of Scripture that are indeed directly addressed to women, but I reject a distinction that elevates such passages above others. It is all beneficial, even if the practical application is just to humbly take in what God wrote and trust that He knows best what to put in His Word. In its way, learning that kind of submission is just as profound as the most practical, “relevant” passage we can turn up. I’m quite feminine myself, but I don’t care for the cutesy approach. I don’t need or want the Bible served up to me in special “pink passages.”

I want to be humble in my criticism and acknowledge that there is nothing terribly off-kilter here theologically and that Elizabeth George is a fairly popular author whose work has blessed many women over the years. It just doesn’t go deep enough, and the way it is presented is a huge turnoff. (Perhaps part of the reason for the pink fluffy overload in this particular study is the graphic subject matter, hmm.) I just think we need to reevaluate the materials we are offering to women, the image we are projecting of what type of woman pleases God. Does she have to be gushy and frilly and goody-goody?

Just give me biblical teaching — by that I mean sound exegesis, intelligent discussion, and simple sincerity — you can keep the A Woman After God’s Own Heart® brand, thanks. (  )

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