The Toast is doing a series about people’s conversion stories, and so far I’ve read about two women, one a former atheist, who found faith in God as an adult. I wrote to this woman on Twitter, and told her how I’d wished a series like this had been around when I was 15, how I needed more women’s thoughts on faith.
Shortly after, a man (I think) explained that a group of reviewers of C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, would not have known Lewis’s gender, and that the Christmas story is a woman’s story, and he was in his words, “trying to grasp what a “woman’s story’ actually means.” So here’s my explanation, or at least my attempt at one.
Let me first begin by saying I’m a huge C.S. Lewis fan. I’ve read Screwtape Letters several times, The Problem of Pain got me through my first depression, I’ve given The Great Divorce and Mere Christianity as gifts, The Chronicles of Narnia may be the most watched series of movies in our home, and I’ve even watched Shadowlands, and cried when Joy, Lewis’s wife, got cancer. I’m not a fan of much, but I’m a fan of Lewis’s.
So the mansplaining on my Twitter account regarding Lewis’s gender fluidity, didn’t come as a surprise to me, but to deny Lewis’s manhood playing a role in his opportunity to voice his expositions on faith, would be an incomplete analysis. Men wrote the Bible, and for 2,000 years, men have predominantly authored Christian literature. In Paul’s day, this made sense. Women were not educated or literate. But now women are over 50 percent of the population on college campuses and more women have graduate degrees than men. Not to mention we have stories to tell, expositions of our own, stories that are unique to women, yet that men need to hear so they can understand what a “woman’s story” means.
And I do believe Lewis would be promoting women’s stories today. The reason? In the 21st century, women’s voices are not heard in the church. On the whole, women are not pastors, even if they fulfill the role of ministry, unless they’re in a third world country, and then they can preach and teach men. But in the United States, they’re not called pastors, not in the mainstream churches. Only rarely are women ordained, they’re not elders or deacons – they don’t decide, unless they do so quietly through their husbands.
Being raised by males – as an equal – I was never told I couldn’t have a voice in my home. So naturally, when I became a Christian I didn’t think there was anything wrong with voicing my opinions in church. That’s when I got the first slap of countenance. “You should seek to have a quiet spirit like Shenake’s wife,” one pastor said.
I was ashamed…for many years. Here I was new to the faith and trying to fit into the culture of the church and I was all wrong, or was I? When I read Leah Libresco and Nicole Cliff’s stories on the Toast, what stood out to me was the message of NO SHAME. Libresco’s apologetics, and Cliff’s wit, are not being wasted, and my untidy story, rough around the edges, sometimes lacking in tact, but full of heart, is being used. We don’t conform to other people.
When we come to faith in Christ, it’s a surrendering to a truth we’ve come to accept, that God is in control, and we are not. The term dying to ourselves means no longer seeing the world as only physical and tangible, but as spiritual. It’s far out for some, that there’s a realm going on all around us that we cannot see or touch, but the moment we have faith, we’re opened up to this world. And in this world, I believe there is no gender. Yet in this physical world, things like gender, and race, and even stature, cannot be denied.They’re part of our stories, and to understand each other, the whole story must be told. It’s possible that we understand God better when understand each other.
So what do you think? What does a “Woman’s story” mean? Is the gender/race/class of the author even important in literature? Do we need to see ourselves? Please fill in the gaps and further the conversation.