“Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture,” by Anthony Esolen (Regnery Publishing, 2017).
Anthony Esolen is angry. Really angry. Like many other Christians, Esolen, a professor, editor, and prolific author, is disgruntled about the state of our contemporary culture. Perhaps more than most other Christians, he spends a great deal of time and energy looking around for people and groups to blame for it. This is truly unfortunate, for his blame-casting and ranting mar what could have been a wise and helpful piece of writing, as many of his previous writings were before he decided to go down this splenetic path.
There were moments when I actually wondered whether I should recuse myself from reviewing “Out of the Ashes.” I am, you see, a woman who works outside the home, and in Esolen’s view, such wayward and selfish creatures are at the root of many of our culture’s worst problems.
Then I realized my dilemma had resolved itself, for this fact in itself tells you all you need to know about his book.
“Redeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood” by Julie Roys (Nelson Books, 2017).
Julie Roys, host of Moody Radio’s “Up for Debate” program (on which I’ve appeared), focuses exclusively on that thorny topic of gender in her new book. I liked the first half of the book very much, as she describes how she wrestled with Christian views on women’s place in the church and the home, while recognizing the need to heal from some deep wounds that had caused her to fall into depression and codependency. She describes eloquently how she was helped by reading Christopher West’s work on the Theology of the Body (and reminded me that I’m overdue for a reading of it myself). It was this that helped her spot the errors in both the complementarian and egalitarian schools of thought, and more than that, gave her a larger vision of what gender truly means. It’s a vision that I found truly inspiring and thought-provoking.
The second half of the book is not quite as dynamic. Interestingly, as Roys stops wrestling and starts sounding more sure of her views, her writing loses some of its realness and flavor. And she seems to lose sight of the tensions that she recounted so movingly in the first half, when she was talking about the need not only for a recovery of femininity, and an end to the abuse and exploitation of women’s vulnerabilities, but also for a balance between feminine and masculine qualities in every human being. I found myself wishing that she had stayed with and developed those ideas some more. Most of this second half sounded like any number of other Christian books dealing with masculine and feminine roles, whereas that first half had me expecting more nuance and thoughtfulness.
However, Roys’ sincere efforts to think through these tough questions seriously leads this reader to take her book seriously, unlike Esolen’s, which was more interested in laying down the law for women (and everyone else) than considering us as actual people. Those efforts of Roys’ make “Redeeming the Feminine Soul” worth reading and engaging with.
Image courtesy of fstop123 at iStock by Getty Images. Review copies courtesy of the respective publishers.