What We’re Reading This Month: October 2022

By Beth Allison Barr (Brazos Press, 2021)

Baylor University history professor and wife of a pastor, Beth Allison Barr opens The Making of Biblical Womanhood with its own history of silence. Her husband was a youth pastor until he got tangled up with his church’s leadership on women in ministry. Her firing opened a floodgate of emotion for Barr, and she channeled it into this book.

Barr writes as a practicing Baptist to an evangelical audience, drawing on her training as a medieval historian to explore the origins of Christian patriarchy, a system older than Christianity. Evidence of this, argues Barr, can be found in the world literature as early as The Epic of Gilgamesh. This patriarchal heritage continues in Christianity. The question for many Christians is whether “Christian patriarchy” is inherently better. Barr argues that Christian patriarchy is just an unleavened patriarchy of gospel values.

Catholics are not Barr’s intended audience, but his research is invaluable to American Catholics who have seen evangelical influences seep into the church. Arguing that New Testament “domestic codes” had little influence on the medieval understanding of marriage, Barr points to Catholic writers such as John Mirk and Peter Abelard who taught that a woman’s first allegiance was not to her husband but to Christ. The covenant, writes Mirk, reminds a woman that “she will love God above all else, then her husband.”

Barr’s book ends with a deeply personal story of how Christian patriarchy has harmed him. Although hesitant to outline a way forward, she calls on Christian women to stand together, to find their voice. “Jesus liberated women a long time ago,” she writes. “Isn’t it finally time for evangelical Christians to do the same? Isn’t it time for Catholics to do it too?

—Michelle Arnold


By Victoria Loorz (Broadleaf Books, 2021)

In Exodus, God calls Moses, present in front of a burning bush, to take off his sandals because he is on holy ground (3:5). Reading Victoria Loorz nature churchI experienced a similar call to find God in the midst of creation and step into an unknown and uncomfortable realm.

Although I haven’t read much ecotheology, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home) opened my eyes to the need to move from the model of “masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters” to one of speaking the “language of brotherhood and beauty in our relationship with the world “. nature church helped me see our relationship with God as inseparable from our relationship with neighbor and creation. Loorz advocates replacing the “kingdom” paradigm of inequality with a “kin-dom” model of reciprocity.

nature church is a story of the vocation of Loorz. As a child, Loorz connected to God in nature, but institutional religion dragged her into more established conventional ways. After following the institutional route to ministry, she experienced a radical call to form a community of faith not only in nature but in nature, embracing an integration of spirituality and nature that also promoted activism.

For those who might wonder what a non-Catholic promoting an ostensibly unorthodox approach to spirituality might offer, Loorz references numerous Catholic saints, including Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, John of the Cross, and Isaac the Syrian. It was instructive to discover several prominent voices supporting Loorz’s vision. Whether you love ecospirituality or know little about it, nature church is a great resource to meet God who embraces us in creation.

—Matt Kappadakunnel


Briefly noted:

Analog Christian: Cultivating Contentment, Resilience, and Wisdom in the Digital Age

By Jay Y. Kim (InterVarsity Press, 2022)

Kim explores what it means to be a Christian in the digital age, discussing a theological framework for creating rest in a world full of distractions.

A hill of beans: the grace of everyday problems

By Valerie Schultz (Liturgical Press, 2022)

Through her endearing and evocative memoirs, Schultz reminds readers to value the little things in life.

By Nick Ripatrazone (Fortress Press, 2022)

Ripatrazone captures the spiritual aspects of the internet by exploring McLuhan’s role in fostering spirituality in the age of technology.

This article also appeared in the October 2022 issue of american catholic (Vol. 87, No. 10, page 39). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Barry F. Howard