Is Wonder Woman a Good Example of Biblical Womanhood?

It has come to my attention in recent weeks that some people are pointing to the latest incarnation of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman as a role model not only for females in general, but for Christian females in particular. Her selflessness and compassion are admirable Christian virtues, it is said. Her bravery in the face of evil is emblematic of true womanly strength. Her willingness to save humanity, even though it is completely undeserving, is much in line with the actions of Jesus Christ. Some have gone so far as to claim that the filmmakers clearly meant to make a Christological statement.

I read all of this and rolled my eyes internally, for it seemed a whole lot of hoopla over a comic book film that is only considered great in comparison to the long string of uninspired and vapid sequels put out by Hollywood in recent years, all of which seem to rake in exorbitant sums at the box office despite getting terrible reviews. I do not speak from ignorance. My husband is the kind of man who will line up for any film that takes place in the Marvel or DC universe, and though I manage to skip most of these outings, my love for him requires me to attend at least a couple times a year. My goal is to choose whichever film seems either most original or least objectionable, and this summer that movie was Wonder Woman.

Unlike some of my female compatriots, I did not drive to the cinema anticipating greatness. The character of Wonder Woman has always been, in my estimation, a mixed blessing. It is a bit hard to square the notion that she is a feminist icon with the fact that her costume is hardly different from many S&M getups, whip and all. One might also object to the fact that being a strong female is equated with physical violence, or that Wonder Woman has been subjected in some manifestations to being yet another one of Batman’s boy toys, or that her obvious hotness seems intended to attract male viewers rather than female ones. All I was expecting from this movie is that it would be mildly entertaining, and it managed to clear that low bar. It was nowhere near as bad as some of the superhero films I’ve been forced to endure, but neither would I rank it among the very best. (I believe that The Dark Knight is the gold standard, even if it suffers from a disappointing final act.)

After seeing this movie, my Twitter feed continued to light up with all sorts of laudatory statements about how fabulous it is. Some were speaking merely in terms of its entertainment quality, but there was also the inevitable slew of articles from those who constantly seek out Christ in pop culture. A few of these writers made some decent points, and I don’t begrudge them delving into the shallow end of the pool once in a while. However, there were just as many essays that verged on the utterly ridiculous. Part of me wanted to craft a response, but I said to myself, “No, Amy. If you write about Wonder Woman, you’ll just be perpetuating the very trend that you hate. You’ll be giving in to the temptation of click bait.” Yes, I knew that writing about Wonder Woman would probably attract far more readers than my carefully thought out examinations of various Scripture passages. That, in my mind, was further proof of the shallowness of evangelical culture and how female writers will never be afforded the same level of respect as men. Well, I was not about to succumb to temptation. I left Wonder Woman alone.

Then a wonderful Christian author, a female most averse to controversies of any kind, alerted me to some concerns that have been voiced. It seems that there are other people equally troubled by the fact that Wonder Woman is now considered the standard for biblical womanhood. This female I will not name, who is awesome with awesome sauce on top, had no time to respond to the problem, and in any case it is truly beneath her. Such a task is better suited to a nobody like myself. Therefore, I agreed to write about Wonder Woman, and in doing so I ensured that at least on this occasion, my husband would read my blog. Unfortunately, I will not manage to follow this author’s suggestion that I limit the number of words in my articles. Apologies in advance. Continue reading

What We Can Learn about Biblical Authority from Jane Eyre

Jane saying her evening prayers, from an 1847 illustration by F.H. Townsend

I love Jane Eyre. It’s one of the few novels that I have revisited after completing the final pages. Whether it is a landmark achievement in the history of feminism or a subtle attempt to reinforce Victorian marital ideals, I cannot say, though I am more inclined toward the former. In any case, what I find most interesting about Charlotte Brontë’s lone novel of note is its spiritual content. This is ironic, since many of the critics in her own day called it an affront to religion. Yet while it may have been an affront to bad religion, I do not think we can say that about religion in general.

There are important lessons to be drawn from the pages of Jane Eyre in regard to personal guilt, sexual morality, forgiveness, and cultural Christianity vs. true Christianity. It is not a book that simply condemns religion or trumpets it unthinkingly. There are four main villains in this work, if you don’t count the crazy woman in the attic, who in any case couldn’t really help herself. The first is Jane’s aunt, Mrs. Reed, whose religion is nominal at best. Then there is Mr. Brocklehurst, a fervently religious man who is all law and no gospel. Next, we have Blanche Ingraham, Jane’s romantic rival, who worships nothing but herself. The last villain is often not seen as a villain: St. John Rivers, the cleric who is hell-bent on saving souls but has walled off his own emotions to the point that he could hardly know much about Christ.

The heroes of Jane Eyre also have a variety of religious beliefs. The most obviously good person in the story is Jane’s childhood friend, Helen, who is raised up as a model of true Christianity, showing compassion to those around her while also treasuring the Bible. Jane herself has a strong moral core, no doubt influenced by her Christian upbringing. Even so, you are unlikely to hear her spouting complex doctrines. She is more interested to see how those around her, who nearly all espouse Christian beliefs, actually put those beliefs into practice. Then there is the anti-hero Mr. Rochester, who has committed numerous sins and yet acknowledges his sinfulness and longs for redemption. In this, the novel seems to suggest that he is more Christian than many of the “Christians”. Continue reading

Treating People as more than Just Bodies

Photo by Laurin Guadiana

A couple days ago, I talked about the biblical basis for defining a person as both body and soul, and how our ultimate hope is not to become a disembodied spirit, but rather to spend eternity in a glorified body. We are not only our bodies, but our bodies are certainly an integral part of who we are. Having laid down that scriptural foundation, I would like to now discuss how human relationships can break apart when we fail to properly apply these principles.

If the ancient Greeks tended to view people as souls trapped in a shell, the modern world has a tendency to view everything as material. If you are a true materialist (in the philosophical sense), you do not believe that souls exist. Therefore, a human being really is nothing more than their body, and all of their thoughts and feelings are the result of electrical signals that they cannot truly control. This has led some atheists, such as Sam Harris, to write treatises declaring that free will does not exist.

This is not the Christian view. We believe that the human will is under the influence of the sinful nature, and that without the power of the Spirit, humans are unable to perform true acts of righteousness or choose to follow God. However, we certainly do believe that all humans have a soul…even if that soul is dead in sin. No human being is only a body. We affirm the real nature of the physical world while also acknowledging the existence of the supernatural.

Despite this belief, many Christians join right in with non-Christians in acting as if people do not have souls. What do I mean by this? Just look at how we tend to treat people whom we look down on for any number of reasons: we often deemphasize their mental and spiritual nature and view them only in terms of their body. Continue reading

What is my Novel About? Here’s the Answer.

Image of Empress Matilda (far right) from a 12th century manuscript

These days, I tend to get the same question time after time. “What is your novel about?” People ask this question after they learn that I have written a novel. If they were to ask it before receiving that piece of information, I would consider them rather odd…or maybe psychic. In any case, it’s a natural sort of inquiry. They no doubt wish to know if I am the sort of person that writes Stephen King-esque horror novels (in which case they should avoid me), or one who writes teenage chick lit (in which case they should also avoid me), or even one that writes science fiction epics (which in my husband’s case would make me his ideal woman).

Alas, I write none of these things, and thank God for that! The only one I might attempt some day is the sci fi epic, and then only because my husband is already begging me. No, my domain is that of historical fiction, if indeed I can refer to it as “my domain”. It must be noted that it was never my life ambition to write novels, and I did not receive the level of academic and/or professional training that is common among many of those hoping to break into that industry. I am simply a person who wrote essays and academic papers, only to one day be seized by a particular story…and then wait a few years before doing anything about it.

Some people know they want to write a novel, so they go searching for a story to tell or create one on their own. That was not my experience. It all started back around the time I graduated from college (the first time). I developed an interest in family history and decided that I would attempt to trace my bloodline back as far as I could in any and all directions. I was rather fortunate in this enterprise, for a few relatives had made a start at gathering records in years past. This allowed me to quickly discover some of my heritage, though in the cases where I had less information at the start, the task was that much more difficult. Nevertheless I progressed to the point where I was able to identify approximately 2,000 of my ancestors.

Early on I realized that a few of these lines were particularly interesting. When you reach a certain point in history, the record keeping is just not as good. Births, marriages, and deaths were somewhat forgotten unless the people in question were very rich. For this reason, I have had difficulty tracing many lines back past the 16th century. Lucky for me, some of my ancestors were rather important people, and as a result, I was able to follow the line not 100 years, nor even 500 years, but well over 1,000 years into the past.

One day, I was sitting in my dorm room in London (for I was a student at King’s College at that time) and came across a rather interesting name: Empress Matilda. She was clearly a member of the English royal line, but I was quite confused as to why she should be called “empress”, as that is not a normal title for British monarchs. (Technically, Queen Victoria did have herself styled Empress of India.) I quickly went to that source of all questionable wisdom – Wikipedia – and what I read there ended up changing my life. Continue reading

What are You Building with that Social Media Account?

Image by Wikipedia user Ibrahim.ID

Although I have had a Twitter account for years, I only started using it in earnest a few months ago. I quickly connected with other people in the Christian blogosphere, particularly those in the Reformed tradition. Some of what I saw encouraged me. People were making use of this social media platform to communicate gospel truth. Yet, a good percentage of what I saw also discouraged me.

Twitter has confirmed what I already suspected about the human condition: people are often more drawn to the negative than the positive, regardless of what they claim. I was aware of this phenomenon, having a background in political science and knowing full well that the same voters who claim to hate negative campaign ads are heavily influenced by them. This principle seems to hold true with social media. A criticism, however legitimate, attracts more attention than, for instance, a kindly reminder to love your neighbor as yourself. To give an example, of all the articles I have posted in recent months proclaiming the virtues of reconciliation and redeemed suffering, the ones that received the most page views by far were the two that criticized Donald Trump and a third that leveled a very mild criticism (if you could even call it that) at two individuals connected with The Gospel Coalition.

The negative is certainly attracting a lot of attention in our world today, even among Christians. I have been disappointed (though once again not at all surprised) to see many people using their social media accounts not so much to build up the body of Christ, but simply to critique any little thing in that body that annoys them. Now, I am not stuck in some utopian fantasy. There are a lot of things wrong in this world, and there is a lot of stupid out there! We need to confront the stupid. However, my problem is not so much with the fact that people are using social media to criticize, but rather that they seem to be focusing on criticism almost exclusively or going about it in an unnecessarily offensive or careless manner. Continue reading

France Just Dodged a Bullet…Or Did It?

France has just elected its youngest president in history by an overwhelming margin. Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen with nearly two-thirds of the vote in the presidential runoff, a margin of victory that would make most politicians exceedingly jealous. (Here I must exclude certain autocrats who would surely say, “Only 66%? I win 99% of the vote!”) This has caused many observers, including myself, to breathe a sigh of relief.

While he may be to the left of Bernie Sanders on the political spectrum, Macron is much more in the realm of normality than Le Pen, who many have branded the French version of Donald Trump. Her National Front Party is anti-immigrant, anti-EU, anti-globalization, and pretty much anti- anything that isn’t as French as a baguette wrapped in a croissant. She also seems to be opposed to people wearing religious symbols in the public square and has a worrying lack of policy know-how that became clear at times during the campaign. Continue reading

The Speeding up of History

Woodcut of a printing press operation by Jost Amman, circa 1568

I can’t help observing that things seem to be moving a good deal faster today than they ever did in previous eras. My grandmother was born in 1932. Her childhood home had no flushable toilets, no heating or air conditioning, no car, no television, no radio, and certainly no computer. I scarcely need to mention that at the time she was born penicillin had yet to be discovered, “the pill” had not been legalized, the idea of sending a man into space was ridiculous, atomic science was in its infancy, there was no social safety net in the U.S., and the populations of such countries as China and India were only 1/3 of what they are now.

Universities were mostly for the rich or abnormal. In contrast, it wasn’t at all strange for people to drop out of school well before the age of eighteen. The Catholic Church still forbade saying Mass in anything but Latin, and Islam had barely touched the West. The entire continent of Africa was under the control of more powerful European nations. In the U.S., African-Americans were treated as slightly less than human and Japanese-Americans were being placed in internment camps. This is to say nothing of the enormous upheavals in the global economy and popular culture. The world, in short, was a vastly different place in 1932. Continue reading

Humble Rebellion: Living as Ambassadors of Christ

“The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer” by Jean Léon Gérôme, circa 1863-83

This is the latest in a series of essays on the topic of reconciliation. You can find links to the previous articles at the bottom of this page.

How can we expect to reconcile with a world that hates us, or what are we in relation to that great mass of humanity? Should we simply abandon the world to its fate? We are fools if we think we can do so, for the world will always find us in the end. More to the point, we would be rather poor disciples of Jesus Christ, who commanded us to go out into the world making disciples (Matthew 28:19), serving as witnesses to the gospel (Acts 1:8), and living as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).

Sometimes we labor under the mistaken assumption that God is only seeking to reconcile with the Church. On the contrary, God is looking to restore all of creation. (Romans 8:18-25) This entire universe was His good work, and though it has been tainted by sin, it still belongs to Him. When Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God, it was in effect a massive restoration project. However, it was also a rebellion, because in the present age, the earth is under the reign of evil. Therefore, to side with the kingdom of God is to stand against the kingdom of Satan. To live for righteousness is to live in opposition to sin.

When I say God is not looking to reconcile merely with the Church, I am not suggesting that there is some path to lasting reconciliation and salvation outside of the Church or the work of Jesus Christ. I am not advocating something akin to universalism, where every person will have their sins forgiven whether they believe in Christ or not. Rather, I refer to the Church’s role as a witness to the nations. Continue reading

Another Path to Reconciliation?

“Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix, circa 1830

This is the latest in a series of essays on the topic of reconciliation. You can find links to the previous articles at the bottom of this page.

I am about to transition from speaking about reconciliation within the Christian Church to speaking about reconciliation in the world as a whole. In doing so, I am taking not a small step but a massive philosophical leap. Up to this point, I have been arguing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true path to lasting reconciliation. More than that, it places upon us an imperative of reconciliation. Such an argument is easy to make when the majority of people in question agree that the gospel message is both true and important (at least in principle). Once you move into the wider world, where there is no agreement as to the truth of the gospel and few common beliefs of any kind, appealing to Christian principles does not have the same effect.

The world is never going to want to solve problems the gospel way. Why? Because it is really, really hard. Now, when I say “really, really hard”, I don’t mean it in the sense that solving a Rubik’s Cube is hard, or staying upright on skis is hard, or even completing a PhD is hard. I am referring not to complexity, but to gut wrenching sacrifice. The gospel is hard because it requires everything we are. To follow Jesus Christ is to die to self that we might be raised with Him, and when that happens, we cease to be the same person we were previously. The life of a Christian, lived according to the gospel message, is one of continual dying to self. This is the grace of God, but it is costly grace, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote. Continue reading

Bhagat Singh Thind Had His Citizenship Revoked…in 1923

The “Asiatic Barred Zone” instituted by a 1917 act of Congress

The current debate over immigration that is taking place in the United States is certainly nothing new. Much as Americans like to pride themselves on being a “nation of immigrants”, this has never been a particularly easy place to come as a foreigner and start a new life. With each new ethnic and religious group that has landed on these shores, there has been a certain amount of suspicion. I am not saying this to demonize anyone who wants to place any kind of restriction on immigration, but as a way of framing the issue I intend to address.

Way back in 1790, restrictions were put in place that limited just who could become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America (as opposed to those who became citizens by virtue of being born within our borders). The specific groups that caused concern changed over the years. By the beginning of the 20th century, it was mainly Asians who worried Americans. Congress passed a law that restricted many types of immigrants, including “idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane persons…” One wonders what kind of test they employed to measure what constituted an “idiot”, as a good number of persons living in any country on earth at any point in history have surely deserved this label. Yet, the law was more specific in excluding,

…persons who are natives of islands not possessed by the United States adjacent to the Continent of Asia, situate south of the twentieth parallel latitude north, west of the one hundred and sixtieth meridian of longitude east from Greenwich, and north of the tenth parallel of latitude south, or who are natives of any country, province, or dependency situate on the Continent of Asia west of the one hundred and tenth meridian of longitude east from Greenwich and east of the fiftieth meridian of longitude east from Greenwich and south of the fiftieth parallel of latitude north, except that portion of said territory situate between the fiftieth and the sixty-fourth meridians of longitude east from Greenwich and the twenty-fourth and thirty-eighth parallels of latitude north…

Immigration Act of 1917

If you found that confusing – and you undoubtedly did – then let me put it in plain terms for you. This law barred immigrants from any part of Asia except for the Russian Empire, Japan, Korea, and eastern China. This was understandably a problem for many people of Asian descent who were planning on immigrating to the U.S. Continue reading