A debut Christian memoir intertwines a faith narrative and a motherhood account.
The Bible is very much concerned with bodies, Shanks observes in her stirring, compassionate book, and a great majority of those are male. The Christian God is male; he sends his son for the salvation of humanity; and there is no escaping the ingrained sexism of the Old and New Testaments. Thanks to Christian dominance of Western society for the past 2,000 years, that sexism has entered into the very genetic makeup of the culture, setting up echoes of the Bible’s conception of women as secondary beings and the weaker sex, and combining those notions with all the modern trappings of patriarchal assumptions. “God values my body,” Shanks wryly observes, “if it is covered. If it is thin. If it is chaste. If it is flawless. If it is blemish-free. If it is pretty. If it is healthy. If it is young. If it is fair-skinned.” In 2018, she notes, only 11 percent of church congregations are headed by women, a number that’s scarcely changed since 1998. The stories that Christians hear from their earliest childhoods reinforce such disparities: With only a few exceptions, the heroes and villains of the Bible are all men, with women—and their bodies—most often relegated to the simplistic roles of temptress, goddess, or chattel. Shanks herself was raised in these traditions as a self-described “corn-fed Midwestern girl,” and the purpose of her book is to offer a counter-narrative to Christianity’s view of womanhood and motherhood. “God is bigger than the boxes we shove God into,” she writes, “and God created us bigger than the boxes we get shoved into.” Shanks argues that Christians miss out on the deeper meaning of their own Scripture by ignoring the feminine language and imagery present throughout. But it’s her running account of her own experiences as a mother that forms the book’s most compelling narrative thread. Female Christians—and particularly Christian mothers —should find these pages captivating.
A moving and insightful Christian chronicle.