SHOULD WOMEN PREACH?

A Christian educator makes the case for female preachers in this debut spiritual study.
Spurred by remarks from fellow Christians that his church’s female pastor transgresses biblical teachings, Mancini deconstructs two often-cited passages from the Bible that directly address women and prophesy. In context, the Timothy passage describes the domestic sphere, with verses that call for women to “learn in silence” and not “to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man’s authority.” Mancini speculates that to learn in silence means to learn with humility, rather than literal muteness or conjugal submission. He indicates that the warning against usurping reflexively refers to men, because neither partner should dominate the other. Instead, he surmises, men and women should work together as one, as in the image they were made in the form of Adam and Eve, subject to only the Lord’s teachings. The second verse Mancini examines revolves around two selections from Corinthians. Mancini places these verses in a historical context, arguing the admonishment of women speaking in church specifically chastises Corinthian women. Citing biblical evidence that Corinthian women were rebuked for being immodest, he suggests they may have also been especially gossipy, distracting from the church’s focus on spiritual matters. He encourages male and female followers to keep the church’s focus on Christ and to leave outside interests at the sanctuary door. This somewhat flimsy reasoning characterizes the book’s conclusions, but Mancini makes clear his earnest support of women as Christian leaders. In addition to adding a measure of cadence, underlined phrases from quoted verses emphasize key diction that Mancini uses to construct his case. That rhythm, coupled with Mancini’s use of second person, give passages a tone closer to a preacher’s sermon than an academic’s explication. His folksy asides about women’s inane chattiness—“let’s face it, if we get a bunch of ladies together and they start giving their opinions, it can turn into ugliness and confusion”—and men’s tendency to dismiss women’s contributions do little to encourage a feminist approach to Christianity, but this slim volume may start the conversation.
An enthusiastic, if not erudite, inquisition of biblical support for women’s leadership in the church. 

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490804583

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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