Katie’s Bookshelf– LadyLike by Rebekah Curtis and Rosie Adle
Welcome back to Katie’s Bookshelf!
Life’s busy, really too busy to waste time on bad books– and The Sisters of Katie Luther are here to help! Feel free to eavesdrop on Sandra Ostapowich, Holly Scheer, Ellie Corrow,and our special guest reviewers, Bethany Kilcrease, Tabitha Moldenhauer, and Annie Riley, as we use the technology available to regularly e-chat about books we’ve chosen to read and discuss together. These reviews are informal, probably a little snarky, but always informative, and designed to help you determine what is worth your consideration. Pull up a chair, a cup of tea, or something else if you prefer, and help yourself to our conclusions as we explore what is on offer.
Our book this time is the new one by sisters Rosie Adle and Rebekah Curtis, LadyLike: Living Biblically. When asked about themselves, they just wanted you to know that they are baptized in Christ (that’s the kind of bio we like!). This book was recently released by Concordia Publishing House and is a joint effort of the sisters, with the contributions of each merged into a unified whole. The sisters chose not to identify who wrote which chapters, likewise, our comments this time are merged and not really identifiable by individuals either. (Seriously, we all worked on an anonymous GoogleDoc together. We don’t even know who wrote what. Any given sentence was probably written and edited by multiple people.) Therefore, it goes without saying, we all stand by the review as a whole.
We decided to handle this book slightly differently than we have the few other books we’ve reviewed, because we’re new enough to this that we’re still finding what we feel works best. But more importantly, this is a book that has been been met with immediate and widespread acclaim from some LCMS circles. Each of us read the book separately and had individual concerns about the tone and content. These concerns increased after we saw any criticism of the book met with extreme defensiveness from LadyLike supporters (including some supporters who hadn’t even read the book!). Upon hearing from other women who were afraid to say anything publicly — that this book had them reconsidering everything from their initial rejection of feminism to their place within our Church — we decided LadyLike needed to have a different treatment than our previous bird’s eye overviews. Any criticism here is in no way a personal attack on Rose and Rebekah; we count them as sisters in Christ, and we greatly appreciate all of their efforts. We simply seek to express our concerns about the book to potential readers.
First, we’d like to commend Curtis and Adle for taking on this project. It’s about time there was an accessible book for Lutheran women, by Lutheran women, that takes on meaty theological topics. Thank you. There are a lot of ladies today (ourselves included), who have been frustrated with the lack of resources for thinking women available from a Lutheran perspective, and even more so by the generically Evangelical options at the nearest Christian bookstore.
The format for LadyLike is interesting: it’s divided up into many very short chapters that mostly stand-alone, but are loosely grouped together thematically. This means the busy person who can only get uninterrupted reading time in short spurts is almost guaranteed the chance to absorb a complete thought from the authors before the quiet is broken. This is particularly fitting and appropriate for busy mothers. There are quite a few themes and chapters that we appreciated (Bridezilla of Christ; Put Your Name On It; Here Comes the Bride; The Fallen Ones; Widows and the Redemption; Hey Mister Pastor Man; Marthas, Marthas; Eight, Nine, Ten – Last, but not Least; Actually, God Might Give You More Than You Can Handle; Sophia, Sophronia, and Babylon; Being Special Is Special!; Mirror, Mirror; When Life Gives you Lemonade; A Righteous Life).
This book consistently extols motherhood and unpaid work in the home, an emphasis often lacking in writing for women. Additionally, there is an essay about being single, whether never married or widowed, that is both compassionately written and reminds the reader that whatever gifts given are good because they come from our gracious Giver, whether we particularly want that gift or not. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the authors vigorously argue against women’s ordination, but their approach is compelling, and that chapter should be widely-read. We also appreciated their willingness to call out the God-will-not-give-you-anything-you-can’t-handle bogus theology. The insight in “Mirror Mirror,” that hating your looks and idolizing them are flip sides of the same coin, is helpful.
If we engaged every chapter in the book (as we originally envisioned) we’d be here all day, and this review would be 10x longer than it already is. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of essays in the book that are very well worth your time.
One of the biggest points of contention we have is that, from the outset, the PR machine and the book set the stage with false alternative after false alternative. Right in chapter 1, the two alternatives to be believed are listed, “Patriarchy is the earthly arrangement God ordained” (Kindle Locations 135-136) or “…patriarchy [is] the root of all evil and the reason we live in a sexist world filled with harassment, stereotypical expectations of women, and unequal pay for equal work,” (Kindle Locations 155-156). Where does that leave the readers who believe in the Scriptural arrangement of headship and submission between husband and wife in marriage, but don’t think that any and all women should be under the authority of all men? Or of the reader who does not believe that patriarchy is the root of all evil and the reason we live in a sexist world, because, as a good Lutheran, she knows that sin is the source of evil in the world? Since she’s not an advocate of patriarchy as laid out in the book, she must be a feminist, who entirely rejects patriarchy, laying the blame for all manner of evil upon it, right?
It should be understood that frequently in the LCMS, feminism — especially as defined (or not) in LadyLike — is always entirely and necessarily bad. Evil, in fact. Curtis even said in her Issues, Etc. interview (a comment that won soundbite of the week) that she doesn’t believe anything good has ever come out of feminism (see also “Products of Our Time”). This approach fails to make distinctions between eras,waves, approaches, and goals of feminism throughout history. Is the feminism we’re to reject the same feminism that earned the right for women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, the ability for women to legally own property in their own names, better healthcare for women, better working conditions in sweatshops frequently populated by women (and children!), or the second-wave feminism of Gloria Steinem (“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”) and Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues), or third-wave feminism which actually respects women choosing to leave careers (or not start them in the first place) to stay home and raise their own children? Or are we to reject all these things?
In addition to the false alternatives presented in the book there’s issues with argument by assertion. For example, the book assumes that separate gendered spheres are built into the order of creation, but never actually argues the case. Curtis and Adle appear to assume that the type of gender arrangements popularized by sit-coms in the 1950s originated in the Garden of Eden and remained essentially unchanged until feminism and the Sexual Revolution reared their ugly heads.
In the historical narrative laid out by the authors, prior to the advent of feminism in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century (“Products of Our Time”), women lived happy, satisfied lives around the home and hearth as they raised large families — large (“The More, the Merrier?”), because wives both stoically yielded to their husbands’ marital appetites at all times and spurned even the thought of birth control (“The Sixth Commandment: Not Just for Men”). Men, on the other hand, worked outside the home through their vocations as “breadwinners” (“Out of Order”). Men occupied the public sphere while women led quiet but fulfilling lives in the private sphere (“Not Fair”). Yes, there was sin; husbands abused wives and wives disrespected husbands (“Submission Impossible”), but at least society operated according to the patriarchal order of creation (“Out of Order”), until feminism threw everything into chaos (“Products of Our Times”).
Unfortunately, this is a highly romanticized image of gender relations that really only flourished among the middle and upper classes from about 1850 to 1950. Prior to the industrial revolution and related developments, both men and women contributed to the family economy. Financial reality also meant that most couples married primarily for economic reasons, and large families meant more workers to help in the family business. The growth of industrial capitalism eventually enabled middle class men to financially support their families by working outside the home, without the help of their wives. In fact, the confinement of wives to the domestic sphere was a marker of upward mobility, since it indicated that a man was able to support his family on his own. Of course, the ideal of separate gendered spheres was never a possibility for the lower, working class, where women had to supplement their husband’s incomes even after industrialization, often performing or assisting domestic work in the homes of middle- and upper-class women.
Moving on from history, the authors use the recurring example of pie-eating throughout the book (“The Pie-Eating Contest”) as an analogy for “doing or having it all” as a woman, which means tending to a husband and at least one child, keeping home, and (most importantly for this analogy) holding down a job. According to LadyLike, once women make a decision to eat the whole pie (because who wouldn’t? Pie is delicious!) they must eat the whole pie no matter what or they lose the contest. It’s all or nothing again, even though those aren’t the only real alternatives available, not to mention that it’s a crass generalization of the supposed feminist ideal. There’s no contest. Adults are quite capable of moderating the activities they take on and can decide to stop eating when full or satisfied, and even re-evaluate the idea of eating the whole thing. Or perhaps women may wisely decide from the outset to have a reasonable allotment of pie each day. They write, “The brainiest of women may well be called upon to give up a promotion, a degree, a paycheck, or just the freedom to go to the store whenever because some miserable person would be less miserable if she were more available.” Absolutely. Most women, whether working outside the home or not, and even feminist or not, regularly have to balance the needs of their families with everybody’s wants, and attempt to reach a workable compromise. Yet, this chapter gleefully pits working moms against stay-at-home moms.
Ironically, they also write, “Pursuing and monetizing one’s interests is a totally unnecessary dessert after a healthy meal of basic physical wellness and met needs, and just eating icing will eventually make us every bit as sick as never cleaning the toilets.” (Kindle Locations 341-342). Dessert is always unnecessary, that’s why it’s called “dessert!” That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for a lady to enjoy dessert, without forcing herself to devour an entire pie in one sitting, or to stuff her face with platefuls of icing. Just like Adle and Curtis, other women are free to pursue and monetize their interests without inevitably falling prey (just as they have not) to some ambiguous “pressure” to do it all.
The format with each author writing her own essays separately, and not identifying who wrote which, has some downfalls — namely that there are some internal contradictions from one chapter to the next. Sometimes it seems as though Adle and Curtis brainstormed a list of topics, and then each wrote their own perspective on them. According to one chapter in LadyLike (“Brains for Women”), the only women who should be in this “office of celibate” are those who are what contemporary society would call “asexual,” who have no desire for sexual intimacy. “There are some people who have no desire to engage in sexual intimacy. There is nothing wrong with them; ‘It is good for them to remain single,’ (1 Corinthians 7:8), and that is all that needs to be said on the topic,” (Kindle Locations 2507-2508). According to this chapter, the only women who may freely pursue an education and work outside the home are those in the “churchly office of celibate.” We were a bit confused by this idea, because Lutherans don’t actually have such a churchly office.
Yet another chapter (“Marriage: Not Actually the Most Christianest Thing Ever”), separates virginity from celibacy and does not speak of it in terms of holy orders. Rather, this chapter, understands celibate women as those who simply haven’t been given the vocation of being someone’s wife. “Failing to recognize celibacy as a gift muddles it in a kind of pseudo-mysticism that says, ‘If I want to be married and I’m not, I don’t have the gift of celibacy,’ as if celibacy were not a situation of fact. It is not a lack of calling or position. Celibacy is a positive, substantive gift and, like all true gifts, it is selected by the Giver, not the receiver,” (Kindle Locations 1001-1004). Here, here! These women’s service to their neighbors and church are encouraged, because they don’t have a husband or family who would take priority over such work. So while we appreciate this explanation of the celibate/single life, it does illustrate the difference in tone and contradictory nature of some chapters.
The tone of the book is at times biting and sarcastic. While sarcasm is a tool, in the written word to a broad audience, the truth of the words can be lost because of the way it was communicated. It can even come across as just plain bitter. While we’re sure neither Adle nor Curtis are unhappy with their vocations and life choices, there’s a lot of, “This is the way God ordered the world, so grit your teeth and figure out how to be content with your lot as a woman, and move on with your day,” sentiment expressed when they write things like, “This is what the devil would have for all of our loved ones. He wants us to think it is better for us to ‘use our brains’ or even ‘serve the Church’ than wipe down the toilets of those no-good jerks we live with, not to mention whatever other nasty things they need done,” (Kindle Locations 337-339). Of course, life is never all sweetness and light, and one may resentfully (and frequently!) think such things to herself. But to put such thoughts in a book, repeatedly, makes a reader wonder about whether contentment has been achieved.
In this line of thought, one seriously problematic chapter (“To My Friend Who Has No Babies Today”) was previously published on the blog, He Remembers the Barren. In this chapter, Curtis writes, “I sin your sins. When I see all the world’s human trash with its ill-bred and empirically worthless children, I seethe to think of the pearls cast before them while your clean neck and graceful wrists and industrious fingers are bare. When another teenager turns up pregnant, I want to rage at God for what I can only see as unimaginable injustice and just plain poor planning. I want to make it right. I want to distribute the world’s children sensibly by my own self-righteous fiat. I want YOU, you smart, talented, dutiful, faithful Christian person, to be a mother of nations. NOT THEM,” (Kindle Locations 1081-1085). This can be understood as an attempt to empathize with women suffering from infertility and a hyperbolic expression of sinfully angry indignation at the injustice of unmarried, pregnant teens, while married women long for babies, and the sinful covetousness that may often accompany it.
While there have been quite a few rave reviews, we’ve also heard from multiple women who were upset, insulted, and deeply hurt over some of the ideas put forth in some of the essays. These women had, until reading LadyLike, considered themselves confessional, traditional-minded (certainly not feminist!), faithful Lutherans. They found their educations, life situations, working status, etc. called (or at least strongly hinted as) sinful and were unnecessarily burdened by a false Law that God does not enunciate in Scripture.
Would we recommend and for whom?
This book is well suited to reading with a group of sisters who can discuss issues as they arise and delve into what the Bible and history say about femininity. The authors themselves have said this is not a scholarly work. The book is contradictory in places. While some of the essays (as noted above) are very well done, some struggle to rise above opinion pieces. If a sardonic tone isn’t your thing, this may not be a book for you. We respect Curtis and Adle and we respect what they’ve written. This review has been critical in part because of that respect– the ideas presented were worth engaging and not just with blind praise. None of these comments have been intended as personal.
Photo credit: “Bookshelves” licensed under CC
It’s unfortunate that six reviewers were only able to find–in the whole book–three vague reasons for reading it but then spent 12 paragraphs explaining why not to.
Perhaps a more helpful or seemingly honest approach would have been simply so say, “This book debunks feminism, but you see, we’ve all been raised in a time and culture that causes us to find that offensive, and thus we find the book a tough pill to swallow. (This just in: Just because LCMS women don’t believe in women’s ordination doesn’t mean we don’t still buy into feminist ideals, and that’s something all LCMS women need to work through with our pastors and families.) But that’s the point of Rosie’s and Rebekah’s writing: To turn us to Jesus and not ourselves; to encourage us to piety and humility; to pray that we would repent; to relearn what it means to be a godly, Lutheran woman. And we can definitely get behind that!”
Well-balanced and fair review of this book, which I have not, as yet, read. I’m a little put off by the “Living Biblically” subtitle, which I understand was a later editorial addition. The implication here is that what is in Bible is also prescriptive, which can be problematic. “Biblical culture” reflects its middle eastern context and times. The danger inherent in labeling something a “biblical” way of life is to anachronistically impose our agendas and issues on a text that was written centuries and even millennia before us.
We noted that there are many essays well worth a reader’s time– Bridezilla of Christ; Put Your Name On It; Here Comes the Bride; The Fallen Ones; Widows and the Redemption; Hey Mister Pastor Man; Marthas, Marthas; Eight, Nine, Ten – Last, but not Least; Actually, God Might Give You More Than You Can Handle; Sophia, Sophronia, and Babylon; Being Special Is Special!; Mirror, Mirror; When Life Gives you Lemonade; A Righteous Life.
I was surprised to see that it appeared under the byline of the whole blog. Usually, that indicates that the piece is the opinion of the all the blog administrators if not all the contributors. Since it is unsigned, am I to assume that it is the opinion of all the blog contributors and admins? If not, it really should be signed.
I have been listening to the authors’ interviews on Issues, Etc. and was a bit surprised by this review, since I find myself nodding in agreement over and over to the points they presented. I intend to start reading the book soon and will be curious to see how the review compares to my reactions to the book. As a fan of Linda Bartlett’s “The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity; Compromised Purity,” I am pleased to find other Lutheran women debunking the culture of feminism that has crept into our church. I have to echo Pastor Wilken’s question, was this review the consensus of the group?
I appreciated this review as a wife, mother, academic, and a confessional Lutheran.
It has been a while since I read it, but I recall liking Frederica Mathewes-Green’s book of essays entitled “Gender” (unfortunately now out of print).
Dr. Jack Kilcrease
@Todd Wilken #4
Isn’t the issue of who wrote rather besides the point? I haven’t read the book and therefore cannot say anything about what they say about the content. If I haven’t read something or studied it, I suspend judgment. In any case, who cares who wrote it? I’d be much more interested in reading the response of someone who has read the book to the reviewer’s points. I’m afraid that if we get side tracked on the issue of the identity of reviewer, then we will just end up debating the review from the perspective of the logical fallacy of “poisoning the well.”
The review does start with a list of specific authors in the first paragraph — this is the same format that other book reviews have been in. (Example: https://katieluthersisters.org/2015/05/katies-bookshelf-searching-for-sunday-by-rachel-held-evans-review/). However, I guess that still might not answer your question if you want to know if the review is endorsed by all regular bloggers. I’m sure one of the editors will weigh in.
@K.M. I was curious about the book you mentioned. You can order used copies on Amazon. I just ordered a copy. Thanks for the suggestion. As for the authorship of the review, you are right Dr. Kilcrease, I really don’t care about the authorship, was just interested in what some of the other regular writers to this site might think of the book.
The other authors at the site have so far not weighed in, although they’re welcome to either agree or disagree with all or some of this review.
As a part-time contributor, I would hope the readers of this post understand that these are the opinions of the reviewers mentioned at the top of this post. I was not involved in the writing of this post in any way, and I assume that the others who are not listed were not involved either.
My own thoughts are still percolating… soon to come.
@Todd Wilken #4
It is not the opinion of all contributors.
“Of course, life is never all sweetness and light, and one may resentfully (and frequently!) think such things to herself. But to put such thoughts in a book, repeatedly, makes a reader wonder about whether contentment has been achieved.”
Of course it hasn’t! I’m not sure much more needs to be said about this… but I assume the authors would say the same. The point is not to acheive a feeling of contentment or perfect submission to God’s will in this life- but to “sin boldly” in doing our vocations anyway, despite our mixed motives.
And secondly, the “highly problematic” quote above seems to be read uncharitably, in my opinion. The context of the quote itself seems very clearly to be self-depreciating, and intended as sympathy towards the barren woman and a spelling-out of one’s own sinful thoughts.
“Feel free to eavesdrop on Sandra Ostapowich, Holly Scheer, Ellie Corrow,and our special guest reviewers, Bethany Kilcrease, Tabitha Moldenhauer, and Annie Riley, as we use the technology available to regularly e-chat about books we’ve chosen to read and discuss together.”
The sisters and their friends signed it… lol.
I have not read this book. I admit that. I do like how the review was constructed. The “Good” and the “Bad” sections were given their own headers; not exactly needed if the reader of the review was paying attention, but a good delineation. I speak fluent sarcasm and snark but I don’t think I need that area of my life augmented by reading more sarcasm and snark. Thank you for taking the time to objectively scour this book so that a thorough review could be published.
After thinking about it a bit, I am disturbed about the subtitle, “Living Biblically.” The phrase seems to turn a gospel statement into a Law statement. Granted two words, but seems like a works righteous type of statement.
I am also disturbed by the quote from the chapter regarding infertility and unplanned teenaged pregnancy. If this is how the writer truly feels, even after time for reflection, it shows to me a very bitter and condemning person. Teenage pregnancy can be tragic, or a gift, but it is not the place of the author of that chapter to judge.
Having read the book and spoken extensively with the authors I can say that the book describes a view of Christian womanhood best exemplified by… Katie Luther.
I read and enjoyed the book. I would not classify myself as a thinking Lutheran woman, but more of a feeling Lutheran woman. For this reason, being somewhat familiar with the authors, I was afraid the book might be too scholarly for me (over my head). Instead, I found it to be more like Goldilocks porridge. Not too hot. Not too cold. But just right. My overall impression and takeaway from the book echoes what was said in the first comment.
“But that’s the point of Rosie’s and Rebekah’s writing: To turn us to Jesus and not ourselves; to encourage us to piety and humility; to pray that we would repent; to relearn what it means to be a godly, Lutheran woman. And we can definitely get behind that!”
@Todd Wilken #17
Thumbs up! And I would venture to guess that she never achieved contentment scrubbing toilets either . . . even if they were Luther’s. :)
interesting review. I had no idea there was a third wave of feminism! I have yet to encounter this one, or perhaps those adhering to this have distanced themselves from the term “feminism” in general. The first wave belonged to my Grandmother’s generation. As a Gen Xer I have only ever known the second wave, which I do everything in my power to distance myself from. If there’s a wave #3 out there, it has a long way to go to overcome #2, imo. I’m not quite finished with Ladylike yet, but this review makes it sound like the author was truly thinking the people she cleaned up after were jerks. I did not get that impression at all. I understood that excerpt as speaking from what 2nd wave feminists would *have* us thinking; resentment resentment, resentment. The 2nd wave feminists took the worthy ideals of wave #1 injected a HUGE dose of resentment and repackaged it for mass market. I’ve understood the book to be offering a counter to the “you can have it all, be it all, do it all. No wait.. you *deserve* it all, AND you’d better be happy about it” perspective that I, as a Gen Xer, have been fed all my life. Furthermore, while the review addresses some potential overgeneralizations about women’s roles in history, it seems to go off the rails in the other direction (or perhaps I haven’t gotten to the authors discussing women stoically yielding to their husbands sexual appetites yet). The reality of historical women’s roles has as much to do with a rural/agrarian lifestyle as it does about gender. American women accounted for less than 20% of the workforce prior to the 20th century. “The domestic sphere” historically would be more like today’s homesteading or ranching, which is quite labor intensive and included livestock care and animal husbandry that few modern household’s contend with. I don’t get the impression the Proverbs 31 wife was withering under a patriarchal society, but I’m digressing. I imagine the Sisters of Katie conversation about this read was interesting! IMO the mark of a good book is when it can spur thoughtful conversation without acquiescing to the point no one disagrees with the author (or each other), and I *don’t* think that makes it bad.
This is a perfect example of how Lutherans eat their own. Baptists would never treat each other this way. This review is neither fair or honest.
Quite honestly, I have not read anything as good as Lady Like in a very long time. In fact, there is simply nothing else written for Lutheran women that even compares. Lady Like reminds me a lot of the late Elisabeth Elliot’s, “Let Me Be a Woman.”
As the reviewers note, the book touches on a number of important topics that have been largely neglected in our circles, and yes, I’m sure plenty of us (men and women, both) have a deal of second-wave feminist baggage to unload. That’s precisely why I was excited when I heard about the book, pre-release, but also why I was disappointed upon reading it. I was hoping for something encouraging that I could share unhesitatingly with my friends who haven’t had the benefit of sound teaching on these issues, something that would teach the beauty of Christ’s service through our womanly vocations and the comfort of our Lord’s promises in our life lived under the cross.
That’s in all there somewhere, but I cannot get past the tone in which it is written. I don’t expect televangelist-worthy winsomeness (and, frankly, would gag a little if that’s what I were given), but instead I found exhausting snark and sarcasm. Yes, life can be inconvenient and gross. I have two toddlers and a stomach full of first-trimester hormones…trust me, I get it. But I can’t imagine speaking of my life and the family I’ve been given in such belittling and–yes, I’ll use the word–bitter terms. (Not even followed by a happy little winky-face or a “J/K!”) Beyond that issue of taste (and a simple taste issue it may be, I don’t know), for my sisters in Christ who haven’t already been exposed to sound teaching, this sneering attitude is not remotely likely to open their ears. The shallowly ahistorical, almost repristinatory bits about women’s roles in the pre-feminist past and the total denial of *any* positive results from feminism likewise cast the otherwise helpful points in a decidedly questionable light. Even your average conservative Lutheran lady is going to have trouble with the implication that personal property ownership and the franchise are ill-gotten goods, and not because she is so blindly enmeshed in modern feminism, but because those are genuinely nice things to have in this world.
I have not read the book but listened to all the interviews on Issues,etc. During the first two interviews, I too thought the tone in their voices was one of sarcasm. As I listened to interviews three and four, the tone seemed to soften a little or I just got familiar with their voices.
I was surprised to learn in this review that the sisters believe that only those ‘in the churchly office of celibate’ should pursue an education. Rev. Wilken repeatedly announced that Rebekah Curtis received a masters degree from Concordia Seminary. What a wonderful opportunity she had! I guess I just don’t get the statement about education or that nothing about the feminist movement is worthwhile. I could be wrong but I don’t believe Rebekah could have received a degree from the seminary if it weren’t for the women’s movement of the ’60’s and ’70’s!
Sarcasm is not kind or, for that matter, ladylike, but it is unfortunately the preferred communication style among many confessional Lutherans.
Eric ex Cathedra
@ “Sisters” of Katie Luther who wrote this artice:
“If you are Katie Luther’s sisters, do the deeds of Katie. But as it is, you are seeking to kill this book’s message, a book that has told you the truth, which the authors heard from the Scripture; this Katie Luther did not do. You are doing the deeds of your feminist sisters.”
I also did not contribute to this post. I have read the book and plan to do a review on my own blog as soon as time permits. Mine will be quite favorable.
By the way, Pastor Wilken, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed those interviews.
Rev. Brandt Hoffman
Who is Eric ex Cathedra?
A quote directly from the review, “The tone of the book is at times biting and sarcastic. While sarcasm is a tool, in the written word to a broad audience, the truth of the words can be lost because of the way it was communicated. It can even come across as just plain bitter.”
After reading the comments made by certain contributors of previous SKL articles, I can only conclude that biting sarcasm written to a “broad audience” can only be employed responsibly by the authors and editors of SKL.
When I do an interview, my producer gives me a show sheet with the topic, guest’s name and guest information. Rebekah Curtis’ show sheet has two points on it: Pastors’ wife and mother of seven, and Masters’ degree from Concordia Seminary. I read the sheet going into and coming out of breaks. Counting the show introduction, I read some or all the sheet eight times in an hour-long interview. That’s why I “repeatedly announced” her degree.
In other words, I was doing my job. TW
I have a question of the reviewers. How is Scripture used in the book? Is it cited often? Are the scriptures used to carry the points, or does it seem to work more like a philosophical reaction to modern society?
If it flows from the Scriptures, I would think it would stand well. If it doesn’t, I’m guessing that would be problematic.
@Todd Wilken #29
I know you were doing your job and you do a very fine one at that. I really thought the interviews were interesting with Rebekah and Rose. I’m a faithful listener to Issues,etc. I shouldn’t have phrased my sentence the way I did. I’m sorry that it came across in a negative way. The reviewers who wrote this post pointed out a few contradictions in the book. I was just pointing out another one. Again my sincere apologies to you.
I have not read this book, but I have listened to some of the Issues, Etc material, and have also read portions that have been available in varying places online. I want to thank the authors of this review for taking the initiative to critique what seems to be a major oversight of this book, that is the conflation of “feminism” into one single, evil entity. Are there plenty of problems with the feminist movement historically and at the present time? Sure. Are there many good and just social benefits that feminism has brought and continues to bring? Absolutely. As a lifelong LCMS Lutheran who is setting out to write a doctoral dissertation which utilizes, according to the prospectus I’ve just defended, both historicist and feminist methodologies, I’m grateful and relieved to read that there are women in the synod speaking up against the false “feminist” dichotomy (since feminism is in actuality a complicated and complex thing), as well as the assumptions about gender traits and roles the authors apparently endorse throughout this book.
No offense taken. I was just explaining why I mentioned he degree as often as I did.
With respect, I do think you are wrong when you write “I don’t believe Rebekah could have received a degree from the seminary if it weren’t for the women’s movement of the ’60’s and ’70’s!” As you know, feminism insists on taking credit for everything women have achieved in the last 50 years. Feminism tells women, “You couldn’t have done it without feminism.” I’m sure you would agree that is really a very low view of a woman’s abilities. The dirty little secret of feminism is that it doesn’t hold women in high regard, it only holds feminists women in high regard. TW
The authors never claimed LadyLike was a treatise on the history of feminism. To go on and on (ad nauseam) in your criticism that the book is ahistorical regarding feminism is unfair.
Speaking of playing fair, I have a question for you ladies. I don’t read Sisters of KL, so I honestly don’t know the answer, but do you always bring in other writers to do a book review? Or are you just giving Adle and Curtis special treatment? From this viewpoint, it seems like you deliberately invited people who have spent a whole lot of their time on the internet being very vocal and critical of the book. This sure looks like a mean girls’ bathroom beating to me.
I think the reason this book has upset some people is because if Curtis and Adle are right, then it changes everything. EVERYTHING. You ladies keep discussing the overall tone of the book. I recall in my own life, I usually resort to getting high and mighty about tone when it’s someone I don’t like saying something true I don’t want to hear. You ladies seem to care a whole lot about this book. Seems to me you wouldn’t care so much if you thought it wasn’t true.
@Monique Miller #34
“Seems to me you wouldn’t care so much if you thought it wasn’t true.”
If you read the review charitably, rather than as a “mean girls’ bathroom beating” (honestly, what a horrible way to cast an honest disagreement), and actually take at face value the reviewers statements of agreement and regard for the authors, as well as the many ways in which the reviewer (and subsequent commenters, myself included) appreciated the book, the answer to your implied question becomes obvious. Yes, the bulk of what they said is true, and I haven’t seen anyone within confessional Lutheran circles arguing otherwise. It’s an important topic that deserves to be discussed, and the book is a good start. Reviews and discussions of the book are a great way to continue that discussion, if not shut down with cries of, “Feminism!” at every sign of possible disagreement.
It is completely legitimate to take issue with the tone in which a book is written, as that is one of the fundamental elements of communication. (Try your argument the next time one of your kids gets snotty: Sorry, mom, if you don’t like it, you must not want to hear what he’s saying.) I think the attitude gets in the way of the message, and that’s a shame. There are any number of people to whom I would have recommended this book, were that tone not genuinely off-putting, in parts. I don’t want to give them something that makes accepting good teaching harder.
I appreciated the thoughtful and balanced tone of this review. Thank you to the authors.
Deac. E. Mietzner
I thought this was a very strange review. While some fair points are made in both “Good” and “Bad” sections, the whole thing was almost beside the point after the “Format Explanation”, which relied on the idea that “some people are saying/hurt by/etc.”, which most of us know are absolutely dreaded words commonly heard in the church foyer. The review then repeats this at the end, only to leave me feeling like I’ve read something vaguely gossipy or slanderous. I was also disappointed to see comments written by Curtis on other blogs and the SKL blog not only brought up, but linked to as some sort of evidence of deficit of character. I wondered for a minute if I was reading a book review or accidentally seeing some sort of infighting I’m just not privy to.
Finally, the criticism of the format of LL didn’t seem right to me. I’ve enjoyed reading the book as shorter pieces much like I’ve recently enjoyed Tullian Tchividjian’s book “One Way Love”, which uses a similar scheme (that said, I bet I have a much shorter attention span than any of the SKL authors).
Before I go all the way into TLDR territory with this comment, I’ll say that it is good to see a book written by intelligent, faithful Lutheran women being discussed by similarly intelligent, faithful ones. Thanks for that. I’d be willing to go another SKL review, especially if the format is reconsidered.
I appreciate the women on all sides of this discussion demonstrating how to disagree in a thoughtful, open, and honest way. Hopefully further dialogue will be spurred on by this. While I am much more critical of feminism than the authors (I’m definitely in the camp that sees it as evil) and wouldn’t agree with everything written here I really appreciated the balanced yet still quite forceful critique offered of LadyLike. I hope to see continued frank discussion by Confessional Lutherans willing to put in the time, effort, and stick their necks out on such matters.
I know Pastor Cwirla and some of the other men commenting on this have written and spoken about the topics addressed here in the past from a male point of view. And this interview he did with Issues, Etc. is quite good: //issuesetc.org/2013/10/17/2-the-vocations-of-husbands-and-wives-pr-bill-cwirla-101713/ But it lacks the kind of practicality and down-to-earth frankness seen in this Sisters of Katie Luther review, the LadyLike book itself, and the Biblical Womanhood interview series on Issues, Etc: //issuesetc.org/ladylike/
I don’t mean to denigrate or ignore the importance of the role of men in the church. But so often that’s about all one gets when discussing what it is to be a man from a Christian perspective. Almost as if every man was a called and ordained pastor or on the road to becoming one.
Frequently discussions of male/female relations, the vocations of husband and wife, the order of creation, and so on are entirely about where one stands in relation to feminism and end up being battles in the larger “Mommy Wars”. It’d be nice to see a serious discussion of biblical masculinity (or manhood) that went beyond opposition to female ordination and a call for men to love their wives as Christ loves the church. If anyone reading this would care to point me to some resources that might accomplish what I’m describing, I’d be grateful.
I think this review could have included a section on complicating factors. Such factors could include the existence of different definitions and understandings of both feminism and the history of women’s roles. But, more than that, I think book reviews are best when they address the goal of the book and whether or not the book met that goal. If Ladylike’s goal is to start a conversation, it has. If Ladylike’s goal is to offer a few more perspectives, then hasn’t it?
And, not to be picky, but two authors can say different things in a book. That isn’t inconsistency but co-writing.
@Shanna White #20</a
What she said. I haven't read the book yet but I have started to listen to the IE interviews, which I've enjoyed. I do look forward to reading it and I do appreciate the varying viewpoints from the authors and the reviewers.
Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the deaconess program predate the feminist movement?
The authors will be in attendance, signing copies of the book at the Issues, Etc. Making the Case Conference today and tomorrow at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Collinsville, IL.
The very first comment is an ad hominem. It addresses none of the arguments made in the review. Instead, it makes assumptions about why the review was written. That’s unfortunate, and I expect better.
Additionally the very first paragraph of the review says who wrote it. It strikes me as a bit odd that several folks ask in the comment stream something that they would already know if they’d read that paragraph.
Reading through the rest of the comments, I see a lot of additional ad hominems. While ad hominems can be fun and entertaining, they’re not arguments.
Oh, Charles, you’re being so logicky. :)
Wow. Since you flamed it so bad I have to read it now. It must be good.
@Todd Wilken #17
That’s probably why they flamed it.
Just because women who “consider themselves Confessional” take offense at a book and reevaluate their stance doesn’t mean *the book* is bad or wrong. Maybe they need to be offended, maybe they need to reevaluate. In fact, later on in the review the authors of the review seem to say “Adults are quite capable of moderating the activities they take on and can decide to stop eating when full or satisfied, and even re-evaluate the idea of eating the whole thing.”
Speaking of being self contradictory…
Also, it would have been nice if they wouldn’t have criticized the authors for using different definitions of terms without giving definitions themselves so that we know what exactly they were criticizing.
I wasn’t going to read the book initially, even after listening to the Issues Etc broadcasts. They were good, but my intellect is quite happily stimulated by books about theology written by men, thank you very much (I actually prefer them). However, I have no confidence that this review accurately reflects the book and I just have to see for myself how far the SKL gaggle is reaching now in order justify some of their attitudes.
Amen to that! Thank you Diane!
“God>Man>Woman>animals” and “We women know our place and we know its a good one because it’s the one the Lord lovingly and thoughtfully designed for us.”
Anybody else have a problem with this? Maybe it has already been discussed at length and I missed it. If so please accept my apologies.
With the exception of Christ, there is no man “greater than” any woman! We are all precious and equally valued by our Father in heaven. We do have different roles, talents, gifts etc. but there is not a hierarchy in humanity (save Jesus). How about God>Men/Women>animals.
Eric ex Cathedra
@Andrea Elliott #47
Not sure the Apostle Peter would support you, given 1 Peter 3:5-6 (at the surrounding context). Most Christians seem to have a big problem with the fact that “equality” coram deo (before God) with respect to REDEMPTION does not imply “equality” coram hominibus (before man), or even coram deo in other respects. It seems most people, including those identifying as confessionals, are fighting very hard to pound a square peg into a round hole.
@Andrea Elliott #47
The order of creation is upheld by Lutheran teaching. I strongly doubt the ladies who produced this review, despite their difference with Curtis and Adle, would argue with that. But maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe I am just having a bad day (stupid SCOTUS) but really, it’s just a review. Their OPINION–not a personal attack on the authors. Read the book to form your own opinion, and compare your opinion to the reviews you have read. Sheesh.
@Deac. E. Mietzner #37
I was discussing this review with a friend and was bothered too by the link to past blog comments by Mrs. Curtis. I see from scanning this review today that that link has been removed since the original publishing if this blog. I do think that there should be an editors note or comment appearing somewhere on the blog now to explain why the post has been edited.
The link was removed. You’re free to email us if you have further questions.
As you should have. It was a low blow. I do feel however, that if a post is edited in any way after it’s been published that it should be noted.
@Eric ex Cathedra #48
@Lance Brown #49
So let me get this straight. You both think that women are of lesser value in this temporal life than men?! And you think it’s because Adam was created first? Might I remind you that God said Adam NEEDED a companion, and then put Adam in a deep sleep, and took her from his side. I think this story is less about Adam’s domination over Eve and more a foreshadowing of the deep sleep of the death of Christ and His holy bride, the Church, flowing from His side. Furthermore, if I have to accept that I am of lesser value as a woman in order to fully subscribe to our Lutheran confessions, then by all means count me out! I’ll take my chances!
@Andrea Elliott #54
1) I do not think women are of lesser value. On this point I would encourage you to read this piece by one of the contributors to this review:
‘The Fine China of Creation’ by Deaconess Ellie Corrow
2) I do not think anyone should be dominating anybody else. On this point I would point you to another posting right here on the Sisters of Katie Luther website by another of the contributors to this review:
‘Biblical Submission’ by Sandra Ostapowich
3) I think the differences between the authors of LadyLike and the authors of this review are in no small part about concern by the latter that the way some things are presented in the book might bring grief to women such as yourself due to a sardonic tone and legalistic approach. But I don’t think they’re all that far apart on the substance. And some of the tension here is obviously because the ladies on both sides are strong-willed, smart, and have more traits in common than either camp would most likely want to acknowledge. The parallels between Curtis and Corrow, between Ostapowich and Adle, are quite striking. At least, to me they are.
4) I think adults can discuss such matters without resorting to the kind of cheap melodrama you’re falling into. It plays into negative stereotypes about women and about how Lutherans eat their own. I’ve been guilty too. We can do better.
@Lance Brown #55
I wasn’t going to comment any more, but can’t resist:) I wish some of the people who are promoting this book would actually address some of the criticisms that it has received. Please, someone address what I see as the main criticism of the book – to quote Pastor Brown ‘a sardonic tone and legalistic approach’. How did the sardonic tone and legalistic approach pass editorial muster at CPH?
I’m definitely not a pastor. And I can’t speak to how CPH operate. For what it’s worth I suspect they would respond that this was meant to be irreverent and accessible to the masses and to even intentionally poke at some comfortable sinners. But I can say for sure that while I enjoy much of the writing here by the Sisters of Katie Luther, I don’t agree with everything (from time to time that includes both substance and presentation). And I also enjoy reading, commenting on, and discussing pieces from The Federalist. A site where Mollie Hemingway is one of the big wigs and many LCMS members, clergy and laity, are contributors (including some of the ladies who write here for SKL). However, I have disagreed with things published there (including by LCMS authors). Personally, I prefer when people write and say what they really think and aren’t afraid to engage with those who differ. Iron sharpening iron and all that :) And I really appreciate the frankness of both the book and this review. As I noted earlier, I’d love to see more of this.
I would urge you to take your concerns and questions about editorial decisions related to this book directly to the LadyLike Facebook page: //www.facebook.com/LadyLikings , the LadyLike blog: //ladylikings.blogspot.com/ , and to CPH: //www.cph.org/t-about-contact.aspx Mrs. Curtis, in particular, has been writing on their blog to address some of the questions, challenges and disagreements raised by others.
@Lance Brown #55
You are right on the melodrama. I apologize for that. I hold my faith very dear, but can loose my nerve form time to time. It is great that we are able to discuss freely with each other, and hope I have not caused additional pain. I will try to read the suggested material, though it may take some time. However, the symbol “>” means “greater than.” I just don’t know what to do with that? “>, <, or =" are used for the expressed purpose of defining value. It is so belittling and has no place in humanity. I am not so concerned about the approach Curtis and Adle take in their book. The book should reflect them and their personalities. Where I take issue is in the assertion of inequality between men and women expressed in LadyLike. I'm glad you view women with the same value as yourself, but what troubles me is that our synodical Pres. gave this book a very positive review. I have met him on multiple occasions and in various settings. He is not stuck-up, full of himself, or a wall flower. He likes to have a good time and encourages it (within Biblical boundaries). He is positive and quite funny, but very sincere about his leadership role. I think it would be helpful if he chimed in and addressed this. I agree with Diane in #56, but would add this to her valid concerns.
Thanks for the FB and Blog pointers.
@Lance Brown #57
Okay, thanks for the information.
I think some folks are missing the point. If I wrote “General>Captain>Sergeant>Private,” no one would bat an eye. We all understand that this is the ordering of rank in the military such that all operations proceed smoothly and each person knows his place. Military ranking is not based on or in any way related to the human worth of each person, but rather on the principle of having an orderly system that is united in mission. The private submits to a sergeant because the sergeant has the greater authority, not because the private is servile and valueless. So why do we go crazy when someone writes, “Man>Woman”? Oh, right, because we’ve all been brainwashed by feminism to one degree or other. The order of creation is not about one’s value before God, but one orderly place in creation–not for separate goals, but for a unified one. Now granted, when you add animals into the mix, there is a distinction in worth. But that is a different kind of distinction and doesn’t apply to men and women. I’ve read the book, and Curtis and Adle are in no way saying that men are inherently better or of greater worth than women or any such thing, and for someone who has read the book to assert or imply such is maliciously and deliberately to mislead others.
@Katy Schumpert #61
I don’t have a problem with the order of creation at all but why were the mathematical signs used? It’s the first time in any book that talks about Lutheran theology that I’ve seen them used that way. You even said, ‘Now granted, when you add animals into the mix, there is a distinction in worth’. Why were animals included?
Since you’ve read the book, please address the constructive criticism of the tone of the book being one of sarcasm and legalism. I listened to all the interviews on Issues, etc. I detected the sardonic tone over the radio! I’m just very puzzled that the editorial dept. at CPH let it pass.
Eric ex Cathedra
@Katy Schumpert #61
Bravo, Katy — Excellent example. However, I am afraid that many of the folks here are really wound up on “value.” [or being validated…?] My discourse on coram deo and coram hominibus fell on deaf ears, as well.
Nor do I have problem with mathematical signs being used. This is a common way to denote an ordering. It does not always denote value, and my friends and I often use it in emails to denote an ordering by something else besides ordering, such as priority or authority or preference, etc. I will further upset people by saying that it really is more like this w.r.t. authority:
God >>infinitely>> Man > Woman > Children >>infinitely>> animals
(I am considering where angels would fall)
w.r.t. Redemption Man == Woman == Children, and animals don’t even come into the equation because they are not redeemed nor have individual souls that can go to Heaven.
I think Eric adequately responded regarding the “>” symbol. The tone of the book is not legalistic at all. In fact, it is very gospel-oriented. There is more law at the beginning of the book, but the further you go in, the more gospel there is. (Law is not the same as legalism, as I’m sure you know.) Law is often presented for the sake of a crystal-clear presentation of the gospel. And there are some beautiful depictions of the Church as the Bride of Christ. And I did not find it to be sarcastic in tone, either. A little witty, yes, but having read some of the old Concordian Sisters blog Mrs. Curtis used to co-author, I have grown to appreciate her sense of humor. There is much more I would like to say but don’t have the time right now. When I finish writing the review for my personal blog, I’ll be sure to post the link in this comment thread.
@Katy Schumpert #64
“Law is not the same as legalism”. Yes. I shouldn’t have used that word. Careless and sloppy on my part. I think I introduced that to the discussion and not Diane. I should have phrased things differently. Accusing the authors of legalism was not my intention.
The “tone” some people react to is the authentic personal voice of the authors.
As for “being puzzled by CPH letting it pass”, I understand CPH sought them out to write the book, so they would have had to be fully aware of that unique voice. More Anne Lamott than Ann Voskamp (still talking voice, NOT doctrine).
I happen to enjoy it; but, then again, I also like the refreshing quality of the occasional chunk of raw rhubarb or a salty, puckery dried plum.
Anyone labeling it sardonic legalism must have been expecting lime gelatin (or Turkish Delight).
“Law is not the same as legalism.”
THAT is the issue. TW
@Jennifer C-L #66,
Being authentic is far less important than speaking with gentleness and respect. The tone should have been sufficient to make the book fail doctrinal review.
Eric ex Cathedra
@Charles Lehmann #68
Disagreed. This is wrong. There is a big difference of being rude or vulgar, versus being firm, to the point, sarcastic, etc. in order to (a) get people’s attention and (b) make sure they understand that you are, in fact, saying a point they will find shocking and can’t ignore or sweep under the rug.
When people are overly “gentle” with subjects that are very counter-cultural, as Ladylike is, one of two things will happen:
1. It is ignored as fluffy and blase’
2. People self-justify that they are really actually doing these things already
If the authors did not make a point strongly of exactly what they meant and that it is important, the women reading would simply say, “Oh yeah, like, I mean, I kinda do that, I mean at least sometimes, so I think I’m good, right?”
This “gentleness” requirement (not withstanding Peter’s comments) is very similar to the abuse of the 8th Commandment and Matthew 18 — used as a gag clause to silence the calling out of false teaching.
Besides, if you want to see sarcasm and un-gentleness at it’s height, go read… oh… Christ, Paul, Peter, James, Elijah, other OT prophets, Cyril, Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostum, Luther… pretty much any worthwhile orthodox theologian.
Rev Paul McCain
I just was alerted to this conversation about our book “LadyLike” … thanks for the review.
The book is headed now into its second printing.
I’m glad it has caused a lot of discussion and thinking!
@68 Eric Ex Cathedra,
None of those guys wrote this book, and let’s not burden the early church fathers with infallibility. Jerome, for example, was a real jerk. There’s a wrong way to be right.
Eric ex Cathedra
@Charles Lehmann #71
That’s seems like a double strawman.
1. I did not say those people wrote the book
2. I never asserted that any of the church fathers were infallible
If people want to whinge and whine that they were “offended” by the tone of the authors of Ladylike, so be it. It falls on deaf ears for me.
@Charles Lehmann #68
Ironically I found the tone of the book in keeping with a few of my favorite Lutheran blogs, some of which are authored by some Katie Luther sisters themselves. The book and the blogs probably filter to the top because they sound similar to the voice in my head. Maybe I’m less LadyLike than most ladies, but I’m not a fan of tiptoeing around the tulips. I like my friends, blogs and books to make their points well and speak their mind and I don’t mind some personality in the mix. My big girl panties fit well enough I can disagree and have a reasonable discussion without questioning “my place in the church”.
As promised, here’s my review: https://omologeo.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/book-review-ladylike/.
@Andrea Elliott #47
“With the exception of Christ, there is no man “greater than” any woman!”
No, this tomboy doesn’t have a problem with it. The context is authority, not value. Although God (Father Son and Holy Spirit) is clearly more valuable and also in higher authority than any man, woman, or other created thing.