“Church after the rain,” Frankfurt, Germany


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Some say men lack some innate quality that makes them loners—that women excel at friendship, while men eschew community.

Nicodemus comes by day equipped with tools. He steels himself to pry loose nails from palms and feet.

The Arimathean accompanies him. The new tomb he consigned for his own he offers to the family of his friend.

They stand with the Marys, unashamed of tears. Real men who cry. Not even from among the 12.

Blood spurts onto their hands and stains swaddling cloth. Strips of flesh on his back make them grimace.

They still reel from the acts of the treasurer—the betrayer. The ransom for this king, a little silver.

The 12 have run. But these on the periphery for three years remain. Nicodemus tastes salt; Joseph wipes his eyes. They pry the Magdalene away so they can wrap the arch she cradles. Now they must pull away the …

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Care for the Earth

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The first Earth Day was observed on March 21, 1970. John McConnell, the son of a Christian evangelist, proposed a day to honor Earth and peace. He chose the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere for the first observance. Earth Day has only broadened in scope since then. A glance back at Genesis helps believers consider ways to live out God’s vision for human dominion:
* Swimming creatures. How well are we caring for the waters in which sea creatures swim? Are our fish-harvesting practices just?
* Flying creatures. How do we conserve the skies in which birds fly? Do we consider the fuels we use and toxins they emit? Are our poultry practices humane?
* Four-legged creatures. How well are we caring for fields, lakes, and marshes in which creatures find sustenance? Are our practices with animals humane?
* Seed-bearing plants and trees. How well do we
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Rape Culture #18: What Can I Do?

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Part eighteen of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka

Rape culture is so pervasive it can feel unconquerable. Most women have a story in which she or a friend have experienced some form of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment. There are, however, lots of steps we can take to create a more just world.

What can we do?

Educate yourself and others. As part of “doing justice” (Micah 6:8), we must seek to advocate for victims. Our world will continue to perpetuate rape culture unless we challenge its precepts and help people understand what causes it and how to prevent it. Rape culture needs to be confronted at the dinner table, from the pulpit, in youth group curricula, in school curricula, as part of police training programs, in public awareness literature, in legislation, in art, in counseling, during sentencing…. Elaine Skorkey in Scars across Humanity asserts that all of …

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Rape Culture #17: A Sense of Entitlement

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Part seventeen of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka

In rape culture, the more power a man has, the more sexual assault he can get away with. Powerful men live in a cloud of entitlement. Rich men, such as Harvey Weinstein, can sexually assault numerous woman for years, get a slap on the wrist and a fine, and walk away. But losing loose change is nothing compared to the pain suffered by the victims. 

Hollywood often weds power to a sense of entitlement. Gatekeepers are given, “Get Out of Jail Free Cards.” For example, Harvey Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with different women. One person he abused said, “I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world-famous man, and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” Vulnerable women have hoped to make it …

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Rape Culture #16: The Problem Is Bigger Than We Think

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Part sixteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

Rape culture is not happening only in America; it is happening around the globe—and has been since the beginning of humanity. Rape is a weapon that affects victims, their families, and their communities. Here are a few examples:

  • Rape is common in patriarchal societies. Japan is a very male-dominated society, making it difficult for victims of rape to come forward. Because of this, research shows that fewer than 5 percent of women raped in Japan report it. Why not? Social pressures, cultural taboos, women not being believed, and rape not being talked about—all respects of rape culture. For more information on rape culture in Japan, watch the documentary, Japan’s Secret Shame, featuring one woman’s struggle against the hostile environment for women reporting assault in Japan.
  • In India rape culture deeply affects girls and women, and it can even lead to death. An
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Rape Culture #15: Rape Culture and #ChurchToo

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Part fifteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

In January 2018, Andy Savage received applause from his church after confessing and apologizing to his church for sexually assaulting a teen twenty years earlier while serving as a youth pastor. At the time, Savage had asked his victim, Jules Woodson, who publicly told her story, to perform oral sex, and she had complied. In an interview that followed, Woodson said, “Compliance is not consent.” (Check out Part 4: Rape Culture and Consent.) As a young girl, Woodson had trusted her youth pastor, and he used his position and power to take advantage of her. After much controversy, Savage stepped down from his position, having realized that he needed to make things right with his victim herself. And that, indeed, compliance (especially when there is such a power differential) is not consent.

The month after the #MeToo hashtag went viral, the …

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Rape Culture #14: Rape Culture and Race

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Part fourteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

Faces of black men. Those are often who we see portrayed as rapists on TV. And when people see a black man walking toward them on their side of the street, often they cross to the other side. Yet the stereotype of Black-as-rapist is statistically inaccurate. The Department of Justice says that perpetrators of rape are 57 percent white and 27 percent black.

            And when Black men are arrested for sexual assault, they are not treated like white men. A former Stanford student was arrested for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and sentenced to six months of jail time. After three months in jail, he was released. Why was he released early? “Automatically applied credits” for good behavior prior to sentencing. The system patted him on the back, so to speak, for good behavior, even though his victim …

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Rape Culture #13: Rape Culture and Pornography

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Part thirteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

In 2017, the world’s largest porn website reached 28.5 billion visitors, an average of 81 million people per day. The country with the most web traffic? The United States. Why is this important? Research shows that porn is linked to acceptance of rape culture. People who blame rape victims are more likely to use pornography. They watch hours and hours of porn that shows rape as normal and exciting. Porn users are more likely to think negatively about women, become desensitized to sexual images and messages in the media, and endorse rape myths. In porn, sexualized women are less human—they are objects.

            Violent porn: Those who consume violent pornography or media behave in the ways portrayed. Pornography consumption is linked with sexual aggression. One study resulted in the support of the associations between frequent pornography use and sexually aggressive behaviors, particularly for …

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Rape Culture #12: Rape Culture and Gender Stereotypes

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Part twelve in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarkah 

Early on children pick up on gender stereotypes. For example, a school might bring football players into the classroom to give motivational talks, and students will hear the players make statements such as, “All my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong… boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice… But the ladies―they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men supposed to be strong.” Kids hear this narrative: Girls are weak. Boys are strong.

“Modesty talks” can reinforce gender stereotypes with teens if such talks characterize women as sexual tempters and men as sexual animals who cannot be tamed. In such talks, often given in church youth groups, females become defined by their bodies, and males become defined only by what happens in their brains. From a young age we …

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Rape Culture #11: Rape Culture and Colleges

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Part eleven in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka

My mom dropped me off at college, waving goodbye as she drove away in her minivan. Tears in her eyes, she was sad to lose her baby girl. Only three days later, I would sit in my dorm room crying alone after I was raped.

 Rape culture has infiltrated college campuses. We send our daughters, who are barely legal adults, into colleges where we know they could get raped. The federally funded Campus Climate Survey revealed that 20 percent of college-aged women experienced sexual assault at some point during college. That means that 1 in 5 college students will experience sexual assault in college. In a friend group of ten girls, two will have been raped. In my college experience, this number was even higher. Why? Because 88 percent of women sexually assaulted on campus do not report it. Those who do …

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Rape Culture #10: Rape Culture and Politics

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Part ten in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka ]

There are many examples found in United States politics that perpetuate rape culture. Here are only a few:

  • Many politicians have made negative comments about rape to support their stances against abortion: “If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it!” said Clayton Williams of Texas in 1990, causing him to lose the election. Others have used phrases such as “legitimate rape,” “honest rape,” “emergency rape,” and “easy rape.” 
  • Some people assume that women often use rape as an excuse for regret. In 2006, Ken Buck, a district-attorney-turned-politician, once said, “A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse… it appears to me that you invited him over to have sex with him,” even though the rapist admitted his crime.
  • In 2012, Senator Todd Akin argued his stance on abortion by saying that “legitimate rapes”
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Rape Culture #9: Rape Culture and Literature

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Part nine in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

In addition to the list from the previous rape-culture series featured on this blog, more recent books have been written about rape culture:

  • In 2018, the Governor General’s fiction award went to Sarah Henstra for The Red Word. Henstra wrote a story that looks at rape culture and the extremes to which the beliefs can go. The story is set on a college campus, when sophomore Karen learns about feminism and rape culture. One frat house in the story is nicknamed, “Gang Bang Central.” Karen is torn between the Greek culture she loves (because of a cute boy), and a feminist group. She is caught between polarized camps. Little does she know that feminist ringleader Dyann plans to use her to bring down the fraternity as a symbol of rape culture. One reviewer of The Red Word said the novel is “full of clichés of
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Sanctity of Life Day is January 22

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A friend who once ministered in a country with teeming populations and full orphanages saw scores of children die daily from hunger, neglect and abuse. In a setting in which life seemed cheap, he had a practice that would reinforce for himself the truth of humans’ infinite worth. He would stop at the bed of each infant he passed to look at his or her face, one by one, and whisper, “You are precious to God.”

The truth that every human life is of inestimable worth is as old as the beginning of our race, grounded in Genesis 1. There we read that God said He would make humanity in His own image—male and female (Genesis 1:26). The death of Christ for the whole world (John 3:16) further demonstrates the heavenly Father’s view of mortals’ worth: humans are as valuable as the shed blood of His only Son.

This truth …

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Rape Culture #8: Rape Culture and Television

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Part eight in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

In addition to the list from the previous series, other television shows and movies about or evidencing rape culture have debuted: 

  • The Handmaid’s Tale, a television series based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, takes place in a totalitarian society. The women are treated as property of the state and ruled by a fundamentalist regime. The society is faced with a low birth rate, and so the women are forced to become sex slaves. 
  • Westworld, a television series, takes place in a futuristic amusement park for rich vacationers. Visitors are encouraged to live out their desires without any consequences, including raping and beating the women. The women are not real people, but rather robots built to gratify the desires of everyone who visits the theme park.
  • EastEnders, a British soap opera, aired an episode that tackled
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Rape Culture #7: Language: “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”

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Part seven of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka

Rape culture language is so normalized into our everyday life that it easily gets written off as “locker room talk,” even from the mouth of the United States President, Donald Trump. 

            A video was released with Trump saying, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

            “And when you’re, a star they let you do it,” Trump continues. “You can do anything… Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.” In today’s world, women are objects, and when a celebrity wants one, they get one.” 

            When this video went viral, Trump defended himself by stating, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago.” So does that mean this kind of offensive “macho” language is acceptable if it happens in a private room …

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Rape Culture #6: Rape Doesn’t Happen Only in Dark Alleys

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Part six in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

Rape can happen to anyone, anywhere. An abuser can be an acquaintance, friend, spouse, date, or family member. In fact, the majority of victims know their perpetrators. Research reveals that 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Most children and teen victims know their perpetrator. Of sexual abuse cases reported to law enforcement, 93 percent of juvenile victims knew their perpetrator. Rape is more common when it is with people known to the person violated.*

            Anyone can be a rapist—even trusted family doctors. In 2018, Dr. Larry Nassar was convicted of sexually assaulting numerous young women on the national US gymnastics team. More than 150 victims publicly confronted him during a seven-day hearing and shared their stories of abuse, including well known Olympians Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber. Credit goes to Rachael Denhollander, a Christ-follower who …

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Rape Culture #5: “Why I Didn’t Report”

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Part five in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

After my rape, I was not planning to report him to authorities. Then I heard that he “slept” with another girl. Thinking about how he probably had raped her too, and wanting to protect future women, I went to my university’s Center for Victim Advocacy and reported my rape. I was paired with an advocate, and she helped me decide what to do. I had three options: reporting to the police, reporting to my university, or both. If I reported my rape to the police, my case would go through the criminal justice system and the perpetrator could face legal sanctions or jail time. If I reported it to my university, he could have faced expulsion. 

            I decided to report to my university and press charges through my school’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, but not through the police. We …

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Rape Culture #4: Rape Culture and Consent

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Part four in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

The big debate in America right now: what counts as sexual assault and harassment? In a recent Barna study, Americans say that sexual harassment is most often about being touched or groped or being forced to do something sexual—but also includes mostunwanted sexual behavior. The question then becomes, how do we know when the act becomes “unwanted?”

            The #MeToo Movement created dialogue around a new standard of consent and confused the hook-up culture. Magazines once filled with sex tips are now filled with consent tips. There is a debate over where the line of consent ends and where sexual assault begins. Some people believe that, “no means no,” and “yes means yes,” however, it is more complicated than that. Because of the #MeToo movement, many people enter hookups with fear and anxiety. Although this series is written for a believing …

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Rape Culture #3: Victim-Blaming and Slut-Shaming

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Part three in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka 

Victim-blaming and slut-shaming silence survivors.

We sat on the couch, and I told my friend, “I was raped.” In shock, my friend asked a few questions that I don’t remember anymore, but I’ll never forget how the questions made me feel in that moment—that the rape was my fault.

Questioning a victim is a very common response when someone first hears about a rape—questions like: “What were you wearing?” “Were you drinking?” “Did you lead him on?” 

Why do people ask these questions? In a rape culture victims are not innocent. They must have played some part or had some responsibility for their rape to happen. Consequently, people question the victim. And questioning the victim has the same effect as blaming the victim. The questioner makes excuses for the rapist’s actions based on the victim’s actions. The message is this: the victim …

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Rape Culture #2: The #MeToo Movement

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Part two of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka

Today in part 2 of the Rape Culture series, we consider the relationship between the much-debated #MeToo movement and the underlying issue of rape culture. 

            Raped my freshman year of college, I joined the 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) who experience rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. As a victim of sexual abuse, I joined the many women who spoke out in the #MeToo movement. In October 2017, the #MeToomovement went viral, and I posted on Facebook and Twitter. It felt empowering to think others struggle too.

            This was not the first time I posted online for the whole world to see about my abuse. I am a blogger who often writes about my abuse. But for what felt like the first time, I was joined by others in speaking out. Friends I …

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Rape Culture #1: Introduction

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A new series by Joy Pedrow Skarka

[Trigger warning] Day three of my freshman year of college, I had said, “No,” countless times. I went to his apartment (totally sober), not realizing the possibilities of what could happen. As the night progressed, I started to understand his plan.

            “No, no, I don’t want to have sex.”

            “Are you sure?” he persisted. 

            “I haven’t had sex before. I should go.”

            “No, don’t go, stay with me. I promise we won’t have sex.” He put his hands around my hips and pulled me close to him.

It happened late at night, and I had just moved into my new dorm days earlier, so I had no idea how to get back home. “Okay, I’ll stay the night. But we should go to bed.” 

            We laid there on the tiny twin dorm bed. I drifted off to sleep.

            Groggy, I woke up to …

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New Author, Good Blood

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Today I’m happy to introduce you through Q and A to my former student, K Pastore, who recently published the novel  Good Blood  (Wipf and Stock).

K Pastore’s debut novel released this winter. Great read!

Your main character is a girl caught in a culture of patriarchy and violence. How do you think she would respond to today’s political and religious misogyny?

Rosie goes from a place of ignorance to restraint and fear to activism. She’s definitely an activist, but not like in the writing-blog-articles or speaking-winsomely-in-front-of-a-crowd kind of way. She is very localized. She sees unjust actions done in front of her and names them as evil. But she doesn’t just condemn the individuals who act unjustly. Her main goal is redemption, redeeming the perpetrators from evil and leading them back to goodness. And sometimes that means arranging judgment and harsh consequences. I suppose today she would do …

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Interview with Jenny McGill, author of Walk With Me

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Meet my friend Jenny McGill (PhD, King’s College London), a pastor’s wife and university dean who loves to explore countries and cultures. She has a new book out that I endorsed—heartily!

Tell us a bit about the book and its intended audience.

Written as a series of letters in a conversational tone, Walk with Me: Learning to Love and Follow Jesus is an interactive tool designed to help those in a spiritual mentoring relationship. It summarizes four areas in following Christ: the beliefs of a Christian, living like a Christian, habits of a Christian, and exploring the Bible. As a ministry leader and pastor’s wife, I want to encourage and bolster women in their Christian faith, addressing some difficult subjects in a down-to-earth fashion. Walk with Me is a discipleship guide for all believers, no matter how long they have walked with Jesus.

Why a book on discipleship?

Sadly, because …

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Teaching Teens: Thoughts on Modesty and Rape Culture

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Today I have a guest contributor, Laura Hercher, one of my students, talking about something that has certainly been in the news—rape culture. Her thoughts address the intersection of rape culture and what churches teach teens about modesty and personal responsibility.

As someone in a ministry position and involved in a church, I find there are many ways I could work to combat rape culture. But the biggest way is to prevent it from continuing into the next generation by teaching youth how to think about these issues. I think one of the most powerful ways we can do this is by changing the way we teach youth about modesty. Often, well-intentioned youth leaders say or imply that girls need to dress modestly because if they don’t, they are “making” the boys lust after them. Such thinking is rape culture in a slightly less severe package. …

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On Narratives and Central Propositions

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Someone asked me this question recently: “Do authors (of classic literature, broadly, and the Bible, specifically) have an agenda/thesis/big idea/etc. in mind before/when they write? Or do they start writing and let an agenda emerge?”
And I said I think it depends on the genre.
If someone picked up a modern hymn book and tried to find a thesis, they’d be hard pressed to do so. Yet they would find a certain organization. I think the same is true with the Psalms. The psalms are a collection. Same with Proverbs. People look for outlines and central ideas on those books and…nada. That may even be the case with Song of Songs. For sure I think those who see a beginning-middle-end structure to Song of Solomon are pressing a later Greek storytelling structure on a 10th-century-BC book that was more likely chiastic if there is actually even a story to it.
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Vixens makes INDIE Finalist List!

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Vindicating the Vixens has made the finalist list in the Foreword INDIE awards’ non-fiction religion category. Thousands of books are entered each year, and Foreword’s panel of more than 120 librarians and booksellers “take part in the judging, narrowing it down to a group of finalists and winners that represent the best books, all independently published, in over 60 categories.” Vixens is in heady company with other finalists coming from Stanford University Press, Notre Dame Press, SUNY, and other reputable independent publishing houses. Winners will be announced in June.…

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Biblical Womanhood: What Is a Woman?

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What a woman is.

She is an image-bearer. It was the first day of a class I was teaching on the role of women in the home, church, and society. Driving in to the seminary where I teach, I thought through the material I planned to cover, and honestly I feared that some of what I’d prepared to say was too elementary for graduate-level students. Many of them were raised in church and have heard messages all their lives. Did they really need to hear again that Genesis 1:26–27 teaches that both male and female were made in the image of God? Nevertheless, I determined I’d better make sure.

So I repeated what I assumed they all knew. And sure enough, a woman present was thrilled when she heard my words! She was made in the image of God? And not only that—she did not have to marry to fully

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Happy International Women’s Day!

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Forty-three years ago, the United Nations (UN) named 1975 as the International Women’s Year. Two years later, the UN General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the annual day for women’s rights and world peace. My friends in Belarus send me Women’s Day greetings annually, and when I visited Peru, I saw costumes, posters, and a parade to mark the event.

  • While some in the US observe International Women’s Day, it is much more popular in the southern and eastern hemispheres. In many places, men give their moms, wives, girlfriends, daughters, and female friends flowers and small gifts.
  • In about 30 countries, including China, Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, and Zambia, International Women’s Day is an official holiday.
  • In Bulgaria and Romania, it is observed as an equivalent of Mother’s Day; children honor their mothers and grandmothers with presents. In places such as Bosnia, Brazil, and Russia, women receive
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I post on the Engage blog for women in leadership at Bible.org every other Tuesday.

On the Nightstand/In My Kindle
Silence, by Shusaku Endo; Silence and Beauty, by Makoto Fujimura; The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, by C. S. Lewis; The Image of God in an Image Driven Age, ed. by Beth Felker Jones and Jeffrey W. Barbeau; Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, by Lauren Winner.

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