Beyond Beliefism – From “Just Us” to Justice – A Book Review by Bill Dahl
Once Upon A Time…
Once upon a time – long, long ago – in a universe far, far away – there existed the planet of KOG. The planet was inhabited by billions of people – including those who lived in the Kingdom of Christendom. The kingdom was ruled by the emperor “Justus.” The citizens were ruled by a body of laws – including the few – and excluding the many – from full participation in the Kingdom. The “laws of Justus” were deemed sacred, inviolable and not subject to interpretation, by countless villages throughout the kingdom. Each village was referred to as “church” – a place where like-minded villagers would come together for fellowship, study of the law, and worship of God. More specifically, numerous laws excluded women from exercising their God-given gifts within the Church – including leadership and teaching. Truth be told, the “laws of Justus” denied women fundamental equality with men in the Church. However, this particular set of rules regarding the role of women in daily life – and the Church – were often cloaked in a veil of vagueness, facilitating the transmission of the ongoing submission of women to the “laws of Justus” – from one generation to the next – to preserve unity within the Church…and the normative standard of ladylike identities, roles and behavior by women.
Throughout the years, many women left their local Church when they realized (among other things) their God granted giftedness and calling would not be honored by their male counterparts who led, taught and administered the Church. Many women remained content at Church. Others resigned and walked away. Others, continued to show up without being present. Many more remained in the Church, submitted to the laws. Although those who inhabited the broader culture, outside the subculture of Justus, had canonized rules to insure the equality of women throughout the land – the Church remained a curious exception to these rules. How can this be? Some women (and men) began to whisper to one another. The laws of Justus demanded beliefism – an unswerving dedication to a body of beliefs – no matter what – passed from one generation to the next within the Church. It is the adoption of a way of thinking and set of beliefs about self, others, life and God that are right – and provide the basis for suspicion of others who believe differently ( see Henderson).
One day, after years of increasing consternation about the ongoing unequal treatment of women within the Church, a woman by the name of Pam Hogeweide stood up and publicly declared:
“The issue of how women are politely oppressed in church is not an issue of theology – but is indeed – an issue of justice….We need a movement of women (and men) to teach us how to resist these messages of inequality and to occupy our space of full personhood together. The church needs transformation in how half its members are esteemed and treated. If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” (Hogeweide – Unladylike – 2012 – Civitas Press).
Unladylike! Heretic! Traitor! Shouted many of those deeply entrenched in maintaining and defending the status quo throughout the Church and the Kingdom of Christendom.
Unbeknownst to the vast majority within the Church – Hogeweide had come upon the realization “that there was an invisible, secret society of free thinkers roaming the church without hall passes.” For several years, she and a number of women had been gathering surreptitiously in what they refer to as listening parties – where they discussed the injustice of inequality embodied in the laws of Justus and how adherence to these laws continued to negatively impact their personhood, worth, calling, exercise of God-equipped giftedness – potential contribution to their Church, the Kingdom of Christendom – even their relationship with their own daughters – sons and husbands.
A week later, after a long illness, the emperor Justus died.
The above might seem cute or funny if it wasn’t true. Unfortunately, it’s a reality… except that “Justus” is alive and well. For this reviewer, there’s nothing cute or humorous about Hogeweide’s work – and the labor that lies ahead of us to infect the heart of the nation of Christendom with the merits of her profoundly persuasive and comprehensive arguments – and life experience.
Hogeweide’s work is neither a figment of the imagination nor wishful thinking. It’s about the immorality, the injustice of inequality in the Church…and imagining a better way. Unladylike confronts us with a challenge – to begin to ask ourselves and our respective Church community questions – as – “the hard questions begin when we ask what people are due, and why?”
Benedict Anderson has said that nations are “imagined” communities: essentially they are ideas – that can be re-imagined. Throughout the Bible, the essential truths that a prophetic, spirit of discontentment might provide are aptly represented. “This is the heart of discontentment – we imagine something better and hold that up against reality.” Sociologist Daniel Levinson describes the process as “de-illusionment – a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true. Is Hogeweide delusional? Not hardly.
In his most recent book, Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman points out “two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.” Hogeweide’s work rips the veil of vagueness from the face of this disgrace. Christendom can no longer rationalize the injustice of the ongoing, willful, obvious blindness she so aptly characterizes.
What Sylvia Nasar, New York Times bestselling author of A Beautiful Mind has to say is pertinent to Hogeweide’s work in Unladylike. Nasar writes (in another context); “being spectacularly wrong is often the most powerful stimulus to fresh thinking.” Unladylike is just the powerful stimulus the Church needs at this time, as recent research has characterized women as the backbone of the Church…as well as a dying breed.
Imagine the future of the nations of Christendom – after having discarded the injustice of the present inequality within. Pam Hogeweide does. I applaud her. It took incredible backbone to write a book about the heart of this matter. As we have seen throughout the history of civilization, it takes the heart and beautiful mind of a wise, courageous and creative woman to propel us toward imagining a better way… Dying breed? Not – if Hogeweide and her ilk have anything to do with it.
Finally, a song from my childhood kept throbbing through my head as I read this book. It’s entitled “The Buses Are A Comin.”
Hogeweide’s authorship of this book finally…formally.. introduces a voice that is long overdue a legitimate place on the platform this work places her on. Pam Hogeweide… a freedom writer.”
 Henderson, Jim The Resignation of Eve – What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing To Be The Church’s Backbone, BARNA – An Imprint of TYNDALE House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson, p. 7.
 Sandel, Michael J. Justice – What’s The Right Thing To Do? Farrar,Straus and Giroux New York, NY Copyright 2009 by Michael J. Sandel, p. 19. Note: A fine source for the comprehensive treatment of the concept of justice (and the challenge of practical decision-making) can be found at http://www.justiceharvard.org/.
 Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Copyright © 1983, 1991 & 2006 by Benedict Anderson, Revised Edition ed. 2006 London and New York: Verso, pp. 5-7.
 Manayon, Bong The Spirituality of Discontentment – Reflections on The Sermon on the Mount, Ekklesia Press Omaha, NebraskaCopyright © 2012 by Bong Manayon, p. 137.
 SEE Henderson, Jim The Resignation of Eve – What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing To Be The Church’s Backbone, Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson, BARNA – An Imprint of TYNDALE House Publishers, Inc.