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I am a feminist because of Christ, the world's most avant-garde emancipator. When he praised Mary for choosing to learn from him over kitchen work (which we will always have with us), he was more radical than Gloria Steinem. But I know enough neurobiology to part ranks with feminists who say that gender is a social construct. Maybe because of some primordial wiring, I like to wear peasant skirts and make borscht, and I want to become a mother.

So I'm surprised that there isn't much room for women like me in the world of Stasi and John Eldredge as described in Captivating, which Publishers Weekly listed at number one on a June list of hardcover religion bestsellers. Many fans of Captivating are the women who bought the men in their lives the crazily popular Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge. They credit the Eldredges with transforming their faith from a duty-bound program to an ascent of the heart to its greatest lover. Sounds innocuous enough.

I worry, though, that the readers of Captivating have been sold a finicky idea of femininity—one that disregards the wondrous complexity God breathed into them.

Beware of "the domineering women," the Eldredges warn. They describe these vixens as the kind who "room alone when [they] travel." Who "receive corporate promotions." And who are "put in charge of our women's ministries." The gall! Ironically, the Eldredges scoff at bossy women just after they quote God's words of lament to Eve, predicting that, in the fallen world, the man would rule over her. They wrap their pronouncements in pop psychology, sentimentality, eisegesis, and clichés borrowed from Harlequin paperbacks: "How does a woman best love a man? The answer is simple: Seduce ...

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Taste and See
Agnieszka Tennant is a former associate editor and editor at large for Christianity Today. She earned her master's degree in international relations at the University of Chicago, where she focused on how religiously-rooted norms influence world politics. Her "Taste and See" column ran from 2006 to 2007.
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August 2006

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