Q & A with Carolyn McCulley

Communications Staff — January 8, 2010

Carolyn McCulley is the author of two books, “Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World” (Moody Publishers, 2008) and “Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred” (Crossway, 2004). McCulley also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood and is a frequent conference speaker and is a contributor to “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ,” edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005).

Where are you from and what is your current vocation?

I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area as a military brat. I studied broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland and I am fortunate to still be working in media years later. I also received a certification in women’s studies from the University of Maryland, which was part of the reason I eventually wrote “Radical Womanhood.”

What is the premise of your book, “Radical Womanhood?”

The subtitle is “Feminine Faith in a Feminist World.” It’s the book I wish I had received as a new believer. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 30, though my mother did raise me in the church. I went to mass, but I didn’t have ears for the Gospel until the Lord sovereignly regenerated me as an adult.

Until that time, I lived like a Cosmopolitan feminist – not too politically active, but absorbing all the feminist messages of women’s media. So when I became a Christian and was added to a Bible-believing, biblical-manhood-and-womanhood-preaching church, you can bet I was confused! I wanted someone to explain to me the feminist assumptions I had, where they came from, and why they contrasted with Scripture.

Though I found many useful books along the way, I never found one just like this one: a mixture of history, Bible teaching and narrative stories of women who found God to be faithful to His Word, presented in non-academic, accessible language.

The premise, therefore, is that if women understand the profound change in our culture that can be traced back to the founding of our nation, they will be better equipped to understand the purposes of God’s design. To be a truly biblical woman in our modern world is the radical act, in my opinion.

What is the biggest impact of feminism that you have seen in the church?

There are so many effects that it would be hard to narrow it to just one. “Radical Womanhood” examines the impact on relationships between men and women, on motherhood, on female sexuality, on the home and more.

But I would say the most serious impact has been the undermining of Scriptural authority. The very first document issued by self-identified feminists in the United States was the Declaration of Sentiments, issued in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention. In it these women (and a few men) named a number of offensive elements of current society, among them the church. It stated:

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. … He allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.”

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the final resolution of this declaration included a demand “for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit.” The majority of feminist leaders since then, including one of the founders of the Seneca Falls Convention, have gutted Scriptural authority or rejected it all together in pursuit of more pagan beliefs.

How has feminism affected the next generation of men and women?

By next, I assume you mean the rising generation. One of the most profound ways it has affected young adults is in the presentation of what is normative. Most of the young women I speak to have no idea about what happened in the feminist movement. They don’t know there were three waves (the second wave was the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, but that’s not the only one), and because of that, they are unaware of the third wave that affects them now.

The third wave began in the 1990s as a rejection of the victim ideology of the second wave, which did briefly align with evangelicals in the anti-pornography movement. The daughters of second-wavers rejected this mentality and instead embraced a “pro-porn, pro-sex” ideology that has created the hyper-aggressive female sexuality that we live amongst today. Because it’s not a politically visible movement, many people are unaware of it, but not of its effects.

Third-wave feminism has contributed to the pornographication of our culture, from the immodesty of women’s fashions and behavior, to the celebration of women’s immorality in shows like Sex and the City and Girls Gone Wild, and so on. It is also decidedly anti-family and pro-pansexuality.

This affects both young men and women in widespread ways, from the hook-up culture to gender identity confusion.

What do people training for ministry need to be aware of when they are helping people think biblically through manhood and womanhood?

I think it is helpful to know how we got to where we are in our culture and to be able to explain that to others. Of course, the Word of God is all that is necessary to convict and convert people. But for those who oppose the authority of Scripture on this topic, I believe it is quite illuminating for them to understand the motivations behind certain aspects of the feminist movement.

To be able to explain, for example, Margaret Sanger’s embrace of eugenics, her racism, her harsh attitude toward children and her lethal philosophies that are part of Planned Parenthood’s legacy as their founder can open someone’s eyes to the motives behind this pro-abortion business.

To be able to understand the deep impact of Social Darwinism and the Industrial Revolution on our concept of the home can be helpful to someone who accepts the 20th century’s sea change of the home once being a place of productivity and now being a place of consumption. To know that helps women, especially, to understand why the home – or the private sphere, as I like to refer to it – is so important in the biblical framework.

But I think the most important thing for people in ministry to understand is that the seeds of feminism lie in all of our hearts. Apart from the grace of God, we are each rebels before God’s authority. Feminism is just another expression of that indwelling rebellion.

Therefore, our enemies are not the flesh-and-blood feminists, but the enemies listed in Scripture – our sin; our worldly, flesh-driven lusts; and our spiritual adversary. We must condemn the ideas but be merciful to those in captivity to them. I am appalled by Margaret Sanger’s ideas and life, but if the Lord had not revealed Himself to me, I would be walking in lock-step with her philosophies.

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