The following was written by Carolyn Custis James.*
“You see things I don’t see.”
I could hardly believe my ears! The fact that these were the first words my father spoke to me after reading a chapter I’d written in Lost Women of the Bible profoundly impacted me. It was one of several conversations where he—a seasoned pastor and the most influential Bible teacher in my life—freely admitted that my perspective was expanding his understanding of the biblical text. I still struggle for words to capture how surprising, affirming, and penetrating his words were to me.
The phenomenon my father was acknowledging—that our combined insights were yielding a fuller, richer understanding than either of us would have without the other—has entered the public sphere of economics and finance, global security, and business. It turns out that two genders are better than one.
After the 2008 economic crisis NYTimes columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote, “Banks around the world desperately want bailouts of billions of dollars, but they also have another need they’re unaware of: women, women and women.” He cited financial experts at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland who were wondering aloud if the economic collapse could have been averted if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters.
Reflecting on Hillary Clinton’s legacy as Secretary of State, former U.S. Ambassador to Austria and the Eleanor Roosevelt Public Policy Lecturer at Harvard University, Swanee Hunt observed the same principle at work in the arena of global security: “A salient element of Hillary Clinton’s legacy will surely be her redefining security to include 51 percent of the world’s population as the most effective and efficient stealth weapon ever”—in a word, women.
The high price of the missing female perspective is incalculable. Researchers and policy makers concur. Secretary Clinton tallied the benefits: “When women decision-makers are present in critical mass (around 30 percent) they build bridges across political and ethnic divides; provide fresh ideas and perspectives; add deeper understanding of ground-level reality; shift budgets away from guns to education, health, and environment; create a more civil political sphere; and govern with greater transparency and less corruption.”
Such insights should not surprise Christians. God created men and women to be a “Blessed Alliance” in all aspects of life. After creating male and female, God “blessed” them and then charged them together to subdue and rule the earth on His behalf. Each brings distinctive gifts which are necessary to accomplish the goal.
Today God’s original charge still remains in effect. Borrowing from (and slightly altering) President Reagan’s famous words to Mikhail Gorbachev, I say “Christians, tear down this wall” separating men and women in the church. If males really want to do God’s will, they need to invite females to the table and then take their sisters seriously. And if females share that commitment, we must own our unique voices and step up to engage our brothers. This is not a “woman’s issue.” It is a kingdom issue. There is mystery to how this works, but even in the secular world the benefits to all are glaring.
In his riveting book, The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann echoes the words of my father to describe his interactions with female colleagues: “In many ways these sisters have permitted me to see what I otherwise might have missed. For that I am grateful—and amazed.”
Let’s spread the amazement by working to build that Blessed Alliance!
*Carolyn Custis James is an international conference speaker and author. She is president of WhitbyForum, a ministry dedicated to addressing the deeper needs which confront both women and men as they endeavor to extend God’s kingdom together in a messy and complicated world. Carolyn is also founder and president of the Synergy Women’s Network, a national organization for women emerging or engaged in ministry leadership. More about Carolyn, her ministry and her books here and here.