WATER Recommends: February 2020

Baard, Rachel Sophia. SEXISM AND SIN-TALK: FEMINIST CONVERSATIONS ON THE HUMAN CONDITION. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019. (178 pages, $35.00).

Rachel Sophia Baard utilizes rhetorical theory and theology to examine classical doctrines and feminist critiques of sin to build a constructive feminist understanding of sin-talk. Baard brings an important critical voice to both classical and feminist theology in her efforts to revive a life-affirming understanding of sin. By bringing a wide range of theologians into conversation, this book is well suited for academic readers who are conversant with her many sources.

Blazer, Annie. PLAYING FOR GOD: EVANGELICAL WOMEN AND THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF SPORTS MINISTRY. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2015. (193 pages, $30).

Blazer explores the unintended effects of evangelical sports ministries including redefining femininity, more acceptance of same-sex love, and changing expectations of marriage. While this book explores a very niche part of Christianity, Blazer explains its unique language and implications with clarity through storytelling. As the US women’s soccer team celebrates victory and demands equal pay, this conversation about gender and sports is keenly relevant in the public sphere. Good for evangelical women to be part of the mix.

Bowler, Kate. THE PREACHER’S WIFE: THE PRECARIOUS POWER OF EVANGELICAL CELEBRITIES. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. (338 pages, $29.95).

Kate Bowler explores the various roles that American evangelical women fill to obtain celebrity and access certain forms of power, most of which are tied to a husband or patriarchal church structures. Through interviews with these celebrity women, Bowler aptly presents the roles they fill and the influence they have, while pointing to the systems that prevent women from accessing independent leadership. Recommended for those seeking a critical and sympathetic reading of evangelical women’s power in a both scholarly and accessible volume.

Cassidy, Lauren and Maureen H. O’Connell, editors. SHE WHO IMAGINES: FEMINIST THEOLOGICAL AESTHETICS. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012. (248 pages, $23.99).

In centering feminist theology and aesthetics, this anthology explores how women as objects, subjects, and creators of beauty pursue justice. Thoughtful reflections on representation and diverse images of the divine emerge from studying visual art, popular icons, and everyday performances of race and gender. This work invites readers to consider how beauty and struggle, depicted in art, are integral to feminist social ethics and action.

Lomax, Tamura. JEZEBEL UNHINGED: LOOSING THE BLACK FEMALE BODY IN RELIGION & CULTURE. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018. (262 pages, $26.95).

Tamura Lomax examines the ways in which language, religion, and popular culture produce a jezebel/lady dualism which stereotypes black womanhood, and perpetuates violence against black women and girls. Artfully maneuvering among black feminist theory, cultural criticism, and popular culture, Lomax raises pertinent questions for the black church. While theoretical, this would be a valuable read for those who are invested in the black church and the ways in which harmful tropes are produced, maintained, and affect the lives of black women and girls.

Muir, Elizabeth Gillian. A WOMEN’S HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF FEMALE LEADERSHIP. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 2019. (415 pages, $20.96).

This general overview of women in church history focuses on women who developed and cultivated important parts of the Christian community. Illustrations, a glossary, and a list of sources provide the reader with direction for more in-depth study. Recommended for those who seek insight into innovative and creative women who are largely ignored and marginalized in patriarchal renderings of the Christian story.

Obama, Michelle. BECOMING. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group, 2018. (426 pages, $32.00).

Michelle Obama’s autobiography covers the different stages of her life experience, specifically her childhood, her years as a lawyer, and of course her marriage to another well-known American leader. Their years in the global spotlight were a model for integrity, hard work, and significant accomplishments. This book will encourage and empower women of all walks of life.

Pagels, Elaine. WHY RELIGION?: A PERSONAL STORY. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2018 (256 pages, $27.99).

Elaine Pagels reveals her intriguing story as the daughter of a Darwinist botanist, a former evangelical teenager, and a world renowned scholar of religion known for her work on the Gnostic Gospels. Her interest in religion, despite the sexism at Harvard and of her relatives, stems from the simple question, “Who was Jesus?” Along the way, she sees religion not as a belief but as a way to bring forth what is hidden inside the human person. Many will resonate with her insights.

Sherwood, Yvonne. THE BIBLE AND FEMINISM: REMAPPING THE FIELD. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017. (736 pages, $130).

Taking into account the global disaster following the 2016 US presidential election and the welcome surge of “nasty women” feminism, Yvonne Sherwood seeks to rethink the field of feminist biblical studies. Contributors examine biblical texts and other religious writings alongside contemporary events and debates to develop new lenses for feminist biblical scholarship. These important essays, from an international, interreligious groups of contributors, are a welcome deepening of feminist biblical scholarship and a useful contribution to feminist social change work.

Spencer, F. Scott. SONG OF SONGS: WISDOM COMMENTARY VOL. 25, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2017. (252 pages, $39.95).

All the hard questions of biblical interpretation are found in this volume, part of a valuable series of commentaries. Are any women’s voices heard in the text? Whose view of love is found here? How to find something deeply human about the experience of love and yet realize that it is still bound by social and religious conventions? The seven essay authors are experts who find their way and lead readers to discover their own insights.


Students and colleagues at Colgate University reap the harvest of two feminist professors, Wanda Warren Berry and Marilyn Thie, who unleashed countless women’s energies for diverse, progressive, and world-changing studies in religion. Their scholarship and pedagogy seeded the best of engaged, justice-focused education. These essays chronicle and celebrate their achievements.

Williams, Elizabeth A. BLACK WOMEN AND BREAST CANCER: A CULTURAL THEOLOGY. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019 (167 pages, $90.00).

Rare are the anthropologists who both participate in their studies and bring a sophisticated theological perspective to bear. Elizabeth Williams, a minister and medical anthropologist, is uniquely poised to see the ways in which womanist forms of hope are useful for women living with breast cancer. Readers will find that her insights are deeply grounded and realistic.