Sexist Responses to Women Writing About Religion by Sarah Sentilles

IN RESPONSE TO my recent memoir, Breaking Up with God: A Love Story, several reviewers came close to calling me stupid. Many suggested I didn’t know what I was talking about. As the title of the book suggests, I used the analogy of a romantic relationship gone wrong to describe my faith and its dissolution. These reviewers seemed to believe I understood my metaphorical romantic relationship with God to be a literal one. They wrote about me as if I actually thought God was my real boyfriend, as if I sat around waiting for God to take me to the prom and just couldn’t understand why my date never showed up. Silly girl. Continue reading “Sexist Responses to Women Writing About Religion by Sarah Sentilles”

Breaking Up with Bad Stories by Sarah Sentilles

Writing a memoir meant denying stories about myself that are no longer true.

Note: This post is part of  a Religion Roundtable where the authors of three prominent faith memoirs were asked to write about their views on—and experience of—female spirituality. Check to read the discussion between Jana Riess, Lauren Winner, and Sarah Sentilles on the unique religious questions facing women today.

Dear Jana and Lauren,

Jana writes that “Mormon women don’t yet have the luxury of taking their own voices for granted,” and while I recognize that Mormon women are in a different political/theological position than other women, especially in demonimations that ordain women, I would like to expand her statement: No woman—anywhere, in any tradition, or on the outside of any tradition—has the luxury of taking her own voice for granted.

Jana worries that writing with a political agenda in mind could make our work smack of propaganda, and I think she is right, but I want to propose that all language is propaganda. Especially theological language. Our words about God are shot through with intentions and agendas; they convey people’s purposes and hopes and fears; and they have real effects. Continue reading “Breaking Up with Bad Stories by Sarah Sentilles”

The Harlot Shall Be Burned with Fire: Biblical Literalism in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Sarah Sentilles

(spoiler alert)

Against my better judgment, this past weekend I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher who’s best known for Fight Club and The Social Network. I didn’t like the book; it unsettled me that a novel filled with sexual violence against women—a novel that seems to take pleasure in the violence, to offer it up for readers to consume—became such a sensation. But I’m a sucker for a trailer and a good soundtrack, and I was curious, so I bought a ticket.

The plot revolves around a missing girl and the serial killer believed to have murdered her who uses the Bible like a handbook. He takes passages from Leviticus—21:9 for example: The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire—and enacts them on women’s bodies. On Jewish women’s bodies.

Please click here to continue reading this article at Religion Dispatches.

Sarah Sentilles is a scholar of religion, an award-winning speaker, and the author of three books including A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit (Harcourt, 2008) and Breaking Up with God (HarperOne, 2011). She earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s of divinity and a doctorate in theology from Harvard, where she was awarded the Billings Preaching Prize and was the managing editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. At the core of her scholarship, writing, and activism is a commitment to investigating the roles religious language, images, and practices play in oppression, violence, social transformation, and justice movements. She is currently at work on a novel and an edited volume that investigates the intersections of torture and Christianity.

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