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“He’s kicking.” Few words can elicit as much excitement from me these days. A few times a day, my sister rests her hand on her stomach and proclaims my new favorite phrase, “He’s kicking.” I try to wait patiently, hoping she’ll grab my hand and place it over the offending limb.

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I recently spoke with a mental health case manager about the importance of male vulnerability. He shared with me that most of the men who use his services do so because they never learned how to process and express emotion beyond two extremes: happiness and anger. I was unsurprised by his admission, because I have long observed and grieved the intense cultural pressure on men to suppress their emotions and by extension, their humanity.

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Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Yousafzai—international women's education activist and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner—was invited by TED to share his experience as a mentor and father to his influential daughter. His words were wise, simple, and elegant. What had he done to make Malala "so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised?" "Don't ask me what I did," he instructed, "ask me what I did not do." Ziauddin concluded his TED Talk with the now famous phase, "I did not clip her wings, and that's all."

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I’ve avoided writing on rape culture for a while, because it’s a difficult issue to tackle from a Christian perspective. In my experience, Christian churches don’t often talk about power and consent, and even more rarely do they truly acknowledge the reach and implications of rape culture for the body of Christ.  

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I’ve seen you do it a thousand times. You speak, but you hedge, qualify, and apologize for your words. You backtrack. You surrender. You question your experience and viciously undermine the truth you speak. You tread softy and sit small. And who can blame you?

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We’ve all heard them. Stupid jokes and thoughtless comments. Sexist sayings and caricatures. From the pulpit, at the altar, in school, from boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents, and friends. People pass off myths as facts and case-by-case examples as universal truth. Women are like this and men are like that. Women are obnoxious. Men are arrogant. Women are needy and men are emotionally unavailable. These statements are infused with cultural and gendered assumptions. They have no basis in the gospel and what’s more—they are rooted heavily in socialization. And yet, despite Christians’ pledge to reject unhealthy and sinful cultural messages, these painful and divisive gender jokes and ideologies have infiltrated the church. And it’s not no big deal, people. It’s a really big deal. Here’s why.

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I’ve decided to create a list of the daily effects of male privilege in the context of the church and Christian community, or the knapsack (backpack) of male privilege.

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I live in an age of fearless women. I live among the fire-starters, earth-shakers, and pot-stirrers. I live among women who cannot be bought, shifted, or erased. They are powerfully present, steady on their feet, and certain of their worth.

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If men root their behavior toward others in a gendered, earthly code like chivalry, I believe that they miss the radical scope of Jesus’ call to selfless service and love.

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We think that to be strong women, we must pour out endlessly, we must spend of ourselves, sometimes until nothing is left. But many of us continue to do so, long past when our reserves have run dry, because we think we have something to prove. Because we don’t see that our strength is in our skin and not our armor, in our love and not our fear.

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