Beth Moore and I are both Christians, but we are not from the same tribe. Much like Shiites and Sunnis arguing over the true Islam, Moore and I have our differences. She has lived her life in Southern White American Evangelicalism and I’ve lived mine in the rocky vineyard of New England Congregationalism.
Our politics and church culture couldn’t be more different. I had never heard of her until she got badly bullied on social media for criticizing Evangelical leaders for defending Donald Trump after the “Access Hollywood” came to light toward the end of the 2016 election.
I learned that she was a popular Bible Study leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote studies used in 100’s of congregations and gave talks that filled large auditoriums and arenas. She was a very big deal in White American Evangelicalism.
So, I respected and admired her for risking to speak out at great personal cost. A victim of child sexual abuse she called out the (mostly male) SBC leadership for protecting and covering up sexual abuse in their churches. Eventually she couldn’t stay in the denomination that had been her home all her life. She and her husband, Keith, who had been raised Roman Catholic eventually joined an Anglican church a half hour away from their home in Houston.
I had recently been in a study group at my church that read Rachel Held Evans book “Inspired.” One of the other class members recommended that we listen to it on Audible because it was read by the author, who died tragically from a drug reaction.
I’ve long resisted talking books. I love books. My parents were librarians. Other people had wallpaper, we had bookshelves everywhere. But I tried Audible and listened to Rachel read her fine book, and it was a very meaningful and intimate experience.
I had a free credit on Audible, so when I learned that Beth Moore had a new memoir out, and read it herself, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did.
I like to think of myself as a person with few prejudices, but I confess Moore’s accent was jarring at first. Whereas Rachel had a soft Tennessee drawl, Beth has an Arkansas twang you could cut with a knife. I got over it. She a wonderful storyteller, and the story she tells is worth hearing. She is sometimes “laugh out loud” funny and at other times brought “tender tears” to my eyes.
The early chapters are at times troubling because of her abuse, but more generally, they tell of a complicated and mostly loving family held hostage to their secrets.
Church was a refuge for her from an early age, and she witnesses to a lively personal faith in Jesus and a deep love for the Scriptures. Perhaps we have more in common than I had thought.
Beth’s struggle with the misogyny she experienced led her to reject the “Complementarianism” that she had accepted all her life and that is baked into much of conservative Evangelicalism. This view asserts that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, and religious leadership. Women are forbidden to preach in the SBC. As a popular lay leader and speaker, Moore drew criticism that she was stepping out of her proper role as a woman. My daughter is an ordained pastor in a liberal denomination, but she is no stranger to misogyny in the church, so I resonated with Moore’s struggle as a woman who deeply believed that God had called her to ministry.
She says “Complementarianism” just didn’t fit how she and her husband related to each other. She speaks tenderly and honestly about her own complicated marriage to Keith. All her family members are portrayed lovingly. Apparently, they all signed off on her revealing the painful family secrets (at least the ones still living did.)
Above all, this is a book about one woman’s extraordinary faith journey. Beth Moore has written a very good book that is worth your time to read or listen to. I thank God for her and for this inspiring memoir.