Recovering with Aimee Byrd

In the past week, I read – among other books – two in particular that stuck with me. I generally tend to have several books going at one time.

The first book was Aimee Byrd’s remarkable book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

The second was Us Against You by my favorite novelist, Fredrik Backman. It is a novel about two rival towns within a few miles of one another; two hockey teams; two rivalries – us and you. It is a story of hate and enemies and how quickly hate burns into murder and destruction. It is an account of a politician who thrives on that hate, and keeping it stirred up. Hate is easy, inborn, natural. It is easily confused for righteousness and zeal. Beartown hockey against their archrivals: Hed hockey. Us against you.

The story begins with the star of Beartown Hockey raping the daughter of the General Manager of Beartown Hockey. And the hate begins.

Backman writes,

A boy, the star of the hockey team, rapes a girl. And we lost our way. A community is the sum of its choices, and when two of our children said different things, we believed him. Because that was easier, because if the girl is lying our lives could carry on as usual. When we found out the truth, we fell apart, taking the town with us. It’s easy to say that we should have done everything differently, but perhaps you wouldn’t have acted differently, either. If you’d been afraid, if you’d been forced to pick a side, if you’d known what you had to sacrifice. Perhaps you wouldn’t be as brave as you think. Perhaps you’re not as different from us as you hope. (page 2)

It is a hard read. Brilliant writing.

In one scene, Backman describes a hockey game between the two towns. The towns have hated each other as long as anyone can remember. The ice rink has a standing area and it is filled with the loudest fans of the rival team. As the game begins, the fans of the opposing team in the standing area search for the names that will bring the most pain, the most rage, the most degradation and start shouting those names. It makes one cringe to read it.

But then, something happens. One girl in the standing area gets up and goes to the seating area. Another one follows. Then another and another. Until, pretty soon, there are only a handful of haters left in the standing area. It turns out that those ugly, shouting, hateful people were not nearly as numerous as everyone thought. There were only a handful of them. But they knew what to shout to cause the most pain. And they were loud.

This calms everything down for the evening, and the two teams play hockey.

Aimee Byrd is not outside the Reformed Tradition. She is under the authority of the church. She subscribes to the Reformed creeds and confessions, and has never written anything contrary to her confession of faith. She is more orthodox that those who founded the Counsel of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. She is not a ‘feminist’. She is a sister in Christ, loved by the Lord Jesus and a member of his body, the church.

But she asks some very valid questions in her book. Do women have more to offer the church than what is generally assumed by the modern conservative church? Do women have the right and the duty to study theology? Do women have the right to sit at the feet of Jesus as disciples and learn from him?

And she writes and gently critiques from within the boundaries of Reformed Theology and the ecumenical creeds. She is direct, but gentle. Insightful and kind.

And the men lost their minds. Without even reading the book, shouts of “heresy”! “Disturber of the peace of the church!” “Feminist!” “Egalitarian!”

Shouting from the stands is easy. It is the cowards way. It avoids actually confronting our hate and our fear and having a rational discussion. Perhaps the men are afraid that the women will get uppity. Perhaps they are afraid that their wives will refuse to make them a sandwich and the might have to get off the couch and do it themselves. Perhaps they are afraid of love.

Because if you learn to love, you have to listen. To listen, means you have to quit shouting and admit that there might be something you are wrong about. To love one another means that you have to put the other ahead of yourself. To love, you have to respect and honor even those who might be different than you.

And that is very, very difficult to do.

It is far, far easier to tell a woman to make you a sandwich than it is to love her. But when we do that, how much have we lost of our own humanity?

I think what it comes down to is fear. In Beartown Hockey, Backman describes that fear behind the hate so perfectly. We fear losing who we are. What will we lose if we admit the truth?

Having been born and raised in conservative Reformed churches, I think I know something of that fear. If you let your guard down for one second, liberals get into the church. Next thing you know, you lose everything. The church goes apostate all because someone let their guard down. I think we are afraid of divorce, afraid of having to wash dishes and learn how to cook, afraid we might have to re-evaluate what we have been taught about men and women. If we let our guard down even for a second, the women take over. We can’t have that. Beartown has to win, otherwise, who are we? Constant vigilance takes the place of love and that means that shouting from the stands takes the place of honest engagement. We can’t be seen consorting with FEMINISTS!

But rather than thinking through the questions that Byrd raises, we are afraid of the answer. Most of those who reviewed the book didn’t even read it. They just shouted what their neighbors shouted. Hate is easy. Listening is harder.

I wasn’t a young man in seminary, at least not in years. But I was obnoxious. I thought I knew everything. It is easy to criticize everything outside of what we think is right, it is easy to pick apart and find fault. But we never grow that way. We never learn. We never put off the old man and put on the new. I wish I had listened more than I did.

Our traditions are deeply engrained. We have a very clear understanding of who the right thinking people are. Us against you.

And our debating too often turns into shouting from the stands.

I for one, am leaving those stands. I’m not a part of that. You won’t hear my voice shouting names and insults. I am going to sit in the stands and think some things through. I would invite you to join me.

Maybe we can all recover from the voices of the loud ones and learn a thing or two from our sisters.



Filed under Book Notes

14 responses to “Recovering with Aimee Byrd

  1. I’ve not read Byrd’s book, just a bit about it/I have, however, “read” (listened on cd in the car) Us Against You. It was powerful! My Backman admiration began with A Man Called Ove. I’ve also read – my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry.And – And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.

  2. I haven’t read Byrd’s book, just a little about it.I have, however, read (listened to audio in the car) Us Against You. Very powerful! My admiration for Frederick Backman began with -A Man Called Ove. Also read: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – and – And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.

  3. I am currently reading My Grandmother… by Fredrik Backman – I love his writing! Aimee Byrd’s book just arrived as well and I’m excited to dive into that. Thank you for this thoughtful, well-reasoned review. You’ve renewed my interest in Byrd’s book and I so appreciate your calm approach to this topic. I wish more people were willing to reexamine their beliefs in the light of Scripture alone and not just what they have been taught by tradition.

  4. I’ve read and reviewed her book, here on my wordpress blog. It is terrible how Aimee is being treated by some of these folks! On amazon, some are giving 1 star reviews which I think is so wrong, unfair, immature. Even if some totally disagree with Aimee, the book is nonetheless well written and articulate. They should at least rate it a 3. I think, as you mention, they are fearful and will do anything to discredit her and this book. How is that Christian? It is not. Thanks for your post!

    • There are certain groups conspiring together to flood Amazon with 1 star reviews, without even reading it, in order to drive down sales.
      They profess to be ministers of the gospel. It is just wicked.

  5. JLewis

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  6. Radfem

    What’s wrong with feminism? Radical feminists have much alignment with the church. Radical feminists are:
    against porn,
    against men’s violence (wife-beating, rape, stalking, etc.)
    against men’s oppression of women
    against men claiming they are women and thus barging their way into women’s sex-segregated spaces (bathrooms, battered women’s shelters, women’s prisons, girls’ and women’s sports, etc.)

    The church shouldn’t be in support of any of those things. So, radical feminists are not the big bad boogie men they’ve been made out to be.

    • I agree. I have always called for dialogue and engagement rather than name-calling. I was quoting the angry mob.
      I don’t think name calling has ever been useful in any discussion.

  7. Loved this post. Oh I do wish people would listen when a voice of reason speaks! But they didn’t listen to Jesus either, hence “he who has ears to hear let him hear …” I had wondered in an earlier post when you mentioned that Aimee’s book wasn’t easily quotable, whether that was because of Divine Providence or sheer brilliance (probably both). How much easier it is for the mob when they can take a few singled out words, quote them out of context, and then run to town with them. Well, apparently the solution is simply not to read it at all.

    A copy is sitting in my cart. When I can, I’ll be going through the checkout. Thank you Aimee Byrd, and Pastor Powell.

  8. Anu Riley

    I haven’t read Aimee’s book but I’ve read some of her writings and I usually enjoy them. The hatred towards her and her book was so vicious, I could almost hear her being torn to shreds.

    it’s actually your quote from the OTHER book you read that stayed with me:

    “It’s easy to say that we should have done everything differently, but perhaps you wouldn’t have acted differently, either.”

    It reminded me of the song and dance routine from the female murderers in “Chicago:” They had it coming. If you’d have been there, if you’d have seen it, I bet you would have done the same.

    Maybe that would make us mad: Don’t change the subject. We’re not the ones on trial here. We’re not talking about what WE would do, we’re talking about what you already DID. Don’t deflect and distract from that.

    I’m not a sports fan, so you won’t find me shouting vitriol from the stands. I liked how one person walked out, and others followed.

    But what if I had been in the crowd of people who started shouting “crucify Him!” Would I have stayed silent, passively disagreeing but not walking away. Not actively spewing hate but passively enabling it by staying silent.

    Or would I given into the power of peer pressure (let’s say I’m the only one not joining in). Or would I not NEED peer pressure, the intoxication went to my own head with no help from others.

    Power is not always contagious; it only infects you if you get too close to sick people. Sometimes we self-infect ourselves, and worst of all—WE are the ones who spread it around like a disease.

    Set an example in the now, that rejects the example you set in the not so now. Pastor did this excellently: “But I was obnoxious. I thought I knew everything…I for one, am leaving those stands”

    Maybe those women were right. If I HAD been there, or been in their shoes, maybe I would have done the same.

    “Perhaps you’re not as different from us as you hope.” That passage spoke of being afraid, scared of what you’d lose, forsaking bravery.

    I HAVE been there. And I DID forsake bravery. I wasn’t as different as I hoped I was, or wanted to be.

    I failed when my faith was tested. I thought I knew the material, but I was wrong. My strength and stamina was not what I thought it was.

    I though I should have been expelled from His kingdom, but He didn’t. I thought He’d call me all sorts of names (uppity, unfaithful, unhealthy, unlovable, unreachable), but He didn’t. I thought He’d unleash His wrath on me, but He didn’t. I thought He’d give me a to-do list (make me a sandwich and live in fear!), so that I never stray again. It’s easier to tell me what to do than to tell me that He loves me.

    Now I know the differences better, but will I be different? I can only hope and pray that I do—not if, but when I am tested again. I hope perfect love drives OUT that fear instead.

  9. kastega

    I would be honored, Sam, if you would read and review my book, The Full Rights of Sons. Thanks for your consideration.
    Kathy Stegall

  10. NODH

    Now I want to read that book. Very much caught my attention.

    Been so puzzled and disturbed at how people can treat other people so badly. I know the answer lies in what is believed about Christ. Hold Christ in high esteem, and you have to be kind to others. There is no other choice. He forgave so much. I am broken that all of this is happening. George Floyd, all the others, all the excuses, the riots, the stealing and destroying. People are in a bad place.

    Yet on the other side, also grappling with how to deal with the wreckage of an abusive marriage and caring for the kids in the aftermath. When the one responsible for the damage now says… I am upright. Look at me reading my Bible and going to church. Look at me working in a ministry. (When no one sees, I can still degrade and despise the one who fled, and it’s all ok) how?! How can it be, that someone can expose… and leave… and keep exposing, and finally stop pointing out the problems because no one listens.

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