Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A True Woman Knows Peace

 Leslie Basham: Carolyn McCulley says feminism is more influential than a lot of people realize.

Carolyn McCulley: The assumptions that you might make—because of what you’re imbibing from our culture or what you’re imbibing from our media—have been shaped very specifically by the feminist agenda over the last 150-200 years.

So step back and know where those ideas came from, and then see what Scripture says, and then seek the Lord. How would He direct you, and how would this look in your life?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, September 4.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I expect that today’s conversation with Carolyn McCulley will spark some dialogue with our listeners, and we like that. So we want to hear from you and your thoughts on some of the things we’re sharing from her book, Radical Womanhood.

This, for our culture, is a radical concept. It’s not a new concept. We’re talking about biblical womanhood, but biblical womanhood is radical in today’s world. Carolyn is challenging us to pursue—as Scripture challenges us to pursue—feminine faith in a feminist world.

What does that look like? What does it mean? How do we live out what it means to be women of God in a world that is, from stem to stern, just immersed in feminist thinking, more than most of us may have realized?

Carolyn is our guest here on Revive Our Hearts this week. Carolyn, thank you for writing this book. Thank you for your commitment to be a radical woman from God’s point of view and for helping us understand how we can live out that faith in a world that really is topsy-turvy.

Carolyn: Well, I may have written this book, but I stand on the shoulders of many women I know, and they’ve been gracious to allow me to include many of their stories as testimonies in this book.

I’ve really wanted to point away from myself and my experience but to look at the history of what happened and then look at how women today are applying biblical standards.

Nancy: In the chapter we’re going to talk about today, “Mommy Wars,” you give a number of illustrations and stories of people that you know—people you’ve run across—and one thing that struck me as I read those stories was there isn’t a “one size fits all” view of womanhood.

I think when we talk about biblical womanhood, sometimes the image that conjures up is Jane Austen movies and tea parties, and we’re not saying that biblical womanhood looks the same on every woman in every season of life.

Carolyn: No, it doesn’t. And in fact, I would be concerned if anyone walked away from these conversations we’re having on Revive Our Hearts or from my book thinking I would prescribe just one way of living and one way of doing things.

My goal with this book was simply to say the assumptions that you might make—because of what you’re imbibing from our culture or what you’re imbibing from our media—have been shaped very specifically by the feminist agenda over the last 150-200 years.

So step back and know where those ideas came from, and then see what Scripture says, and then together (if you’re married) with your husband, or if you’re single, seek the Lord. How would He direct you, and how would this look in your life?

There may be some women who are listening to us speak at a top level about what Scripture says and think, “Well, I can’t make that fit exactly that way in my life.” We’re not telling you to do this as a cookie-cutter model. We’re saying seek the Lord, and look at His Word.

Nancy: When we say that we have imbibed the feminist culture, that would be true even of women in our churches who would not consider themselves feminist, right?

Carolyn: Right. I don’t consider myself a feminist any longer either, but there can be ideas in which we need to have our minds renewed by Scripture, or there can be times when we can be challenged because our selfish ambition is being challenged.

We realize, “Wow, I want to react just like the culture does to this particular situation.” Feminism would be my spiritual Achilles heel because of where I was and what I was thinking before I became a Christian at 30.

So for me to go back and read some of these materials in preparation for this book was a difficult time. I encountered some spiritually lean times where I really had to cry out to God because of what I was reading. I’d feel like that little question was coming back, just like from the Garden of Eden.

Nancy: A little kick in your spirit?

Carolyn: A little kick in the spirit. Did God really say . . . ? Yeah, that’s right! Women really are sinned against. Yeah, that’s right. It was difficult. I had to ask those who know me well to pray for me and to uphold me in prayer because it was a lot of muck to kind of go through in preparation for the research for this book.

Nancy: I think we have listeners, I’m sure, who did not grow up the way you did in the overtly feminist mindset. What I have discovered as I’m talking with women who are thorough-going evangelicals is that most of us—in fact, you say in your book chances are—you carry some ideas about children, contraception, and motherhood that have had their roots in feminism, and maybe you didn’t even realize that.

You just have gone along with the flow of the way people think in the church and made assumptions and not realized that the fountainhead of that way of thinking is rooted in feminism.

Carolyn: Our culture today often at least has a joking mindset that children are little monsters or that they will take away your life. Or a woman who is a first-time mother will be greeted by others who say, “Oh yes, your best days are gone now; your sleep is gone now!”

All the little jokes that we make, there is some basis in reality there. You don’t get a lot of sleep when you are a new mother. But even just our little underlying jokes like this that signal nothing more than a weak attempt at humor actually have their roots in the way that our culture thinks about children being a burden, when Scripture says children are a gift.

Nancy: Before we jump into that, let me just say you may be thinking, “Well, I don’t have children, so I’m not going to listen to this program.” Or you said some people might be tempted to skip this chapter in your book—women who are childless or women whose children are grown, and you say to them, “Don’t skip it!”

This is important for those who have children and those who are not at a season of life where they have children. In fact, you’re childless, I’m childless, but you said that this chapter was your favorite one and the one about which you’re most passionate—the chapter on motherhood. Why do you feel that way?

Carolyn: Yes. I was really challenged to redefine the definition of the “Mommy Wars.” When our culture uses that in the media, it’s shorthand for the way women can take quick offense, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or you’re a mom who has an outside job. So the media kind of pits those two sides together.

Nancy: That tension between those two choices.

Carolyn: Exactly. But what became really clear to me as I did this research is that there’s a greater spiritual war. Though there may be some issues that we need to look at scripturally about the way we parent, the real assault is against the next generation.

We have a real spiritual enemy who is waging war against us and waging war against the next generation and wants us to think of children as an inconvenience at best or something that needs to be removed, eliminated, or killed at worst.

Our battles are not against feminists. I really want to be clear here. I have differences in ideology, but a woman who is a feminist is not my enemy. My spiritual enemy—Ephesians 6:12 is very clear about this—my real enemy is a spiritual enemy.

Nancy: He came to steal and kill and destroy.

Carolyn: He is our enemy. So these women who sometimes don’t know better have only heard about feminism, perhaps have never even heard the gospel, your neighbor who thinks differently than you do—she’s not your enemy.

But we have to be very savvy about the roots of some of the things that have happened in our definition of motherhood and in our view of children. Where did they come from? What were they based in?

I was shocked in some of my research here. Just shocked. There were times, literally Nancy, that I would come across things, and I would just cry. I wasn’t crying because I could picture my own children.

I wasn’t moved emotionally as a mother in that sense. I love my nieces and nephews, and I would definitely be emotional about them. But I was emotional because of what God’s heritage in the next generation is under such attack. That’s what would make me cry.

Nancy: As children of God, whether we have biological children or not, but as believers, we share God’s heart to see the gospel taken to the world, to see the next generation rise up and praise Him and know Him. So we have to be concerned, whatever season of life we may be in—married, single, children, no children—we have to be concerned about the next generation, whether we have a next generation because of the choices people make today as it relates to motherhood.

Carolyn: Well, you remember the other day we were discussing that concept of the republican motherhood, the idea that right after our nation—this republic—was founded, that mothers were very important and very necessary to the rearing and training of the next generation of new citizens. That time period of motherhood was idealized because they realized that you need to have what was known then as the intensively parented child.

And yet, by 1915, 1929 or so, when a woman named Margaret Sanger came about, she had a philosophy that the world would only be improved if the race would be purified, if those who were weak, mentally or physically, if those people could be limited in their procreation or even sterilized, the race would be improved.

Now, this was 100 years difference, and this woman, Margaret Sanger, her ideas were based in this concept called eugenics, which was also a cornerstone of Nazi Germany. It was the idea that there could be this social improvement if the race of some people were eliminated or not allowed to procreate.

Nancy: The survival of the fittest.

Carolyn: Exactly. Social Darwinism at its best.

Nancy: When I was college, now 30-some years ago, I saw a made-for-TV movie on Margaret Sanger. The name was new to me at the time, and some of our listeners may say, “I’m not really sure who she is. I’ve heard of her, but I don’t really know what her contribution was.” I was so astonished. Seeing the views that she espoused and what motivated her movement and what she accomplished was so startling to me that it really shaped some of my views. It drove me back to the Scripture to say, “What does God’s Word have to say about all of this?”

So I want us to depart for just a moment on Margaret Sanger, because whether you know who she is or not, she’s had a huge influence on where we are today. Help us understand a little bit why she did what she did that we’re paying the price for today.

Carolyn: Most people would be aware of Margaret Sanger because of what she founded, which was Planned Parenthood. So, even if you haven’t heard her name, you might be aware of Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion provider in our nation.

They are in the state now of trying to promote themselves beyond just this inner city, lower income help for women. They’re moving now into marketing their brand to reach suburban women and upper class women. They want to be a leader in reproductive and sexual health. That’s their slogan, and that sounds so wonderful and so benign until you realize what Margaret Sanger’s philosophies and ideals were.

And in fact, I think Margaret Sanger’s worldview would be summed up in this one quote in which she wrote, “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” And her thinking on that is that this was necessary because women who had so many pregnancies and so many children couldn’t handle it. It was overwhelming and it brought society down.

So by limiting the number of pregnancies—and even limiting the number of lives of these children—would benefit society as a whole. That was her viewpoint—that not only was murder acceptable, it was beneficial.

Nancy: And we’re aghast at the thought of someone suggesting it would be merciful for a large family to kill an infant member of its family. We think, “That’s horrifying,” and yet so many of our ways of thinking today about children, motherhood, contraception, etc. have flowed out of that very extreme way of thinking.

Carolyn: Yes, and it’s so sad.

Nancy: Was she really the first and major promoter of birth control in this country?

Carolyn: She was. She was quite a radical activist, and she took it on the chin, so to speak, many times for her beliefs, because at the time, you were not allowed to discuss contraception or even abortion or any of those ideas.

You could not send these materials through the U.S. Postal Service, and she was arrested and brought to trial a number of times because she continued to publish materials on this and continued to try to get education out.

Now, we would not disagree with the idea that women need help for their sexual and reproductive health. That’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about here is the idea that children are a burden and that you need to do something about them specifically by either preventing them from being conceived or killing them after conception.

She also had a philosophy about women’s sexual freedom. We think about the sexual revolution being in the 1960s, but she was promoting it back in the 1920s. She left her husband and had an affair with one of the leading sexologists at the time.

She actually published a magazine called The Woman Rebel, and the subtitle was, No Gods, No Masters. So she had a very distinct worldview of rebellion and wanting women to just live in the gratification of the moment and not deal with the consequences—namely, pregnancy.

Nancy: I have to say that it was watching that story—that biographical piece on Margaret Sanger—that first really challenged my whole thinking on the issue of contraception, because I realized when I saw the rebellion and the anger, the attitude toward marriage and men and children, I remember thinking, “This is a corrupt fountainhead.” I was thinking the whole birth control movement had been so glamorized and sanitized by the time I was in college, but I thought, “This is the source, the fountainhead that has become just part of the air we breathe,” the thinking in terms of contraception.

It forced me then to go to the Scripture and say, “What does God have to say about children? What is His perspective on this?” I found that it took me in a very different direction than what Margaret Sanger had done, which our nation followed pell-mell after that way of thinking ever since then.

Carolyn: Right. And on this topic, there will be those women who are listening, thinking that we have an argument about the actual tool—the contraceptive tool, whatever it is. Where it causes an abortion, we all would agree, I believe, that that is wrong.

But I don’t want the conversation to be sidetracked over the issue of contraception as a medical tool when the real discussion is about the worldview that started it and continues it to the place where there are some radical feminists today who actually say that the fetus implanting itself in a woman’s uterus is an evasion, a parasite, invading her right to privacy and all sorts of really unusual, crazy ideas, as though the fetus was conceived without any action on the woman’s part—it just happened one day walking down the street.

This divorce in our minds of our actions and the responsibility for our actions goes right back to Margaret Sanger.

Nancy: When you look at the international scene—particularly parts of Asia, for example—you see this has been a very anti-woman movement, ultimately. You talk about the missing females, millions of them in Asia today.

Carolyn: Yes, one of the unusual legacies of abortion is the fact that it’s actually caused many young women to lose their lives. Where you have populations that are trying to be contained by their governments like China or India, there’s an emphasis on the one child aspect. Many times in these cultures, they favor sons over daughters. As a result, they’re having hugely lopsided populations right now.

Nancy: Doing sex-selective abortions.

Carolyn: They are. And by one estimate, 100 million girls are missing from our world.

Nancy: Who weren’t born.

Carolyn: Because they were aborted. It’s fascinating to me, even in the development of the fact that when abortion was legalized in 1973, the sonogram, the ultrasound machine was in development, in research development at that time. Only three years later, in 1976, it became available for commercial use.

How kind of God to have allowed that research and development to come along so that we would see what He was doing in the mysteries of conception. That actually can challenge many people and their ideas that it’s just a little blob of tissue, because they can see very early on that it’s not. Unfortunately, that’s the same tool that’s now being used in other parts of the world to look to see if the fetus is a girl, and then abort it.

Nancy: Now, that whole thought is just horrific to most of our listeners who would say, “We strenuously object to this.” Most of our listeners would undoubtedly strenuously object to the concept of abortion. But you address another impact of feminism on motherhood, something called “The creeping non-choice of childlessness.” What is that?

Carolyn: That’s actually a phrase from another author, and I picked her up in her research in my book where she went to look at women who had inherited the legacy of second-wave feminism. To her surprise, she found that most of these women were childless. That had not been their goal. They had emulated the working lives of men and realized that as time went on, they experienced what she called this “creeping non-choice of childlessness.”

Nancy: Meaning . . .

Carolyn: Meaning that you need to be as proactive about your fertility as you are about your career. There was real pain among these women, and they would now go back and tell younger women, “If you want to be a mother, you have to plan for that as much as you are planning for your career.”

Now, this is sort of a mainstream message that’s coming out. We would hope that those in the church would be thinking that way early on, too, because motherhood is so valued in Scripture.

The Proverbs tell us to honor your mother and your father. There isn’t a pro-father, anti-mother sentiment in Scriptures. It’s very much honoring your parents.

Motherhood has been highly esteemed by the Bible, and so to say to young women today . . . If you go to school, people are always talking to you about your career. You hang out in the mall, wherever you go, people are saying, “What are you studying? What do you do?”

These women would look back now over the arc of 20 or 25 years of career success and say, “Don’t forget for your fertility, too.” In fact, there’s a society of reproductive specialists who have been so concerned about infertility issues in our culture. They actually took out a series of ads in New York City to talk about the things that can affect your fertility. Age was one of them, and that made the National Organization for Women—a feminist organization—just absolutely livid. “How dare you bring this up?”

But it’s a real biological factor. You know, you’re at your most fertile in your twenties, and you do wane off. Despite these celebrities having children by all kind of artificial means in their forties, it’s not easy by that age.

Nancy: And so for us, as Christian women, this really comes back to whether you have biological children, whether you don’t, whether you’re married or single, to having a biblical perspective, and embracing God’s perspective on being bearers and nurturers of life. We really are reflecting something about the character of God.

Carolyn: Yes, and I hope that anybody who has the chance to read my book would also really be encouraged by the testimonies that follow this particular chapter. I had so many of them that I ended up making an extended collection of testimonies of women who have experienced God’s grace in terms of adoption and abortion recovery and a variety of ways—interracial adoption. Whatever the situation is, seeing that God can meet them, God can redeem the past, God can work through the heart of a woman who is now dedicated toward Him.

I know that this is really a tender subject. I know there are women who, like I have, been affected by that “creeping non-choice of childlessness” and who could possibly even be crying today listening to this thinking, “That happened to me. I bought the message that I just needed to have a career and go for it, and I didn’t realize the cost.”

But there are children right around you, right now, alive today, who need your nurturing, who need your encouragement, who need your investment. Invest your femininity. Invest those nurturing impulses, even if you don’t have children of your own.

Nancy: And we’re saying that not only for your own blessing, though it is that, but in terms of the bigger picture, which is where we started this whole discussion. The “Mommy Wars” are bigger than your life and your relationship with children.

It has to do with this epic story that God is writing. He is a God of life, and when we cherish and value life, when we cherish and value children, we’re really standing against the schemes of the devil, who wants to cut off that next generation.

We’re being counter-cultural. We’re swimming upstream, and we’re saying, “No, we want the baton of the gospel to be passed on intact to the generation to come, so that they can declare the goodness and the redeeming work and acts of God to the next generation.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Carolyn McCulley have been talking about radical womanhood.

The main reason we live out a biblical view of womanhood is for God’s glory. Carolyn will help you better understand how to do this through the book she and Nancy have been talking about. It’s called Radical Womanhood, and we’ll send you a copy to show our gratitude when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Your donation will help us stay on the air in your community, and it will allow you to get a copy of this helpful book. Donate by calling 1-800-569-5959, or visit

And when you visit our site, get more information on True Woman ’10. At one of these Revive Our Hearts conferences, you’ll catch a vision for biblical womanhood and be encouraged by thousands of other women learning to live it out.

Registration is open for the three True Woman conferences in 2010. Again, our web address is

Carolyn will be back to wrap up her conversation with Nancy, Monday, on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.