Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home

Book review: Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home

By Jonalyn Grace Fincher

Zondervan, 2007

ISBN:-10: 0-310-27243-2

Talk about a breath of fresh air.

I ordered Jonalyn Grace Fincher’s Ruby Slippers with some misgiving, especially when I noted the subtitle: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home.  I hoped this book wasn’t another worn-out rehash of “the Proverbs 31 woman” or a trip down the “yellow brick road” equating Christian femininity with Suzy Homemaker, June Cleaver, and “married with children.”  It isn’t. Carefully integrating philosophy, psychology, theology, history, women’s studies and “my own walk with Christ into a primer on the woman’s soul” (p. 193), Ruby Slippers is a much-needed and long overdue look at God’s ideas about womanhood.  It shows how women are unique bearers of the imago dei and celebrates the soul of a woman within a thoroughly sound context of biblical truth.

Intelligent and incisive, Ruby Slippers is alert, agile, and penetrating without being pompous or trite.  It avoids strait-jacketed “Christian stereotypes” and clears the way of narrow definitions, presumptions and prejudices to find out what makes women different and precious.  Through careful biblical exegesis, meticulous research, thoughtful analysis and a well-rounded philosophical approach, Fincher shows us the real soul of a woman and its inestimable worth as a unique reflection of God’s nature.

Early on, Fincher issues “one important caveat: I am not claiming to have the final words on women” or “an exhaustive index on femininity or the only biblical model for Christian womanhood,” leaving the door open for further discussion.  She also provides “Soul Care” questions at the end of each chapter for further thought.

In terms of writing style, Fincher’s is generally tight, crisp, and lean.  She shares personal anecdotes and experiences and analyzes vast quantities of data through a biblical grid.  The author also brings an essential that’s often lacking in many “women’s ministry” paradigms and “women’s Bible study” authors: demonstrable expertise and impeccable educational credentials.  She’s done her homework and has the background and qualifications to give this book gravitas.  (Fincher holds a double Bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in philosophy of religion and ethics from Talbot School of Theology, my alma mater.)

Sumptuously sprinkled throughout the main text are relevant observations from such Christian luminaries as C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers, to name a few.  The material bogs down momentarily in Chapter 2, Uncorking the Soul, with a somewhat overlong discussion of soul and spirit, but it picks up steam thereafter.  The discussion on The Same Planet in Chapter 3 regarding “gender roles”, “equal without being identical” and “similar though not the same” is delicious.

Further on, Fincher masterfully deconstructs John Gray’s “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” mythology, and the inadequate, incomplete “helper” rendering of Genesis 2, among others: “… contrary to popular pagan myths, contrary to Goddess Earth myths, and contrary to much Churchianity, God makes Woman to provide and offer the hope, the ezer for Man.”

Other myths put to rest include: “East of Eden” femininity, “godly submission,” “the weaker vessel” and “boutique form(s) of gnosticism and neo-paganism” which glories “fertile, female bodies over female souls.”

More stand-out sections include Prescription Lists, Corsets and Slippers that Don’t Fit (pp. 14 – 18), Why the Trinity Dignifies Women (pp. 156 -158), Natural Femininity (pp. 102 -140), Learning from Women (pp. 159 – 164) and Jesus in Female Form (pp. 185 -186).

As beautifully and as nimbly crafted as the Emerald City, Ruby Slippers is a ground-breaking work with much to offer in the on-going discussion of gender theory, cultural stereotypes and authentic Christian femininity.  This fine work is perhaps best summarized in Fincher’s own words: “I am becoming more free.  Not free to live out my dominations or check off my lists or squeeze into a corset.  But free to be more like the triune God, the way he has redeemed me: fully female, fully human.”

Indeed, these Slippers are as welcome as Glinda’s “Toto, too.”  Five stars.


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