Book Review – Half The Sky

Post a Comment » Written on April 7th, 2013     
Filed under: Book & Commentary

“Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” Matthew referred to this powerful prophecy from Jeremiah 31 as a comment on Herod’s slaughter of all the boys in the region of Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth.

I’m convinced that Rachel’s weeping has become a bitter wail – for her female children and for her sisters.  I’ve recently learned that more girls have been killed in the past fifty years – precisely because they were girls – than all the men who died in the wars of the twentieth century. Every year at least two million girls worldwide disappear because of gender discrimination.

These citations come from the introduction to “Half The Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which is a powerful indictment of and for our times. Simply put, this is one powerful book.  Yet it’s that rare read that causes you to experience emotionally polar extremes – despair at the inequities and brutalities experienced by women, yet feeling hopeful for their future.

Hopeful?  The subtitle for their book, “Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”, sums it up perfectly.  Kristof and WuDunn, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist couple, provide powerful documentation of the devastation faced by girls and women due to sex trafficking, honor killings, maternal mortality, rule by rape….  The list is painfully long. Yet each chapter takes a powerfully upward turn towards a new future; numerous courageous women are given a voice to share their vision of changing their culture.

Reading “Half the Sky” jarred me.  To this point much of my advocacy for women has been at a local or national level – making place at the leadership table or the pulpit at church, providing support & encouragement to victims of domestic abuse, and serving on the Covenant’s Biblical Gender Equality commission.   What could I be doing – should I be doing – about global needs, which are so much greater than simply assuring equal access and pastoral care?

Although the authors are not writing from a faith perspective, I recommend this book highly to pastors. We confidently affirm that women bear the image of God.  If so, then gendercide and other crimes against women are simply unacceptable. More than simply providing information, “Half the Sky” has become a significant call to action, with a PBS film series, a game, and most importantly a website, Read, inform, contribute, volunteer, visit – the entire last chapter deftly addresses the question “what you can do.”

To that list of responses I would add the word pray.  Is there any doubt that God would want the girls and women of the world to be treated with justice?  As more people take up their cause, then we can confidently quote another verse from Jeremiah 31:  “So there is hope for your future, declares the Lord”.

Submitted by:
Brian Wiele, Commission Member

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