Go Ahead, Ladies, Fight for the Faith

by Mary Lou Cornish

I’m one of those people who hates confrontation and would do just about anything to avoid conflict. So it may come as a surprise that I’m also an apologist for the Christian faith, an enterprise that involves disagreements of all kinds.

1 Peter 3:14 tell us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” An atheist quoted that verse to me right before asking why I believed in God. I quickly realized for the first time that my Christian faith was largely grounded in experience. My reasons for believing were valid, but not convincing for someone looking for arguments based in logic and reason.

Even after I did my homework—learning the arguments for the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible—I quickly discovered I also had to know the right way to articulate them, particularly in the face of the insults and mockery some atheists like to substitute for intelligent and reasonable dialogue. I didn’t just study the “what” of apologetics; I studied the “how,” turning to guides such as Greg Koukl’s Tactics.

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Judging by the dearth of women in apologetics, I’m not the only one who doesn’t like disagreements and strives for peace in all things. Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In  brought up once again women’s hesitancy to be assertive, even in situations when we have a cause to fight for. Women are actually more underrepresented in philosophy—a field overtaken by aggressive debates, according to Freakonomics– than in math and science.

The problem with these patterns does not lie with some innate inability for women to engage in debate, but the perceptions and expectations we hold. In No More Christian Nice Girl, Jennifer Degler and Paul Coughlin note that “boys are commended for their assertiveness while girls are praised for being quiet and calm. By the sixth and seventh grades, a girl’s primary concern is being popular and well-liked”… and nobody likes an arguer, do they?

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