Series 34: Spring Back | Episode 01
Spring Back Series #1: Courageously Changing with Beth Moore
It’s new series time–and we’re “springing back” to some For the Love favorites, while bringing you some new thoughts from Jen’s heart in this season! As they say, what’s old becomes new again, and we can rely on spring every year to bring us that new growth; from the plants to the trees, and oftentimes within our own souls. This week we are bringing back one of Jen’s longtime inspirations and mentors, Beth Moore. Beth’s recent split from her roots in the Southern Baptist community after calling out the misogyny, inequality, and disregard for many minority communities has a lot of people talking. It was a big, huge deal, and Jen explains what this means to the Christian zeitgeist. Jen also revisits her favorite moments with Beth and dives back into how we can learn to live a life filled with faith even if that means pushing back against long held, and perhaps antiquated beliefs. So, let’s Spring back to our interview with Beth, and reflect on the biblical concept of the vineyard and how vines can grow in rocky places, opening space for God to prune and prepare us for change that comes with seasons of growth.
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Hey, everybody, friends of the For the Love podcast, I want to welcome you to our Spring Back Series. Well, we’re going to be going back to the past, springing back in time, as it were and delving into a handful of archives of literally some of our greatest podcast moments with some of mine and your favorites. These are the folks who absolutely laid down some truth on us back in the day. And then what we have noticed is that what they said, what we talked about, it’s so salient for right now. It’s even more powerful perhaps in today’s moment than maybe it even was originally. And we wanted to bring them back forward with just a lot of new, additional commentary, because not only are they evergreen, they have fresh new meaning now.
So today’s guest in particular has had a lot happen since she and I talked a little over a year ago. And I have to say, and I mean this so sincerely, I have never, ever been prouder to know her, to love her, to be loved by her. And if you’ve been around me long enough, you know she has loved me relentlessly and consistently for years. I mean, through all my rocky years. So in some ways, she has been quietly, gently considering the faith structure she grew up in where she first found her voice, where honestly she built her whole ministry. And in other ways, she has been loudly standing against political figures or spiritual leaders that seemingly have condoned abusive behavior toward women, toward people of color, toward immigrants and sadly, but predictably, you guys, that was a stand not well-received by most of her contemporaries.
But our friend, our girl, Beth Moore, she had the guts, and I mean the guts, to call it out. And not only that, she’s shown a light on some of the accusations toward sexual abuse that have been happening in the church for decades, you guys, decades, where the voices of victims have been shamed and silenced and abusers have been protected and promoted. And I’m just telling you, even though we can just look at it on its face and say, “That’s the right thing to do,” but that advocacy took courage because, well, of course it did. Of course it did. Her particular denomination and others like it have a long history of being unwilling to pull up a seat of ownership to their own table and say, “We got this wrong. We failed. We caused harm. We repent. We are sorry. We are changing.”
I mean, that’s what I would love to see from the people of God, but we generally see the opposite.
But Beth Moore, y’all, she had the integrity and the bravery to call it out. And not only that, I don’t know if you know this, but to put it mildly, Beth, same here guys, was, let’s just say not a fan of our last president and of the ways in which he spoke about women and people of color and immigrants and the poor, and really just people in general. And she really had the tenacity as a member of a community of faith who in large percentage were fans, to point it all out, this problematic behavior, this absolutely abusive and harmful language, and then even to question others who not only seemed to be okay with all this blatant sexism and nationalism, but were in lockstep, were in support. It was a really, really big deal.
I actually love this quote from her, she said what so many wouldn’t. And this, you guys, I’m about to read you something she wrote. This was before any insurrection had occurred. She wrote this on Twitter, like a foreboding warning, almost prophetic. She said, “I do not believe these are the days for mincing words. I’m 63 and a half years old, and I have never seen anything in these United States of America I have found more astonishingly seductive and dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.” Whew. I mean, go off. Go off.
If perhaps her dissent, really all of our dissent, maybe started on the fringes, ancillary, our little alarm bells going off and we’re raising our little white flags. Talk about not mincing words. And of course when Beth made the decision to step away from her denomination, her forever denomination, where she is, it’s anger. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Of course my phone starts blowing up because our friendship, mine and Beth’s, is very storied. Some people absolutely love it. Some people absolutely hate it. She gets crap for being my friend. I sometimes get crap for being her friend. Whatever, we just can’t please everybody. But it doesn’t matter because it’s true and genuine, and it’s based in real and sincere love for one another. And when I tell you the way that she has loved me and stood with me and by me through it all, I’m not joking. I mean, I have receipts.
So of course my phone starts blowing up. “Jen, oh my gosh, what do you think about Beth? And you know what? This is a really big deal.” So I spoke to one of our shared mutual friends, a female journalist, and I said this. “While there are a thousand ways we can robustly disagree as people of faith, there are and should be deal-breakers. And Beth saw those so clearly, the defense of white supremacy, patriarchal abuse, moral bankruptcy, the crushing of human souls for proximity to power. So many of us have defected from those ranks already because too many of its faithful adherents can no longer stand by while this denomination denies racism, protects abusers, silences women, and destroys the lives of LGBTQ people.”
So here’s something I want to add to that, because as somebody who has also obviously defected, if you will, people who walk away, who push on the hierarchies, on the power structures, on the power differentials, on the injustice of some of those manmade religious systems, we’re called of course heretics, that low-hanging trope. Our faithfulness is called into question. Our credibility is denied as obedient people of faith. But the truth is what I have seen in my life is that those who ultimately walk away, these are some of the most faithful people I’ve ever known. It is because of their faith, it is because of their absolute loyalty to Jesus, to the ways of Jesus, to the ways in which He told us to move through this earth, that we have to walk away from some of the structures that men built around Him.
That’s it. It is not a lack of faithfulness. It’s honor. And it’s because we refuse to throw the baby out with the bath water. And so, many, many, many incredibly faithful people have made the same choice, have walked, and they are finding Jesus in different places and inside different communities, and it’s real and it’s good and it’s true. So, I’ve been, I guess a follower, if you will, of Beth long before being a follower was even a thing. Her teachings inspired me as a young woman, as a mom, as a Christian. I didn’t grow up with lady preachers. I didn’t know that was a thing. I never saw a woman in a pulpit. I never saw a woman open up the Bible and preach for an hour. And so of course, Beth wasn’t allowed to do that inside churches because she was a lady and she wasn’t granted the authority to do it, but she did it in arenas.
Preaching is preaching. I would just remember sitting under her work in the ’90s, just going, what is this? Is this possible? Can we do this? Because as you know, I’ve had a fire shot up in my bones, especially in my 20s before I really knew that my authority came from God and I didn’t have to ask a man permission. So I’m watching this little gal with her big hair going, wow, look at this. Look at what’s possible. She founded Living Proof Ministries in 1994. Can you even think about the social and religious structures from ’94? But here’s what I want you to know, from the very beginning, Beth’s whole mission has been to encourage women to know and love Jesus and find healing and redemption through a great love of scripture. And y’all, not an ounce of that has ever wobbled.
That has been her through line all the way to this living day. It is her vision for her life, for the people of God, and not a single one of these recent moves that we’re talking about here has ever moved her off that center. If anything, it’s moved her into it. If anything, it’s Beth pulling into the center of her faith and unable to just sit idly by while the centrifugal rings around it drift further and further away. She’s still carrying the same torch she carried from the beginning.
So, I don’t know, some of you who know and follow Beth may have sensed some rumblings, if you have eyes and ears, maybe first in the form of her early opposition to the overall misogynistic and abusive behavior from our country’s leaders and in our churches, which has now played out in her recent decision to separate from her denomination that she was raised in, because it just doesn’t align with her view of Jesus and his love anymore. It’s just really that simple. And now in her decision to separate, along with issuing a very powerful, very meaningful public apology for any contribution she had toward the idea of complementarianism, which is this notion that her denomination and many others ascribe to, which essentially champions male headship and female submission. That is a reductionist explanation, but at its core, that’s what it is. Men first always. Women second. That is what it is. Men always in leadership. Men’s voices matter. Men are in charge of church. Men are in charge of home. Men are in charge of women. That’s complementarianism. Women don’t have any of their own authority.
So if you are new to the whole Christian evangelical world thing, oh gosh, Lord have mercy. First of all, let me just say this real quick. This isn’t news, but I don’t identify as evangelical anymore. Years ago, I separated myself from that label simply because it has no meaning anymore. I don’t even know what it means in culture. It’s so linked to nationalism and whiteness and misogyny and homophobia. So whatever it meant originally, it’s not what it means now. So I do not identify with that at all. And who cares? It’s not even a real word. We made it up. It’s not a sacred word. I have no love lost for it, and I had never had any real loyalty to it. So it doesn’t feel like I’ve really walked away from anything profound or sacred. But the cultural understanding of that term now is so corrupted that I’d never hang that shingle out again.
But anyways, if you’re new to it, let me tell you, this is a really big deal. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Kate Bowler, who has also been a guest on our show–incredible. Kate is top drawer. Kate is top notch. Stop what you’re doing real quick and go follow her because she is just a wonderful teacher in our time. Kate’s a historian at Duke Divinity School, and she said, “Beth Moore is one of the most popular evangelists in the world. Outside the Southern Baptist Convention, who can name another Southern Baptist right now?” So ironically, even though women have no authority in the SBC, the most famous Southern Baptist in the universe is Beth Moore, our girl.
So let’s also not forget to mention that when Beth’s reaction to her contemporaries’ support of our last president was one of, same as me, utter bewilderment and then ultimately outrage. She put herself on the line knowing full well, look, guys, we know how this works. We knew–she knew–that her book sales would suffer. She knew that tons of her previously devoted audience would stop following her, would stop attending her conferences. She was right on all counts, but she stood in her integrity. She had to. It’s who she is. She had to. And I’m just telling you that to butt up against such a long held tenant in evangelical spaces that uses a doctrine to often suppress women, well, it just didn’t sit well with folks accustomed to their places of power, whether that was the men or the women who are absolutely committed to protecting misogyny and that level of disproportionate hierarchy inside the family of God.
Guess what? Absolutely nobody is going to tell my girl Beth Moore to sit down. It just isn’t going to work. It just isn’t going to work. I’m just proud of her. I’m proud of her. What this latest leadership means to me from her is that she’s exactly who I thought she was, that she was trustworthy, that she’s good. Her integrity cannot be shaken. It cannot be shaken by peer pressure, it cannot be shaken by hatred, it cannot be shaken by bullying, by being canceled, by being called literally every name in the book, every name in the book, because her allegiance is to Jesus, and that’s it. Beth’s allegiance is to Jesus, the end.
And it’s been an honor to watch, honestly, in a time for me at least, when so many leaders have disappointed me. And even, I’m going to go so far to say, I felt betrayed. To watch a leader stand in her honor, in her faithfulness, I’m like, “Oh, thank God. It’s real. There’s hope here yet.” There’s hope–period.
And I want to say something to those of you listening, who maybe you are sitting in some private tension, spiritual tension, maybe something that you were handed or taught or told all along no longer feels true to you. Maybe it even feels destructive. Maybe you’re looking around going, I don’t think this is real. I don’t think this is right, and you are pressing on that. I want to say, take heart. Be courageous. Do not be afraid of your own questions.
Here’s the good news. Right in the center of the thing, the Jesus part, that’s going to hold. Don’t you worry about it. We can’t crumble. But it is right and good to deeply examine some of the manmade structures we have wrapped around him. That’s good work, not bad work. You’re not a heretic. You’re not faithless. You’re doing what every wise and good faithful person and generation has done before us. It’s just our turn. It’s our turn to look at what we’ve built, what we’ve created, what we have put in cement and ask, is this really true? Is this really good?
I can tell you my metric. I always look to the fruit. That’s my deal. So no matter what we’ve been told or taught, and no matter how many people have said that this is the thing, this is right, this is the only way, let’s look to the fruit. If it produces bad fruit, it’s bad. The end. If somebody tells us this thing is good and right and true, but what we see on the other end of it is harm, suicide, pain, injustice, if we see racism, if we see the support of white supremacy, if we see it breaking apart hearts and families and homes, if it causes people great pain, if it is abusive, hi, it’s bad. It’s bad fruit. I don’t care who says it’s good. And by the way, pay attention to who’s saying it’s good. I guarantee you, they’re not on the receiving end of that bad fruit.
Flip side. If what we have been told or taught is saying, “This thing is bad. It’s categorically bad. There’s no honor in it. There’s no God in it. It’s not godly. There’s no Jesus in this,” but what we see with our eyes is good fruit. We see flourishing, we see joy, we see faithfulness and obedience. We see community, we see healing and redemption. It’s good fruit. Again, who’s telling us it’s bad? But that’s how I determine. I didn’t make that up. Jesus gave us that tip. Jesus was like, “Here’s how you know. Here’s how you know how something actually operates in the world. What does it produce?” Easy.
I thought it would be wonderful to revisit my conversation with Beth that we had back in January of 2020, which shows the consistent heart of love this woman has, her very deep knowledge of scripture and how it applies to us today, this living day, and her unshakable desire for every human being to find their way into this community of faith, where they are cherished, where they are absolutely beloved. And if you don’t know Beth, well gosh, I mean, she’s written millions and millions of best-selling books and Bible studies. She and Keith, her husband, live in the Houston area. She has two grown daughters, Amanda and Melissa, both friends of mine. And she is a delighted grandmother as well. She also has a neighbor donkey called Donk, And I hope you follow her on Instagram because you’ll get to see lots of pictures of Donk.
She’s been a guide for decades, a faithful one. And I just cannot wait to see what this new moment of leadership looks like. I’m watching with bated breath. I cannot wait to see what comes of it. I’ll tell you this right now, it’s going to be good fruit. So let’s spring back to our interview with Beth Moore and reflect a little bit about the biblical concept of the vineyard. Oh, I loved this conversation the first time around, and how vines grow in rocky places. You guys, this is so salient, not just for her, but for me, and how God prunes us and prepares us for change that comes with those chapters of growth. Here she is, Beth Moore.
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