In the Body of the World



Every once in awhile a book comes along whose message is so powerful, so raw, and so profound you can only be amazed that someone found the words to write it. Eve Ensler’s memoir, In the Body of the World, is one of those books.

Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologue fame has devoted her life to to the female body – how to talk about it, how to protect it, and how to value it’s sacredness. When she finally addresses her cancer, which began in her uterus and affects her all her organs in her pelvic area, she is forced to confront her own unfinished story and her own dissociation from her own body.

She weaves her experience undergoing debilitating surgeries and treatment to call attention to the resilience of the hundreds of thousands of women of Congo and the unspeakable atrocities inflicted upon them and our own violation of the Earth.

After being literally gutted and all the infections have finally subsided, Eve Ensler prepares for the agonizing onslaught of chemotherapy by meeting with a former therapist, Sue. Here is the consciousness shift Sue shared tying Eve’s own past to her activist work:

The chemo is not for you. it is for the cancer, for all the past crimes, it’s for your father, it’s for the rapists, it’s for the perpetrators. You’re going to poison them now and they are never coming back. Chemo will purge the badness that was projected onto you but was never yours. I have total faith in your resilience and the magical capabilities of your body and soul for healing. Your job is to welcome the chemo as an empathetic warrior, who is coming in rescue to your innocence by killing the perpetrator who got inside you. You have many bodies; new one will be born out of this transformational time of love and care. When you feel nauseous or terrible, just imagine how hard the chemo is fighting on your behalf and on behalf of all women’s bodies, restoring wholeness, innocence, peace. Welcome chemo as empathetic warrior (p. 113).

Eve Ensler bears witness to the things we don’t want to see or acknowledge or experience. But in doing so, she invites us to our own journey to our connection to the world and our responsibility for the world.



History, like truth, is stranger than fiction. Maybe that’s why so many don’t pay any attention to either. Maybe that’s why I enjoy history so much.

My latest historical read was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. She got us to read a book about a horse and has done another phenomenal job telling us a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption. Although she tells the story primarily through Louis Zamperini’s experience, we know that an entire generation worldwide was also part of that story.

Louis Zamperini was already an Olympian, having competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, when he was drafted for the Army Air Corps. Even that training could never prepare him, nor anyone else for that matter, for what he would experience surviving the war. In some respects, physically surviving was easier than putting his life together when the war ended and he returned home.

I think one reason this story so powerful today is where we are [again!] as a nation with troops coming home after a long siege of wars in countries whose cultures we don’t fully understand. Their lives have been irrevocable altered and most of us won’t have any point of reference to help us understand. The truth of war forces us to look at its horrific impact on individuals, their families and friends.

The writer of Ecclesiastics declared there was nothing new under the sun. If we look at history, I think he’s absolutely correct. If we learn nothing else, we learn that humanity is very creative in repackaging how it repeats history. I think it’s also the reason history gives me hope. We’ve seen it before, we survive (sometimes barely) and thankfully, some of the lessons are passed down to subsequent generations.

History may not be your thing, but Unbroken is very engaging and readable. You won’t be disappointed!


American Jezebel

American Jezebelamazon

American Jezebel. Now that was an intriguing title. I was looking for another book to download to my iPad for our road trip. The title certainly caught my attention. What American woman could ever have earned that title?

Maybe some background information will help put this into perspective. Jezebel was a really, really bad girl in the Old Testament. Where Eve gets blamed for all sorts of ills this side of eternity, Jezebel did all sorts of bad things, besides provoking the heck out of God’s man on the ground, Elijah.

Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married Israel’s Northern Kingdom King Ahab, most likely to form a political alliance between Israel and the Phoenicians. The old Testament books of I and II Kings tell the intense religious-political story of the Northern Kingdom, which is quite detailed. Jezebel was sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and the real power behind the throne…which she used to her advantage. She was not at all interested in the Hebrew’s God and was a constant thorn in the prophet Elijah’s side. In fact, he was pretty terrified of her even though he won out in the long run. She also met a really grizzly death, especially noted for the fact that not much of her was left after the dogs finished with her!

Who could this American Jezebel be? This woman was called an enemy of the state, this impudent Puritan, not fit for our society, a dangerous instrument of the devil, and this American Jezebel, among other things. She’s also the reason Harvard College was started, and thankfully because of her trial, it is the only written record of any woman from that era in American history!

American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans is written by the eleventh-generation granddaughter of Anne Hutchinson, Eve LaPlante. I’m a confessed theology geek and there are theological nuances that form some of the debate between Anne Hutchinson and her male accusers. LaPlante clearly navigates the theological debate, salvation by works or salvation by inward grace, that was the basis for the heresy trial, making them understandable for today’s reader.

The irony of her trial was that the very leaders who fled England because of religious persecution, were now persecuting one of their own! There were other clergy who were censured and banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but Anne Hutchinson posed a severe threat because as a woman she was challenging the civil and religious elite. At the close of her civil trial (another church trial ensued!), the Massachusetts court determined to build the first college, taught by orthodox ministers to indoctrinate young men before they began to think for themselves.

Anne Hutchinson’s heresy trial took place in 1637.  The First and Fourteenth Amendments, protecting our religious liberties and freedoms, are a direct correlation of the struggles in the colonies more than one hundred years before the Revolutionary War. Sadly, “heresy” accusations still exist within the church. Christian religious lines are still being drawn and subtle and not-so-subtle forms of persecution still occur. Today, some are purposely blurring the lines between civil and religious issues.

American Jezebel is a more-than-worthwhile read for those who want to understand the historical struggles and sacrifices paid by our forebears because religious freedom is a precious right we would do well to guard.