Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Take Two Steps Back and Look Again

Written by: on January 25, 2023

One of the apparently pressing issues within the privilege of Western culture today is that of gender identity. I have now been living in the US for more than a year and this topic and all the focus on it leaves me in unfamiliar territory grappling for handholds within an emotional hotbed of discussions.

My experience as a middle school Special Ed. Teacher in the eighties was filled with young people struggling to navigate their way through that turbulent season of self-discovery in relation to their sexuality. Then as an elementary school counselor in the nineties was filled with activities that developed children’s identity so that they would think for themselves and be resilient adults. The most challenging sexual identity issue of that time was helping a five-year-old navigate being male, while being raised by his two mothers. Now add, spending most of the last twenty-five years in a post-Communist country that embraces, for the most part, a strict Catholic world view on sexuality.

Although, I am out of my element in this realm I find myself being confront by an ever-grown number of young adults in my circle of influence navigating their sexual identity within this new paradigm of gender. Abigail Favale, in The Genesis of Gender [1] opened my eyes to how this dialog has emerged and some of the reasons I am ignorant to the parameters.

Favale in the first chapter lays a foundation of her personal incongruence between the Christian beliefs she inherited and her grasp of gender identity philosophy. I appreciate her open wrestling with the topic and her Christian beliefs. The second chapter discusses the Christian thought which basing one’s identity as unique sexual beings created equal as a “reciprocal gift” [2] of love. It is this union that reflects the essence of the Creator and is a recognizable reality.[3] She claims this is in contrast to “most gender theories” which “think of …’reality’” as “a linguistic and social construct,” [4] which morphs. This explains why I have felt so disorientated, searching for language that can communicate within this new realm of thinking.

Chapter three chronicles the four “waves” [5] of the feminist movement, their motivation.in relationship to the thinking of the day.

  1. The Women’s Suffrage Movement 1848-1920[6]
    1. Rights of women’s voice in public
    2. Partnership with Abolition Movement and Temperance Movement
    3. Comprised of non-radical, middle-class, committed Christians.
    4. Powerful influence resulting in the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment and the institution of Prohibition.
    5. Opposed to abortion.
  2. Women’s Liberation Movement 1960s-1980s[7]
    1. Redefining women’s roles
    2. “Reproductive freedom” [8]
    3. A shift toward accepting abortion as a means of contraceptive.
    4. A conflict within about whether pornography and prostitution oppress females.
  3. “Emphasis on individual choice and freedom” 1990s
    1. Consent the most important element of sexual engagement.
    2. Highlighted sexual harassment within the broader culture.
    3. An acceptance of post-modern thought began shifting “gender roles and expectations.” [9]
  4. Addresses the limitation of consensual sex. 2010s
    1. A “focus on diversity and …various forms of oppression, particularly racism and sexism.” [10]
    2. The rejection of woman being defined as “a biological female.” [11]

It is in this historical and linguistic discussion Abigail Favale’s background and experience as a university professor in Gender Studies is extremely helpful to a novice like me. This chapter concludes with the authors questions in an attempt to flesh out the feminist world view in relation to her redefined Christian faith.[12]

Chapter five explores the concept of control, in regard to women and birth control. The discussion around the perceive freedom contraceptive provides. In this chapter Favale takes two steps back to explore the benefits and risks concerning popular birth control methods not usually talked about. Are these methods actually giving women control over their own bodies or are they victimizing them in a more subtle way?

In the remaining chapters: Sex, Gender, Artifice, Wholeness, and Gift, Favale continues to weave her scholastic experience of gender issues with her expression of faith. Abigale Favale the Dean of Humanities and English Professor at George Fox University, skillfully looks at this emotional topic in a way that both informs and causes the reader to ask questions of the issue and their faith.

[1] Abigail Rine Favale, The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory (San Francisco [California]: Ignatius Press, 2022).

[2] Ibid., 42.

[3] Ibid., 43.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 56.

[6] Ibid., 58.

[7] Ibid., 56.

[8] Ibid., 58.

[9] Ibid., 59.

[10] Ibid., 60.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 82.

About the Author


Denise Johnson

Special Education teacher K-12, School Counselor K-12, Overseas field worker in Poland,

9 responses to “Take Two Steps Back and Look Again”

  1. mm Andy Hale says:


    You wrote that Favale wrote skillfully about an emotional topic. Why do you believe it was skillfully written?

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Denise, thanks foor your post and sharing your personal journey through gender/sexuality issues through the decades. I believe we lived a similar timeline. In your experience in Poland, that you describe as a strict Catholic country, how did that particular spiritual influence affect the gender discussion there versus the American experience?

    • mm Denise Johnson says:

      I think, for the most part, Poles regardless of if they are actually practicing Catholics or not, know that they are created by God. They see that human life is sacred. Early on during Covid there were some protests against Poland’s stricter anti-abortion law. My sense was that the bulk of the protesters were from outside of Poland. The Poles who were the most vocal were so because the government didn’t provide enough resource help for the handicapped. The proposed law was to prevent the abortion of malformed fetuses.
      I do know that there is a growing number of more LGBTQ+ individuals in Poland but it is far from being commonplace.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    DJ: I also found chapter two and three helpful as she traces the history of the Feminists movement. I liked the entire book and thought she also did a great job of explaining her views with intelligence mixed with faith. She did a admirable job of dealing with this debate so that people who disagree with her conclusions can at least appreciate her thoughtfulness and writing.

  4. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Densie: You state that you find yourself surrounded by young adults navigating their sexuality in our current societal context. Did you find this book to be helpful in how you might engage those conversations in any specific way(s)?

  5. mm Eric Basye says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is interesting to consider how long you have been. overseas, and more or less out of the US culture. Not only that, but as a leader, who is also a woman, your perspective is incredibly unique. Having this outside perspective, if you could speak words of life and truth to the church, and how to engage this conversation, what would you suggest?

  6. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Denise, I appreciate your summary!!

    As you ponder the growing “number of young adults in my circle of influence navigating their sexual identity within this new paradigm of gender” how would you analyze the impact of the Catholic church or just church universal on the “WHY” this is happening? Is it just post-modern feminism?

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