Alisa Harris, editor at Patrol magazine, responded to the question we posed last Thursday, "Where are all the evangelical women in public life?" by pointing to prevalent beliefs about women and spirituality. Here's her helpful analysis:

That's what's interesting—women have more influence inside the church than outside it. Why is this? My guess is that the evangelical church accepts women in the role of spiritual counselors because of the lingering Victorian idea that women are gentler, more spiritual and just all around more naturally virtuous than men. They're good at Bible studies and exhorting people to live good lives …. But (so the idea goes) they should do it privately, not publicly since women's sphere is in the home. Not in the pulpit and not in the public square. Also (so they say) women deal with emotions and not reason. It's a way of putting women on a pedestal but also limiting their role, their development, and especially men's development, too.

Harris then links to the recently published Pew Forum survey about women and spirituality, where women self-report that they are more likely than men to pray daily, have "absolutely certain belief in God or a universal spirit," say that religion is "very important" in daily life, have "absolutely certain belief in a personal God," and attend church regularly.

My only quibble with applying the Pew study to explain the prevalence of women leaders inside the church (but not outside of it) is that the study is trying to measure generalized spiritual beliefs, not distinctly Christian teachings. Many female Bible teachers in the church are hardly "lite" or "soft" in their tone, but can pack as much of a punch in their biblical exegesis as the next Reformed pastor. Anne Graham Lotz and Beth Moore come to mind as women who take doctrinal precision seriously. They stand as refreshingly counter-intuitive examples of those who are equally concerned with loving the Lord with their minds as they are with their hearts.