The Struggle to Stay
Why Single Evangelical Women Are Leaving the Church
by Katie Gaddini
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Pub Date 08 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 15 Jun 2022
Evangelical Christianity is often thought of as oppressive to women. The #MeToo era, when many women hit a breaking point with rampant sexism, has reached evangelical communities too. Yet more than thirty million women in the United States still identify as evangelical. Why do so many women remain in male-dominated churches that marginalize them, and why do others leave? In each case, what does this cost them?
The Struggle to Stay is an intimate and insightful portrait of single women’s experiences in evangelical churches. Drawing on unprecedented access to churches in the United States and the United Kingdom, Katie Gaddini relates the struggles of four women, interwoven with her own story of leaving behind a devout faith. She connects these personal narratives with rigorous analysis of Christianity and politics in both countries, and contextualizes them through interviews with more than forty other evangelical women. Gaddini grapples with the complexities of obedience and resistance for women within a patriarchal religion against the backdrop of culture war. Her exploration of how women choose to leave or remain in environments that constrain them is nuanced and personal, telling powerful stories of faith, community, isolation, and loss. Bringing together meticulous research and deep empathy, The Struggle to Stay provides a revelatory account of the private burdens that evangelical women bear.
Katie Gaddini is a lecturer in sociology at University College London. She is also an affiliated researcher at the University of Cambridge and University of Johannesburg. Gaddini previously worked in the prevention of gender-based violence in Peru, South Africa, Spain, and the United States.
"The Struggle to Stay offers a vivid, enlightening glimpse into the complex contradictions of Christian life. These women want to stay in the church. But they also want to be sexually active and respected as equals—and that is hard. The book gives a rich, nuanced account of why and how it is hard that respects the complexities of the religious experience. A beautifully written, vivid, insightful book about being a bright Christian woman."
--T. M. Luhrmann, author of How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others