Elle Purnell recently wrote an interesting article in The Federalist about an earlier interview Emily Blunt had with The Telegraph. Emily may be best known for her lead role in Mary Poppins Returns, but as a Hollywood star, she often plays “tough girl” roles. In the recently released Western miniseries The English, however, she does not play such a role. According to Blunt, “It’s the worst thing ever when you open a script and read the words: ‘strong female lead.'”
Discussing her role in The English, Blunt captured some of the magic of her character as well as some of the magical attributes of womanhood. “I love a character with a secret,” she said. “And I love Cornelia’s buoyancy, her hopefulness, her guilelessness.” Blunt maintains that strong female lead roles are “written as incredibly stoic, you spend the whole time acting tough and saying tough things. Cornelia is more surprising than that. She’s innocent without being naïve and that makes her a force to be reckoned with.”
Blunt has critiqued roles that reduce women to caricatures of men in the past. In a 2015 Vanity Fair interview, she said, “I get [told] a lot, ‘You play a lot of tough female roles,’ but I don’t really see them as tough. I think there are plenty of strong women out there and I don’t think they can be compartmentalized as being one thing. ‘You’re tough.’ What, because I have a gun?”
Purnell then comments, “But there’s nothing empowering about burying a female character’s natural strengths under a tough-dude facade. What is empowering is embracing those natural qualities.” Women have a secret. It’s their “feminine mystique.” Purnell describes mystique as “a fascinating aura of mystery, awe, and power surrounding someone or something.” Purnell closes her article with these words: “[Mystique is] the complex, beautiful, powerful, gentle, unyielding nature that we often try to capture with the world ‘femininity.’ And men spend their whole lives trying to figure it out.”
This hearkens to I Peter 3:4-5: “You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious to God. That is the way the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands.” The beauty from within speaks to mystique. While men are more direct, task-oriented, and analytical, the hearts and minds of women are more beautifully intricate. The strength of women doesn’t mimic that of men, but rather has its own character. Those differences between the sexes are designed to complement each other.
My wife, Judy, is “a strong woman.” She continues to challenge me with her Christian character and lifestyle. She is the most consistent believer I know. I say to her daily, “Thank you for putting up with me for all these years.” Without her I would not be the man I am today. She has believed in me, supported me, and encouraged me over 57 years of marriage, while accepting my leadership in our marriage. I know firsthand the mystery of a strong inner spirit that expresses itself in a feminine Christian witness. Judy is “a complete, natural woman” who has learned to live with a “character” like me.
Since my wife exemplifies inner beauty and feminine mystique, I do not need to be convinced of the influence and strength that women can express in a feminine manner. They have a “secret.” Men, my advice is to not try and figure it out. Rather, learn to appreciate it, while enhancing your wife’s ability to express her unique Christian strength.
The December ’22 issue of Harper’s has a cover story entitled, “Waiting for the End of the World,” with the byline, “Should we be Rooting for the Apocalypse?” It’s hard to imagine having such a topic as a cover story even 10 years ago. To me, it suggests that observers of our culture see our nation headed for some kind of dramatic doomsday, but with no sure hope or promise of a better future.
The author Michael Robbins talks of an “apocalyptic structure of feeling” – “the general drift and atmosphere about the end.” “The thing about wanting this world ended,” writes Robbins, is you want it ended the right way.” He closes his essay by seeing an opportunity in all the talk of the end: “Is it not when things are darkest, when all hope is lost, that one fights with abandon, shamelessly shoots for utopia? For then there is nothing left to lose.” Sadly, I see in this thinking no hope for the future.
If we take God’s Word as our guide, however, we will not be “shamelessly shooting for utopia.” We have ultimate reality in God’s Word, rather than simply an “apocalyptic structure of feeling.” For two thousand years, followers of Jesus have put their trust in him. A structure of feeling is an illusion, built on wishful, subjective thinking. Jesus gives us a sure and certain hope.
Men, be warned. You will hear a lot of talk based on illusion but not built on reality. Jesus created all things, and he holds it all together: “All things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17). Revelation 21:5 tells us, “Look, I am making all things new.” John tells us, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared” (Rev. 21:1). Jesus holds all things together. Be assured he is in the process of making everything new.
We have a “living hope” in Christ: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth in a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3). I confess with the historic Church the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
Referring to these words, Luther’s small catechism states, “He does all this in order that I might be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns for all eternity.”
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Luther explains, “God’s will is done when he destroys and makes futile every evil design and purpose of the devil, the world, and our own flesh that would keep us from hallowing his name and prevent the coming of his kingdom…”
We live in a time when many are willing to accept lies. Jesus warned this would happen: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away” (Luke 21:8-9). Men, don’t fall for an “apocalyptic structure of feeling.”