The Atlantic

The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine

Beth Moore grew her flock by teaching scripture to women—and being deferential to men. Now her outspokenness on sexism could cost her everything.
Source: Andy Friedman

When Beth Moore arrived in Houston in the 1980s, she found few models for young women who wanted to teach scripture. Many conservative Christian denominations believed that women should not hold authority over men, whether in church or at home; many denominations still believe this. In some congregations, women could not speak from the lectern on a Sunday or even read the Bible in front of men. But Moore was resolute: God, she felt, had called her to serve. So she went where many women in Texas were going in the ’80s: aerobics class. Moore kicked her way into ministry, choreographing routines to contemporary Christian music for the women of Houston’s First Baptist Church.

At the time, most Texas seminaries weren’t offering the kind of instruction she sought, so Moore found a private tutor. Slowly, she started getting invitations to speak at women’s luncheons and study groups, in exchange for a plate of food or a potted plant. In tiny church social halls, she laid the cornerstone of an evangelical empire.

Moore’s audience seemed to be starved for a teacher who understood their lives. To them, she was a revelation: a petite bottle blonde from Arkadelphia, Arkansas, who could talk seriously about Jesus one moment and the impossibility of finding decent child care the next. As charismatic as her male peers, she was also earnest and charmingly self-deprecating. Friends call her Beth La Ham.

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