The feminist movement passed Roberta Pughe by when she was growing up in the ’70s, because she had joined another movement, Christian fundamentalism.
“Much to my own surprise,” she writes in her new book, “Resurrecting Eve: Women of Faith Challenge the Fundamentalist Agenda” (White Cloud Press, $16.95), co-written with Paula Anema Sohl, “I willingly made the choice to become an active member of the conservative Protestant church that for so long I had mocked.
“People from the church told me to break all my dearly loved ‘heathen’ records and listen only to Christian music. Without realizing it, I was learning that in order for me to survive, my authentic self had to die. I knew the only option for me was to settle in and become a good girl.”
Along with Mark Lewis Taylor, a Princeton Theological Seminary professor and author of “Religion, Politics, and the Christian Right,” Pughe will speak and sign books at a reception at Camillo’s Cafe, in Princeton Shopping Center, on Tuesday, June 19.
When Pughe converted to be a “born-again” Christian at age 16, she became a trainer in an evangelism program and transferred to a Christian high school. She graduated from a Christian college, Calvin College, in 1981, and earned her master’s degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
She is now an interfaith minister, the mother of two, the wife of Camillo Tortolla (proprietor of the cafe), a Reiki practitioner, a certified Gestalt psychotherapist, and has been a licensed marriage and family therapist in Princeton for more than 20 years.
In her practice, she tries to help women explore how religious influences have shaped their thinking. With her book, she helps women do that on their own.
“Before I was ‘born again,’ I’d been proud of my body,” says Pughe. “I was fit, making regular workouts at the gym a priority. Estrogen had kicked in, and my girlish body had developed womanly curves that attracted attention everywhere I went. I learned to feel bad about looking good, guilty about having a fit body, ashamed of my breasts and curves, humiliated at being female.”
Pughe advocates for women who she says have been repressed by a patriarchal religion; her book tells compelling case histories of women who have broken free and reclaimed their bodies.
She takes on such evangelistic gurus as James Dobson (of Focus and the Family) who try to define women’s roles in a narrow way. Instead of blaming Eve for all the sins of the world, she celebrates her curiosity: “Acting as an independent, intuitive thinker, her display of courage brought knowledge and awareness both to herself and to all humanity.”
But Pughe also seeks new ways to understand the resurrection by finding Eve’s spirit in Jesus’ teachings. According to a Publishers Weekly review: “Even as they weave an Eastern, New Age flair into a Christian understanding of the body, sexual orientation and love, Pughe and Sohl never stray from a biblical foundation.”
Says Taylor: “‘Resurrecting Eve’ adds a powerful new voice to the new spiritualities of women emerging from African-American, Latina, and Asian-American communities. This book especially lays bare the violation of human values, and of the Christian gospel, currently perpetrated among patriarchal networks of the U.S. Christian Right.”
“Resurrecting Eve: Women of Faith Challenge the Fundamentalist Agenda,” Tuesday, June 19, 3:30 p.m., Camillo’s Cafe, Princeton Shopping Center, 609-252-2608, www.camilloscafe.com. Roberta Pughe will speak about and sign copies of her new book.