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May 31, 2006


Shane Clifton

My own wife likes me to call her my princess - although she adopted this label before the fad of pentecostal marketting. For her, the reference is to the fairy tale princess - and the notion of specialness and preciousness that is associated with the term. I do agree however that the label carries baggage - in terms firstly of the patronising way in which it implies that women are objects needing to be rescued by men, and in the way in which it seems to draw out shallow dimensions of womenhood (think skin deep beauty, jewellery, dresses - but forget intelligence, empowerment, strenght of character etc).

I think there are similar problematic metaphors applied to men. John Eldridges amazingly popular book, Wild at Heart, comes to mind. Eldridge defines maleness using the typical (american) view of man as the hunter - desiring three things - "a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue". This is obviously the accompanying image to princess - and posits a view of maleness which is the exact opposite of the image of Christ. I do not believe i am any less of a man because i hate hunting and want my wife to be empowered. For those interested in a brilliant review of eldridge, see

Luke David Godden

I found your thoughts on ‘princess’ metaphors in Pentecostalism useful, especially because as a male, any objections I make run the risk of being associated with chauvinism. I won’t soon forget the day some ladies from a local church returned fresh from one of the conferences you allude to. They pranced around on stage, complete with heels, tiaras and pink dish-washing gloves, proclaiming that they were princesses and “us men” should treat them as such.

Some of the congregation were rankled – most were simply bewildered. I enthusiastically support the intention of the organisers, i.e. imparting a sense of inherent worth to females who may not have obtained this from past or present relationships. However, I think you’ve cut to the heart of the problem Jacqui: how far can the metaphor be stretched without breaking?

Females are certainly princesses by virtue of being adopted daughters of the King. But likewise males can be considered princes. I think appealing to this metaphor is unnecessary – the worth of a lady comes from the fact that this King loves her so much that He sent His Son unto death, that she might live, and His Spirit dwell in her. Salvation and glory pass to her, however undeservingly, much as royalty would. But this without reservation!



Ahhh....I found myself reading your article, which I found very refreshing, and laughing in relation to both our current trend of contemporising aspects of modern society and adopting them without question into our communities of faith.

Firstly I live with a house full of females (except for my wife's cat who is neutered so I think I'm the only 'real' male (lol)) and even my two year old refers to herself as a princess. My view on the use of the language ('language functions') has always been in response to the opposite negative language I received as a child. My hope then has always been to build my children’s inner view of their beauty and self-esteem rather than their external beauty.

The obvious concern, that you have correctly highlighted, in the portrayal of worldviews from companies such as Disney, is that 'princesses' are those who are stick thin beauties. The other angle though is that they are not beautiful but are also resourceful, intelligent, adventurous, and self-sacrificing (in many ways). It is the men in Disney movies often that are the ones needing redemption and rescuing from their lot in life (the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, the Prince in The Little Mermaid who wants out of the normal everyday, and even Aladdin to a certain degree). There are deeper issues that arise out of the portrayal of deeply seeded dissatisfaction with life that is often shown in these shows and the focus on the end game of worldly happiness that is one reason my wife and I have been monitoring what our daughters watch more recently.

The opposite stereotyping of men is also been adopted into churches without question. In our community men are portrayed as 'manly men', able to make necessary household repairs, equipped with enough power tools to quickly knock up a spare garage on the weekend (similar to the Eldredge model), and liking volumes of semi-rare meat cooked on an open barbeque. While I got something out of Wild at Heart, my experience with guns being slightly less than Shane's I'm sure, I also can't knock up a shed to save my life and after two or three sausages I might want to vomit.

Our churches are predominantly pragmatic though and rarely reflective; it isn't too good on the cash flow to have thinkers running the groups. It is much simpler and therefore requiring less money and planning, to try and relate to one stereotypical portrayal of both men and women than a plethora (see I can use big words too :)) of types. Especially when the stereotypical portrayal is one that many of the members already relate too from their experience in modern culture and in many cases aspire to. It doesn't mean that the portrayal is essentially correct but it is easier.

I remember overhearing my wife discussing with a friend of hers who is a pastor at a large church whose women's ministry is working through John and Stasi Eldredge's, Captivating. The pastor was relating to my wife how she fundamentally disagreed with some of the conclusions of the book and she was internally struggling to work out how to present it in a positive way at the next meeting. When she asked her husband about it he encouraged her not to think too much about it but to 'just preach it'. Ahhh the wonder of it all. Anyway my post is too long and I need to get some work done.

Natalie Creed

The critique of the use of Princess imagery in the Pentecostal realm sums up one of the main points of Pentecostal Discussions: the questioning of our origins, methods and approaches.

Firstly, in the past there has been a great lack of research into epistemological issues - foundations of knowledge - why we use what we use. So, well done Jacqui for raising the historical/medieval purposes behind Princesses and its not-so relevant or appropriate application to women today.

Secondly, I see that Shane refers to "Wild at Heart" in questioning the use of "hunter-gatherer" images for men by Eldredge. I have just read "Captivating" by the Eldredges and it surprisingly raised at least one good point about beauty and women that probably wouldn't go down well in the Pentecostal Marketing Department: true beauty comes from within, but you must share in Christ sufferings in order for beauty to break through.

Forget princesses, they have had and have their place. It is perhaps natural from a marketing perspective to use a "female" relevant image that attracts women. There are excellent examples of women in the Bible who demonstrate great spirituality, character, etc. Why can't we use them? I guess some would perceive them as being irrelevant to our culture today. Ultimately, what/who is the best image for Christian women? Jesus Christ. He embodies true beauty.

Natalie Creed


A very interesting topic.
Once again I guess the issue revolves around being able to critique something in our movement without being seen to be criticising. As we question the legitimacy of this 'princess theology' it could be seen that we are just seeking to tear down without making the effort to 'build up' at the same time.
It is for this reason that I'm not sure that we can simply write off the princess movement (I'm not saying that any of the above posts have done that, by the way), but instead I think we need to be asking questions concerning the void in the lives of our women that is being filled by these notions of being a princess.
The marketing of this princess phenomenon is quite brilliant in capturing the imaginations of a large segment of our movement (and by brilliant I am not suggesting in any way that it is 'good,' merely that it is a very clever strategy). The princess talk is being devoured by the masses, including the marketing of such paraphenalia as princess t-shirts, and yes, even princess undies. (I'm not sure, but I think it might be that if one is wearing one's princess undies, then everything will work out ok).
Surely there is a deep need that is being filled by this kind of marketing.
My question is: what is that need?
Further, why is there this need among our women?
Further still, why are there similar needs among our men to be told that they are the warrior/hunter/Scott Cam manly man?
We are urged by the apostle Paul to ' transformed by the renewing of our minds.'
These needs that exist (especially in our young people), I think, are being filled by these marketing strategies that are not that different from anything else on the market, ie, they are not specifically biblical.
What is the alternative that we can offer to our young people?
How can we heal this imagery of its inherent deficiencies, or is this impossible?
Alot of questions, I know. Does anyone have any thoughts on these things?


Wow, I am intruiged by this whole issue, especially as this is one of many trends that seems to be sweeping our now culturally acceptable Pentecostalism. (whether the church should be culturally acceptable or not is another intruiging question. Although I have not been fortunate enough to do church history it always seems to me that once Christianity is acceptable, we loose the heart of the message and require some radical counter-cultural revivalist style movement to wake us up. Please correct me if I'm wrong)

This may be somewhat irrelevant, but perhaps the desire to present an image of Christianity that is culturally appealing leads us to adopt images of Princesses, women of power and influence, despite the negative connotations. We model Princess Mary, stylistically dressed, perfectly coordinated, child bearing(regaining perfect figure with ease)socially prolific and compassionately concerned, rather than a quiet servant washing feet and leading from behind.

My personal experience with this princess image was actually a positive one, but my small church hasn't been hit with the full strength of the trend and it was delivered to me as a word of encouragement when I was struggling to charge a fair amount for work I was doing. At the time it communicated a message of self worth and identity.

I think that it can have both a positive and negative effect, but perhaps more caution and judgement should be used before we go too far.

"Wild at Heart, comes to mind. Eldridge defines maleness using the typical (american) view of man as the hunter - desiring three things - "a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue"."
I WOULD LIKE TO SEE ANY ONE THINK OF ME AS MERELY A BEAUTY TO RESCUE, if this princess ideal encourages this attitude then I vote right now to get rid of it!!!


thanks for these comments - the questions raised by Josh are at the heart of what this discussion is about. What is it about this image that is so appealing to young women? For many it is not only the sense of dignity and worth that it seems to instil, but even for the many young mothers and working women that resonate with the image it is the sense of being 'rescued' from their stress, busyness, constant decision-making and finding rest. So in this sense, it is appealing.

However what I hope to achieve in the exploration of this topic is to see that the metaphors and images we adopt in the Christian community will always be limited and a double-edged sword. So while being identified as a princess may be empowering for some (particularly as it gives permission for a missing appropriate self-love), while for others it may be dis-empowering. Any image will carry cultural baggage. Probably most alarming to me about the princess image is the issue that has been raised a few times: is there a subconcious dis-empowering of Penteostal women as they then become 'assistants' to the real power-holder of the king/prince. This emphasises the limitation of the metaphor (as we find with all imagery) and the reason why more than one image is necessary for encouraging women. Therefore I think the previous comments are profound - this image does hit a raw nerve with women, but lets not exploit it for marketing purposes, but address the need appropriately.

Deborah Taggart

Ann-Elise, I agree - you are MUCH more than a beauty to rescue ;)

I agree that we need to dig deeper and examine why we have seem to have a need to somehow market women in the church as a special entity of some it really necessary to cast women into the role of princess for value, and men into the role of hunter? Doesn't this undermine our equality and freedom to be who we were made to be, rather than live according to a stereotypical gender role?

And yet there are precedents for picking up on the images of the surrounding culture....1 Corinthians 9:24-27 came up in a preaching essay I was marking yesterday (go student assignments!!): "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

Here we see Paul borrowing a current cultural image of the games, but tweaking it by contrast: our Christian walk is a bit like the games, BUT our crown will be eternal (not just a wither-prone laurel wreath thingo); our contending for the faith can never be viewed as aimless as boxing could be at the end of the day (sorry if that offends any die-hard boxers).

So I think the important thing with the princess imagery is to engage in this sort of discussion, to break it down into what we can affirm and adopt as a metaphor of our value in the sight and action of God - but also, to take note of the shortcomings of the princess say 'yes, the gospel reads a bit like a fairytale; God values us a bit like princesses, BUT there's more, it's better....'

....and also in our visual culture I think it's important to subvert the visual imagery surrounding the princess. To show beautiful pictures of women who aren't your usual glamour models....I'd love to see some wrinkles etc. on our princess marketing material!

But more than just focussing on a different kind of outward appearance, it would be great to show photos of people who look ordinary, but are doing extraordinary things, displaying the kind of 'inner princess-ship' that Ben wants his daughters to appreciate - the focus not being on the outward appearance, but on the loving, empowered action undertaken....maybe shots of women cleaning, washing feet, carrying water, preaching, praying, voting, working, caring for the poor, judging, whatever....

That sentence was WAAAAAAAAAAAY too long and I should get to bed before I get carried away again (see, I can get carried away all by myself without any help from Prince Charming! :P)

Luke David Godden

A quick aside:

Obviously not all fictional portrayals of princesses are of shallow, helpless beauties. Anyone who has read Stephen Lawhead’s brilliant Pendragon series will agree: Charis and Gwenhwyvar in particular are shown to be strong, intelligent and full of grace (as well as being beautiful).

Charis grows from being a listless, spoiled Atlantean princess to a selfless, loving healer, demonstrating many of the characteristics Deborah mentions in her comments above (cleaning, praying, caring for the poor and so on).

When Gwenhwyvar has to rule Britain during the absence of her husband Arthur the High King, she is unable to do so – not because of any lack in her character, but because the ambitious, petty and belligerent kings underneath her refuse to accept her authority.

There are pragmatic aspect to all this that shouldn’t be ignored. Our society may finally be recognising the merits of selflessness, and may be striving for equality between the sexes, but we haven’t arrived yet. We face the same constraints Paul faced in trying to revolutionise the system from the inside.

By the way, my girlfriend told me she would rather be a mermaid than a princess. Make of that what you will!

adam white

wow, so this is what its like to blog, let me just enjoy this initiation for a moment.... ok i'm over it.

Hey yeah i like the article, when i see the word princess i always look twice as its something my wife is big on for the girls in our youth. We have probably spent over twelve months talking to our guys and girls about these issues, our intent being that one day these prince and pricesses will meet and be married and live happily ever after in a loving marriage with lots of blessing and hope and love and perfect children and a castle with chariots and all the..... sorry, getting carried away. No, we are really serious about the future of our youth and we have come to realize that this issue of image and self worth is a major problem for the girls and for the guys as well. It saddens me to see the way woman in our society are objectified by not just men, but also woman who have been objectified and who try to convince other woman that its the way to happiness and success. (forgive me if i get carried away as this stuff touches a nerve)

I think this problem runs much deeper into the church than we realize, to the point where as you have eluded to, our idea of 'princess' can be no less shallow than any 'cleo' magazine. I'm all for the idea of raising up pricesses, i say bring on the royal treatment, but i also believe that it must start with an introduction to the Holy Spirit, He is the truest princess (i mean that with all reverance) and He is where any transformation into a princess must begin.

Thats not to say don't look great; spend money on clothes and make up and hair and shoes and handbags even though theres already 50 in the cupboard and they're beginning to look the same and i really can't tell the difference between them... i think there is great value in dressing nicely, guys and girls, and you do get a certain amount of confidence when you look good; but it also must be balanced with a healthy spirituality and assurance that your status as a prince or princess IS because you are the son or daughter of the King and not simply because you wear the latest designer outfit.

So thats my thought, for what its worth anyway. Go hard Jacqui, i can't wait to hear what you've got to say on the topic.

Joshua Ballard

One of the difficulties I see with this whole issue ultimately stems out of a pragmatic problem. I have a 2 year old, being raised by a non-Christian mother, who does not hold to the same values of womanhood that the Author or other contributors would hold, and is being told by her Aunt that she is "sexy", and encouraged to mimic the terms. If given an option between "Princess" and "Sexy" I know which option I would choose for my daughter to hear. The problem with imagery is a valid one, as all imagery ultimately breaks down...but at an epistemological level, isn't imagery just about all we have?

It is obvious in looking into the image of "Warrior, Daughter, Princess" that is portrayed in our womens ministries, it is obvious that it is an idealized version of the concepts. Try telling the girl who watches Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, or even Aladdin (which portrays a loving, yet bumbling father in the Sultan)that the imagery is negative. The negatives are not being portrayed, and rightfully so, the ideals are being promoted, it is a commentary on what "Princesses" could or should be, the "Princess as political chess piece" images are cast aside, or even demonized in the films. Prince Charming IS exactly that, and the heroines of the stories DO live happily ever after...the concept being communicated that the now-married couple *gasp* LOVE EACH OTHER *gasp*

Even the "Wild at Heart" (or worse, Col Stringer standing with his Hummer on the cover of his 'manhood' book) conceptions are heavily idealized, but as has been noted, have developed out of reaction. John Eldredge talks about the "feminising of the Church" and the "Princess" tags have grown out of another reaction within the church, I can only wonder if this is resultant of the "Feminisation" of the Church, that has been critiqued and a byproduct of Men's inability to reflect manliness in an appropriate or acceptable way. The two phenomena seem to have fed into each other, with feminised men treating their daughters and wives as less than the ideal, due to a resentment for their de-masculinisation? Or even the chauvinistic oppression of women in reaction to a feminised Christianity?

As Lisa Bevere notes in her Ministry DVD, "'Elevating' women to the level of men, does not honor womanhood, it honors Men"

I quite like Adam's analogy of the Holy Spirit being the "truest Princess" as much as I initially react to the tag, aren't all of our imageries, and ability to percieve them and make the synaptic connections that we do in our brains...ultimately birthed out of the creativity of our Father in Heaven, of whom all fathers on earth can only attempt to emulate? Our ability to see the Holy Spirit as the "Truest" reflection of a particular relationship to the King of Kings, of which we can only allegorise as "Princess" even if our conceptions are disfigured by abuses of the concept.

As Ravi Zacharias says.."do not judge an ideology by it's abuses but by it's strictures"

So with all that incoherant rambling, my point is this. What else then, do we try to model for our daughters? As I have said, and will expand with much sarcasm, I would rather my daughter have to deal with the evils of thinking that I am going to sell her into a marraige with a Mega-Church Senior Pastor's son, to build an alliance between our respective ministries, (thoughts which should be adressed with a healthy relationship between father and daughter) than to have to deal with the issues that stem out of being taught that her body is simply a sex object, something only designed for the pursuit of physical pleasure. I know which is more damaging in the real world.

That all being said, I pray that we can grow into a more mature conception of womanhood, and manhood for that matter, but at the moment...I think the "Warrior, Daughter, Princess" is the best we have. After all, if we are the people of God, are we not to be a nation of Kings and Priests? With the guidance of the Spirit, I understand that my Kingship is not a Monty Python/Mel Brooks cariacature, but a continual act of worship in an attempt to reflect the King of Kings.

As for John Eldredge's image of Christ, I wonder what specifically Shane is referring to, as contra Jesus. Perhaps he could offer a personal review of 'Wild at Heart' and 'Waking the Dead'

BTW...I tried that link, and it doesn't seem to be working.

Shane Clifton

Josh - Go into the CBE site, and follow the links to free articles and it should come up:

Joshua Ballard

Thanks Shane, I ended up finding the article. While the points are valid at a surface level reading, they seem to be missing the point.

Exegesis (whether accurate or not) has had the "turn the other cheek" explained to mean, "when insulted, no not return in kind"...not to mean that men are to be completely passive (which was once my own understanding and position). I find it fascinating that Jesus COULD HAVE at any time called down the 12 legions of angels to fight for him, and they WOULD have. I also find fascinating that Joshua's Theophany came in the form of the "Commander of the Armies of Hosts". This shows that it is not the model or image of Christ to not-be-able to defend or be willing to fight, but that in the midst of that ability, to restrain yourself, as Christ does in his patience with us. I think the points about kids standing up to bullies, (I'm still not sure about the punching bits) are intended to reflect this, not to be simple macho-isms, or Fight Club style outlets. Otherwise, as Nietzche said, who was also quoted in the article critiquing Eldredge,

"Jesus Christ is immoral because he would have us hand the world over to the bullies"

Do I want my daughter to fight for her life if she ever found herself in a situation where she could be raped? Would we or even Jesus say "turn the other cheek sweetie?" The guy in the article has gone as far as to say that standing up to bullies is contra Christ...if that is so, then so is the scenario with the girl who fights, who is about to be raped or beaten to within an inch of life.

But this is not the time for this particular discussion, but a thought just came to mind, it's a line from The Incredibles...where the crazy kid who made himself into a superhero was talking about why he did it, and he said..."if everyone is special, then nobody is"
I think that may be fitting to this circumstance, if every woman is a "Princess" and every man is a "Prince" then the exclusivity, the very thing that makes being a "Princess" or a "Prince" attractive, the "I am precious, special" kind of ultimately de-valued.

I suppose then, this "Princess" theology, could then be described as elitist or even intolerant (and ultimately anti-thetical to it's own position) if taken to it's logical conclusion. But then again, that's a problem that is common to Christianity, we're just finding new ways to express it. (Well at-least the non-universalists)

So with all of that....I haven't got a clue...I just noticed that Jacqui has "part one" in the title...I expect that she has some wisdom in store to impart as to a workable solution or alternative. As for me, I'm going back to my undercooked steak, and then I'm gonna go beat someone up.


Wow, this is a fascinatin discussion, and a fascinating subject. I haven't seen it in Finland yet, but that may be more to my trying to avoid charismatic conferences at all costs these days.

Anyway, the heart of the matter seems to be that while asigning girls (or you women?) the role of princesses, one is essentially affirming the very traditional role of women in many churches. While it may be felt like an upgrade in value (princess are higher up the ladder than "ordinary people") it is an illusion because it is also part of the mythology that princesses are (mostly) passive, and always submitting to - male - authority.

Aaron G

Another popular image in Pentecostal circles is that of the woman as "Prayer Warrior." This is a much more assertive image than the flaccid princess.

In fact, one Pentecostal singer (Micky Mangun) has a song called Prayer Warrior - “She's a prayer warrior down on her knees, Wrestling with power and principalities…”


Even with the 'Prayer Warrior' designation I fear that we are still trying to relegate positions of seeming honour and authority to women while still continuing to be the more passive roles. (I am not sying that prayer is not important, just that I find the designating of women as the 'prayers' of a church is somewhat condescending, ie 'give the women the prayer closet not the pulpit').
Maybe I should write the song 'Senior Pastor:'
"She's a Senior Pastor, leading by example;
Her giftings are many, her leadership skills ample..."
: )

Joshua Ballard

Josh...sounds great, as long as you don't get Ted Hildebrandt to do the vocals and you give it a kickin' backing track. I think you are onto something.


...She's a Senior pastor, strong and caring;
Never over-burdened by the mantle she's wearing...


[quote]..."if everyone is special, then nobody is"
I think that may be fitting to this circumstance, if every woman is a "Princess" and every man is a "Prince" then the exclusivity, the very thing that makes being a "Princess" or a "Prince" attractive, the "I am precious, special" kind of ultimately de-valued. [/quote]

All I can say is AWESOME!.....please note the irony here - lol


...She's a Senior Pastor, some say apostle;
Ready and willing to fight and to jostle
For things she believes in, the things that are true;
I will not stand in her way...will you?

Deborah Taggart

ROTFLOL @ your song Josh, I love it!! It's more than just funny, it's needed.

Kristy Rigg

Critcal reflection is the key... the princess persona is just one of many aspects of contemporary church marketing and communication that simply needs some reflection - what is the term / symbol / image loaded with? - who does it include or exclude? - are there connotations that will actually subvert the Biblical message we are really trying to communicate or will it augment it? - are there better ways to cause the message to resonate with the the target audience? - is the image / symbol / metaphor moral and ethical?

... Thanks Jac for simply asking the question!

Bruce Stevens

Great insights Jackie. I think that you read popular culture very well. THere is a tendency to idealize, which is a psychological process, related to narcissism. Also it is connected to romantic thinking in the history of ideas. So it will keep coming back. Sacharine should be restricted to sweetening coffee.

Aaron G

Joshua - Glad to see you making creative use of the "Prayer Warrior" song.

I wonder, though, what makes "Senior Pastor" uniquely female? That is, what qualities would a female pastor have that her male counterparts would lack?


Aaron - I seem to have gone off on a little bit of a tangent, bouncing out of your post. I apologise for that : )

Obviously there is nothing that makes the title 'Senior Pastor' uniquely feminine, but I guess the point is that there is nothing inherent in the title that makes it uniquely masculine either.

As to the qualities that a female pastor would have that her male counterparts would not, I would ask if there are any leadership or pastoral qualities that a woman would not have to be able to be a senior pastor?

My question, in response to your other question, is: what makes the title 'Prayer Warrior' uniquely feminine?

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