Rachel Held Evans spent a year of her life living out as many of the Bibles commands for women as literally as possible.
And this being a blog about, you know, the Bible, I knew it was a must read.
Here is why she did it: There is a lot of talk in the American Church (and the world) about being “biblical.” To quote Rachel on page xx (I swear I read the whole book. I didn’t write my book report on the introduction!)
We especially like to stick [the word "biblical"] in front of other loaded words, like economics, sexuality, politics, and marriage to create the impression that God has definitive opinions about such things . . .
So before this book is even about womanhood, it is about what we mean when we say something is “biblical.” And that is perhaps the thing I appreciated the most. She has been having this conversation for a long time on her blog and I hope this book will invite even more people into that conversation.
I will tell you straight up, I liked the book a lot. It is funny, intelligent, disturbing, relatable, and asks some fantastic questions. I highly recommend it.
What I liked
Perhaps the best thing Rachel does in the book is strategically juxtapose “traditional” womanly virtues that she practiced for a month right next to a story of a woman in the Bible who completely ignored or redefined them.
A chapter on gentleness right next to the story of Deborah and Jael.
A chapter on beauty preceded by Queen Vashti, a woman who refused to be put on display.
A chapter on modesty right after the story of Ruth, who pretty much took Boaz’s pants off to win him over.
The woman at the well, who preached Jesus to her entire town, helps enter us into a chapter on submission.
These jarring juxtapositions ought to be enough to show us that there cannot possibly be a single way for a woman to act “biblically.” And I hope that is received as very good news to women around the world who have felt they had to conform to an impossible standard.
Another thing I liked was how many surprising things Rachel learned during the project. Things like silence, which could be seen as a negative thing, actually seemed to yield good fruit in her life. Now, this was self-imposed silence at a monastery, not enforced silence, but it still works.
And finally, the reality that an attempt to be “biblical” will inevitably take us out of our own traditions. None of us follow the whole Bible and it was fun to see her travel to different communities (Amish, Jewish, Catholic) to see how they practice “biblical womanhood”
I’ll keep this short, as there isn’t much to say here.
- I would have liked to see her learn from different ethnic communities. She could have gone to black churches or immigrant churches. That would have been great to read about.
- The conclusion is known at the beginning. Never does the reader think that we will actually discover “biblical womanhood” by the end of the book. Not a lot of suspense.
- Readers of her blog will be treated to some great new material, but having followed it the whole time the project was going, I felt like I was reading things I already knew. Obviously, this won’t be a problem for people who haven’t followed her blog.
And that’s about it.
It’s a great read, a great topic, and a great conversation.
Being married to a woman in full-time ministry and working with college students (many of whom are women) I want to know as much about this topic as possible. I want them to feel the freedom to follow where God calls, regardless of whether it is to the pulpit or the home.
Rachel has provided a much needed voice to the conversation and I hope we will continue it when we finish the book.