Rachel Held Evans’ new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, is deceptive on multiple levels.
She invites readers to join her on a year of experimentation in which she identifies twelve traits of Biblical Womanhood and then attempts to apply them, some rather literally, to her life. After all, she wants answers to the raging question, “What is Biblical Womanhood?” and what better way to find answers than to live the questions. But this is where the deception comes in: the book isn’t primarily about womanhood, or egalitarianism, or even the entertaining escapades upon which she and her husband Dan embark. It’s (thankfully) not about baking or taking etiquette classes or calling her husband master for a month.
It’s actually a wonderful deception, because her book is about something much more foundational: it’s about how we as Christians approach scripture, and how our interpretations of it will bring life or death to those around us.
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I thoroughly enjoyed Rachel’s first book, Evolving in Monkey Town. I like books that ask big questions and point towards difficult answers. I like books that engage ideas everyone is whispering about but are ideas for which the establishment will only give pat answers, allowing for no discussion, no questions. Period.
But when I first heard the title of Rachel’s second book, I was secretly uncertain. I wasn’t sure if I could get excited about a book of immersion journalism that involved Martha Stewart and the Levitical Purity Laws. So I prepared to offer Rachel every ounce of support that I could, all while hiding a tiny flicker of disappointment.
But as soon as I started reading, I found the Rachel Held Evans who signed off at the last chapter of her previous book. And as I followed her smooth writing through chapter after chapter, reflecting on traits like Silence, Modesty, and Valor, I began to appreciate the process of thought through which she led me. More big questions. More thought-provoking ideas.
One quote toward the end of the book remains in my mind:
For those who count the Bible as sacred, the question when interpreting and applying the Bible to our lives is not, “will we pick and choose?” but rather “how will we pick and choose?” We are all selective…If you are looking for verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate and honor women, you will find them.
Even now, there are plenty of people who are more than happy to use the Bible to support continued suppression, oppression, or war in various degrees and forms. There is no doubt that we all, in some form or another, are selective in our reading and application.
So disagree with Rachel’s conclusions if you want, but don’t hate on the book, because this idea, this subject, this discussion about how the Bible should be read and interpreted is one of the most important discussions Christians can facilitate. Don’t try to delete what she has to say (as Lifeway Books would seem to prefer, by choosing not to carry the book) – respond to what she has written (preferably with respect), and contribute to the ongoing dialogue.
Check out Rachel’s new book HERE.