A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans (Thomas Nelson, October 2012), 352 pages
My first inclination is to say I learned stuff from reading this book. Valuable stuff, even. But after that first inclination is past — when you ask what I learned — I can’t come up with much I actually learned from the book itself.
I learned the labels for things. Complementarian vs. egalitarian, for example. I came to more deeply understand how flawed the idea that biblical womanhood = June Cleaver really is. June Cleaver wasn’t in the Bible, folks. Polygamy was, though.
Reminded again (Hello, philosophy minor!) how vital it is to recognize the bias and assumptions we bring to the table when we approach a text like the Bible. Pulling single verses to make our point(s) is rarely advisable. (context, context, context)
How liberating is it to learn that Proverbs 31, in Jewish homes, is memorized by the men as a way to honor and esteem, praise, their wives, rather than by women as a to-do list! I don’t need to live up to an unattainable, theoretical ideal of a poem; rather, I want to, along with so many others, begin to reclaim this idea and honor women when I see them persevering and doing hard things — “Woman of valor!”
I didn’t actually enjoy the author’s approach. She uses humor, which in theory is good, but which in practice fell flat and/or felt awkward to me at several points. She downplays the work she did and the points she’s trying to make with it, which bothered me. I could never figure out if she assigned herself certain tasks to make a flippant point or to sincerely explore/learn. The brief profiles of women from the Bible felt a little unconnected to the rest of the text. I liked them, and all the other parts, too, but the text overall felt disjointed.
Maybe the biggest thing I gained from reading this book — and it’s pretty big — is some encouragement to keep pursuing the idea that I am an empath/prophet and what that looks like. That my voice is valuable and should be heard. That I can and should speak for the marginalized and wounded. Now if only I could someday figure out what acting on this actually entails …
And now some quotes (without page numbers because I read the book digitally).
“I think this is one of the reasons why, despite the fact that I vote for Democrats, believe in evolution, and am no longer convinced that everyone different from me goes to hell, I don’t mind being identified as an evangelical Christian.
Evangelicalism is like my religious mother tongue. I revert to it whenever I’m angry or excited or surrounded by other people who understand what I’m saying. And it’s the language in which I most often hear God’s voice on the rare occasion that it rises above the noise.”
“We cause serious collateral damage to the advancement of our sex each time we perpetuate the stereotype that women can’t get along.”
I liked that she learned (and documented that she learned) things mostly not related to her quest. As she focused on gentleness and silence, contemplative prayer became attractive to her, for example.
A prayer from Teresa of Avila that Evans used:
“Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.”
“Jesus once said that his mission was not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. And in this instance, fulfilling the law meant letting it go. It may serve as little comfort to those who have suffered abuse at the hand of Bible-wielding literalists, but the disturbing laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy lose just a bit of their potency when God himself breaks them.”
“As a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood; my highest calling is to follow Christ. And following Christ is something a woman can do whether she is married, or single, rich or poor, sick or healthy, childless or Michelle Duggar.”
Rachel Held Evans is a blogger I’ve followed since roughly the start of this project (so, for several years now). She’s also the author of Evolving in Monkey Town. She lives in Dayton, Tennessee.
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