izhilzha (izhilzha) wrote,

10 Books to Read in 2015: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

I'd been meaning to read Rachel Held Evans' A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband 'Master' for a while, but never got around to it. I think this was partly because I didn't want to revisit some of the stricter doctrines I grew up around and partly because I wasn't sure what to expect.

Here's two things this book is not: It is not a series of recommendations on how women can better follow, to the letter, rules set down in Scripture. It is also not—and I mean not at all—a feminist repudiation of the Bible.

I would call it a thoughtful, practiced attempt to come to grips with being both a woman and a Christian; a working out of what that once looked like and what it might look like now; an exploration of what it means to be a woman of valor, a woman of justice, a woman made in God's image; an experiment in understanding what it means to be in healthy relationship to God, to the world and to oneself.

It is a gimmick book. Evans lived for a year according literal principles taken from Jewish and Christian scriptures and traditions. She kept a list of important ones and set aside months to try others, to study concepts and explore perspectives (including corresponding with an Orthodox Jewish woman in Israel, women in the Quiverful movement, and wives from a Christian polygamist group). The book encompasses profound ideas, from preparing to have children, to what part submission has in a marriage, to speaking up for those who are oppressed.

The virtues Evans explored monthly are: gentleness, domesticity, obedience, valor, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence and grace. The ones I was least interested to read about (obedience, modesty, silence) ended up containing the most insights for me, which tells me Evens lived these virtues with as much honesty as she could. She observes her own reactions with humility and humor; there's some lovely laugh-out-loud stuff.

I'll close with a couple of quotes:

This was, for me, Evans' most worthy observation, something that I shall be pondering for a while: “For those who count the Bible as sacred, interpretation is not a matter of whether to pick and choose, but how to pick and choose. We are selective. We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something, and we all have a tendency to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we reading with the prejudice of love [which is the prejudice of God] or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest and greed?”

And this is her most practical piece of advice, from the chapter on silence: “[M]y advice to women is this: If a man ever tries to use the Bible as a weapon against you to keep you from speaking the truth, just throw on a head covering and tell him you're prophesying instead. To those who will not accept us as preachers, we will have to become prophets.”

It's not that tradition or scripture are unimportant. It is that they are more than rules meant to be kept to the letter. To those who believe, they are the voice of God, leading us into loving each other as God loved us.
Tags: bible, books, christianity, feminism, reviews, womanhood

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