Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

I've always enjoyed reading. I always brought a book with me to restaurants during most of my elementary and middle school years. As an adult, I don't have the time to sit and read nearly as much as I'd like.  That's why I treasure the days we spend in Canada, where there's literally nothing to do but read. This weekend, however, I needed a Facebook break (one too many "announcements" will do that), so I dug into the mountain stack on my nightstand and picked up A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. I've been a follower of her blog for some time, so I was super excited for her book to be released. I mean, any book that creates "vagina-gate" has to be good, right? Right.

I thought about so many ways to write about this book. Truth is, she's written the things on my heart in such a more thoughtful way than I ever could. I laughed, I read excerpts (and drove Husband crazy, because of course I had to add proper context), and I nodded. A lot. An "amen" or two may have been yelled said.

Most of all, I wished this book existed when I was in tenth grade Bible. I attended a fundamental Christian school and tenth grade was almost enough to ask my parents to let me transfer to public school. Almost. That year, my class was responsible for running off three teachers. And the fourth didn't return the next year. So four. Teacher #1 assigned a paper about any Biblical topic. I don't remember how many pages. Three maybe...a lot by high school standards. Teacher #2 was #1's wife, so they left together. Teacher #3 had to actually grade said papers and a presentation was part of the grade as well. After considering a list of suggested topics, I settled on "women's role in the church." I attended the same Disciples of Christ church my whole life and we're known for being a "liberal" bunch, so I knew my take on women's roles was NOT what anyone else in the class believed. I knew I could get an F on the paper. To make matters worse, I had to give my presentation after the other student writing about women's roles--with a traditional approach. Luckily, my mom was nearing completion of her ordination so she had no shortage of resources to help me defend my position, providing historic context for 1 Timothy. I got an A, by the way. I was sad when he left (which for the record, we didn't actually RUN off. His wife became very ill, so he left to care for her).

Rachel's (like how we're on a first name basis?) book wasn't anything earth shattering. I knew a lot of what she wrote, but she said it so much better. There was still plenty for me to learn and take away, particularly July: Justice.

Again, I struggled with how to respond to her book. There are so many passages I wanted to share. I will simply leave it with her conclusion: [SPOILER ALERT] "The Bible isn't an answer book. It isn't a self-help manual. It isn't a flat, perspicuous list of rules and regulations that we can interpret objectively and apply unilaterally to our lives.
     The Bible is a sacred collection of letters and laws, poetry and proverbs, philosophy and prophecies, written and assembled over thousands of years in cultures and contexts very different from our own, that tells the complex, ever-unfolding story of God's interaction with humanity...
     So after twelve months of "biblical womanhood," I'd arrived at the rather unconventional conclusion that there is no such thing. The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth" (p. 294-295).

She goes on to describe the many things one can support with specific scriptures: slavery, oppression, war, peace, love, outdated texts, etc. Rather than read scriptures with a "what does it say?" mindset, ask yourself first what you're looking for and you'll find it. After all, Jesus himself said it.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood as a Christmas gift. I receive no compensation for my review and all opinions are 100% mine. You are welcome to agree with me or disagree. However, before you disagree, you are required to READ her book, not assume you know what it says. That's the only way to have productive conversation. I reserve the right to delete comments I suspect are simply to stir the pot.

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