Four Reasons “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” Should Move the Conversation on Gender Forward
I’m giving away 10 FREE copies of A Year of Biblical Womanhood! Details at the end of the post.
Who would’ve thought that the next book to blow up the Christian publishing industry would be Rachel Held Evans’ attempt to live for a year following all the Bible’s rules for women? But gender is the most divisive issue in the Evangelical church these days, with some questioning whether a person can even truly be Christian if they don’t hold to traditionalist/complementarian gender roles!
As a woman who’s grown up in the Evangelical Church, Rachel was captivated by A. J. Jacob’s Year of Living Biblically experiment and decided to take on an even harder task: doing it as a woman.
Her central question is near the heart of the gender debates:
Could an ancient collection of sacred texts, spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own, really offer a single cohesive formula for how to be a woman?
Since I’m a huge fan of Rachel’s blog and definitely an egalitarian when it comes to the gender debate, I wasn’t worried that I’d like the book.
I wanted to know if Year of Biblical Womanhood could move the gender conversation anywhere helpful.
Fortunately, Rachel’s book is excellent. It’s a fun, easy read filled with warmth, humor and insight. And despite all the controversy already surrounding the book, everyone should read it. Christian Baptist Pop Fundamentalist retailer Lifeway has already announced they won’t carry it (apparently as a part of their slow march towards obsolescence), so go buy the book on Amazon or at your local non-insane bookstore.
Here are four reasons A Year of Biblical Womanhood is going to do more than just stir the pot.
1. Rachel’s Writing is Accessible
Seriously, this book is crazy fun to read. It’s 300-pages long, plus online bonus content (deleted scenes for a book?! Genius!), but it felt like 50. I tore through it and wanted more. I’ll read it again and again, with friends, in study groups. It’s good and it’s easy to read in the best way possible.
Rachel’s stories and style invite us safely into some emotional and complex issues. As a man who grew up in the Evangelical subculture, I was still able to relate to what Rachel shared, and I got a real sense of what’s at stake in when we discuss gender. Oh, and I laughed quite a bit.
Nothing’s quite as good for a heated conversation as plenty of laughter.
2. The book embodies its position on personhood.
No one who is familiar with Rachel’s writings will be surprised about her position. She clearly lays out her background and biases in the introduction, so even new readers know early on where she’s coming from. But she takes her position seriously. She interviews women who live differently from her – Amish and Mennonite women, a Quiverfull daughter, a female pastor. In addition, every chapter ends with a profile of a woman in the Bible.
Instead of a dry essay about the varied nature of womanhood, Rachel gives us a rich tapestry of essays, interviews and stories that show rather than tell us the possibilities.
3. Team Dan and Rachel!
As any good leader does, Rachel gives her husband Dan a voice in the book. Dan kept a journal during the experiment, and getting his reactions not only through Rachel’s eyes, but in his own words was instructive. Dan is clearly a thoughtful, godly husband whose manhood is in no way diminished by Rachel’s project, or her success.
In fact, as both Rachel and Dan present their marriage in the book, it’s hardly fair to call the success Rachel’s alone.
Rachel is clear that she could not do what she does without Dan doing what he does. They are truly one flesh, and even though this is not a book on Marriage, the picture of their marriage we find in the book is inspiring. Team Dan and Rachel demonstrates that an egalitarian marriage does not diminish the Gospel in any way. Rather, both partners are spurred on to embody Jesus’ good news more fully as a result of their mutual submission.
4. Masterful Scriptural Interpretation
The happiest surprise in A Year of Biblical Womanhood for me was how much of each chapter Rachel dedicated to masterful interpretation of Scripture. The surprise came not because I’d doubted Rachel’s abilities – any reader of her blog knows how good she is, but because I was expecting a more straight-forward memoir.
Rachel takes on the most difficult texts in the Scriptures, the texts used most often to silence women and deny them a full, equal place in the Church. She handles the texts with an obvious love for the Scriptures, and I marveled over and over at what light she shed on various passages for me.
Even if you don’t agree with her interpretations, you’ll find them compelling. Rachel demonstrates that it’s possible to take the Scriptures seriously even if you don’t agree with traditional readings of these troublesome texts.
So will A Year of Biblical Womanhood move the Evangelical conversation on Gender forward?
If early reviews are any indication, Rachel’s not going to convince anyone already firmly entrenched in the Complementarian camp. Her book’s already been subject to the kind and quality of misrepresentation we last saw with Love Wins. If you approach this book looking for problems, I have no doubt you can find them (after all, we’ve used the Scriptures to justify all manner of atrocities, from slavery to genocide). Christians have a practiced history of finding what we want to find in any book.
But for those still trying to figure out exactly where they stand on Gender roles, those willing to approach A Year of Biblical Womanhood honestly and fairly, you’ll find beautiful example after beautiful example of how a woman can be biblically faithful, love God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength and lead with the best of them.
BOTTOM LINE: Yes, Rachel is leading the conversation on Gender forward. This is a landmark book that should positively shape the conversation for years to come.
YOUR TURN: I’m giving away 10 copies of A Year of Biblical Womanhood! Here’s how you can win:
- Share this post on Twitter or Facebook. If you don’t use either of those, email it to a friend. Share!
- In the comments, tell me you shared it, then tell me who your favorite woman in the Bible is. Most importantly, tell me WHY!
- Name a woman in your life who has led you in a significant way (and tell me why, briefly). After you’ve read the book, you’ll be calling her a Woman of Valor!
I’ll select the 10 winners at random and announce them on FRIDAY, November 2.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”