Way back in August, just before I decided to take a Blogbatical, I agreed to review Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood. With the awesome press coverage it’s getting, she sure doesn’t need Storied Theology to make folks aware of the book.
For all my self-aggrandizing tendencies, I do realize that I have nothing on the Today Show.
But be that as it may, I have one big thought about the book that I’d like to share.
As you probably know, the book chronicles Rachel’s year of following every commandment in scripture directed toward women. The tongue-in-cheek exercise helps expose the difficulty in claiming that “biblical womanhood” is the goal toward which today’s women should aspire.
Her project exposes the most basic reality of biblical interpretation and application: we do not, cannot, and indeed must not, simply pick up the Bible, see what it says, and go do it.
All of us approach the Bible with some sort of interpretive grid that helps us to know when we do or do not need to take to heart the commandment issued. Rachel has grown weary of “biblical” as a trump-card adjective, thrown out in an effort to baptize whatever (conservative) social, religious, or theological position a person wants to endorse.
So, the story of the year is a story of challenging the notion that “biblical womanhood” is to be had by opening up the Bible and applying “God’s word to women.” (Camping in the backyard during your period, anyone?)
But there’s another story within the story.
And this is what the nay-sayers are going to avoid, deny, and otherwise be blind to.
As Rachel says at the end of her Today Show interview, she actually loves the Bible. And this thread runs right through the narrative of swear-jars, Thanksgiving dinner, and “Dan is awesome” signs.
What Rachel discovers this year is not simply that the Bible is embedded in a cultural context where myriad different assumptions about life make direct application impossible. She also discovers a richer, more potent biblical (there’s that word again!) prescription for womanhood.
That prescription is one of trust, of gentleness, of concern for the weak, of executing justice, of loving, and of honoring those worthy of honor.
This is a great book for raising, again, the question, “What is the Bible and what are we supposed to do with it?” (a phrase I steal from Enns on a regular basis). And my invitation to you is to read with an eye toward both stories: the over-the-top, witty narrative of literal biblical reading as a critique on our simplistic views of the bible, but also the underlying current of a true biblical womanhood that has the power to infuse even those “liberated women” who can’t quite bring themselves to call their husbands “master.”