Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I remember reading, and really enjoying, A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically a couple of years ago. So when I heard mention of a woman who had done a similar project whose book was coming out I put it on my 'wishlist' (which is actually just a way of keeping track of things that are coming out that I want to read eventually) and waited.

When it finally came out I picked it up on my Kindle and read it while at the gym. So it took me a little while to finish it but not because it's a slow moving of boring book. Just because I was reading it in 30 - 60 minute chunks five days a week. I'd read some of the authors blog entries and knew that she had an engaging and personable style so I thought that at the least I wouldn't hate the book. The question was whether I'd like it or not because the author identifies as an evangelical which is a word that tends to send me skittering in the other direction.

It's (probably) a prejudiced misconception that I have but when I hear the word 'evangelical' I have a mental picture of people who are narrow minded and *angry* all the time. People who yell from the pulpit (I don't like that. I don't care who you are or what you're saying but if you yell from the pulpit I'm done. Unless you've just been stung by a wasp or found a spider crawling across your notes. Those would be acceptable exceptions.) and just wander around judging people and declaring that everyone who doesn't believe the way that they do is going to hell. But I picked up the book - it didn't hurt that it was on a really good sale - and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. There's a combination of truth and humour that I think most people can relate to. She takes her project seriously but is aware enough to admit that there are some ridiculous moments in the course of the project.

"If God is the God of all pots and pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner." - on how God can be found in any vocation, not just the 'homemaker' vocation that 'Biblical womanhood' touts as being the be all and end all of God's plan for women

"None of this information is easy to swallow. In light of passages like these, I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven't actually read it." - after a list of some of the really truly terrible laws about women in the Bible. Wherein the author basically just says what I think.

"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." - An interesting perspective. Did Jesus break the Law? Or did he break the law? If, as Jesus says, the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love one's neighbor, then in pursuit of fulfilling those commands if we break a 'law' (such as Jesus' healing on the Sabbath) are we guilty or vindicated by obeying the greater command?

"I took some comfort in the fact that the woman hailed as my model for submission wasn't any good at it either. Saint Peter chose an unlikely candidate in Sarah, who in a pivotal moment in Israel's history usurped the wishes of Abraham, and apparently won the support of God in her defiance." - when you think about it, the wives of the Patriarchs did kind of over rule their husbands when they wanted to. We remember them for being obedient or being wronged or being the mothers' of great men, but do we ever really think about what they themselves did?

On the 'Proverbs 31 woman':

"She's like the evangelical's Mary - venerated, idealized, glorified to the level of demigoddess, and yet expected to show up in every man's kitchen at dinnertime. Only unlike Mary, there is no indication that the Proverbs 31 woman actually existed."

"Like any good poem, the purpose of this one is to draw attention to the often over-looked glory of the everyday. The only instructive language it contains is directed toward men, with the admonition that a thankful husband honor his wife 'for all that her hands have done' (Proverbs 31:31). Old Testament scholar Ellen F. Davis notes that the poem was intended 'not to honor one particularly praiseworthy woman, but rather to underscore the central significance of women's skilled work in a household-based economy.' She concludes that 'it will not do to make facile comparisons between the biblical figure and the suburban housewife, or alternately between her and the modern career woman.'"

"But according to Ahava, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor."

I didn't realize it until I started to make this post but I made 22 highlights in this book. I don't want this post to get excessively long so I'm leaving it at just the above couple of quotes.

It was fascinating for me to read through the months in this book and briefly meet some of the women around the country who live 'Biblical' lives in different ways.

I was deeply amused by the authors' repeated statement that she has trouble with multitasking. It's not a 'woman' or a 'man' thing, I think, but different from person to person. My amusement came mostly from reading what she was trying to do and laughing because I know I could do that with a lot less drama than what was going on on the page. :)

My one quibble, or I guess you could call it a wish, is that she didn't live the rules out for a full year. Not all of them. She broke them down into things to do from month to month and while I'm certain that that was instructive and helpful I think it would be interesting to see how someone unused to the lifestyle manages all of it for an entire year rather than a little bit at a time.

But all in all I enjoyed the book and I plan on picking up the authors other (first) book Evolving in Monkey Town at some point in the future. I've also started following her blog and I'm really looking forward to future posts in the year long series she's doing on sexuality and the church.


  1. Andrew just finished this last night. :) I'll read/reply more to this later, I'm sure.

    1. Andrew needs to do a guest post so we can know what he thought about it!

  2. I loved The Year of Living Biblically. But I love AJ Jacobs and his humor. I might have to check this one out.

    1. Yep. Not *as* funny as AJ Jacobs, but funny and interesting in her own way.

  3. OK, I read your post. Yeah, I thought at times she was WAY more dramatic about things than I would ever be. Perhaps she doesn't handle multitasking well. :)

    I also noticed that unlike AJ Jacobs, she did certain things on certain months. Maybe she felt she would be overwhelmed trying to implement everything at once and continue it for 365 days. You know that whole trouble with multitasking thing..ha.

    I have at times thought of what the patriarchs' wives did. Rebekah tricked her husband to get her favorite son blessed....although God had promised Jacob would be favored over Esau. It's almost like the women wanted to help God along. Definitely they were not passive when it came to getting what they wanted.

    1. Every time she harped on not being able to multitask I just sort of rolled my eyes, tbh. I know that not everyone can do it but still...maybe if you weren't busy having a fit about how you can't do all these things at once you could manage to do a little more of them?

      I especially thought of her trouble with multitasking the other night when I was cooking three different meals (dinner for that night and breakfast and lunch for the next morning) at one time in the kitchen, setting the table and washing my cooking dishes at the same time.


      I think she could have done a true year of doing all of the things she did if she'd planned it out. Made a checklist or something, you know? Just to get into the groove of a different lifestyle.


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