I was intrigued by this author after seeing her on The View promoting this book. I must admit my first reaction was not positive because it almost seemed if she was trying to make Christian woman look foolish, but I realized that she was playing to the wide secular audience, and I had many people tell me that her book was excellent and very substantial. I must admit I was quite disappointed because even though her author voice is very pleasant, at times even humorous, there is a vein of hostility in the book, as if the author is living in fear that non-Christian women in her age bracket may look down on her for being a Christian. I can understand this - I mean, we were all that way in our 20s, and perhaps she will outgrow this in time. But her approach to the Bible is like someone picking up a road map, scanning it, and saying, well this is wrong here, and this is wrong there, so we really can't rely on this map - but even so, I LOVE this map!" She seems to be trying to have her cake and eat it too. She says she loves the Bible and we ought to live by it, but at the same time tells us that most of us don't live by it anyway, and there are so many interpretations, that all we can be sure of is that love is the important thing, which apparently wasn't clear to the apostle Paul, because he wrote the great chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13) but in the same letter gave the Corinthians numerous moral mandates that they needed to abide by to live the Christian life, so I don't accept this author's belief that love alone matters, and that rules are not important. At times in the book she gives the impression of someone who had never read the Bible before but got introduced to it by an atheist who pointed out all the discrepancies but never got around to explaining to her why Christians even love the Bible and try to use it as a guide to life.
I wish I could be more positive about a book that has a lot of fans, but I've discovered that even in my own church there are women to say they love the book and admire the author, when in fact many of them admit they never read the book but were sympathetic to the author because one bookstore chain chose not to stock the book. In other words, the book seems to be famous more for being "banned" than for being something that has touched a lot of women's lives. I'm more troubled that some women actually will read the book and share the author's own flippant approach to the Bible.
As other reviews have noted, the author has a reasonably good writing style, so it is easy to read. Unfortunately, her approach to the Bible is troublesome. I won't cover ground that other reviews have already discussed, but I will mention that she has a rather immature view of the rules in the Bible. She claims that rules (or "commandments," to use the biblical term) make us "guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused." I read that over a couple of times and thought: Really? When you were a child, and your mom told you not to run with scissors, or not to put your hand on a hot stove, was Mom doing that to make you "guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused"? I know Christianity is more than rules - but I can't accept the author's view that paying attention to the rules has no part in the Christian life. As a married woman, I think she should be glad for the rule "You shall not commit adultery," and doesn't see that rule as existing solely to make her husband "guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused." God gave us rules because - surprise! - he is our loving Father and wants to keep us from harm. "You shall not steal" is there to prevent us from snatching a good bracelet without paying for it - it's also there to prevent someone else from stealing from us. So are rules a bad thing? I don't think so.
"I'm not comfortable with a religion of rules, that doesn't fit my image of God." I can admire her honesty, but as someone claiming to be Christian, "my image of God" needs to be grounded in the Bible, not in my own wants and desires. Let's face it, not everything in the Bible makes us "comfortable," but our walk with God is supposed to be a challenge that is worth the effort. God is loving, as Jesus made clear - God is also Judge of what we do. If we say we love God, we have to obey God - just as a child has to obey its earthly parents.
That's just my take on the book. Overall, I think she has an immature approach to the Bible, and maybe she's not even aware that she's trying to create a God to her own specifications instead of meeting the real God in the Bible. The real God is challenging and at times "uncomfortable," but at least he's real, and a god concocted in our own imagination isn't.
I recommend this book to any woman. The content is light-hearted and filled with wit, while teaching context and depth to the biblical scriptures related to womanhood. Rachel puts all our fears to rest as she comically works through the ideals and traditions that tend to plague women.
I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style - honest and real. She admitted her failures and mistakes and made my heart feel at ease. I cried when she failed and I cheered when she succeeded. Her year long project covers topics such as homemaking, motherhood, marriage relationships, purity issues and social justice to name a few.
This book is a great read, easy and fun to wade through the adventures and mishaps Rachel finds herself in. The book also includes comments from a journal kept by her husband during the year and lots of links to more information and details on line. A fantastic book for anyone ... woman or not!
This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to review it positively.
Rachel Held Evens is a Christian blogger and author. Rachel lives in Dayton Tennessee where she spends her time typing in slippers and PJs. Evans been featured on NPR, in Slate, The BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), The Times London, The Huffington Post, and Oprah.com. Her most recent book "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" was released this last October 2012.
I can't quite remember how I discovered her writing, I say "discovered" because I think Evans' work (even her twitter feed) is a rare gem. Most recently I listened to her preach at Mars Hill on the book of Ruth and it was mind blowing (and I don't throw around the phrase â€˜mind blowing' much- and neither should you)
In her new book, Evans takes much the same approach as A. J. Jacobs did with The Year of living Biblically. She went through the bible and found many of the verses and phrases that described the "perfect" wife or woman. For instance, she called her husband "Master," and she stood at the city gates with a sign that read, "Dan is awesome!" (Dan is her husband). But even though people who saw her do these acts, might have thought she was crazy - I doubt for one second that Evans felt that THIS is what biblical women do.
It was one of her main points of the book in that - Christians read the bible with a lens (or a filter) and much of our faith is based on what we deem is "biblical." But as Evans points out, "It is biblical for a woman to be sold by her father, biblical for her to be forced to marry her rapist, biblical for her to remain silent in church, biblical for her to cover her head, and biblical for her to be one of multiple wives."
But just because it's IN the bible, how do we then approach it? How do we interpret it? And most importantly, how do we live it out? Because to be quite honest, many Christians don't know what to do with a text that is confusing, or that seems to â€˜buck normality.' What do you do with a passage like Deuteronomy 22:28-29? A woman should marry her rapist? What do we do with that?
But as Evans points out in her book, "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."
In other words, the Bible isn't a grab bag to reach in and pull verses out and see if they stick. And to be fair to the author, I am pretty sure she would say that applies to standing at the city gates with a sign that praises your husband. For any critic who says that Evans' book is a disregard of scripture or biblical context I say, "Bah." (that's another phrase I don't throw around)
In fact, I would argue that the entire point of Evans' book is that we as the reader most often miss-read scripture because we live in a 20th century world and we in turn place our own bias and filter on the text. Evans' has done her homework, this book is well researched and well written.
I read the book with my own filter, I am a man. I am also a man who spends his life preaching and deciphering the biblical texts for others. So I can read it and nod and agree and flip pages with a blank expression - but I think this book would create a different feeling for a woman. I hope that her book is read by more Christian women and I hope it gives them a rekindled sense of purpose and passion.
Thank you to Thomas Nelson press for providing me with a review copy.