This is a book of honest questions - about what it means to be a woman who follows Christ, how we choose to interpret Scripture, how we limit and bless one another.
This book is not a step-by-step devotional on becoming a better, more "biblical" woman (which we don't need another one of anyway). This book is the journey of one woman pressing in to what the "biblical" woman looks like and discovering instead "that there is no such thing." (pg 294)
This book is full of surprises. Do you, after all, expect a "liberated woman" to find her voice in silence (chapter 11), strong roots in gentleness (chapter 1), and a tear-inspiring blessing in Proverbs 31 (chapter 4)?
I was already a fan of Rachel Held Evans (and received an advanced copy of the book to review), introduced to her writing through her blog. Her honesty, wit, and occasional snark make for lively, delightful reading. I don't always agree with her. I am always challenged by her to think, to consider, to grow.
My favorite experience with this book is the journey you take with the author. Searching for things like valor, modesty, submission, justice, and grace changes a person. You're rejoicing in the myriad of different ways women can express their faith, that there is no one mold to which we must conform.
I finish this book simultaneously wanting to practice lectio divina and centering prayer, while beginning to live more justly, while working out my calling to creativity and communication, all while calling up multiple friends to bless them with the words eshet chayil ("woman of valor") for expressing faith and courage in whatever context they're living. The author is not the same at the end of the book, and neither should the reader be.
In this book there is freedom to be who God is calling us to be.
There is grace for those of us doing it imperfectly.
There is laughter and delight for the journey ahead.
I expected to learn from *A Year of Biblical Womanhood*. Rachel Held Evans knows her Bible, and the premise of trying to literally obey all of its instructions to women provides plenty of scope for investigation and education. In addition to studying and explaining the history, culture, and language behind many of the Bible's most well-known (and most misunderstood) passages regarding women, Evans interviews or corresponds with women representing quite a diversity of views on biblical womanhood: a sister-wife, an Amish grandmother, an Orthodox Jewish woman, and a woman raised in a Quiverfull family, to name a few. Presented in a very accessible, personable style, interviews and exegesis join forces to convey so much new information that I will most likely end up reading this book againâ€”some parts more than once.
What I didn't expect to do was laugh as much as I did. Of course, I anticipated chuckling occasionally at some of Evans' more extreme antics, such as living in a tent for the first part of her period or calling her husband "Master" so she could be like The Proverbs 31 woman (who turns out to not be a real person). But Evans also sneaks a generous amount of snark past her "contentious woman" filterâ€”nearly always directed at herself or society as a whole, and never at the lovely people she meets along her journey, disagree with them though she may. When she griped about a man getting all the glory for a successful Christmas (Santa, of course) or informed the reader, on rising for her first morning at a silent monastery, that "The Prophet Jeremiah is the last person you want to hear from at six o'clock in the morning", I burst out laughing in a room full of people.
And whether she's making you laugh or making your head spin with new knowledge, Rachel Held Evans still makes you feel so very comfortable. She invites her readers into her life for a year, and experiencing the highs, lows, pitfalls, triumphs, joy, and peace of her journey is ultimately the most rewarding experience of the entire book.
Upon finishing Rachel Held Evans' new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I wanted to applaud. I sat in awe, at how a book surrounding such controversy, simply pushed me toward Jesus.
It made me feel so connected to women around the world, in a way that transcends time and space. I felt like I finally understood what connects the Jewish women of the Old Testament, the early Christian women of the New Testament, and the millions of Christian sisters around the world who all live out their faith in different ways.
The Amish women Rachel met were not like the women in Bolivia. Rachel's Jewish friend Ahava was not like the girl she interviewed who's family believed in the Quiverfull approach to childbearing. Mary Magdalene was different from Deborah who was not the same as Tamar.
And it's ok that we're all different. They can all represent Eshet chayil: Women of Valor!
I found that this book was less about womanhood, and more about personhoodâ€”how we relate to Jesus, ourselves, and others while we are on Earth. Her exploration in prayer and silence as observed by different traditions intrigued me enough to want to examine my own prayer practices.
She approached the Bible in such a gentle and thoughtful way, even more careful and loving than I expected. Sometimes people who self-identify in either the "egalitarian" or "complementarian" camps are viewed as harsh and unsympathetic. I was happy that I did not find that attitude in this book. Her words and stories clearly show that she dearly loves Jesus, holds the highest respect for the word of God, and cares deeply for humanityâ€”especially women who have a difficult plight in most areas of the world.
In between her tender words about the Bible, Rachel shares hilarious anecdotes that occurred during her year of trying to live as a biblical woman. She adopted a computerized "baby think it over," camped outside during "the way of women," and attempted to cook her way through one of Martha Stewart's cookbooks.
While reading the book, I felt the need to define roles to be less and less important, and my desire to become like Christ to be more and more significant. "It's not our roles that define us," Rachel writes, "but our character." I want my character to reflect that of Christ alone, rather than an unrealistic ideal that the church thrusts women.
Full disclosure: I received a free advanced copy of the book to review.
I'm posting a dual-review: my wife says she'd give this 3 stars, I'd give it one, so we're averaging it out to 2 stars.
My wife and I agreed that this author is taking potshots at the complementarian view of marriage. Obviously egalitarian types are more likely to give the book 5 stars since it reinforces their own beliefs. I have some serious issues with the author's use of Scripture, which she also seems to be mocking. I think that her age may be a problem - she is fairly young and doesn't appreciate that over the course of 2000 years, Christians have reached general agreement about which parts of the Old Testament were intended for Christians to follow. the whole matter of her wearing the headcovering frankly seems a bit silly, ditto for the food laws in Leviticus, which no Christians (except Seventh-Day Adventists, I think) obey, and which both Jesus and Paul said do not apply to Christians. On the one hand, the author claims the Bible is not "an answer book," and that interpretations vary, but on the other hand she sure doesn't hesitate to assure the reader that many evangelicals' interpretations of the Bible are not "correct." In effect, she says no writer's interpretation of the text is definitive, but she definitely seems confident of her own. So, theologically and biblically, this is pretty shallow reading.
My wife says that while she enjoyed the book, she does not recommend it and does not consider it a serious contribution to the debate over Christian womanhood.