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 ‘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 ‘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.