Christian Store Won’t Sell Author’s Book Because It Includes the Word ‘Vagina’

My friend and Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans has a book coming out at the end of the month called A Year of Biblical Womanhood about the time she spent trying to be the type of woman the Bible commands her to be.

Of all the passages in the book, this one is causing the most controversy:

I signed my first abstinence pledge when I was just fifteen. I’d been invited by some friends to a fall youth rally at the First Baptist Church, and in the fellowship hall one night, the youth leader passed around neon blue and pink postcards that included a form letter to God promising to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. We had only a few minutes to add our signatures, and all my friends were signing theirs, so I used the back of my metal chair to scribble my name across the dotted line before marching to the front of the room to pin my promise to God and to my vagina onto a giant corkboard for all to see. The youth leader said he planned to hang the corkboard in the hallway outside the sanctuary so that parents could marvel at the seventy-five abstinence pledges he’d collected that night. It was a pretty cheap way to treat both our bodies and God, come to think of it.

Because that passage includes an innocuous use of the word “vagina,” Rachel had to fight her publishers to keep the word in there. She eventually won that fight.

But now LifeWay Christian Resources — one of the largest distributors of Christian books — will not be selling her book in their stores because of the same “problem.”

Rachel writes:

I’m disappointed, of course, and not just because I’ll take a hit in sales. While Lifeway certainly has every right to choose its own inventory, I think the notion that Christians should dance carefully around reality, that we should speak in euphemisms and only tell comfortable, sanitized stories, is a destructive one that has profoundly affected the evangelical culture as a whole.

I have a copy of the book in front of me and the idea that it’s controversial at all is ludicrous. This is PG material (sorry, Rachel!). But LifeWay is so scared of what it might do, they’re not selling it. It turns out all those stereotypes you have about conservative Christians are true after all.

(Mind you, they’re still selling it online… because, you know, money. But they’re avoiding the physical copies. I guess they’ll make your hands burn or something.)

It’s not the first idiotic decision LifeWay has made. They thought the movie The Blind Side was too offensive. They stopped selling a Bible aimed at people with breast cancer because a portion of the money went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation which gives a small portion of their funding to Planned Parenthood… They even added warning stickers to books written by slightly-more-liberal Christians.

Meanwhile, LifeWay has no problem selling various versions of the Bible, a book filled with rape and violence and genocide. Hell, they’ll sell Bibles for children. But mention a part of a woman’s anatomy and they get all fussy about it.

Dianna Anderson also points out the kicker: While LifeWay won’t sell Rachel’s book…

… Lifeway still carries Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage, which contains explicit references to anal and oral sex.

A Christian group that’s hypocritical?! Unbelievable…

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

    Of course, Mark Driscoll’s book tells women that they’re not really EQUAL-equal to men, and Rachel says that they are. I’m going to hazard a guess that this isn’t really about the word vagina so much as it’s about the fact that Rachel HAS a vagina and tells other vagina-owners that the “biblical” womanhood that folks like Mark & Grace Driscoll are pedaling is more like 1950′s womanhood and not “biblical” at all.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      “Vagina-owners.” You mean men, right?

      • CelticWhisper

        Only if christians had their way.

        • The Other Weirdo

           Not just Christians.

          • CelticWhisper

             True – followers of any Abrahamic religion and probably a fair few others as well.

  • mobathome

    Does Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage, “mention a part of a woman’s anatomy”?

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    I tend to agree with Alise. The distributor may claim that the word “vagina” is the problem, but I suspect the issue is actually those far more evil words on the cover: “liberated woman.”

    • Sindigo

      Nice.

  • Good and Godless

    The bible achieved world-wide distribution without the word ‘vagina’ being in the popular translations.  So a book including a word not in the bible shouldn’t have any expectation of success.  Then again ‘America’ is not in the common bible translations either.

    • Sindigo

      Mormon: I have a book you need to read.

      • Good and Godless

        “common translation of the bible”
        “mormon” is neither.

  • Tainda

    I tell ya, conservative christians better embrace more liberal ones now or they are going to fade away even faster than they are now.

    Oh yeah, VAGINA!!!

    • CelticWhisper

       What?  It’s noisy in here, I didn’t catch that.

      Did you say VAGINA?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

         Oh dear, what vulgarity is this?
        Where are my smelling salts?

        • Tainda

          Are you feeling a might woozy?  

          Tsk, tsk, we women are so fragile

          • JohnnieCanuck

            As I understand it, the underlying cause for all the fainting was the overly tightened corsets of the day that severely restricted breathing; when they weren’t faking it, I suppose.

            This more than symbolically prevented a woman from doing work, showing her upper class status. Beside catching a man’s eye by emphasising her curves, it also showed that she had voluntarily made it impossible for herself to escape his attentions by running.

            • Tainda

              And corsets have breasts in them.

              Ooops!  There’s another word!

              • TheBlackCat

                 I wonder if they will ban chicken cook books now…

        • nakedanthropologist

          Quickly, get her to the chaise!  Dear lady, are you alright?  I cannot believe how vulgar some people are!  Whenever I have to talk to my doctor about “that place” I always use a term that invokes dignity and respect!  Therefore to all you strumpets out there: the proper term is “BeaverSnatch” thank you very much!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

    Maybe should have just said P-$$Y instead?

  • NeedingMoreFacts

    I rarely agree with you, Hemant, but when it comes to this blog post and to mathematics, I’m with you all the way.  This is absolutely crazy.  I am totally buying this book, too. 

    Just a clarification: there are many (well, I can’t really quantify that) that are moving away from the legalism that you speak about in this post.  To refuse to sell a book because it says “vagina” is ridiculous.  I attend a pretty conservative, definitely evangelical, FBC, and our interim pastor is working hard to remove this legalism.  I know I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum from atheists, and maybe it wouldn’t seem like much to an atheist, but this means a lot to me. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Thanks for sharing :) Glad you’re part of the solution!

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      It means a lot to this atheist that on some issues we can be allies. *offers hand*

      • NeedingMoreFacts

        Thanks, Gloomcookie.  I definitely accept your hand and return mine! 

    • SamHamilton

      Thanks for adding this.  I also attend a pretty “conservative,” evangelical, Anglican church and there’s little of this legalism going on.  This type of stuff is a subset of Christian churches.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    If the bookstore is going to stop selling this book because of the word “vagina” are they going to be consistent and stop selling the Bible? Afterall, the bible has a story of a women ramming a tent peg thru a man’ head. Not to mention David peering at a naked women while she was taking a bubble-bath.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

       It’s cute how you think that’s the worst of the Bible :)

    • SamHamilton

      The author of the blog post already made this exact point.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PWUAB6VWGQWUV4GQTMTPBBU33Q JessicaR

    Maybe if she’d referred to it as her “dirty bits” they would have approved.

  • Weasel

    I can’t wait to read this book, looks interesting. Poor Rachel, I sympathize. I’m an independent writer and I’ve been writing since I could grasp a pencil. I used to have my stern christian older sister review my work. I wrote this one poetic, philosophical short story when I was 16 (which actually wasn’t bad) and she objected to it because I used the word “hell.”

  • Gus Snarp

    I have heard that LifeWay sells large numbers of copies of a book that includes this line: “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.” This bookstore is evil and must be boycotted by all true God-fearing Christians!

    • Baal

       Ezekiel is my favorite book of the bible for  a reason (just don’t eat the bread unless you make it yourself).  Also,
      VAGINA!

  • TiltedHorizon

    She used ‘my vagina’ in the context of biblical womanhood?!? What was she thinking? That’s her Master’s ‘vagina’, how dare she refer to it as hers. Her Master should take his rib back, clearly she is not worth three shekels of silver.

  • Vukota

    Somehow, this is ok in god’s eyes: “Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.”

    And this is not:

    “Vagina.”

  • Brian Bowhan

    Am I the only flummoxed that the bookstore is banning the clinically correct term[http://www.biotopics.co.uk/human2/reprsy.html]?  What would they have actually preferred , ‘lady-parts’ or ‘hew-ha or ‘unmentionables’?

    Also, VAGINA! Vagina forever!

  • nakedanthropologist

    This is just so par for the course when it comes to Christian culture.  I’m never surprised at this anymore – only left with vague feelings of pity and disgust that so many people will allow themselves the opiate that is ignorance.  It’s no wonder Evangelicals and others of their ilk seem so ridiculous to other people. 

  • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

    I think the notion that Christians should dance carefully around reality [...] is a destructive one

    Bwahahahahahahahahaha! *snort* Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha… heh… (*gasp*) ha ha…

    People who believe in an all-powerful god who loves us all and yet condemns some of us to eternal suffering already have a logic disconnect so bad that they have to “dance carefully around reality”. They might as well keep up the other lunatic traditions as well, because you can’t build a solid logical edifice on top of an outright contradiction.

  • jose

    Wasn’t a congresswoman kicked out of the chamber for saying the word vagina when discussing abortion or something like that? Conservatives need to grow out of the “girl cuties” phase!

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Cooties. That’s what I always assumed it was. Conservatives that are in the “girl cuties” phase need to be arrested before they harm any more children.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        *snorfle*

      • jose

        OH SNAP xD I know I’m not having that typo ever again…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Buchholz/1203282337 Christopher Buchholz

    Wow these people really hate women, don’t they? Women’s bodies are scary and evil, and we can’t mention their parts.

    When I was just out of college I was in a Christian band, Global Wave System, and even we got banned from some christian bookstores, and we were super evangelicals at the time. I remember when my bandmate told me we got banned I exclaimed “awesome!” I figured that meant we were doing something right.

    • SamHamilton

      Haha…isn’t getting banned every band’s dream?

  • Sally0

    Does Lifeway allow women in their stores? Do they know that almost every woman includes a real vagina, not just the scary word. Of course male-authored books can use the word penis, because this Xtian company is run by a bunch of pricks.

  • http://twitter.com/JackalopeDance Andi GreyScale

    Lol, I so pre-ordered this at B&N. 

  • Matthew Prosser

    Evans’ writing has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some
    men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable…  Vagina. 

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I have the sudden urge to scream “VAGINA” at the top of my lungs. (Damn inner child…)

    *cough*

    Come on, people, it’s a vagina. Saying “vagina” isn’t going to conjure up some crazy yoni-demon out to consume all the men.

    • CelticWhisper

       In my best (which seriously isn’t too good…no, I mean it, run far away) Pavarotti impression…

      VaginaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

  • A3Kr0n

    I think she did more than use the word “vagina”. She denigrated the experience by calling it cheap, if I understand her words correctly. But who cares if a christian bookstore refuses to sell a book? There are a lot of great books they refuse to sell, otherwise it wouldn’t be a christian bookstore.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Calling what cheap? How did she “denigrate the experience”? Experience of what?

  • ccaldwell314

    I guess LifeWay has decided to be less *obviously* hypocritical, because they no longer put the “Read with Discernment” warning labels on books… at least not any I could find. 

  • Randy

    Rachel: “I think the notion that Christians should dance carefully around
    reality, that we should speak in euphemisms and only tell comfortable,
    sanitized stories, is a destructive one”

    Really?  Because…  oh nevermind.

  • Xinen

    I think the subtitle of the book peaks my interest more. Because it doesn’t sound like she is very liberated by modern standards if she is justifying that kind of behavior. Of the many things that seriously bothered me at my family’s church was the open contempt and fear of women. The verse that says men should thank god every day that he didn’t make them a woman was a fairly obvious cue, much less the woman living under the tyrannical rule of her oppresor… *ahem* husband. Christopher Hitchens as usual had a humorous and thought provoking take on myth and religions fear of sex, the female and her wonderous anatomy. They like to think of the birth canal as a one way street.

    • SamHamilton

      The verse that says men should thank god every day that he didn’t make them a woman was a fairly obvious cue…

      What verse are you talking about?

  • Gbbbbb

    And you people are just as small minded as the group you criticize.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

       my number one rule with people like you, that you prove, again, is called “projection.: it’s what right wingers do, first and always.” you have no argument, no logic, no facts. all you can do is project your own flaws on those who call you out and disagree. you are the perfect example of what i mean. 50+ comments, and all you can say is an insult, and an unfounded one at that. people like you are exactly why this nation is likely doomed. i bet you got your “education” via standardized testing and/or homeschooling. i  pity you. try not to fuck your sister, and keep your voice down in the meantime. society will be better for it.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Hell, they’ll sell Bibles for children.

    My son and I had the honor of meeting Brendan Powell Smith yesterday and bought a copy of his hot-off-the-presses Brick Testament http://www.thebrickbible.com/home.html

    Ben LOVES it!

    My Amazon review: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1R2E9J1IE6KZQ/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1620871726&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=

    I highly recommend it for any parent who wants their child to be armed with knowledge of what the bible contains.  It is abridged, yes, but everything is accurate, and the coverage is very broad.  It doesn’t focus on all the parts atheists use to keep countering Christians, but it’s also not a cherry pie.

  • http://www.quietatheist.com/ Slugsie

    So I take it they also don’t sell dictionaries? Or do they only sell abridged dictionaries?


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