‘Biblical Womanhood’: Christian patriarchs trying to blow out a bonfire

Rachel Held Evans “champions women, freedom and forgiveness in a way that transcends religion.”

That’s from the glowing review of A Year of Biblical Womanhood in People magazine, which praises Evans as “insightful” and “often-hilarious,” and lauds her “gentle but impassioned critique of the Biblical Womanhood movement, which requires women to submit to their husbands’ authority.” This review in such a ubiquitous magazine will not please the husbands and patriarchs of that movement. They can keep Evans’ book out of LifeWay stores, but they can’t keep People out of the checkout lanes at the supermarket.

The Powers That Be of Christian patriarchy — The Gospel Coalition, the Southern Baptist bishops, etc. — see Evans as the most prominent example of something that terrifies them. Their male authority depends, largely, on the consent of the governed. And that consent, in turn, depends largely on their maintaining a monopoly on information and permission.

TPTB are losing that monopoly on information and permission. Women are writing things. They are talking to one another outside of officially sanctioned church channels. They are spreading and absorbing information not approved by the patriarchy. They are granting one another permission to ask questions and to demand satisfactory answers. The Christian women bloggers of that Bonfire list represent an existential threat for Christian patriarchy. TPTB wants to extinguish that fire.

And so TPTB of Christian patriarchy have latched onto Evans as a symbol of all those uppity women thinking, talking, writing and asking questions without official permission from their husbands and pastors and bishops. If she can be silenced or denounced or discredited, maybe all those others will learn their lesson too.

The result of this coordinated attack on Evans-as-symbol has been exactly what anyone who is not a power-drunk authoritarian would expect. It has prompted others to rally around and alongside her in solidarity. And that solidarity, in turn, has empowered and encouraged others to raise their voices as well — further threatening the monopoly of information and permission on which Christian patriarchy depends.

To paraphrase Peter Gabriel, you can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a bonfire.

Dianna E. Anderson:A Year of Biblical Womanhood: Understanding and Openness in One Woman’s Journey

This book is not for those who have already made up their minds. This book is not for the ones who think they have all the answers. This book is not even a point-by-point breakdown of complementarianism and why it is a broken system. This book is for the questioning, for the women in between, for the ones feeling more judged by God and scripture than buoyed and loved. This book – and Evans’ journey – do not provide exact, pat answers to the numerous theological questions that a literal complementarianism raises. Instead, it tells us that questions are okay. Wrestling is okay. The Scripture can take it. God can take it. Being everything to everyone is not a burden you have to carry.

Idelette McVicker:Eshet Chayil, Rachel Held Evans

This is a time for clear speech.

I am thankful that Rachel is such a woman, who speaks clearly. She researches, ponders, asks questions, collaborates and speaks out. She’s not intimidated. And for that I am deeply grateful.

I am thankful that Rachel is forging a path. She’s leading, she’s going first and she’s giving me courage to speak about the things that matter dearly.

Piercing patriarchy isn’t easy. It’s gutsy and it requires wisdom and clarity of thinking. It’s not something we can shout down or yell down or beat our fists at. I know, because I’ve tried that.

Richard Beck:A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Agreed, no one is following all the commandments literally. People pick and choose. But here’s the deal: They don’t realize they are picking and choosing. And even if you argue with these people, pointing out how they are picking and choosing, they still can’t see it. And in the face of that (I think willful) denial Rachel does something pretty remarkable. Rachel engages in a hermeneutical performance, one that, in refusing to pick and choose, reveals to anyone reading her book just how much picking and choosing is actually going on. She helps you see it. And laugh at the same time.

And that’s what is pretty badass about the book, intellectually speaking. The book is hermeneutical performance art.

Rachel Marie Stone:Rachel Held Evans and the Hermeneutics of Love

I realize that this does not sit well with everyone, especially with those for whom summing up Scripture as essentially and most importantly about loving God and neighbor is a little too open ended. (Wait? Who said that? Oh, yes. Jesus did.) Many of Rachel’s critics assert that if one does not interpret St. Paul to mean that all women everywhere are, by their very nature, unfit for leadership in the church, one is on a slippery slope that ends with tossing out the Bible completely. It’s highly inconvenient, then, that there are a good many people who neither interpret Paul that way nor abandon orthodoxy altogether.

… Maybe love is controversial after all.

Amy Mitchell:A Year of What?!

Rather than complaining about how hard it was to live out a literal interpretation of the Bible, she pokes gentle fun at herself. From her Jar of Contention to her ruined apple pie to her misadventures in sewing, she doesn’t ever take herself too seriously.

At the same time, Rachel clearly takes the Bible seriously.  She makes every effort to understand the original context of the Scriptures while not ignoring the modern-day applications. In each chapter, she discovers a way in which she can honor God and the Bible without resorting to strict, legalistic readings of the text.

Brian LePort:Book Review: Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Rachel has done her homework and she shares with her readers the worldview of some writers – men and women – who advocate “biblical womanhood” as a woman staying home, having a half dozen children, never going to college, never having a career, and living for her husband as a servant. While there may be women who find this to be fulfilling there are other women who have a sense that this is not the aim of their life. These authors attempt to guilt women into a model of womanhood that has nothing to do with ancient Israel or first century Galilee as much as it does everything to do with 1950′s America. Rachel exposes this and she does it without being hostile. I must commend her on this because while I was reading excerpts from this or that author my face would turn red with anger. I cussed to myself on many occasions. What Rachel has done through this experiment is outdo the legalist in their legalism!

Rachel’s book does not mock Scripture; her book exposes our inconsistencies as readers of Scripture, our false objectivity (a mythological epistemology that needs to die), and our foundationless and often hypocritical piety. Rachel proves to be a better and more honest reader of Scripture than many people whom I have met with doctorates in biblical studies. She lets Scripture bother her. She lets it challenge her. I found her honesty about Scripture to be refreshing and she has become a fellow pilgrim in my own journey to understand this complex, concerning, beautiful book known as the Bible.

Danielle @ From Two to One:A Toast to Rachel Held Evans in the Midst of Roasts

We congratulate you on your book launch day of a tremendous job well done. Those of us who’ve walked alongside you, maybe limped here and there, know and feel in our very bones that the tide is turning. We know that your book will touch lives, will help heal and restore, and will bring reconciliation to all of us who’ve been stunted in our spiritual growth from the wrist-slapping measuring stick of “true” or “biblical” womanhood and manhood.

J.R. Daniel Kirk:Living Biblically

Her project exposes the most basic reality of biblical interpretation and application: we do not, cannot, and indeed must not, simply pick up the Bible, see what it says, and go do it.

All of us approach the Bible with some sort of interpretive grid that helps us to know when we do or do not need to take to heart the commandment issued. Rachel has grown weary of “biblical” as a trump-card adjective, thrown out in an effort to baptize whatever (conservative) social, religious, or theological position a person wants to endorse.

So, the story of the year is a story of challenging the notion that “biblical womanhood” is to be had by opening up the Bible and applying “God’s word to women.”

Elizabeth Esther:For Rachel Held Evans, my friend and a Woman of Valor

What I want you to know is how much I admire you. Your courage, determination and Berean commitment to search out the truth make you a true woman of valor. You never shirk the hard work of questioning assumptions and stereotypes – even when it places you in the crosshairs of previously unquestioned authority.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Which is odd, because the plan is to tell him that the whole war is just a simulation right up until he wins. So why does “killer instinct” matter? Couldn’t they just find the world’s greatest Starcraft player and put him in command of the fleet?

    One possibility is that someone with more of an aversion to killing might be more likely to react to the little clues that the “game” isn’t just a game, rather than brush them aside until it’s conveniently too late to do anything about it.

  • Lori

    I feel like we’re going in circles a bit now. The only reason it would be convenient, as opposed to tragic,  for Ender to miss the clues that the simulations have stopped and he’s really killing Buggers is if he wants to commit mass murder, but doesn’t want to admit it. Otherwise it’s a mistake made by a child in a very weird situation, under tremendous pressure, with knowledge carefully limited by others. The evidence that he really does want to commit mass murder is that he conveniently misses the clues. And around and around we go.

    I think it’s far to say that a less screwed up kid might have asked more questions about the simulations and would have cared more about their potential applications than about winning. I don’t think that’s at all the same thing as being perfectly willing to commit genocide.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Sorry for my sloppy wording; what I meant was, convenient for the narrative. I guess part of the issue here is that I’m viewing Ender’s Game as a story that Card is telling, and the important ethical issue is what the effect of that story is on its readers. The destruction of the Buggers and the abuse of Ender are not important ethical considerations for me, because neither the Buggers nor Ender ever existed.

    But I agree with everything you say about those fictional entities. In particular, I agree that Ender has no desire to commit genocide, nor would he choose to if given the choice.

  • Lori

     

    But I agree with everything you say about those fictional entities. In
    particular, I agree that Ender has no desire to commit genocide, nor
    would he choose to if given the choice.   

    For me, this was the effect that the story had on me as a reader. I came away from it thinking that it was about manipulation and about thing like being careful not to get all your information, especially about your enemies, from one source. That was also pretty much the take-away for the friends with whom I’ve discussed the book.

    I don’t personally know anyone who saw Ender as heroic or thought that the genocide of the Buggers was OK or the sort of thing that should happen IRL. Do you?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > I don’t personally know anyone who saw Ender as heroic [..] Do you?

    Yes, I personally know people who saw Ender as the hero of that story.

    > I don’t personally know anyone who [..] thought that
    the genocide of the Buggers was OK or the sort of thing that should
    happen IRL. Do you?

    I personally know people who believe that exterminating the enemy is at least morally acceptable, and in some cases a moral obligation. I’ve never discussed Ender’s Game with them, so I suppose it’s possible they’d consider genociding the Buggers an exception for some reason, but I don’t consider it likely.

    More generally, I know a lot of people who believe that violently striking down their opposition is a success condition to be proud of. Perhaps I’m wrong about Ender’s Game, like all other variations of the Protagonist Annihilates Enemy Without Agency trope, ultimately encouraging that idea; it’s hard to be sure about institutional effects like that, but it seems pretty clear to me.

    Regardless, if neither you nor anyone you know were affected in this way, I’m pleased.

  • Tricksterson

    Given that they had no way of knowing that the Bugs weren’t omnicidal maniacs I can see their point, if not how hey went about it, ie the manipulation of innocent.  IIRc the fact that this was all a clusterfuck stemmig from a failure to communicate was meant as a take that to Heinlein’s Starshi Troopers

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Yes, I agree that Card set up a situation in which his characters didn’t have many options. That’s a common narrative technique for performing the kind of storytelling trick I’m describing Card as performing.

    And, yes, Starship Troopers is much more problematic this way.


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