A Year of Biblical Womanhood–A Review
A few months ago I decided to read through A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Evans. I bought this book for the simple reason that there was so much hype about it that I knew I would be asked about the author and contents. As a book, I enjoyed it. I found myself chuckling at times and appreciating the style in which she writes. But I didn’t like the book.
First the good parts. There are some, several in fact. How she dealt with the Proverbs 31 passage was solid in many ways. She shows how it is often misused and misunderstood in the Evangelical world. And frankly, she does a nice job revealing some of many foibles that are present in various forms of American conservative Christianity. Unfortunately, that is not what she claimed she was going to do.
If she wanted to write a book that describes and exposes the edges of American Christianity she should have. But that is not what she said she was going to do. She claims she is going to live one year literally living out the biblical call to women. And, frankly, she failed on every level to do so. Even the idea of taking “biblical womanhood” literally (xx) was a flawed premise. There is no description that the bible gives that one could actually call “biblical” for women.
As I said, I enjoyed the book, as a book. But the content was, for the most part, terrible. It was not written to convince nor to explore various approaches women take in seeking to be biblical in their living. It was just cheap shots taken at people with little or no proof. Her actual ignorance of Scripture was obvious and her reactions to conservative Christianity were a result of apparently experiencing a bad form in her youth (xvii).
I have little desire to go into long details with the book itself. Instead, what I will do is essentially a free flow of observations that I made as I read it through.
- On xvii she makes one of her typical off the cuff remarks about Joyce Meyer being consider a heretic because she was a woman. Nope. Joyce Meyer is a heretic because she preaches a false, prosperity gospel. Being a woman has nothing to do with it.
- I laughed when I read on xviii, “I think this is one of the reasons why, despite the fact that I vote for Democrats, believe in evolution, and am no longer convinced that everyone different from me goes to hell, I don’t mind being identified as an evangelical Christian.” I noted in the margin, “How nice of her.”
- Her use of Scripture was exasperating to read. She shows little understanding of the nature of hermeneutics and the result is simple Scripture twisting. Example: (10) She quotes Proverbs 11:22 about a beautiful woman who lacks discretion being like a ring of gold in a pigs snout. How does she live that out “literally?” Why she engages in etiquette lessons. Never realized until now that discretion = etiquette.
- I think the most obvious example of her lack of understanding is that having quoted the proverb about it being better to live on the roof that with a contentious woman, she then thinks to literally live that out she needs to be on the roof when she is contentious. Aside from utterly missing the point of the proverb she also fails to see that it is the poor husband who would be happier up there.
- She is quite free to describe herself as a less-than-gentle woman (11) but shows no sense of how to put on a gentle spirit. Her answer was to engage in contemplative prayer. If you don’t know, that is one of the new scourges in the church today. It is pure mysticism, in an unbiblical sense. “In centering prayer, one chooses a sacred word or phrase upon which to focus. This serves as a sort of starting point . . . . The ultimate goal is to transcend all thoughts, feelings, images, and perceptions in order to simply rest in the “Reality that is beyond words” (15). Yep, exactly how Jesus taught us to pray.
- When dealing with Proverbs 31 (76ff) she points out correctly that it is not prescriptive in nature. And she is right! So what does she then do? She tries to obey it. In other words, she tries to live it out non-literally. And this happens over and over.
- In her chapter on modesty this comes out again (120ff). She does a decent job describing the point behind modesty. But again she then non-literally applies the command to be modest to look like. Her rules are: no jeans (can’t dress like a man), no short sleeves or v-necks and no jewelry. This is simply stupid. I wish I could say it nicer but I can’t. There is not a shred of “literal” in any of this.
- I did enjoy her attempts to keep the Torah, especially when “Aunt Flo” came around (150). It showed how difficult it is to live those standards in our culture. But of course, we are not under the Torah, nor does the Torah apply to us. But that is just me quibbling a bit.
- When it was time to tackle submission (201ff) she manages to mess it up as well. Her first mistake was being her husband’s executive assistant just like Debi Pearl teaches. Umm, that is Debi Pearl, not the bible. And frankly Debi Pearl does not speak for solid biblical teaching. Rachel argues that Jesus has a way of turning hierarchy on its head (218). This is partially true but it ignores the fact that there are still clearly established points of authority and submission in the Scripture. A husband is still the head of the home whether he likes it or Rachel likes it. Not because of conservative Christianity but because that is what it says. Hierarchy does not equal oppression, but for Rachel, that is what it means.
So, those are just a few of my observations and complaints about the book. It is a book that is written by a liberal Christian, trying to live not biblically nor literally, but in her own self-perceived sense of how conservative Christians live. It has its moments and is an easy read. But it fails to accomplish its premise and it makes a mockery of many Christians in the process. She should go sit on her roof for a bit longer, me thinks.