Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Year of (anything but) Biblical Womanhood

Rachel Held Evans is a self-proclaimed Christian blogger.  It's no secret that she tends to the left on just about every issue, and her writing tends to get conservative people like me all riled up.  A lot of my left-leaning Christian Facebook friends link to her articles frequently, and that's pretty much sums up my experience with her.  I don't read her often, nor do I regularly check what she writes, but I run across her every once in a while.

Several months ago, during one of my various times at her blog, I noticed that she was in the process of writing a book called "A Year of Biblical Womanhood," written in the same vein as this book that details the complexities of supposedly living completely biblically for one year.  Held Evans (or is it just evans?  I never know when it comes to people with three names) does everything she can to supposedly obey every command and requirement placed upon women by the Bible for one year.  According to Evans, this endeavor led her to do all kinds of crazy things, most of which she records in her book for comic relief, according to her.

Unfortunately (for Evans) a plethora of devastating reviews have been unleashed on her book, almost exclusively from the conservative side of the Christian camp.  I have taken the time to read these reviews, such as this one, and this one, and this one from the always funny and witty Doug Wilson.  If the content of the reviews and opinions of the reviewers are accurate (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), then it appears that Evans' book is one to stay away from.

To be fair to Evans, I haven't read the book, nor do I intend to (I have a limited amount of time, which means a limited amount of reading time, and her book is not at the top of my very select list)  But from what I can tell from the reviews, one of the major hermeneutical mistakes that Evans makes is that she fails to understand the purpose for those laws and commandments given to women, and especially their purpose under the specific covenant that they were given.  That is, any time we talk about Old Testament laws, we need to in the same breath affirm that Jesus fulfills all of those laws, and that they are no longer necessary.  Therefore, asserting that the Bible is oppressive to women based on Old Testament requirements for women is absolutely uneducated, and almost embarrassingly so.  This is Christianity 101 type stuff.  Of course we don't follow those laws (for women or men) because they are impossible to follow.  That's why we needed a Savior.  Now that we have a Savior, our obedience and righteousness rests in him, not in a hopeless endeavor to obey a myriad of laws.  Again, from what I hear from the reviews, this distinction is painfully lacking in Evans' work, and that's incredibly unfortunate, if for no other reason that it robs Jesus of the glory he is due for meeting those requirements, and secondarily for confusing modern day women and coercively convincing them that the Bible is oppressive toward women.

The key to understanding these issues, and several others that are reportedly in Evans' book is hermeneutics.  I just used this term in an email conversation with a friend yesterday, and he had no idea what it means, so let me define: hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation - particularly biblical interpretation.  The way we interpret the Bible will color and influence the conclusions we make from the Bible.  Hermeneutics then, is an especially important thing to understand.  From what you will read in the reviews of Evans' book linked above, it appears that her grasp of hermeneutics leaves something to be desired.  Unfortunately, she has chosen a very sensitive issue to be very wrong about, as her writing will no doubt influence thousands of women to distrust the Bible, and distrust God.

It should be noted that I decided to write this post after reading Doug Wilson's review (the third review of the three linked to above).  As I did a little looking around, I meandered over to Evans' site and noticed that she just happened to be appearing on "The View" this morning, right around the time that I was writing the post.  This is important to note, since Evans and her supporters insist that her critics have gotten her wrong.  She does not attack the Bible, they say, but rather the notion that there is a "right" interpretation, and also the idea that there is such a thing as objective biblical interpretation.  This is an idea that I would carefully affirm.  I say "carefully affirm," because we also need to note that just because we all bring a certain set of suppositions to the text when we interpret, this does not mean that we should not make absolute statements about the Bible, or or truths we have interpreted from the Bible.  It does mean, however, that we need to recognize and admit those things we bring to the text (and even force upon the text) and be aware of them.  The more we are aware of them, the more we can fight against them as we interpret the Bible and conform our lives to what it says.  And the more open and honest we are about the things we bring to our study of scripture, the more we can hold each other accountable when we read and study it together.  In fact, even a realization of the fact that we each bring things to the text when we study it, will influence the way we study it.

Anyway, since Evans was appearing on The View around the time that I was writing the post, I decided to tune in (going against every fiber of my being).  I bring this up, because Evans was anything but open and honest about her own presuppositions that she brings to the text during this interview.  The segment was designed to make the Bible look stupid and irrelevant.  It focused on videos of her doing the things she describes in the book, which look absurd and outdated, as indeed they are (outdated at least).  This woman is not interested in openness and honesty about where we all lack when it comes to interpreting the Bible.  She wants to advance her feminist agenda by downgrading the authority of scripture.  This seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy.

For example, the tagline before the commercial break preceding Evans' appearance on the show said this: "You won't believe what she did to obey the strict laws the Bible has for women, for an entire year."  Yeah, that sounds like it's going to be an open and honest conversation about hermeneutics.  Ms. Evans, don't tell conservative reviewers that they're not getting to the heart of the issue represented in the book, when you yourself aren't getting to the heart of the issue of your book on a nationally televised program.  It's extremely hypocritical.  Moreover, the hosts of The View took this opportunity to laugh at the Bible and what it says.  Congratulations, Ms. Evans.  You've given unbelievers a reason to laugh at, condemn, and disbelieve the Bible (including the audience members of the day, as they were each given a copy of the book).  Well done.

For someone who reportedly wants an open dialogue about how we interpret the Bible, but seems to try to initiate that dialogue by spending her time belittling the Bible and ignoring context, she has a strange way of going about it.

1 comment:

Suz said...

I haven't read the book, but I have read "The Year of Living Biblically" ad I'm sure that author and this one had similar experiences.

To summarize "TYoLB" book, it's what you'd expect. The author picks and chooses the rules he wants to live by, adds rituals and prayers to his secular life, and interviews a lot of "believers", meaning people who live religious lives and take the Bible as something more than a rulebook. It is certainly interesting, but it is rarely edifying and offers no insight to belief. This is mainly because the author does not believe in the authority of the Bible as God's word, and has no concept of grace. The Bible is just one more book in an overflowing shelf of self-helps and lifestyle guides. He sees value in the rituals, but the being the rituals point to is beyond him because he chooses not to believe.

It's the story of Eden all over again. The snake said "Did God really say...?" These books are more of that same line of reasoning.

There is a good lesson for Christians here. I am more convinced than ever that religiosity and ritual practice are no evidence of faith. They can help, but by themselves they are meaningless. The "TYoLB" author proves that.