A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Title: A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband 'Master'
Author: Rachel Held Evans
Pages: 352
Genre: Faith, Biblical Living, Woman's Issues, Feminism
Age Range: Adult
Publication Date: 10/29/2012
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Medium: Audiobook

What brought this book to your attention?

When I read non-fiction it's usually because either (a) a book has been given to me by someone else, (b) a book has been so highly recommended I can't ignore it, or (c) it covers some issue I'm struggling with. For me, this was definitely an option c.

I got married a little over a year ago, and leading up to my marriage I was concerned by a couple of issues. The theological idea of "complementarianism" was something I had been raised in, the idea that the man is the head of the household and a woman should subjugate herself to him. This wasn't an idea that had ever sat well with me--strong, independent, headstrong me. And if complementarianism was true, where did we draw the line? Was I supposed to cover my hair when I prayed (1 Corinthian 11:5)? And if I was supposed to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), did that mean I was always supposed to keep my hair covered? Suddenly I was wearing hats to church every other Sunday, unsure if I was supposed to be doing this or not, but at least seeing what it felt like.

But wasn't Christianity about freedom? Wasn't always wearing a hat legalism? How's a modern Christian girl to navigate these waters?

Well I found the blog of Rachel Held Evans and discovered I wasn't the only modern woman asking these questions. In this book, Rachel tries to follow the different aspects of being a woman, as expressed across the Bible or encouraged by certain belief systems. A modern twenty-first century woman was asking the same questions as me and trying to follow through--for a whole year--and then seeing if there were any conclusions to be drawn. The book isn't quite the scientific methods by any means, but it had enough of that idea to draw me in. So I got the audiobook to listen to on my drive to and from work.

Did you learn anything?

I was actually surprised how much I learned. I consider myself pretty well learned when it comes to things of the Bible, which is probably a mistake since the Bible is such a diverse and controversial book.  I always thought I knew what Proverbs 31 was about: a description of a woman we should all aspire to be. But I learned in this book, that's not true. Proverbs 31 has been used too often in churches as some sort of measuring tape all women have to stack themselves again, instead of what it truly is: a poem of praise of wise women, women of valor, "eshet chayil" in the Hebrew. The woman in the poem is just an example of a wise woman--but she comes from a very specific economic and social bracket. Should we all be holding ourselves to the standard of a wealthy, ancient Jewish woman? No! We should be seeking to be women of valor in our lives and that looks different ways! MIND BLOWN.

Also I had never before heard of the apostle Junia. Was it because I had Bible translations that misgendered her as Junias? Was it because my Sunday School teachers and complimentarian pastors just never wanted to point out that a woman was given the highest honor the apostle Paul could give her? I have no idea. But I learned she was a woman, "outstanding among the apostles" who Paul considered his equal and friend.

I also learned a lot about the many ways different Christian and Jewish faith traditions have interpreted the role of the woman. Rachel went and met with Amish women. She made friends with an Orthodox Rabbi's wife. She didn't limit herself to just one faith tradition but really tried to dwell in how women across the Christian spectrum have interpreted these different verses. And it was enlightening for me. I learned so much.

Did you disagree with anything?

I honestly don't remember disagreeing with anything in any visceral way, and that's probably because Rachel's end claim really that there is no one single prescriptive way to be a Christian woman. I maybe disagree with some of the woman she spoke with on their particular beliefs, but these beliefs aren't put forth by the book as things we should all believe, but rather different interpretations of the same faith. I think the only people who will disagree with this book are people who do believe there is only one distinct way to be a Christian woman and all other women are wrong. Which is an opinion people can have, but not one I maintain. So no, I didn't disagree with anything the author said really.

How did you like the book overall?

I loved this book. I learned a lot, and the audiobook narrator was very good. It was a perfect book to listen to on my commute to work. And I highly recommend this book to any woman who is struggling with what it means to be a "Biblical woman."