Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Rachel Held Evans is a popular Christian blogger, and I've mentioned her blog here before.  She grew up in a conservative evangelical environment, and, for example, she expected to have a "complementarian" marriage when she got married, but she and her husband were somewhat surprised to fall into egalitarianism almost by accident.  She hosts careful, intelligent discussions of controversial topics on her blog on a regular basis.  So I knew going in that this book was going to be well written.

The impetus for the book was her experience with the woman of Proverbs 31, a short poem that describes something like the biblical ideal of a wife.  She'd found that poem turned into a "to-do" list by one too many people over the years- especially publishers of Christian women's self-help books- and wanted to look at what the real ideals of "Biblical womanhood" were.  So she took a year to examine a dozen virtues that the Bible associates with femininity, and to look deeper into a variety of ways that people have and do understand "biblical womanhood".  Included in the book are experiences and conversations she had with the Amish, the Quakers, an Orthodox Jewish woman in Israel, and a retreat to a Catholic monastery.

It is a very readable book, lots of variety in what she addresses. She looks at so many items that she doesn't get very in depth about many of them (but I acknowledge my definition of in-depth, having a master's in the subject and all, may not be normal) but what she does cover is generally thoughtful and carefully written. There's a good dose of humor throughout the book, but it's never directed at the Bible, and it's almost always directed at herself.

She did receive a bit of push back for writing the book, and she wrote a lovely response to one of her more popular critiques here.  I think it outlines her intentions and her faith beautifully.

Great book for a woman's Bible study group, actually. I'll have to start suggesting it.

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