BUIES CREEK - When Rachel Held Evans would ask a bunch of Christians in a room what is biblical womanhood, she would get a bunch of different answers, the popular Christian blogger and author told an audience of more than 175 at Campbell University Tuesday night in a public talk hosted by Campus Ministry.
“No one seemed to agree when I asked what biblical womanhood was,” she said.
There are two competing organizations in evangelism, for example, that promote different views of gender roles, she said. One supports egalitarianism and women in church leadership, and the other supports complementarianism and teaches that women should submit to men in leadership. Both, she said, claim their position is biblical.
That led Evans to wonder: “Could it be that the Bible really has just one thing to say, one position, on something as complex and as nuanced and beautiful and as mysterious as womanhood?”
And that led her to spend a full year immersing herself in commentaries, interpretations, scripture and stories related to women in the Bible; conducting a slew of interviews with women from various communities of faith, from the Amish to Orthodox Jews; and living out the instructions for women in the Bible as much as and as literal as possible.
She, for example, didn’t cut her hair for a year; she covered her head when she prayed; she nurtured her quiet spirit; and she submitted to her husband. The culminating product is her second book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” which will be published by Thomas Nelson on Oct. 30.
What did she learn during the process? That there is "no blueprint for how to be a woman, how to be a mother or how to be a man,” she told the crowd in D. Rich Memorial Building's Turner Auditorium.
Many people come to the Bible thinking they’ll find a blueprint for living, she said. Evans said she, like many others, grew up hearing that Proverbs 31 described the ideal woman, or “The Virtuous Woman” or “The Woman of Noble Character.” This biblical model of womanhood rose before dawn. She sewed. She made clothes. She prepared and served meals. She sold sashes. “She was super domestic,” Evans said. But as soon as you think you’ve found a blueprint for living, like Proverbs 31, you come across a woman in the Bible who breaks the mold.
There’s Ruth for starters, she said.
Ruth was a foreigner, a widow, poor, childless and a leader. And yet, Evans said, before Ruth gets married and has children, and before her life turns around, Boaz, her husband-to-be, says of her: “Of all the women I have known, you are a woman of noble character.”
“Here is a woman who, in terms of circumstances, has the opposite lifestyle [of that described in Proverbs 31], and yet the same phrase is used to describe her,” Evans said, adding that other women in the Bible who didn’t fit the model described in Proverbs 31 ranged from Deborah and Tamar to Mary Magdalene and Mary of Nazareth.
“Clearly, it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you live,” said Evans, who is also the author of “Evolving in Monkey Town,” which was published by Zondervan in 2010, and who blogs at rachelheldevans.com.
“None of these women fits a single mold. Not one of them fits a blueprint, and that’s because the Bible isn’t a list of bullet points. It isn’t a blueprint,” Evans said near the end of her talk, which included a reading of chapter three from “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” “God doesn’t communicate to us in these ways. Instead, he uses poetry, histories, letters, laws, proverbs, prophesies and mostly stories. . . .We are given stories like Ruth. . . and I hope that will encourage you in your own decision-making and in your own life.”
Evans added that she didn’t write “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” to just have more conversations about gender roles and women in the church. Rather, she said, “I wanted to have better and more honest and engaging conversations about the Bible—how we interpret it, how we apply it, how we misuse it — when we’re talking about biblical womanhood. . . .
“Stories are harder to render into bullet points,” she added. “Now we can be disheartened by this, or we can trust that God has his reasons for communicating with us this way. Now, I think it’s because the Bible is meant to be a conversation starter not a conversation ender. . . . I think God wants us to struggle with it and wrestle with it and talk about it with one another, because being a person of faith isn’t about being right; it’s about being a part of a community. The Bible is an amazing conversation starter that brings us into community together.”
Article by Cherry Crayton, Digital Content Coordinator