RELIGION - Rachel Held Evans describes herself as a Christian feminist and she has gone to great lengths over the last year to test out the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible.
The 30-year-old blogger and author from Dayton, Tennessee has spent a year doing the following...
She slept in a tent outside of her house while she was having her period (Leviticus 15: verses 19-33).
She praised her husband at the city gates (Proverbs 31: 23).
She made her own clothes (Proverbs 31: 22).
And she even spent some time on the roof contemplating her contentious ways. (“It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a contentious woman in a whole house.” — Proverbs 21:9.)
Evidently the last one was more for fun and to give herself some time alone to think.
“It was sort of like doing penance,” she says. “It was part of submitting to my husband, so I would spend time on the roof just seeing what it’s like to live in a house with me, a contentious woman. Now obviously that’s not in the Bible; that one was a definitely a stunt of my own making.”
Evans lives in a small community in the American Bible Belt, was raised as an evangelical, and she wanted to explore the idea of traditional Biblical womanhood and its meaning in modern society.
The conflict between conservative Christian and liberal feminist values may seem disparate beliefs that would hardly mesh, but she was drawn to the task and has been blogging about her exploits. A book is forthcoming in Autumn 2012.
“I really enjoy the contrast, conflict and the almost dissonance in scripture about women. I find that kind of encouraging because there’s not a single mould that women need to conform to. Really there’s no such thing as one biblical model for womanhood,” she says. “People are still trying to put (women) into categories and we don’t all fit. That’s true for the women in the Bible, too. They didn’t all fit easily either. On one hand, you’ve got Peter telling women to have a gentle and quiet spirit and, on the other hand, you have Jael who drove a tent peg into a guy’s skull, which is not exactly gentle and quiet.”
Evans was inspired by A.J. Jacobs’ book "The Year of Living Biblically". She loved the book, but felt that it would be very different if it was written from a female perspective. Conversations in her local evangelical culture made her want to challenge some of the assumptions about the ideal of Biblical womanhood.
She didn’t embrace polygamy however, which was a reality for many women in scripture.