Biblical Womanhood: A Smartass Guide

I love to take people at their word, especially when they say something stupid. Which reminds me, every moron who says that they plan to move to Canada if Obama is re-elected, come November 7th, should the incumbent win, let me know if you need help packing.

But this isn’t about politics so much as it is about hermenutics, which is fancy Bible-talk for “how you read things.” One of the biggest atheist complaints about the religious is that we feel it’s disingenuous to pick and choose what’s literal and what is metaphorical in your holy texts and claim you aren’t doing that. Rachel Held Evans, a liberal evangelical blogger who has been featured here many times, came at the same conclusion from the other direction and decided to show how ridiculous Biblical literacy is by living her life for a year exactly as the Bible says she must, to the letter. Whatever prescriptions and proscriptions were there for women, she would follow them, regardless if they were ridiculous (many are, from the pictures of her sitting on her roof or holding a sign at the entrance to her town about how awesome her husband is).

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is now out and I want to read it because, as kind and gentle and non-threatening as Held Evans is (and she’s also an absolute sweetheart when it comes to responding to angry atheist bloggers in her comments section *ahem*), this has got to be one of the best smartass moves I’ve seen. I mean, I love to challenge Biblical literalists to actually live up to their arguments (not one has taken up my offer to search for women who pray with no hats so we can shave their heads), but Held Evans goes one step further and takes up her own challenge. She’s not mocking, and really does take the Bible seriously, but I think there’s something to be said when strict interpretations can seem like satire.

Suffice it to say, this book has also been sending the patriarchal Powers That Be into a tizzy of Biblical proportions, which pleases me to no end. Fred Clark discusses why this is happening and provides links to others, though I think he fails to mention the irony that it’s having the Streisand Effect.

I want to read this book and will probably pick it up when I have the time. Everything I hear says it’s smart, funny, and demonstrates pretty clearly the ways that phrases and traditions can lose their meaning. If I do read it, I’ll be sure to write a review. For now, I just really like the idea and, while I suspect she would disagree, I would consider Held Evans a Smartass of Valor.

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