Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Perspectives on a Year of Biblical Womanhood

One of my first concerns before reading this book, and indeed about any discussion of womanhood/manhood, etc, was about my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community.  To be clear, this is not the aim of the book.  There are plenty of other books available on the topic.

However, I worry about the bigger picture of how gender roles impact our society.  And some of the greatest propagators of inequality are those of the Christian Evangelical tradition.  Some of the likely readers of Rachel Held Evans' book.  So we cannot afford to look away.

By arguing that there are two complementary roles (man and woman) in one type of relationship, heterosexual marriage, you only see a tiny portion of the spectrum of human experience.  There is such a huge spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations and WAYS OF BEING HUMAN that it serves no one to just confine it to a narrow understanding of what love can be.

There seems to be a general understanding of what it means to be man or woman or family that has been co-opted by some Christians as normative.  It generally looks like a married, two-parent household, that is middle class, goes to church on Sundays and lives in a community surrounded by others who are similar.

What Rachel Held Evans does really skillfully in this book is to detail that there are many, many ways that women lived their experience in biblical times.  There was Hagar, the slave sent into the wilderness by Abraham's wife Sarah, there was Sarah herself, Moses' mother who sent her son away to protect his life, Jael the fierce warrior who drove a stake through a man's temple, the wise Elizabeth who counsels the young Mary, and my personal favorite, Mary Magdalene who heralded the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There was not one way to be a woman in the Bible, just as there is not one right way to be a woman now.

The bisexual woman pastor, the straight suburban church lady, the elderly lesbian woman and her partner, the young teenage girl who is trying out her role in the world, and the exhausted wife and mother...they were all created in the image of God.

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