This week I’m on vacation on a beach in Mexico. The only redeeming thing about a beach vacation is there’s lots of time to read. I tolerate sand so I can read. One of the books I’m reading is Rachel Held Evans’ new book, A Year of The Biblical Womanhood. I figured I’d get a jump start on it since we are having a salon discussion on the book in February.
I’ve read over sixty books plus on the topic of biblical womanhood. I think Rachel’s does the best at speaking about a difficult subject in an ordinary, humorous yet profound way.
Over the next several months I will be sharing some of my thoughts on specific insights from her book.
Rachel challenges the argument of the contemporary biblical womanhood movement that says the only sphere in which a woman can truly bring glory to God is in the home. She is correct in her assessment that this movement’s position is based on the idealization of the post-industrial revolution nuclear family rather than on biblical culture. In fact “nuclear family” was an unknown entity prior to the Industrial Revolution. A biblical family, if we want to be biblical, was mom, dad, kids, aunts, grandma, cousins, servants, day workers…etc. And every one worked in the home, the home was the economic unit of the family. And, if we are going to be biblical, then we need to start living as a clan rather than mom, dad and the kids. In fact it wasn’t until after WWII that suburban life was created and houses were built for the “nuclear family.”
Many times when I hear the rhetoric of this movement I can’t help but think how American it is in it’s interpretation. Rachel quotes one of voices of their movement from chapter 22 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, where the author of that book, Dorothy Patterson insists that “keeping the home is God’s assignment to the wife-even down to changing the sheets, doing the laundry, and scrubbing the floors. Ambitions that might lead a woman to work outside the homes, says Patterson, constitute the kind of “evil desires” that lead directly to sin.” (Held, 23)
I wonder if Patterson’s interpretation applies universally or is it a first world interpretation? I wonder how many woman in blue collar, poor, or third world have the privilege of asking, “Where should my work take place?” Most women (and men) are doing anything and everything to keep food on the table for the day. They don’t have the luxury of thinking like Patterson. In my opinion these strong, “I’ve got the true interpretation of the bible” views cause great turmoil within women’s hearts and division among them as well.
Recently I was at a gathering of Christian women. I asked the question “what would you like to do before you die?” As we went around the table most women mentioned wanting deeper relationships with their husband and kids. All was good until one woman shared her dream which went beyond mothering and marriage. I watched as the women around the table immediately started to say, “being a mother and wife is a big enough dream.” This woman wasn’t denying that it just wasn’t the dream God had placed on her heart. And there I was, once again, watching women become defensive. I long for the day when we women can not only accept but CELEBRATE one another’s diversity. God calls each of us to different things. Why aren’t we okay with that?
Rachel gives some insight when she states, “I get the sense that many in the contemporary biblical womanhood movement feel that the tasks associated with homemaking have been so marginalized in our culture that it’s up to them to restore the sacredness of keeping the home. This is a noble goal indeed, and one around which all people of faith can rally. But in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.”
If God is the God of pots and pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.” (Held, 30)
And I say Amen to that.