Being Like Deborah | Sojourners

Being Like Deborah

What in heaven's name does "biblical womanhood" mean? Rachel Held Evans embarked on a yearlong journey to find out.

Since the establishment of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1987 and J.I. Packer’s 1991 article “Let’s Stop Making Women Presbyters” in Christianity Today, there’s been a resurgence of traditionalist theology among some American churches. Instead of advocating “male headship,” they now promote “complementarianism.” Instead of portraying women as intrinsically “serving, subordinate, and supportive,” they now advocate “biblical womanhood.” But it’s the same patriarchal heresy, just with new language.

Rachel Held Evans, a Tennessee-based evangelical Christian raised in conservative Christian churches, decided to turn the tables. She vowed to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year. A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master is the often-hilarious, engaging, well-researched, deadly serious result.  (You can read all about her adventures at rachelheldevans.com). Former Sojourners editorial assistant Betsy Shirley, a student at Yale Divinity School, interviewed Evans in August 2012.

Betsy Shirley: So how does a nice, liberated woman like you find herself covering her head and calling her husband “master”?

Rachel Held Evans: I loved A.J. Jacob’s book The Year of Living Biblically, and always thought, “Boy, this would be a totally different book if a woman had done this.” I never dreamed of doing it myself until I started encountering Christian teachings that were advocating “biblical womanhood”—teachings about submission, submitting to your husband, and not teaching in church. I started thinking, “Well, nobody is actually practicing ‘biblical womanhood’ 100 percent.” That’s when I got the idea to have some fun and try to do all the teachings that relate to women in the Bible as literally as possible for a year.

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