I first found out about Rachel Held-Evans from a pastor I was talking with about potentially serving in his church. I stalked his Twitter page and clicked on every article he tweeted about, and quite a few were about her. I figured she was worth checking out. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to think. Her theology wasn’t exactly like mine, but her approach towards people was. And although I couldn’t agree with her on doctrine, I appreciated her heart and was drawn to her. She was my dirty liberal secret.
I first read about her new book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” on some of the other sites I read on a daily basis, sites that are far more conservative. They pointed out many flaws in her book and in her theology, and some of their remarks made me angry. As a female youth minister in a conservative denomination, I daily struggle with my identity as such. I struggle with remarks made about my gender, even if they are “joking.” I struggle with being a woman, period, sometimes. I even struggle with some of the expectations that are in the Bible about women, even though I have always thought of myself who takes the Bible pretty seriously and literally. Yet many within my congregation who would say that same thing would also say that I don’t belong as a youth leader.
I felt like, because of Rachel’s “liberal” views on certain topics, her book wasn’t given a chance. I had friends, upon hearing of me reading the book, messaging me links to popular conservative sites, sending me scriptures “condemning” her, and asking me to reconsider inarguable things simply because Rachel said them.
Truthfully, the conservatives reacted very ironically.
Rachel’s book is all about taking the Bible seriously–looking at ALL of the scriptures on what it means to be a woman, and not just pick the ones we like. Yet many conservatives picked apart her book and found the parts that showed her “liberal” theology*, her literal acting out of the Bible, and her precious vulnerability as comical, depreciating the Bible, and a slap on baby Jesus’ face.
Now look, I don’t agree with it all. It is kind of weird to me when a lady calls her husband “master” just because the Bible mentioned in like once. But then again, there are other scriptures that we follow and they only said them once too. Rachel wasn’t making a mockery out of scripture, neither was she saying the Bible wasn’t God-inspired or trustworthy. Rachel was trying to get her readers to understand that when we look at scripture, we have to consider the cultural and historical contexts. When we don’t, that is making a mockery of scripture. And you can’t argue with that, as that’s day one of Hermeneutics 101.
Another thing Rachel did for me in this book is soothe my sometimes-crazy tries of trying to be this “biblical” woman. I don’t have to act out every part of Proverbs 31 in order to be a woman of God. If I can’t/don’t bear children, I won’t lose my salvation. My primary responsibility is to not preoccupy my time with trying to be a woman of God, but a child of God. My womanhood is certainly something to be celebrated, but it’s not solely my identity.
As a leader within the Christian church, I’m applying this in so many ways. I’m comfortable with my theological understanding that I can lead teenagers. The conservative in me admittedly still shouts against woman senior pastors, but I am comfortable with my theology for youth ministry.
It bothers me that so many people can have such strong views against a book that says “I don’t have all the answers.” Rachel is transparent and shares her struggles and meltdowns. Any woman can relate. But Rachel is solid in her exegesis.
*By the way, Rachel considers herself as an Evangelical.