Why Biblical Womanhood Needs Rachel Held Evans


The Christian blogosphere has produced a storm of posts about feminism over the past few weeks. Some posts condemning feminism, some posts lauding feminism, some posts wrestling with feminism.

While this is a somewhat common topic, it has been brought to the forefront again by the release of Rachel Held Evans’s new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master.”

I, for one, am grateful for this conversation.

My history is in the complementarian camp. I was brought up in a church where women were not allowed to vote regarding matters in the church, let alone be a pastor. Wives submitted to husbands who submitted to God. And while it seemed grossly unfair to me as a little girl who recorded hours of sermons into her little portable tape player, the Bible was very clear. This was biblical.

Eventually I grew to accept this for myself. I stopped questioning why God would exclude women from some roles based solely on their gender. I did the mental gymnastics necessary to make it okay for me to be a submissive wife most of the time, but not in the bedroom. The same mind-bends that allowed God to put Deborah in charge of the entire Israelite army, but then be upset with a woman leading an adult Bible study. I did that because this was how we were biblical.

I went to churches where women had no authority anywhere. I went to churches where women were equal in the church, but not in their homes. No matter where I went, and no matter what their theology regarding women was, I was told that it was biblical. 

We would attend our Bible studies and snicker about how we hated the Proverbs 31 woman, but deep inside, we knew that we had to be like her. We would comb through the list, finding ways that we could be better wives, better mothers, better women. Biblical women.

But eventually, as I questioned other things that I had been told were clear, I began to question this as well.

Rachel Held Evans grew up in the same culture. She accepted it for a season. And then she also found the questions too big to ignore. So she donned a skirt and a head-covering and set out to see just what it was to be a biblical woman.

And while I was already dipping my toes into the egalitarian waters, Rachel’s journey invited me to dive in.

In her book, she invites all of us, women and men, to dive in.

To dive into a marriage where she praised her husband at the gate as a part of a project, but lives that out day after day by sharing about their partnership in a way that honors him and allows him to care for her.

To dive into a view of women in the Church that doesn’t demand that women be seen as equal, but that recognizes that which already is and encourages all people, regardless of gender, to embrace the fullness of their calling.

To dive into a feminism that recognizes that while there are injustices world-wide that need our attention and remembrance, also recognizes that we can’t ignore the perils of women in our own neighborhoods.

To dive into an understanding of what it means to stop using the word biblical as a way to hold people back, but instead to use it as a way to lead people to greater freedom.

I am grateful for this invitation. And I join Rachel in extending it to each one of you.


I received an advance reader’s copy of Rachel’s book. You can (and should!) purchase your own copy from the link below (affiliate link). And if you’d like to read a more straight-forward review of Rachel’s book, you can check out my Amazon review.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    I love reading your story and how Rachel has intersected with it. I didn’t quite know all of the background. So cool!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Oh yeah. I was fully complementarian. Like, wrote “obey” into my wedding vows kind of complementarian.

      • Pattie

        It was that dance, remember? :)

  • pastordt

    LOVE this, Alise. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/ryanromusic RYAN RO

    Good blog. It’s weird to me that it’s just a non-issue. Which does not mean it ISN’T an issue but all this crap about complementarianism and women not allowed to do this or that just doesn’t register with me. Maybe it did once. I sorta grew up in church, not really though until my mid-teens did I get ‘serious.’ … right or wrong I feel like if I have to have this ‘fight’ with somebody I don’t even want to bother with their church or faith. Which isn’t applicable in real life as I have some great friends who have some old-fashioned ideas about the roles of women in church. Obviously it is a fight, it is an issue, and I hope it becomes less of an issue in the NEAR future. It’s 2012. Why the hell are we still here? Props to all the ladies and good dudes trying to get it right.

  • Bob

    I don’t think it’s a good idea for any woman to adhere strictly to what the Bible expects of them. Although married non-virgins get let off easy in cases of rape (Deuteronomy 22:25) so I guess that’s nice.

  • http://bohemianbowmans.com/ Jessica

    Here here!

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