Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans is a popular blogger from Dayton, Tennessee, and author of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”
By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN
On "The Daily Show" recently, Jon Stewart grilled Mike Huckabee about a TV ad in which Huckabee urged voters to support “biblical values” at the voting box.
When Huckabee said that he supported the “biblical model of marriage,” Stewart shot back that “the biblical model of marriage is polygamy.”
And there’s a big problem, Stewart went on, with reducing “biblical values” to one or two social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring issues such as poverty and immigration reform.
It may come as some surprise that as an evangelical Christian, I cheered Stewart on from my living room couch.
As someone who loves the Bible and believes it to be the inspired word of God, I hate seeing it reduced to an adjective like Huckabee did. I hate seeing my sacred text flattened out, edited down and used as a prop to support a select few political positions and platforms.
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And yet evangelicals have grown so accustomed to talking about the Bible this way that we hardly realize we’re doing it anymore. We talk about “biblical families,” “biblical marriage,” “biblical economics,” “biblical politics,” “biblical values,” “biblical stewardship,” “biblical voting,” “biblical manhood,” “biblical womanhood,” even “biblical dating” to create the impression that the Bible has just one thing to say on each of these topics - that it offers a single prescriptive formula for how people of faith ought to respond to them.
But the Bible is not a position paper. The Bible is an ancient collection of letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own.
When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.
Nowhere is this more evident than in conversations surrounding “biblical womanhood.”
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Growing up in the Bible Belt, I received a lot of mixed messages about the appropriate roles of women in the home, the church and society, each punctuated with the claim that this or that lifestyle represented true “biblical womanhood.”
In my faith community, popular women pastors such as Joyce Meyer were considered unbiblical for preaching from the pulpit in violation of the apostle Paul's restriction in 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent"), while Amish women were considered legalistic for covering their heads in compliance with his instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:5 ("Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head").
Pastors told wives to submit to their husbands as the apostle Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:1, but rarely told them to avoid wearing nice jewelry as the apostle instructs them just one sentence later in 1 Peter 3:3. Despite the fact that being single was praised by both Jesus and Paul, I learned early on that marriage and motherhood were my highest callings, and that Proverbs 31 required I keep a home as tidy as June Cleaver's.
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This didn’t really trouble me until adulthood, when I found myself in a childless egalitarian marriage with a blossoming career and an interest in church leadership and biblical studies. As I wrestled with what it meant to be a woman of faith, I realized that, despite insistent claims that we don’t “pick and choose” from the Bible, any claim to a “biblical” lifestyle requires some serious selectivity.
After all, technically speaking, it is “biblical” for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt, “biblical” for a woman to be required to marry her rapist, “biblical” for her to be one of many wives.
So why are some Bible passages lifted out and declared “biblical,” while others are explained away or simply ignored? Does the Bible really present a single prescriptive lifestyle for all women?
These were the questions that inspired me to take a page from A.J. Jacobs, author of "The Year of Living Biblically", and try true biblical womanhood on for size—literally, no “picking and choosing."
This meant, among other things, growing out my hair, making my own clothes, covering my head whenever I prayed, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church (unless I was “prophesying,” of course), calling my husband "master,” even camping out in my front yard during my period to observe the Levitical purity laws that rendered me unclean.
During my yearlong experiment, I interviewed a variety of women practicing biblical womanhood in different ways — an Orthodox Jew, an Amish housewife, even a polygamist family - and I combed through every commentary I could find, reexamining the stories of biblical women such as Deborah, Ruth, Hagar, Tamar, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Junia.
My goal was to playfully challenge this idea that the Bible prescribes a single lifestyle for how to be a woman of faith, and in so doing, playfully challenge our overuse of the term “biblical.” I did this not out of disdain for Scripture, but out of love for it, out of respect for the fact that interpreting and applying the Bible is a messy, imperfect and - at times - frustrating process that requires humility and grace as we wrestle the text together.
The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose. We’re all selective in our interpretation and application of the biblical text. The better question to ask one another is why we pick and choose the way that we do, why we emphasis some passages and not others. This, I believe, will elevate the conversation so that we’re using the Bible, not as a blunt weapon, but as a starting point for dialogue.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rachel Held Evans.
To a fundamentalist, "Biblical" means simply whatever confirms them in their hatred of others.
Hatred is a word used by those who cannot tolerate the freedom others have to express their views.
Fundies are often bigots.
Truth absolute, constant.
Ooooooo, Hindu-bot, crapola king, defines GOD= "Truth absolute, constant", like some scientific formula. Full of sh!t. And what the hell is "Truth absolute, constant."? Don't start thwoing your filth, goon.
It is not my hind, fault, if you are hind, sunk in hind, darkness of hinduism, ignorance hindu, ID thief.
YOU SHOULD KISS GOD'S ASS YOU LITTLE BITCH
TRUTH ABSOLUTE IS YOU'RE AN ILLITERATE ASSHOLE
display of a hindu ignorant mind set.
TRUTH ABSOLUTE IS STILL THAT YOU'RE AN IGNORANT LITTLE BITCH
your hindu filthy hind is in sewer pain, go get some treatment hindu, ignorant.
I'LL GET YOU SOME TREATMENT, YOU LITTLE BASTARD
MY FOOT IN YOUR ASS SHOULD DO IT
PROBLEM IS YOUR HEAD IS ALREADY UP THERE SO IT'S A TIGHT FIT
I am not a Christian, but I was heartened by this thoughtful and honest discussion. Personally I think that this kind of humility and self examination would lead to a more tolerant and peaceful world no matter what religion you practive. High praise to you on my behalf Rachel Held Evans.
After reading MS Evans' article, it is clear she has very little understanding of what the Bible teaches. There are so many misunderstandings of Scripture it is imposable to address each one. However, I will mention one misunderstanding. Evans says, "The Bible is an ancient collection of letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own." She makes the Bible a relic with hardly any relevance for today. She seems to think the Bible has the words of old men from long ago. The fact is that the Bible is the Word of God which delivers God's sovereign and absolute direction for every Christian. I am afraid that MS Evans may never be able to understand the Bible.
Therein lies the rub...everyone interprets the Bible differently, and who is to say one view is the correct and only one? You just said she is wrong...which further illustrates my point; she probably would say the same thing about your interpretations.
Translation: I don't agree with what she wrote. It frightens me and challenges my belief system. Therefore, i must attack and criticize it. Amen.
Your insistence that the Bible is THE Word of God, by implication exclusive of all other sacred texts and literally infallible and divinely inspired word for word, proves Ms. Evans' point to perfection. You hold your belief in spite of the mountain of evidence to the contrary, including (for starters) the fact that your Bible is at best a translation (e.g. NIV or KJV) of a translation (e.g. Septuagint) of a highly revised and edited compilation of several collections of ancient texts, many of which are mutually incongruent (e.g. Kings and Chronicles; two creation accounts in Genesis) and which were deemed "canonical" by a council of politically interested churchmen presided over by a politician (Constantine) who by your own standards was not even a Christian (he retained pagan beliefs such as the insignia 'Sol Invictus' even after adopting the Christian faith. I could go on for many, many pages but you can look it all up on your own – but you probably would not listen anyway, so that will have to do.
Greg, the bible is what is is and not NECESSARILY what you would have it to be.
GREAT article, sorry you missed it.
Greg, no offense but the bible is a collection of ancient letters from MANY different perspectives.
NOT a one that you would call "God", ......
Just people seeing things and dealing with that which they probably should have never had to deal with.
For those that think the BIBLE is their own perspective I would say grow up.
Greg, every religion claims to be the One True. How do you know if Smith of LDS is incorrect? I hear Zoroaster is the only real true religion. It is all a matter of where/when you were born to be exposed to the religion of favor at the time. I personally lean toward Valhalla, drink mead and chase women is my idea of heaven. Tex, thank you for the history of Nicene council. The bible is a political text, many gospels deemed contrary to their chosen storyline were excluded.
Yes, yes, yes...if you don't believe that the two biggest issues facing Christianity today are abortion and whether gay people are getting married, you obviously don't understand the Bible. Seriously, even if the Bible is all true, that is an extremely ignorant point of view.
The Conference at Nicea explains the entire foundation of Judeo-Christian thought.
history of hinduism, sinister ism, deceit and murder. foundation of hindu fabrication called,Christianity.
My atheist wife would love camping out in Central Park during her 7-day period every month.
Leviticus can bite me.
Rachel Held, you can't have it both ways. You have managed to ride the middle of the fence. That's the problem when you try to please man. But then again Rachel Held, you don't have to answer to me, but God.
You seem to think you know the mind of God
Good luck with that. Jesus always say spiritually smug people (like you)
were "vipers" ... among other things
Atheists will suffer the fires of hell. I am outta here.zooom..
SO WILL CHRISTIANS, FOLLOWER OF HINDU JUDAISM, FILTHY SECULARISM, FOR DIVIDING TRUTH ABSOLUTE, CONSTANT GOD AMONG THREE.
Troll....nothing but a troll....get a life.
Troll into others as you would have others troll unto you.
I like trolls. Trolls are fun. And much nicer than the mean baby killer imaginary god and his mythical jerk son Jesus .
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
"The future of our country depends upon the Christian training of our youth."
Too silly. In fact religion robs childrens spirit.. It's child abuse.
Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society. [George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 726]
RIGHT MEANS LIMIT AND EVERY HINDU DIVIDES LIMIT OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE AMONG TWO HINDU DENIER OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE MEN, A TASK IMPOSSIBLE, BECAUSE TRUTH ABSOLUTE, CONSTANT CAN NOT BE DIVIDED IN ANY FORM, BUT WITH HINDU IGNORANT FORMULA OF TRINITY IN HINDUISM, STUPIDITY OF HINDU'S IGNORANT S.
There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. [George Washington, address to Congress, 8 January, 1790]
100% agree. Indoctrinating children into religion and taking away there freedom to mature and develop their critical thinking skills is child abuse. Clearly.
@Be Honest: "In fact religion robs childrens spirit.. " Hmmm... so then if children have a spirit, where did that come from?
Fisher of Men,
What do you do when you "catch" these men? Gut them and sell them for profit?
* sort of like that Good Shepherd, eh?, who tends his sheep so well to be fleeced and slaughtered.
The guy who thought up those lame analogies was sure a big silly.
Akira, sorry we missed din din but we can still have a night cap perhaps?
Apple, sorry that the jet was acting up...I'm tipping my dirty martini in a virtual salute to you...*clink*.
Until we meet again.
Being biblical sure beats doing the up and coming, just a matter of time "666"!
yep, one day the earth will shake us all off and we will be nothing but a past.
Cannot even imagine what it will take for people to wake up and realize what a politically-motivated sham the whole "bible" truly is. If you take a few courses on, for example, New Testament studies, from a first-rate theology school (as opposed to some evangelical propaganda-farm), you will have little doubt.
Christianity was particularly compromised and poisoned from the moment it became a political power. See Donation of Constantine and a myriad of related topics. For the congenitally lazy, yes, even Wikipedia can help a bit. Sigh.
But to sum up, folks would rather live with their black/white, all or nothing literal interpretations and blind belief rather than suck it up, have a little courage and cope with the ambiguities of life and death. Sheep indeed, and very sad. When someone starts preaching to me about a dumbed-down set of "biblical" values, my first response is to think "weak, pathetic loser."
ABSURDITY OF CHRISTIANITY WAS NOT CREATED JUST FOR POLITICAL POWER BUT TO IMPLEMENT HINDU PAGAN FUNDAMENTAL OF OF HINDUISM, RACISM, BY DIVIDE OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE 360* AMONG TWO PERSON'S, KING AND HIS HINDU PRIEST, REST OF IT IS HINDUISM, IGNORANCE OF PEOPLE TO BE GENTILE OF OTHER HUMAN, JUST LIKE THEM.
Regardless of what the ecclesiastical institutions have done, the reality is that Jesus died on the cross for us and for our salvation.
The reality is also that the biblical text that we have is the original, no corruption to suit some political goal.
Unfortunately most "first-rate theology schools" are so far removed from the Truth they would crucify the Lord if He showed up in their midst. These schools typically rip apart and completely destroy the whole purpose of our existence by making even the seekers of Truth doubt. Sorry, but the Bible is not something that can be understood by interpretation. It's truths can only be revealed through revelation by the Holy Spirit.
rather strange that jesus died on the cross. Guess what? Little kids suffered far more than jesus did. And one might say that jesus needed a good therapist.
@Be honest "rather strange that jesus died on the cross"
@Chad "why? Given your answer below, you realize and accept that Jesus claimed to be the messiah, so what other possible outcome could there have been?".
@Be honest "Guess what? Little kids suffered far more than jesus did."
@Chad "not sure what you mean, who? where? when?
@Be honest " And one might say that jesus needed a good therapist."
@Chad "indeed, he was either a madman, or the Messiah. One or the other.
@Chad So the Bible was written in English, then? I don't know if you've ever translated anything, but just doing that can shade the meaning of what was said. Also, there are several versions of the Bible, and they are different from each other. How can that be, if what we have now is the original text?
@heliocracy "So the Bible was written in English, then?"
@Chad "when I say "biblical text that we have is the original, no corruption" I am referring to the original Hebrew/Greek that we have, which has survived intact for ~4500 years"
@heliocracy "I don't know if you've ever translated anything, but just doing that can shade the meaning of what was said. Also, there are several versions of the Bible, and they are different from each other. How can that be, if what we have now is the original text?"
@Chad "you are talking about the various translations, see above for what I am talking about(the original greek/hebrew)."
Ah more dishonest CHad idiocy. Tell me Chad, how do you know what we have are originals? I'm assuming you're talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is only the OT, and of the NT, we have scraps as early as 60-70 CE as well them being of unknown authorship. Your disingenuous bullshit is getting more and more transparent.
In the second part, you conveniently ignore the fact that there are multiple versions of the bible for different denominations, and focus merely on translating, but brush it off by reiterating a useless point.
Religion of all flavors and variations is nothing but a way to manipulate other people, especially those that are uneducated. Look at any religion and except for the "elite" in the clergy or those that financially contribute are supposed to be educated. The reason is that education shows people the facade of religion. It is nothing but a political/military tool used throughout time to justify every evil in history. The day that religion dies will be the greatest day in the history of this planet.
Amen brother (or sister)!
Just curious. What would replace religion then?
Ha! I'm back. iPad battery died but still have 69% battery on iPhone. Praise Apple! Hail Technology. For our salvation shall be found in science and reason- not in an imaginary god nor a book of myths and lies called the bible.
God didn't crash your plane yet? Outstanding.
And what will be your salvation the day you die?
Sooo basically your reasoning is the ultimate authority? Scary.
Thanks Apple Bush
He still might crash the plane or send a lighting bolt after me. I'm so scared of the wimpy imaginary god.
Stay strong and blow OUT not in.
What the author fails to realize here is that the Bible is both prescriptive AND descriptive. Not everything in the Bible is meant to be taken as a prescription of what to do. The Bible also many times simply describes what took place. Seems to me she hasn't read it too thoroughly.
The bible is written by sheep humpers during the bronze age. There's nothing remarkable about it at all, especially since it's been re-written hundreds of times and continues to be followed by only the deluded.
Yet every nut bag wants to put their brand of version into my secular government. They want it in my secular schools, secular courts, secular home. They want to deny anything that doesn't agree with them and use it to deny equal rights to others because of color or gender. There are too many that take these fairytales for literal value and hence their justification. It is why all religion needs to die.
Can I just say this? The stupidest people on the face of the Earth are Christians hands down.
Apple Bush – For The Win!
Attack, that was pretty goddamn funny.
Thanks, but your comment simply NAILED it!
Sure, you can say whatever...but it doesn't mean it will be intelligent or true.
It would benefit if a study of proper exegesis and a study of dispensations would help. For example, why not go back to genesis 2 and walk around asked? The New Testament says we are to rightly divide the we'd of gad, and Peter mentioned that many people twisted the scriptures. So it is mentioned in the nt that scriptures have to be rightly divided. Dispensational studying of the bible keeps things "biblical".
Wilma dear- I think Fred need help with Dino. Why don't you go back to the stone age? And, um, English? Helps if you can write in English.
Believe it or not folks, many fundamentalists I've worked with in small southern towns STILL believe (and their pastors ACTUALLY tell them this) that slavery is acceptable and natural in their god's eyes. It took a while before I realized they actually believe this. So, now you understand how severely twisted people can get when they follow self-taught, self-appointed hate-spewing sanctimonious fundamentalist religious 'authorities' who encourage 'bible worship'... that is, dogmatic beliefs based on politics and social control... not what God wants us to believe.
God is love. Believe and be saved. I am outta here. zoom...........
..Oops, I was here before
Ha-ha. Judging by you comments you're the fool. Go back and re-interrupt my response, fool. Duhhhh
God is real. Repent. I am outta here. zoooom...
Yup. Peace Out!!
It was a joke, Wisdome
Oops, I was here before
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