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.
Again, proper hermeneutics, – culture? word studies? etc.
Try proper hermeneutics first please, to get to what the author says, These writers only mean one thing, as you would if you wrote something. Once we use a system to get to that, (hermeneutics for example) we can draw application, but is dangerous to do so without it. A person without the RELATIONSHIP with a living God (REAL Christianity is not a religion), is blind to things, the Bilble says.
you can interpret the bible anyway you like , the fact remains , fairy tales and mother goose have more relevance to teaching good behavior then the bible. and the thing is the bible isn't just wrong on one or two issues but completely about as far from reality as you can be , people are just so stupid sometimes unbelievable
@alloy: " A person without the RELATIONSHIP with a living God"
i'm pretty certain that a non-coporeal being can't ever be considered "living" as it CAN NOT die.
so you can't have a relationship with anything that hasn't even been alive to begin with.
second thing; what type of relationship are you talking about? the bible has many types of relationships with your supposed "god".
Christianity is a religion based on a single deity figure, however a belief in a deity does not make it “REAL”. All GODS have been created by man, the only thing that has changed is the story teller.
Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
theres probably more proof for santa clause being real than god. just amazes me how people dumb them selves down so much just to believe in something that would set our society back thousands of years if truly applied to everyday life. there's so much more knowledge and wonder out there in the universe if we could just stop looking at these earth based religions and focusing on the huge world we are a part of we might actually learn something
The danger of being biblical is you are basing behavior on a fairytale. The bible is fiction.
The god theory of both Christianity and Islam are lies, there is no such thing in evolution.
In order to control people these two little books were possibly fabricated from Indian text "bhagwadgita" which existed thousand of years prior to these two man made religions. In those days it was not uncommon to have magical powers in India.
Both of these books have a lot of loopholes like the earth being made in 6 years, and from Islam everyone else are infidels and should go to hell. Hello, I mean what "kind" of religions are these.
@Alan: The Bible a lie? Just wondering if you have worked out the statistics on this combination: not too close or too far from the sun; not too fast or too slow a rotation (you think August in Texas is hot?); mitochondria (please ask Darwinian evolution in any guise to explain that one); and lastly: your ability to reason, create, and feel emotion.
@Jason: have you considered the rate at which man has been able to discover these wonders? Seems like a supply/demand curve to me: the faster we as men move away from God, the more we are able to see that proves He is there, and more importantly, that He loves us.
A fantasy is a fantasy no matter how you package it. Your belief in a unknown deity while admirable, does not make it true. Your refer to Darwinians and interplanetary movement as some form of a deity enforced “plan”. Sorry it is through scientific exam that man has seen how great and vast the universe really is. We do not need the fear of the unknown and hence a belief in a deity because of those fears. Yes death is part of life, but I know we will live forever as I see it in my children’s eyes and I sigh a sense of relief that mankind will be a better place. Therefore I do not fear death, but embrace it and what was once me, will return to the stars from hence I came. For when I die, I know I had a wonderful life.
@aaron – your logic is a complete fail. Read about the Anthropic Principle. The statistical likelihood of us being here is small but there are many billions of opportunities in the universe for it to occur.
Aaron: How does (the possibility of) a creator imply a "god"?
People invoking biblical passages or wholesale interpretations usually know little about the bible, where it originated from, who wrote it and why it was compiled in its current form. The question most people ignore is: Why is the bible deemed a holy book or the word of God? Who said so? The short answer is, humans like you and me. Why do we have a bible? Because the Roman government ordered the compilation of the bible for streamlining a fragmented and diverse Christendom by declaring the bible as the only authorized spiritual guide for the Christian religion throughout the Roman Empire. Are earlier biblical manuscripts out there? Only few fragments of pre-biblical (pre 4th century AD) survived.
In other words, the bible is a book compiled by Romans for Roman believers mostly based on unseen earlier manuscripts used for transforming a sectarian Christian religion into a manageable compacted religion that can be controlled by an Emperor. Who's the descendent of the Roman Emperor today? The Pope. Why do so many believe the bible is the one and only holy book? No clue, probably because they were told so by other humans. If there is an almighty one and only God, would He rely on a bible written by humans to run his religion? Very doubtful.
Boiling all this down to relevancy for this blog post: People who invoke biblical references justifying their beliefs are like politicians. They use key phrases for corralling like minded people, but have little effect on everyone else.
It's sad that people still believe the Bible has anything to do with God. If there is a God, he would not contradict himself so much and do so many evil things. Most people don't even know that the Bible is separate books assembled by consensus. No divine inspiration.
Prayer changes things .
Theism is 100 times worse. Religion is the reason so many are dying in Palestine, not atheism. You are so clueless.
It's interesting that your God is omnipotent . Knows all sees all. Just one thing he can't seem to get a grip on. Money. He always needs money. He just can't seem to manage it himself. Even tax exempt doesn't seem to help.
"Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
"Salvatore" degenerates to:
"Douglas" degenerates to:
"truth be told" degenerates to:
"Thinker23" degenerates to:
"Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
"another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
"Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
"tina" degenerates to:
"captain america" degenerates to:
"Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
"Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
"just sayin" degenerates to:
"ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
"Kindness" degenerates to:
"Chad" degenerates to
"Bob" degenerates to
"nope" degenerates to:
"2357" degenerates to:
"WOW" degenerates to:
"fred" degenerates to:
"!" degenerates to:
"John 3:16" degenerates to:
"pervert alert" is the degenerate.
This troll is not a christian.
Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.
The danger of calling behavior ‘biblical’...
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:15-17
God forbid... One should live by TRUTH !!!
Yes...if you base your beliefs by what is written in the Bible then God does forbid you live by the truth.
free man: what makes you think that your TRUTH is any more valid than anyone else's?
FEMA reeducation camps now.
Great article and I totally agree with the theme of the discussion – because we DO pick and choose individual scriptures that agree and support what we want to believe. Perhpas instead of being critical and cutting, we should say "hmmmmm" and pick up the Bible and read for ourselves what it has to say. For many years I did attend a Holiness sect – so I do understand some of the pressure applied to "believe without questioning" what is preached.
i found this article fascinating. the author is correct in saying that people choose certain scriptures to justify what they believe to be 'biblical'. just using the new testament as a guide, leading a 'biblical' life would be, at best, confusing. actual biblical themes are few, mostly revolving around loving god, self, and others. for those who claim to follow the bible, love should be the standard for living.
I heard this woman on the radio and was impressed. At least she is searching and not blindly following Good on you Rachel. the church today is sooooooooooooooooooooooo far from the truth. Church followers follow the theologians words, laws, and the bylaws. They have no idea what the bible says. Actually most church folk would be shocked to know that the church is the woman spoken of in Revelations.
Good on Jon Stewart for stating the fact that biblical marriage is about polygamy. What we have in America is the bible according to america.
Which makes me wonder who/what is america?
it seems to me that all the complaints are about the Old Testament. I thought when people said Biblical, they meant the New Testament, the New Covenant. Stewart is Jewish which means he is only Old Testament (as far as a I know, there are no more Jewish Christians from the original group).
I'm not sure what Stewart is, other than confused, based on the statements he made (according to this article).
The "jews" who claim "their" place by the "grace" of the OT are nonexistent too, if we were all to follow our bloodlines on mother's side chances are we are all "jews" or nothing at all but human beings.
There's no such a thing as gods till proven, just like nations and dough the only are assumed to be true 'cause we have to believe in it....mandatory as rule of thumb.
There's gotta be a few folks who inherited a comfy life with all this utterly nonsense.
No, the author specifically mentions Corinthians, which is New Testament. While I agree that in the context of picking-and-choosing she speaks of the OT is far more commonly misused, there are certainly parts of the NT that are happily ignored as well.
It makes no difference what Stewart's religion is or was, that is not the point of the article.
@Julie...as creative as muslims...one simple observation somewhere in the middle east, yesterday, today and tomorrow and it's pretty easy to realize that this can't be in the cards of any god.
It's still politics, no matter who tries to make me look like a fool.
Replace the gods with (equally) fictive monetary values while making pitchforks 'not done', the vaults out of reach.....voila, capitalism.
Of course you'll have to believe in it.
Messianic Jewish leaders like Dr. Michael Brown are providing valuable insights for their communities.
Yea, Dr. Brown is one of the best there is if you want to understand Biblical Judaism.
Religion had its time. Now it explains nothing. The universe is far grander than iron-age desert nomads would have imagined. We have science now. No need to use fairys to explain things. GodIsImaginary.com
Religion is a hobby for small brains.
Yet you cannot prove God doesn't exist.
Floyd: Not anymore than we can prove the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist.
Hmm.... how about consciousness? Or, shall we try the Big Bang? Maybe morality? Origin of life? (will I hear crickets?)
@floyszepp, yes, much like you can't disprove unicorns. Your point?
Interesting, I wonder if you will be that comfortable on your death bed
"Hmm.... how about consciousness? Or, shall we try the Big Bang? Maybe morality? "
And you feel religion has adequately explained all of that?
@ sam stone –
Yes, they fit perfectly with the Christian worldview, or even some other religions. However, they are impossible to explain (though some try) on the atheistic worldview.
@Steve Wilkinson – "However, they are impossible to explain (though some try) on the atheistic worldview."
First, you appear to confuse "an" explanation with "an explanation you find acceptable" vs. still, "an explanation founded in demonstrable physical mechanisms as opposed to 'just so stories' of special creation."
Consciousness – An emergent property of purely physical phenomena, evidenced in our ability to manipulate it with other physical matter and the absence of it when the underlying biological properties are removed.
Big Bang – We may never know exactly how, less so "why," but we are learning more and more each day about the physics and we can use natural mechanisms to generally explain and predict various observations regarding the expansion.
Origin of Life -Similarly, we are ever learning more about the ability of purely natural mechanisms to build the basic molecular requirements of early replicators.
Morality – The product of a social organism to improve individual and group fitness.
Jesus is very real. And, He is very much alive.
have you seen him lately? Have you heard from him lately? The disciples waited their entire lives for him to return. He never did. Over the centuries, others have waited and hoped for his return. It never happened. I've heard preachers preach that his return is imminent. Still waiting. What the heck is he waiting on.
Jesus was crucified and never risen.
@ FloydZepp –
Please elaborate! I've heard a number of people make an attempt... but if you have a new one, I'd love to hear it.
every single account of jebus = hearsay.
there's a very strong chance that your jebus never really existed.
Jesus was the first faith healing charlatan, and when his miracles were discovered to be just gimmicks, tricks, and sleight of hand, the authorities stepped in and gave him the justice of the time.
You have a very real delusion.
"CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion"...so why the censorship?
When I state that religion and politics are one and the same I really don't see why that has the need to be removed...well unless that's what provides folks with an excuse that fits the bill(s) of course.
Apparently they do not censor based on "dumb"" or your remark that religion and politics are the same would not be allowed.
Both claim whatever comes in handy by washing fragile empty brains...there's (way) more in common than can be written off as a false statement.
The Bible is written, edited and published by MAN. There are more books and letters that have been left out of the Bible, than have been included – and the decisions to include or exclude these works was done by MAN.
God is spirituality. Religion is mans corruption of God's spirituality using the Bible as a club to enforce the ideas of a small power group of MEN – Not God, Not Jesus.
That's nice... so how did you glean such a level of wisdom? Shall we mere mortals bow to you? ;)
Your first sentence is fact. The second is conjecture.
Correction: The Bible was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you don't accept that then why should anyone believe what YOU (being a mere person) write or say? I believe the Bible is the written Word of God, after all, most of the prophecies have been fulfilled and the rest will be, in time.
"The Bible is written, edited[??] and published by MAN [under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit]. There are more books and letters that have been left out of the Bible, than have been included [for VERY good reason] – and the decisions to include or exclude these works was done by MAN [under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by using sound criteria as to why]."
I've also seen science journals written, edited, and published by men, which have excluded more science articles than they have included. And, those decisions were made by men. Hmm...
"...The Bible is written, edited and published by MAN..." you should be more specific and say: "...by people in power to keep the huddled masses in line and justify their crimes against humanity..."
I think what I find most amazing about interacting in these comments, is the number of skeptics and atheists who are far more ignorant on the subject matter than the supposed backwater fundamentalists they are attempting to critique.
Come on folks... if you're going to critique a position and not agree with it, at least try to get what you're critiquing a tad bit correct. The STRAWMAN blaze is now so out of control, it will likely burn this place down.
For all the naysayers who mock and make fun of God or Jesus at least take the time to really make sure of what you believe.
Please think about what the consequences will be if you're wrong. You will have a very long time to reflect on your decision.
you must have missed a lot of comments. if you go back and actually read them you'll see the opposite is quite true. atheists by far have a better grasp on biblical scripture than the brain-dead delusional individuals who "believe".
you should be ashamed to be so ignorant.
@ the AnViL –
I've been places where that is true (that some of the educated atheists have a better grasp on Scripture than the uneducated Christians)... but that certainly is not the case here. Can you point one out?
Steve, that's a faulty position, it presumes that a deep knowledge of scripture is required to critique religion and gods. Science shows that almost all of what the bible claims are facts are not facts.
Do you have examples of these so called Straw Men that you supposedly see on these boards? And by whom?
@ In Santa we trust –
You have to have a basic understanding of something you're critiquing. No, you don't have to be a Bible scholar... I never said that. What might be an example of something Science has shown is a fact which contradicts what the Bible claims is a fact?
@ hawaiiguest –
OK, we'll start with page 1, post 2:
Jt_flyer – "But keep your useless, divisive, prehistoric fairy tales to out of my life."; "As an educated man, believe in the separation of church and state..."; "The man who worships a book made from collection of stragicaly selected fairy tales..."
Page 1, post 3:
D Russell – "Christianity – the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree..."
a bit further down:
Brian B – "Solomon....David....Jacob... One wife?"
the AnViL – "only people who remain ignorant about the history of biblical text fail to understand that the old testament did indeed reference the plurality of imaginary gods."; "rachel evans is delusional – like all people who believe in imaginary men in the sky."
Patricia Mueller – "I hope one day we can set aside biblical thinking, and use critical thinking and civil discourse to determine our social values."
Shall I continue?
It's pretty clear that folks are willing to let the gods for what they have never been but if you dare to tackle patridiotism that came along with them nobody all of a sudden gets "it".
Hypocrisy and retarded behavior go hand in hand.
Drivel couched in seemingly articulate phrases is still drivel.
You only have a point to make one.
religious idiocy and twaddle go together
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