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The year of living “biblically”

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Summary of story from The Guardian, October 6, 2011

Last October, Rachel Held Evans, who lives in Dayton, Tennessee, decided to spend a year following the literal instructions for women in the Bible.

As part of the experiment in living “biblically”, she sat on a roof as a penance for gossiping, stopped cutting her hair and called her husband “master”.

She also refused to touch her husband during her period, sleeping for a weekend in a tent in her backyard and even carrying around her own cushion to sit on so she did not make anything else unclean (Leviticus 15-18).

Reading the instruction “it is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman” in Proverbs 21:9, she did so whenever she nagged.

She also stood on the highway in front of the “Welcome to Dayton” sign holding a poster saying “Dan is awesome” – because a virtuous woman’s husband is “praised at the city gates” (Proverbs 31:23).

And never once during the 12 months did she cut her hair (1 Corinthians 11:15).

Held Evans, a committed Christian and feminist, started the project in response to the pressure on Christian women to live up to an ideal of biblical womanhood.

This intrigued her because the bible includes both the “Proverbs 31 woman who rises before dawn each day to make breakfast, and Jael who drove a tent peg through her enemies’ chest”.

Yet while women in the bible command armies, it was always the strict gender roles and emphasis on women’s subservience that was spoken of.

So what did Held Evans learn?

“To call into question that there is a single blueprint of how to be a woman. There’s no single model in the Bible – as soon as you think you have found it a woman comes along and breaks it.

“Everyone picks and chooses. There are verses that say ‘submit to your husband’, but also those that say ‘submit to one another’. The more women know about the bible the more they can respond when people try to silence them.”

  1. Interesting experiment. I wonder how many of the particularly enthusiastic ‘do-as-I-say’ type of churchgoer will listen to her conclusions?

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