Christian author Rachel Held Evans turns experience into book

Christian author Rachel Held Evans Yet Evans says her experiment in living like a biblical woman for a year — which she intends to chronicle in a book tentatively titled “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” — changed her relationship to the Bible and deepened her faith.
BY LAUREN MARKOE Published: December 3, 2011
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Living like a biblical woman, as Christian author Rachel Held Evans discovered, can be a real pain in thy rump. That's especially the case during a woman's “unclean” time of the month, when sitting on any surface renders it unclean, and why Evans carried around a stadium seat cushion on those days as she attempted to live out a year as a true “biblical” woman.

Yet Evans' experiment — which she intends to chronicle in a forthcoming book tentatively titled “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” — also changed her relationship to the Bible and deepened her faith.

“I feel less like I have to make the Bible into what I want it to be, which is how I spent a lot of my evangelical life, trying to force the Bible into a mold,” said Evans, who lives in Dayton, Tenn., the home of the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial” that challenged evolution.

The Bible is not “simple, easy to understand, or easy to apply. It's just not,” she continued. “Learning to love it for what it is and not for what I want it to be, that has been sort of the take-away from the year.”

Numerous Bible passages encourage women to excel at homemaking, child rearing and submitting to their husbands — a challenge for a not-so-domestic young woman in an egalitarian marriage in which children are not yet in the picture.

Evans, 30, picked a different womanly biblical virtue each month — beauty, purity, submission, valor, domesticity, etc. — and tried to live them out as best she could:

• Proverbs 31:22 “She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.” Evans now has a grape-colored dress, which she admits was mostly made by her mother and two other women who can actually sew.

• Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your husbands” was translated to letting her husband Dan pick the movie they would watch, no matter her preference.

• Proverbs 31:23 “Her husband is respected at the city gates” prompted her to stand by the roadside, next to the “Welcome to Dayton” sign, holding up a homemade poster that said “Dan Is Awesome.”

• Leviticus 15 and 18, the laws on “family purity,” led to the stadium cushion, avoiding any physical contact with her husband during her menstrual period and a week after, and sleeping in a tent outside their home.

Not the first

Evans isn't the first to undertake such a project, but her status as a woman living in the buckle of the Bible Belt made her experiment unique — and perhaps more challenging.

Ed Dobson, an architect of the modern religious right and now a retired Michigan pastor struggling with a terminal illness, decided to live like Jesus for a year, observing all the Jewish holidays and refusing to shave.