Tag Archives: christianity

BOOK REVIEW: A Year of Biblical Womahood

2 Nov Year Of Biblical Womanhood Cover

I know I’m not the first person to review Rachel Held Evans‘ new (and apparently controversial) book A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”. But I might be the first person to emphasize that this is a singles-friendly book.

Let me admit this right up front: my first reaction, when I see a book written for Christian women, is to turn up my nose. Oh, look, another book about how to be a great wife and mother, I think. I bet it talks about praying for your spouse or, if you aren’t married yet, your future spouse.

Year Of Biblical Womanhood Cover

Year Of Biblical Womanhood Cover

And no, Rachel doesn’t write a great deal specifically about singles, and she does write a great deal specifically about marriage. She is, after all, married. But she is clearly a married woman who is aware of the concerns of single women.

The premise of the book, for those of you who are male or have been living in a media vacuum, is this: Rachel Held Evans spent a year trying to imitate, as literally as possible, various Biblical depictions of women. A lot of people have disparaged the book as mockery of the Bible, while a lot of people at the opposite end of the spectrum have disparaged the book as old-fashioned or unnecessary. But if you’ve truly read the book, it should be obvious that for Rachel, this was a labor of love.

She didn’t set out to mock or disprove the Bible. She set out to wrestle with it. She set out to live in the tension. She set out to surrender to God’s stories.

And in the end, she didn’t come away with a blueprint or job description of a Biblical woman. She found plenty of descriptions of women in the Bible, though, and she found that the Biblical concept of womanhood is simply too complex and varied to be summed up as a to-do list.

Case in point: the chapter on the Proverbs 31 Woman. Did you know that in Jewish culture, it isn’t the women who memorize Proverbs 31? The men do! It isn’t a recipe for how to be a great woman, it’s an example of how men should praise their wives. The Hebrew phrase used in Proverbs 31, eshet chayil, is best translated as “valorous woman”, which means a lot more to me, as a single woman, than “a wife of good character”.

What really made me, as a single woman, love Rachel’s approach, however, was when I reached page 178 and saw this quote

Growing up in the Church, I must have heard a thousand times that my highest calling as a woman was to bear and bring up children. While men could honor God in varying capacities through work, family, and ministry, a woman’s spiritual aptitude was measured primarily by her ability to procreate. Even as a child I noticed that the church deaconesses hosted dozens of wedding and baby showers each year, but never a housewarming party for a single woman or a celebration dinner for a woman who passed the bar or graduated from medical school.

That passage told me two things: Rachel Held Evans understands how single people are overlooked in the church, and Rachel Held Evans doesn’t view me, as a single woman, as someone who’s worth less than a married woman with children.

I could go on and on about what a great book this is, but frankly, there are lots of people who’ve done a better job than I could–Ben Witherington, for one. I could talk more about the controversy that has grown up around the book, but Rachel Marie Stone has done a great job of discussing that.

I just want to recommend that single women not pass this book over thinking, “Oh, it won’t address single women.” I want to recommend that men not pass this book over thinking, “Oh, it won’t address men.” It does both.

And I, for one, am living for the day someone calls me eshet chayil.

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Love and Salvation

6 Jun

A while back I posted about my Christian Facebook friends making me cringe. I have to say, they haven’t really stopped…but a comment to that blog post has made me really think deeply about the situation. I am reevaluating how I respond to these people, and in the meantime, I have to confess…taking a look in the mirror at that point wasn’t very much fun.

Edarnut pointed out something that had never occurred to me before. She said, “If love for others is is the mark of a disciple, then to call a professed believer unloving is to call that person unsaved”.

Wow!

I had never made that connection before. I certainly never meant to accuse someone of not being saved. My intent was to point out an attitude we’re supposed to have–an action we’re supposed to take–and not to call someone’s salvation into question. And suddenly I’ve discovered that wasn’t how I was coming across at all.

And as I often tell my fellow Christians, perception is sometimes the most important thing. If people perceive Christians as hateful, judgmental bigots, they aren’t going to be interested in what we have to say. And by that logic, if I call out a brother in Christ for not loving, and he thinks I’ve just accused him of not being saved…well, he isn’t really going to be interested in what I have to say, either, is he?

In fact, Edarnut’s comment has given me a lot more than that to think about, but right now, this is what I’m focusing on. I need to learn to approach this conversation about love with a different attitude and a whole truckload of grace. I need to remember to spend more time trying to learn where that other person is coming from, instead of trying to tell her where she should be going. And above all, I need to remember that we’re supposed to love everyone…including the Christians we don’t always agree with.

What do you think? What do you guys do to show love to people when you don’t agree? I’d love to hear from you!

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself…as Long as He’s a Christian

29 May

Sometimes I log in to Facebook and immediately cringe. Not for the reasons you’re thinking, either. Not because of the guy who seems to do nothing but post pictures of hot, scantily-clad women. Not because of the girl who makes cryptic posts about being in a bad mood and then expects you to ask for all the details.

Nope. Most of the cringing I do on Facebook is because of my Christian friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Christian friends. And I’m sure they love me, despite the fact that I’m not shy about speaking my opinion on social justice and Christianity. But the thing is, I’m not 100% sure they really love people who don’t agree with them. In the past few months, my Christian friends have posted Scripture and daily devotions, which probably don’t do much to reach non-Christians but are of value to fellow Christians. They’ve also posted links to petitions about gay marriage and abortion legislation, or personal attacks on the President, or criticisms of people of other faiths…which are probably all huge turn-offs to non-Christians.

The upshot is, a lot of my Christian friends don’t seem to feel very warm towards non-Christians. And this is a problem.

Look at Mark 12: 29-31: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Or what about John 13: 34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This is Jesus talking, y’all. And He’s telling us that we’re supposed to be easily recognized by how much we love people. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling disgustingly inadequate right about now.

One of the most important people in my life is a very intelligent woman with a background in science. She’s a great conversationalist, she’s incredibly talented…and she’s not exactly a Christian. Yet in conversations with her, I have learned more about my own beliefs and the short-comings of the church than I have while talking to many of my Christian friends. I’ve learned about her background and how she approaches the idea of belief. I’ve heard first-hand her questions about abortion and science. I’ve had some amazing discussion with her about why I believe what I believe, and trying to learn why she feels the way she does.

And I have to tell you, I feel like my relationship with this woman is more genuine, more productive, than my relationship with, for instance, a Christian friend whose daughter just went away to college and met a gay person for the first time. This Christian friend is suddenly forced to interact with a gay person on a semi-regular basis. And this Christian friend can’t seem to get beyond the issue of sexuality to see the actual person.

It’s hard to love someone if you don’t even see him as a real person.

I know I’m not perfect at loving people. It’s a struggle. Heck, it’s a struggle to love the members of my family sometimes, let alone people who aren’t as smart or educated or funny as I am. It’s a big struggle to love the big name right-wing folks that I feel are giving Christianity a bad name. It’s a huge struggle to love politicians, am I right?

But the first step to loving someone is realizing that person is human, just like I am.

In the meantime, anybody have an idea of what to say to my Christian Facebook friends?

I’m Pretty Sure I Have a Gold Medal in Singleness

9 May

Just when I was trying to recommit myself to attending church on a regular basis…

I got my quarterly church newsletter in the mail this week. The front page is covered in words, but the biggest one on it is FAMILY.

Okay, I’ll see what they actually have to say… Turn the page…

The preaching minister’s column is about how to have a “gold medal family”–and he talks about your marriage and children. Parents and grandparents get a separate mention. And then he says the family is more under attack today than ever before. Hmm. I disagree, but that’s a post for a different day.

Okay, let’s skip the Preschool Ministry and Children’s Ministry pages, because none of that applies to me. Oh, wait, the page after that is Student Ministry, so I can skip another whole page. Where does that get me?

Worship Ministry. Okay, he doesn’t write about family. He’s writing about…um, Eddie Rickenbacher. Okay. Interesting connection to worship, but moving on…

Next page is Discipleship, where the discipleship minister encourages families to take their family vacation to the North American Christian Convention. There’s even a teen convention! Okay, I don’t have the money or inclination to travel to Orlando, and that’s all he has to say on his page, so moving on…

Oh boy. WOMEN’S MINISTRY. I cringe every time I think of the Women’s Ministry, because, well… You’ll see. What is the Women’s Ministry doing this summer? They’re reading books. The Vow, which might be based on a true story, but looks like a sappy romance. And another sappy romance with a local link. Oh, or you could read about how to raise children who are survivors. Yeah, okay, so the Women’s Ministry is really the Wives’ and Moms’ Ministry. Good to know, I’ll skip that page too, from now on.

What do I have left? Missions, which actually is interesting to me, but then part of that page is devoted to a visiting children’s choir. Note to self: skip church that day for sure. The page after that is about the Family Picnic.

…Aaaaand that pretty much exhausts the quarterly newsletter. On the one hand, there are some interesting figures that tell me how much the church is getting in offerings and how much is being spent on missions. But the figures also get my back up, because the church is also averaging over 600 attendees per week to Sunday morning services. Really? Over 600 people a week and you don’t have a Singles’ Ministry? Nothing? Nada? And all you can do is make me feel, once again, like I’m not welcome at your church because I don’t have a husband or kids clinging to my skirts?

I’m not anti-family. I like family. But my church seems to forget that, as a single, I don’t have what you would call a traditional family. Sure, my parents attend the same church I do, but I’m basically a never-married person whose definition of family is not the same as Mom, Dad, two-point-five kids, and a dog. (For one thing, I hate dogs. Sorry, but I’m a crazy cat lady.)

For singles, the entire church is our family. Our friends are our family. And you’re not doing us any favors by making us feel like we’re not welcome unless we come as a package deal with someone of the opposite sex and a couple of rugrats.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing. I’m pretty sure, church, that you did this whole “Gold Medal Families” things four years ago with the last Olympics. Get some new material.

Single White Heathen?

8 May

Tonight I was talking on the phone to a close friend of mine. She is also single, also Christian, and someone whose opinion I respect a great deal. Over the course of our three-hour conversation, we covered a lot of ground. One of the things I confessed to her was that I haven’t been going to church much lately.

Yeah, I admit it, except for a couple of Sundays during Lent, I haven’t been to church since Christmas.

I have a lot of reasons for not going to church. At least, I call them reasons. You might (rightly) call them excuses.

  • God made me a night person, and when you’re not going to bed until 3 or even 5 in the morning, it’s not easy to get up for 10:30 church.
  • My church doesn’t have Saturday night services.
  • I’ve never felt very connected, despite being a member for 5 years, because there’s a definite emphasis on family and parenting.
  • There is no singles ministry.
Despite all this, I am feeling pretty good about my relationship with God. I honestly believe iit’s better to be in community with other Christians, but I also feel I have that community—online. I have Christian friends I email or phone. I have a Christian discussion group online. I have been doing a better job of almost-daily Bible reading and much more consistent prayer.

But I feel guilty for not going to church. I feel guilty complaining about my church instead of trying to help make things better. In a congregation of 600+ people, I can’t be the only single thirtysomething trying to find my niche. I could talk to one of the ministers about the gap I sense in services. i could try to find a toddler-free small group.

…Instead, I’m starting with a baby step. I’m thinking about Wednesday night services. Despite growing up Christian, I’ve never been a Wednesday night kind of person, so I have no idea what to expect. But maybe I’ll see someone else sitting by herself. Maybe I’ll have the guts to introduce myself.
Maybe not. But I’m going to try.

I’m Not Married to Jesus

28 Apr

A recent post in a blog I follow (OurSinglePurpose.com) got me thinking. It’s a very well-written and carefully considered post called My Maker My Husband — and I completely disagree with it.

I know, I’m starting out with fighting words. But I want to explain that, while a lot of Christian singles may find comfort in the idea of being “married to Jesus” or viewing God as “our husband”, I’m not one of those singles. And, in fact, if I were a straight guy, that idea would creep me out even more than it does as a straight girl.
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I don’t want to be married to God. The concept of marriage is a lovely one, and thankfully my parents have portrayed a good example of a lasting, loving marriage for me. But that isn’t how I see God. That isn’t how I experience God.

Especially when you start thinking about one of the greatest privileges of marriage. You know the one I’m talking about. And when people say “he’s a god in bed”, that’s one thing. But I really don’t want to think about having sex with God.

It isn’t that single people are naturally asexual. We have urges. We’re physically attracted to people. Heck, a lot of us have kissed other people. Some of us have done more than kiss. But if the church tells me that sex is a sacrament of marriage and that I should view myself as married to Jesus, isn’t that the logical conclusion? How many of the people who tell me to view God as my husband really think that analogy through?

Okay, I know in the Bible, Paul seems to compare the husband being the head of the wife to Christ being the head of the church. So apparently we’re supposed to draw from that the concept that the church is the bride of Christ. I guess maybe I can get that, but in that case we’re talking in complete metaphor, right? Because how else could a whole gigantic group of people stretching around the world and through time from 2000 years ago until today marry the same guy and have that work out?

And while we’re at it, I’m going to agree with commenter Jubilee at this post on Jon Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like” blog. Jubilee points out (if you scroll way WAAAAY down in the comments) that Isaiah 54:5 is addressed to Israel. Corporate Israel, Jubilee points out–not a lonely single lady. If each individual Christian was supposed to view God as his/her husband, Jubilee says, every married Christian would be committing adultery against Jesus! (I’d like to add, as well, that would make God a huge polygamist.)

All joking aside, I know there are a lot of Christian people out there who do take comfort in the idea of God as a spouse. There are probably married people who view Him that way as well. (The sheer number of “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs would lead me to believe a lot of worship song writers view God as a lover.) Holly Howard, who wrote the blog post that got me thinking about this, certainly does. And she makes some fantastic points. I really like her table, in particular, showing the parallels of what a single asks for in a spouse, and what God offers us. While I don’t enjoy thinking of them in terms of Jesus as my spouse, I do take a lot of value out of being reminded that the Bible is God’s love letter to me, and that I can have an intimate relationship with God. Don’t think I’m writing this merely as a criticism of Ms. Howard’s post, because it’s not. It’s just another viewpoint.

And from my point of view, I’m not married to Jesus.

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