Monday, November 12, 2012

Silly season for evangelical feminism

A few months back, there was a controversy over LifeWay, the Southern Baptist-owned Christian bookstore chain, banning DVD sales of The Blind Side. Christian authors such as Eric Metaxas criticized the decision, pointing out that it reflected a misguided desire by some Christians to remain "within cultural and religious ghettos" rather than to engage the culture in a positive, transformative way.

Another critic was Rachel Held Evans, who complained that her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, had also been put on LifeWay's blacklist, allegedly for its frequent use of the word, "vagina." As it turns out, however, there may have been a myriad of other quite legitimate reasons for any number of Christian bookstores to shun the book. Douglas Wilson is, in Matt Kennedy's words, "brief, true, and devastating" in his critique of Evans' questionable exegetical methodology. Even more devastating is Kathy Keller's thorough review, in which she eviscerates Evans' premise, presuppositions, and conclusions.
You say your ultimate goal is not to determine what the biblical authors say, but to see in the Bible “what I am looking for.” You go on immediately to say, “Are we reading with the prejudice of love or . . . of judgment and power, self-interest and greed?” (296) So “love” is the reason you will reject some parts of the Bible and embrace others? But where do you get your definition of love if not from the Bible itself? And if you say, “Parts of the Bible express love, and other parts express power interests,” you’ve clearly gotten your standard and definition of love from outside the Bible—specifically, from contemporary sensibilities—and these are your ultimate authority and norm.

Rachel, I can and do agree with much of what you say in your book regarding the ways in which either poor biblical interpretation or patriarchal customs have sinfully oppressed women. I would join you in exposing churches, books, teachers, and leaders who have imposed a human agenda on the Bible. However, you have become what you claim to despise; you have imposed your own agenda on Scripture in order to advance your own goals. In doing so, you have further muddied the waters of biblical interpretation instead of bringing any clarity to the task.

As a woman also engaged in trying to understand the Bible as it relates to gender, I had hoped for better.
When I was in seminary a little over 20 years ago, "evangelical feminism" was something a nascent movement which most of us hoped would eventually fade away. It will, although ever so slowly. With Rachel Held Evans and A Year of Biblical Womanhood, you might say it has officially entered its silly season.