I doubt that author Rachel Held Evans knows how to pick a lock, quietly break a window, or disarm an alarm system, but there’s one thing I know for certain: she is hiding in your church. No matter how solid your locks or air tight your theology, she’s there, hiding in the church office, slouching in a pew, or pining away in the nursery under a pile of toys.
Well, maybe she’s not there in person exactly…
Here’s the thing that makes someone like Rachel important for the church today: she’s putting into words the very questions and issues that many women (and men) have been asking and thinking about for years but haven’t been able to discuss openly.
- What does it look like to be a biblical woman?
- How much should a Christian marriage imitate the stories found in the Bible?
- When are the Bible’s teachings about women culturally limited?
- Why do we apply certain parts of the Bible literally and not others?
These questions tie into some of the most heated debates in the church today. And even if these questions aren’t always being asked out in the open, they are simmering beneath the surface in just about every church.
So perhaps Rachel isn’t hiding in your church right now, but you’d better believe that everything Rachel writes about is out there in our churches. It’s not like Rachel is some lone voice in the wilderness stirring up trouble. She’s putting into words the very conflicts, struggles, and desires that are pulsating throughout many congregations.
To attack Rachel and to dismiss her is to attack and dismiss a huge part of the church. While I understand that folks will disagree with her latest book’s methods or conclusions, she has brought up the very things we not only need to talk about now but exactly what we’ve been talking or thinking about for years in far less visible circles such as seminary classrooms.
Rachel is one of the most capable voices who is speaking up for gender equality to the broader church. For many women, she has shown them that biblically committed Christians can take the Bible seriously and still live without gender hierarchies.
I recently had a chance to spend some time with Rachel at a conference and to hear her speak about her book. There were two things that stood out to me.
- Rachel is a very kind, generous person who is deeply committed to both following God and studying the Bible.
- There were a lot of heads nodding while she spoke. You could hear a pin drop as a packed room tuned in to her struggles with obeying the Bible and sorting out what it says about gender roles.
“Rachel” is in your church because she’s putting into words what many of us are already thinking.
I trust Rachel to speak for me. Many others do as well.
Her latest book A Year of Biblical Womanhood aims to start a conversation, even if it’s a tough one. However it’s a mistake to think of this book as a conversation between complementarians and Rachel. It’s bigger than that.
For those of us who identify with Rachel’s work, we view this book as our chance to enter into a dialogue with the broader church about how we interpret the Bible, particularly as it relates to gender roles. This is a book we can all use, and I’m grateful that Rachel dedicated a year of her life to write it.
This post is part of a synchroblog put together by J. R. Goudeau thanking Rachel for being a woman of valor who speaks for so many of us. Read some other posts at J. R.’s blog.