Possibly an odd book review on a pagan blog . . .

. . . but then again, maybe not.

Recently for our story-time, we read Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which I discovered thanks to Allyson (Thanks, Allyson!) I’d started reading it alone, but the book was simply too endearing to keep to myself, and I wasn’t sure that it was a book Beth would ever read on her own, if left to her druthers, and so, story-time book it became! (Also, I kept stopping to share bits of it with her anyway, so I may as well just read it to her, I figured.) Corbie can somehow tell fiction from non, even when it’s a nice story, and he seems to have little tolerance for religious books of any type, so he spend most of the time looking forlorn and dejected. (He likes adventure stories!) The cats, however, all came into the bedroom for story-time, which they seem to do specifically for religious books of any type, whereas usually it’s just Lu and Neech in for generic story-time. But I digress.

The book is, quite simply, what the title suggests. As part of a year long project of trying to live “biblically”. Rachel is an Evangelical Christian who hit a moment of a crisis of faith, and hit it back with serious study, soul-searching, and challenging her ideas, beliefs, and approach to her faith and its scripture. And then, best yet — the bravest part, in my mind — she shared her year’s journey with us. She looked at such widely accepted and less widely understood (and taken out of context) ideas about “biblical” living, and delved deeper. (Must women really submit to their husbands? Do “proper” Christian women really need to complete a daily (impossible) check-list to be considered living up to their ideals? Are Christians really fulfilling the ministry of their God if they are regularly turning blind eyes to the troubles of the world, coming from a place of hate or fear, ignoring those in need? and so on).

As obviously not a Christian, a lot of what I read was food for thought, interesting to read and, ultimately, not applicable. I don’t have scripture I have to worry about, I don’t have centuries of in-fighting resulting in a myriad of splinter groups all trying to tell me why I’m not pagan enough, or devoted to my Gods in quite the right way, etc. Some of it was incredibly moving. At one point, the author and a friend of hers held a memorial ritual for the female victims of biblical tales, swept aside and forgotten, and both Beth and I were quite touched. We both look a fair amount toward our ancestors, be they familial or spiritual ancestors, so that bit resonated with us. We may have teared up. Reading about her journey to greater consumer-awareness allowed me to be thankful for how far I’ve come, and to remind myself that there’s still a ways to go. Beth and I laughed over the exchanges between the author and her husband, especially her leaps of not-logic in the midst of crises (usually self-induced) and his resultant bafflement. Most especially the leaps of not-logic, because that could so be us. “I over planned and have never done X before but I’ve read about it now so what could possibly go wrong? Oh, I didn’t leave enough time, everyone is going to be here to witness my disaster, the obvious solution is to cry on the floor for an hour or so, since I’m obviously a failure at life!” Oh, how well does my mind know *that* train of thought . . . .

Rachel writes honestly, with frankness, humor, a touch of sarcasm, and, refreshingly enough, humility — something I’m coming to see as a combination of compassion, loving-kindness, and awe of (for her) God and (for me) the Gods. This is one of the things that draws me to the Abrahamic monotheists again and again, a thing I see somewhat less present in modern paganism. I won’t say lacking, because it’s there. I will say, it’s younger, less defined, over-looked, ignored, devalued, likely as a knee-jerk reaction against the Evil Christian influence. Pendulum swinging, I get it, I see the need, but I don’t have to like it. Yes, our Gods may or may not value compassion or loving-kindness (I’m Odin’s as much as I’m Poseidon’s, remember) but in an increasingly smaller world, living in societies where we need to get along, compassion (not to be confused with door mat) is a tool we could do well to use more of. But, I’ve digressed.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is a funny, moving, touching, often hilarious journey of Rachel’s questioning, searching, and delving deeper into herself, to bring her religion more fully into her life, and to figure out what it means for her to follow her God. This is a theme I can greatly respect and admire. Following our Gods in this world isn’t easy, not even for those in the dominant religions. This is a book well worth checking out!

and if you can’t afford to just yet, go ahead and check out her blog. She has a number of great posts to read through.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Beth says:

    Reblogged this on Wytch of the North and commented:
    Reblogging this saves me from having to write my own review of this book, so yay! I will add that for me, reading this turned out to be a kind of devotional activity for some of my spirits who are/were Christian, primarily (with its emphasis on studying the Bible and attempting to apply it to one’s life–something she and her brother both advocated) Anne Boleyn. Also, it isn’t that Odin is against compassion or loving kindness, per se, it’s just that He is extremely selective about where He (and thus, His followers) choose to dispense those things (only where they are deserved, in other words). Frigga and the Queens, however, have insisted on my embrace of the art of graciousness, which is a mixture of compassion, humility, and noblesse oblige, and this book was helpful as a study in that.

  2. Phae says:

    I remember seeing that as a blog project somewhere. It definitely looked like it wasn’t for the faint of heart.

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