American writer Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019), devoted Christian, put them to the test. For an entire year, she took all of the Bible’s menstrual instructions for women as literally as possible. Afterwards she wrote a bestseller about the experience: A year of Biblical womanhood.
Evans tried growing out her hair, making her own clothes, remaining silent in church, obeying her husband, even calling him ‘master’ (although her husband was ashamed every time that happened), covering her head, cooking all the meals and developing a ‘gentle and quiet spirit’.
During her period, just before Easter, she even camped in a red tent in her front yard. For nine days, she didn’t have sex, didn’t touch her husband and didn’t go to church. She’d sit on a cushion that she carried with her. Naturally, she couldn’t sit on normal chairs which were also used by other people as she was impure. Chapters 15 to 18 of Leviticus clearly say so.
‘With this project I want to creatively investigate our interpretation and application of the Bible in order to start a conversation,’ she writes on her blog. That certainly happened: after a discussion with Evans, the radical TV pastor Mark Driscoll apologised for some of his female-unfriendly statements. Also a Christian author was told off and backtracked on his words. Evans claims her conservative fellow evangelical Christians speak too easy about Biblical instructions. Her conclusion: every believer selects his own instructions.
Before publishing her book, Evans mentioned on her blog that her publisher asked her to take out the word ‘vagina’ in deference to the general preferences of Christian bookstores. She first declined, but later agreed because she wanted to sell the book.
However, blog readers from all over the world protested and supported her; starting petitions and some even printing T-shirts with the words ‘Team Vagina’ on it. Eventually, the anatomically correct name for the female genital stayed in, but LifeWay, a major Christian bookseller decided not to carry the book. Evans’ comment: ‘If Christian bookstores stuck to their own ridiculous standards, they wouldn’t be able carry the freaking Bible.’
Editorial note: Rachel Held Evans passed away in 2019. She suffered from cancer. She was only 37 years old.
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