Once upon a time in another land, people wandered the desert, following the commands of their God, dispensed to them through His human mouthpieces. They adhered to strict instructions regarding diet, gender roles, and blind worship. However, as time passed, and certain long-held beliefs broke down, wholesome traditions like pregnant virgins and sibling murder were lost, and we transformed into a hedonistic land of women who vote and men who wear birth control. Cue hell army rising.
In these Godless times of fast women and faster internet, some people look to the ancient past for its grounding wisdom. Unfortunately, not even the most devout are safe from the scourge of ladyparts, as Rachel Held Evans found out when a scandal erupted from God's own vagina over her upcoming book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. In it, Evans follows The (good book's) Rules for women, dutifully abstaining from touch while she's dirtily menstruating, and submitting to her husband's nightly demands for Spaghetti alla Nonna, or whatever. It's an interesting exercise (I guess?) but one that strikes me as next to impossible, given the multitude of contradictions and stone cold insanity in the book. However, she wrote it, and it was published, and now one of the largest Christian bookstores, LifeWay, is refusing to sell it, simply because of the inclusion of the word (close your eyes, ladies) "vagina."
The story begins in March, when Evans mentioned on her blog that her editor had suggested she remove the word vagina from the book's manuscript to appease strict Christian bookstore content standards. "If Christian bookstores stuck to their own ridiculous standards, they wouldn't be able carry the freaking Bible," she wrote, adding that, despite her annoyance, she had acquiesced to the request because, hey, no author wants to risk losing sales. Her publisher told her they expected 40 percent of her book's total sales to come from Christian bookstores; LifeWay is one of the biggest sellers, with 160 stores in 26 states and a robust online business, and its standards are considered the strictest.
Why do these bookstores have their panties in a wad — does the bible say "hatest thy vagina" or something? Someone page Eve Ensler, the vagina's good name is being besmirched! The thing is, Evans is a devout Christian, her publishing company is Christian, and she only uses "vagina" twice in the book — once when referencing a rape victim, and again when she signs an abstinence pledge card with, "my promise to God and my vagina." Apparently it's the latter that LifeWay takes issue with. Come on, that's funny! It's refreshing to see a religious person talk like a human being — it's relatable, and relatable is something that Christianity should really be trying to pursue these days. And that's especially the truth when it comes to women, given the religion's pretty rough history with them.
Obviously, the issue runs deeper than just the two mentions of vaginas; it appears the real problem is LifeWay's issue with the giant vagina on top of Evan's lower vagina. That's right: her brain.
It's possible, in fact, that this is about her brain-or at least what makes it from her brain to her mouth. Evans proudly identifies as evangelical, but not everyone will allow her that label. Last week, well-known pastor John Piper's website hosted a harsh review of Womanhood, accusing the book of "question[ing] the validity of the Bible." And author and theologian Denny Burk devoted a detailed blog post to why Evans doesn't qualify as an evangelical. Her offenses include insufficient deference to the concept of Biblical inerrancy-the notion that the Bible is completely free of error-and her willingness to serve communion to gay churchgoers.
A HA! It's her pesky drive to broaden the definition of evangelical to include people who think it's okay to question their faith and accept believers who are different than they are — you know, the things that would ultimately help the religion grow and thrive, rather than wither and die, or become such a hostile place that only followers without critical thinking skills could survive. I hope the vaginas that birthed the intolerant LifeWay bigwigs are ashamed of the fruits of their wombs.
Evans points out that male authors carried in these very bookstores get away with questionable references to "boobs" and "testicles" on the regular, and a recent advice book penned by super-pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife includes descriptions of anal sex, role playing, and sex toys. All of that is fine and dandy, and there should probably be more of it, but why is a female author being chastised for her more modest references to ladyparts? I think we probably don't have to look further than the Good Book for our answer to that.
Her Year of Living Biblically [Slate]