What do you think when you hear the word womanhood? What does that even mean?
Now what do you think when you hear the term Biblical womanhood?
What characteristics are associated with such a woman?
Who comes to mind when I ask you to think of someone who embodies Biblical womanhood?
On this episode of Sanctuary Woman, we’re talking about Biblical womanhood, and how this caricature many of us have been handed as the script from which we should live our lives may not actually be a Biblical one, but rather a cultural one.
I’m so excited about the guest we have on the show today: my colleague at Baylor University, Dr. Beth Allison Barr, who recently released a game changer of a book called The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth.
For me, the notion of Biblical Womanhood was first disrupted while I was a college student about 10 years ago by the late Rachel Held Evans, a blogger turned author whose upbringing in the faith mirrored my own, and who was unafraid to ask and explore big, hard, complicated questions surrounding the Christian faith many of us have inherited unquestionably from the generation before us.
I tell you this to preface my conversation with Dr. Barr because our conversation starts out by acknowledging Rachel’s work on the topic of gender and women.
Rachel may have shepherded my generation of angsty millennial Christians on the internet through the deconstruction of our faith. She also made me want to actually go to the Bible and understand the actual context of scripture, and do it in a way that didn’t make we want to throw out the baby Jesus with the bathwater or downplay it or dismiss it entirely – but she helped me to stay in love with it, to stay inspired by it, to stay respectful of it and honor its teachings – and not by blindly accepting it at face value, but by wrestling with the text and its seriousness and its implications for life today.
Here’s what I’ve since learned: The savior of the universe, Jesus, was controversial, provocative and revolutionary by his words and actions toward women. And in a time when women were almost silent, invisible and unnamed in literature, the Bible counter-culturally affirms and celebrates women and all of their God-given gifts.
These days, feminism and women’s roles are a non-issue for me, and I don’t spend a lot of time in spaces where this is even a question up for debate. I am now comfortable with the F word, even with all of its misunderstandings and baggage, because I know what feminism means to me. And – spoiler alert – it has nothing to do with man hating. It’s quite the opposite. Because I believe that patriarchy doesn’t just hurt women. It hurts men too. With that said, I do my best to honor those who understand scripture differently than I do and make decisions to live out their personal lives based on their understanding of scripture – I’ve been there, and I get it. We’re not all in the same place. And yet, I sometimes forget that there are people who will still try to weaponize the very same scripture that I understand to liberate women as divine permission to subjugate and oppress half of the world’s population. That? That, I’m not cool with.
So I’ve brought on Dr. Barr to talk to us more about Biblical Womanhood from a historical perspective, and how culture has shaped its meaning more than the Bible has, so we can begin to resurrect the unique gifts and aspects of ourselves that have been neglected, suppressed and silenced by our culture and by our churches on the basis of our our sex.
Dr. Barr ends her book with three powerful words: Go, be free!
What will you do with this freedom that God has invited you into? Whatever it is you do with your freedom in Christ, my prayer is that you will inspire others to realize that they too have been invited into this very same freedom.
For It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Free to be you. Free to be who God has called you to. Not in spite of your womanhood but even with all of your womanhood.
Go, be free.
You can buy The Making of Biblical Womanhood anywhere books are sold. You can also connect with Dr. Barr at www.bethallisonbarr.com.