1. How on earth did you get this idea?
Growing up in the conservative evangelical subculture, I was often told that I should strive to practice “biblical womanhood.” In response to second-wave feminism, evangelical leaders have been debating the role of women in the home, church, and society in recent years, and as a result, Christian women receive a lot of mixed messages about what it means to be a woman of faith. While many hail “biblical womanhood” as the ideal, few seem to agree on exactly what it means, and any claim to a “biblical” lifestyle is inherently selective. (After all, technically speaking, it is biblical for a woman to be sold by her father to pay of debt, biblical for her to cover her head when she prays, biblical for her to be one of many wives.)
I wanted to challenge the idea that “biblical womanhood” could be reduced to a list of roles and rules, and I wanted to do it in a creative, disarming way. I was thinking about this in the shower one morning, when I got a crazy idea: What if I tried it all? What if took the notion of biblical womanhood literally to show that it’s not as simple as it may sound?
As a result, I found myself growing out my hair, making my own clothes, caring for a computerized baby named Chip, consulting with Orthodox Jews, travelling to Amish country, interviewing a real “sister wife,” sitting on my roof, covering my head, and calling my husband “master.”
2. You do realize that A.J. Jacobs has already done this, right?
I loved The Year of Living Biblically and have always wanted to see a woman take on a similar experiment. Never thought it would be me!
3. Are you doing this to make fun of the Bible?
Absolutely not! I love the Bible. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible represents a sacred collection of poems, stories, accounts, and letters that are inspired by God and shared by his people. As an honest reader, I confess that there are times when the Bible touches me, times when the Bible troubles me, and times when the Bible confounds me. As an interpreter, I acknowledge that my understanding of the Bible’s meaning is fallible. My purpose in embarking on this project is not to belittle or make fun of the Bible, but to creatively investigate our application of it…because I hate seeing it reduced to an adjective or used to restrict the roles of women.
4. What is your position on gender roles? Are you a feminist?
I’m a thoroughly liberated beneficiary of the feminist movement, complete with a blossoming career and egalitarian marriage. I strongly support women at all levels of leadership in the church, home, and society, and am suspicious of anyone who would claim that the Bible presents just one “right way” to be woman.
5. Did Lifeway really ban your book because you used the word “vagina”?
We don’t know exactly why Lifeway will not be carrying A Year of Biblical Womanhood. My publisher had warned me that if I left the word “vagina” in the book, it might not be carried by the Christian bookstore. I left it in anyway, and sure enough, Lifeway chose not to carry it in stores. But it’s important to note that this could be a result of many other factors besides “vaginagate.” And, of course, Lifeway has the right to carry whatever books they please. (Read more about “vaginagate” here.)
6. What did your husband think of the project?
My husband Dan is awesome. In fact, in deference to Proverbs 31:23, I literally praised him as such at the city gate! Dan kept a journal throughout the project, and excerpts from it are included in the book…so you can find out exactly what he was thinking when I called him “master” for a week!