I've been reading a really brilliant book called 'A Year of Biblical Womanhood' by Rachel Held-Evans where she explores what it really means to be a 'Godly' woman - a term that has so brutally been misused among evangelical circles to undermine, shame, oppress and dictate to females in the Church about what they should or should not do and be. YIKES. I'm getting ranty already and it's just the first paragraph.
She writes with honesty, humour and a great deal of well-researched wisdom and the concept of the book sees her exploring some of the 'instructions' for women in the bible that have often been held up as the ultimate goal for femininity. She often takes quite a literal approach to some of these perceived notions (like covering her head, learning new skills etc) to see if she can shed some light on the ever-controversial debate of gender roles within the Christian Church.
Now, I am fully aware that where I'm going with this is a highly sensitive subject amongst many, so I imagine this could get tricky as we go on, but I want to share my thoughts on this stuff honestly and if people want to enter into dialog about those thoughts, I really want to listen.
So, last night as the wind and rain blew a gale outside, I tucked myself up in bed with the book and started to read the chapter on modesty. In this chapter Rachel explores different aspects of what the bible says about women wearing modest clothing such as head coverings, no elaborate jewellery etc and she looks at different cultures where different forms of outward modesty is observed like the Amish, Judaism etc. (p.s. she paints this picture of her encounter with the amish lifestyle that makes me want to sell all my crap and hitch up a buggy & cart)
As the chapter went on and as the biblical texts were explored in context and in the fullness of the rest of the stories going on around them, it was becoming clear that the real underlying message in the scriptures was that:
...most of the Bible’s instructions regarding modesty find their context in warnings about materialism, not sexuality . . . a pattern that has gone largely unnoticed by the red-faced preacher population. I’ve heard dozens of sermons about keeping my legs and my cleavage out of sight, but not one about ensuring that my jewelry was not acquired through unjust or exploitive trade practices.
So naturally, this started me really thinking hard about what that means in terms of Christians, wealth and materialism. Should it ever be ok for Christian women to buy designer handbags that cost £500+? Should we all have so many i-products? Where is the line to be drawn in terms of simple-living, having overdrafts, buying petrol-guzzling vehicles and everything in between?
Is it too judge-y to ask these questions?
Is apathy towards ethical buying acceptable for those who really believe in the teachings of Jesus?
Should I butt out?
Are the 'rules' on this topic different for everyone? Is simple-living relative to what you earn? Is it more to do with your attitude towards possessions than what you actually own?
Is that last question just a cop out to actually living more simply?
Has Christianity completely blocked out the notion of what true modesty requires, passing it off as staying relevant?
I'm struggling to know what's right.
What do you think?