A few years back, a journalist named A.J. Jacobs, himself an agnostic, wondered what it would be like to live “biblically,” literally, for one year. (And by biblically, Jacobs meant as a biblical Jew hewing as closely as possible to the restrictions and prescriptions enumerated in the Hebrew Bible.)
From his website:
The Year of Living Biblically is about my quest to live the ultimate biblical life. To follow every single rule in the Bible – as literally as possible. I obey the famous ones:
- The Ten Commandments
- Love thy neighbor
- Be fruitful and multiply
But also, the hundreds of oft-ignored ones.
- Do not wear clothes of mixed fibers.
- Do not shave your beard
- Stone adulterers
Why? Well, I grew up in a very secular home (I’m officially Jewish but I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant). I’d always assumed religion would just wither away and we’d live in a neo-Enlightenment world. I was, of course, spectacularly wrong. So was I missing something essential to being a human? Or was half the world deluded?
I decided to dive in headfirst.
It’s been optioned for a movie. But you knew that already.
Now Rachel Held Evans, a member of the evangelical left, or a mainline Protestant, or a feminist Christian, or none of the above, has written A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Since evangelicals like to take the Bible literally (six-day creation) except when they don’t (“This is my body”), Evans decided to try and take the Scriptures at their Word about what biblical womanhood should look like.
From her website:
Strong-willed and independent, Rachel Held Evans couldn’t sew a button on a blouse before she embarked on a radical life experiment—a year of biblical womanhood.
Intrigued by the traditionalist resurgence that led many of her friends to abandon their careers to assume traditional gender roles in the home, Evans decides to try it for herself, vowing to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year. Pursuing a different virtue each month, Evans learns the hard way that her quest for biblical womanhood requires more than a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4).
It means growing out her hair, making her own clothes, covering her head, obeying her husband, rising before dawn, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church, and even camping out in the front yard during her period. With just the right mixture of humor and insight, compassion and incredulity, A Year of Biblical Womanhood is an exercise in scriptural exploration and spiritual contemplation.
If you say so.
On that website are a few photos of Evans posing as the “traditional” biblical wife. As we all know, the great heroines of the Old and New Testaments never so much as moved their bowels without recording it for their fans. (Lifeway, a big-deal Christian-book distributor, decided not to carry Evans’s tome because she refused to employ the word vagina in the form a question.)
Now we have Timothy, an erstwhile and self-described anti-gay evangelical bigot (and Liberty University alum) who, after learning that a friend was, in fact, a lesbian, decided to “become” gay for one year to see how the people he reviled (“gays were the enemy”) lived.
For an entire year Kurek lived “under cover” as a homosexual in his home town of Nashville. He told his family he was gay, as well as his friends and his church. Only two pals and an aunt – used to keep an eye on how his mother coped with the news — knew his secret. One friend, a gay man called Shawn — whom Kurek describes as a “big black burly teddy bear” — pretended to be his boyfriend. Kurek got a job in a gay cafe, hung out in a gay bar and joined a gay softball league, all the while maintaining his inner identity as a straight Christian.
The result was a remarkable book called The Cross in the Closet, which follows on the tradition of other works such as Black Like Me, by a white man in the 1960s deep south passing as a black American, and 2006′s Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent, who details her time spent in disguise living as a man. “In order to walk in their shoes, I had to have the experience of being gay. I had to come out to my friends and family and the world as a gay man,” he told the Observer.
Kurek’s account of his year being gay is an emotional, honest and at times hilarious account of a journey that begins with him as a strait-laced yet questioning conservative, and ends up with him reaffirming his faith while also embracing the cause of gay equality.
Along the way he sheds many friends, especially from Liberty, who wrote emails to him after he came out asking that he repent of his sins and warning that he faced damnation. He does not regret their loss. “I now have lots of new gay friends,” Kurek said.
Good to know. Because he sounded like a first-class jerk before he came up with this scheme.
As I always say, if you can’t beat ‘em, rip ‘em off. To that end, I’ve picked out a few themes I may shop around to publishers.
A Year of Living Judiciously: My Life as a Supreme Court Justice
A Year of Living Criminally: My Life as Governor of Illinois
A Year of Living Laparoscopically: My Life as a Gastroenterologist
A Year of Living Contemptuously: My Life as a New York Times Op-Ed Writer
A Year of Living Disingenuously: My Life as a Presidential Candidate
Ahh, these suck. I’m doomed to live a year insignificantly. Again.