I received my copy as a birthday present a few days ago. So far I'm finding the book to be a pithy, thoughtful and thought-provoking look at perceptions of womanhood in Bible times and today-- about what it means, and has meant historically, to be a woman. But yesterday evening my husband, opening an online article on MSN, began voicing irritation and disgust. "What does MSN think they're doing?" he wanted to know-- and pointed me to a one-paragraph blurb regarding Rachel Held Evans' year-long experiment: Tennessee Woman Lives Biblically for One Year.
The blurb begins: "Living strictly according to the Bible's instructions for women was no picnic for Rachel Held Evans, a blogger from Dayton, Tenn." From there it mentions as briefly as possible the most eyebrow-raising things Ms. Held Evans did, including sleeping in a tent during her period and calling her husband "master." There is no mention of her book or her reasons for writing it. MSN concludes: "Oh, the trials of the stunt blogger."
"Stunt blogger." This is how MSN.com apparently views Rachel Held Evans, and this is how it wants its readers to perceive her-- even though the source they linked to, International Business Times, has made it clear that Ms. Held Evans did her "experiment" with the intention of writing the book which she did indeed write. Noting that she is "both a devout Christian and a feminist," the IB Press also takes the time to quote Rachel on her reasons for the experiment and the book: "I wanted to sort of challenge that the Bible prescribes one right way to be a woman of faith. . . . The more women know about the Bible the more they can respond when people try to silence them."
My husband and I were both very annoyed with MSN's apparent intention to present Rachel Held Evans as a publicity-seeker and a nut. The readers' comments on their article were about what you'd expect, given its tone and its dearth of information or explanation. The comments all more or less fit within the following paraphrases:
"Crazy Bible-belt Christians."
"I hate it when non-Christians like her mock the Bible and Christianity."
"She's just trying to get attention. Hope she's satisfied with her five minutes of fame."
"She's completely misunderstanding the Bible. Apparently she's never read *insert verse of reader's choice.*"
"What do you expect from a backward, primitive, silly book like the Bible? If you were all just being honest, you'd either live like she just did, or throw the Bible out."
Five minutes of fame. A blurb on MSN. That has to be all Ms. Held Evans really wanted or was trying to accomplish.
But I don't really blame the commenters. They're just acting according to standard Internet practices, responding to what they read without attempting to read further unless they're really interested. And why should they be interested to learn more, given that MSN has painted her as a mere "stunt blogger"?
How can these readers know she's a college-educated author who has published two intelligent and articulate books on Christianity and culture, both of which are eye-opening reads? She's just a crazy Christian who takes the Bible too literally-- or a spiteful non-Christian who wants to discredit it. They're going to take their pick, because they aren't going to learn anything more. Not from MSN. Not unless they click on the IB Press source link, which most of them won't bother to do.
As far as I can see, there's only one reason why MSN would present this story the way it did. Because it can write a curiosity-inspiring headline about someone doing something outrageously odd, which people will want to click on and talk about. Actual facts not required-- facts just get in the way of the news sensation.
Hmm. There does seem to be someone who is only seeking a flash of attention and publicity. But it's not Rachel Held Evans.