Here’s a second and final post on the periods book: even though I do feel there is a lot more that could be said.
As I was reading the book I was constantly plagued by the thought of “I think we’re missing something here…”. It always felt like there was a gaping hole needing to be filled in, significantly. Here are a couple of examples.
In the appendix, Jones states that today, we have a range of HRT and pills available (“hormonal birth control” is what she specifically says) and how blessed we are to live in the 21st century. She doesn’t actually explore the theology of their usage at all. Her argument – if you can call a few sentences an argument – is this:
“Christians are free to use these to manage their symptoms, just as they are free to take advantage of any number of medications that we have available to us today. For many women, these are a lifeline. Praise God for these benefits of being alive in the 21st century!” (p.115)
Jones then gives some cautions but none of them are in terms of biblical ethics. Thus, her decision-making process appears to be “available and capable equals just do it”. I think there are plenty of instances in the Bible that indicate this is insufficient for moral decisions eg. David and Bathsheba.
I find Jones’ argument far too simplistic. It appears on the surface as being an example of the freedom within Christ but there is a lot lacking in the discussion. Abortion is also a form of birth control. What is her opinion on this, and does she consider it the same or different? What about the morning after pill? Is that different or the same?
Even if you completely agree with Jones, the whole ‘theology of the pill’ can’t just be breezed over in three sentences. Is her thinking about contraception indicative of thinking about sex from a worldly perspective as opposed to a godly one? Only a deeper and detailed deconstruction of The Bible will lead you to that answer.
As a starting point, I find that God seems quite interested in female reproduction. The phrases “he opened her womb” and “he closed her womb” appear with reasonable frequency across the pages of The Bible. With that in mind, God seems very interested in conception, potentially even controlling it. Is that still the case today?
It’s a difficult topic, especially for a woman who has been trying for years on end to have a baby and never does. (And if that’s you or your significant other, Resurrection Year might be a blessed read for you) Additionally, contraception and reproduction from a biblical perspective is a topic about which plenty of people disagree. Still, there wasn’t even a mention of biblical passages in Jones’ (3 sentences) discussion. It felt like a gaping hole.
Another gaping hole was in the interpretation of, to put it simply “when periods go wrong”. This includes things like irregular periods, excessive periods and I would also include a whole range of other issues causing infertility. How do we think about all these things in line with the creation mandate “be fruitful and increase in number”?
Whilst Jones does discuss the woman in Mark 5 who was ‘subject to bleeding for twelve years,’ yet again, I felt there was more to explore. When periods go wrong is it just symptomatic of our broken bodies or is there more going on behind the curtain? Think Satan’s conversations with God about Job. Jones explored the physical and social aspects of this woman’s suffering, but was there something more spiritual going on too? This is, of course, a far larger question about medicine, health and spirituality and so I’m not going to offer some grossly wanting conclusion here, just merely point out the need for the exploration.
Additionally, if God is actually using femininity and/or periods for redemptive purposes (see last week’s post) is there something that Satan is attempting to thwart?
I can’t recall whether I first read it in a Staci Eldredge or TD Jakes book (or both) but there are plenty of Christians who believe that there is an assault on femininity in the spiritual realms. Whatever you think of that, I think a book on the theology of periods still needs to ‘go there’ when exploring irregular periods.
I also can’t help but think of a number of women in The Bible who are barren for a while and then give birth to a very important baby – not to mention the immaculate conception!!
There’s a load of other things (not explored in the book) that I could get all ‘biblically earth mother’ with and go into: the moon cycles versus the period cycle, the moon festivals, the harvest moon, harvest theology in general, what else in The Bible is cyclical?…. the menopause ‘season’ etc. etc….
I think you can tell I’d love to get all biblically earth mother, but I know there are times when I should just stop (there are studies out there which hypothesise that in ancient times women’s periods were more in line with the lunar phases… just saying…).
And perhaps I’ve read too many feminist books which do get all earth mother and other styles of deconstruction with a whole range of women’s issues. Sometimes I find the conclusions they come to are silly and illogical. Yet, there’s a detailed level of deconstruction of a woman’s biological life that was remiss in this book.
For all of these reasons, despite one of the reviewers on the back cover describing the book as ‘theologically robust’, I could not.
I also didn’t feel my womanhood was affirmed. There was too much on uncleanliness when I expected a book on period theology to be a celebration of femininity. I also felt the verse Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman would have brought a framework for approaching the topic that would have been more holistic. In the end I didn’t feel edified, I just felt a bit empty.
Perhaps this blog post is the same and there’s plenty that I haven’t thought of yet. There’s a number of things in the book that need to be explored further that I’ve consciously skipped in this post. Even then in all honesty, I feel like I’m still missing something here…
Hopefully a bloke won’t point out to me what that is, because that’ll really give me PMS (but perhaps it’s biblical?).
However, if they do, I will encourage them to read what Virginia Woolf said about Shakespeare’s sister. You’ll find it in A Room of One’s Own.
Yours in getting back to her day job,