• "I’m Still Reading the Bible!” Post-Christian Women’s Biblical Reading Practices

      Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester
      In this chapter, I highlight post-Christian women’s biblicalism as a spiritual practice, while raising two questions for gendered religious reading practices and religious feminism’s uses and approaches to literature, which might also help explain why the activity of reading is underexplored. First, post-Christian women’s biblicalism crosses the distinction between sacred and secular literature sometimes assumed in religious feminism. In the search for alternative textual sources for doing theology, an either/or separation between sacred and secular has been presumed, which has not only set the Bible and women’s writing apart, but also reading practices and processes. Second, experience has been privileged in religious feminisms’ turn to literature as it seeks examples of women’s spiritual encounters; while in biblical feminism, women’s voices are the standpoint from which to examine scripture from a range of contextual positions. However, religious feminism has tended to focus on the text to the extent that actual readers are usually implied: everyday women’s experiences of reading have been passed over. Yet, by qualitatively interviewing post-Christian women readers to listen to their reading experiences, biblical reading emerges as a spiritual practice amongst women identifying against the Christian tradition. This troubles the assumption that women who use literature as a spiritual resource are doing so because they have found the Christian testaments lacking in opportunities to access the divine, and have therefore excluded them from their personal collections of spiritual texts. While post-Christian women readers in this study are critical of the Bible and question its relevancy, they continue to read it. I begin by briefly discussing the fieldwork upon which this chapter is based and my use of ‘post-Christian’. I then point to the sacred and secular textual distinctions that have occurred in religious feminisms, followed by discussing the preference for implied rather than actual readers to suggest that post-Christian women’s biblicalism is an unexpected aspect of women’s spiritual reading practices. Finally, using examples from the fieldwork, I illustrate one of the ways post-Christian women’s biblicalism emerges in this research, as the women employ ‘filtering’ strategies to monitor their acceptance and use of the biblical texts in their spiritual lives.