Twenty-one days to the body you always wanted. Ten tips to banish body fat. Get your pre-pregnancy body back fast. Your perfect body plan. De-jelly your belly. These promises (and many more) are touted on every newsstand in North America every single day. Even though I’ve never been a person who struggled with being overweight, I’ve always struggled with the idea I might just be on the precipice of it, just one bagel away from being obese. Ridiculous, I know, but it’s there in my mind just the same. So every time I checkout at the grocery store or peruse the magazine section of my local Barnes and Noble, these headlines grab my attention and tempt me to grab the mag.
In her book, Eve’s Revenge, Lillian Calles Barger seeks to help women like me who want to resist the unrealistic portrayals of women that bombard us everyday—but she does it in a completely, revolutionary, unique way. She doesn’t follow the footsteps of the self-help books that provide women with strategies to become more accepting of their body or those that unpack the reality of media myths—from models who starve themselves to the standard practices of air-brushing. For Barger, books like this only serve as a band-aid to a deeper problem. What women need most of all is to recover an understanding of our bodies as integral part of our spiritual lives. We live, for the most part, disconnected from our bodies and unaware of the importance the role the body plays in our spiritual lives. Barger wants to remedy that. She writes, “What I am attempting to do is recover the body from its continually diminishing position in the nature of the self, spirituality, and the building of communities.
Eve’s Revenge is comprised of nine chapters. In chapter one, she challenges the idea that the body is merely a “blank canvas” upon which we can do whatever we wish to our bodies to meet cultural expectations—from botox to extreme dieting. Continually preoccupied with the superficial, we fail to understand the deeper meaning of what our bodies are for. In chapter two, Barger asks and explores the penetrating question: “whether we occupy our body or whether our body occupies us. Rather than celebrate the incredible things the female body can do—dance, nurture and grow a human life, run, or give and receive hugs and affection, we focus on how our bodies fail to meet the standards set forth by the media. In chapter three, Barger begins to unpack what it really means to have a woman’s body. Is the body just a machine? What does the body have to do with my relationship to God? In order to be really spiritual, in order to really connect with God, must I deny my body? Barger points out that no matter how much we strive to disconnect ourselves from our body, that we can never really escape them.
In chapter four, Barger discusses the social difficulties of having in a female body. In Chapter five, she drives home the point that our body is “the location in which spirituality is lived out” and that our “actions and work in the world are done through (our) body, and are the truest test of what (we) profess to be.” In chapter five, Barger encourages us to consider and deal honestly with the vulnerability the body presents to us, namely, pain, the need for touch, and ultimately, death. In the final chapters, she explores the ramifications of the actions of Eve (chapter 6), the result of the idolization of the Virgin Mary (chapter 7), how Jesus, through the incarnation, redeems the body (chapter 8), and finally, provides helpful strategies for acknowledging the importance of the body through communality (chapter 9).
Barger’s book is an attempt to spark a dialogue between feminist ideologies that raise the awareness of the importance of women and their bodies and evangelical orthodox thought. In Eve’s Revenge, Barger demonstrates an impressive mastery of philosophical and theological concepts in both fields. Barger’s knowledge and wisdom in this book is difficult to honor in a single book review. What can be said is this: that despite the messages we receive on a daily basis, our bodies are important to God, and it is only through these bodies that we are able to serve Him.