Rachel Held Evans was a sweetly ambitious Southern gal who had all the right answers about her evangelical Christian faith before a spiritual crisis led her to rethink the "false fundamentals" she held so tightly. Her book, Evolving in Monkey Town: how a girl who knew all the answers learned to ask the questions, is an intriguing and thought-provoking journey through her questions and doubts.
I began reading Rachel's blog a little over a year ago. We had some similar things in common–primarily, our struggle to hold onto our faith in the midst of voices that told us unless we adhered to x, y or z we were not real Christians.
Rachel has a unique ability to wrangle with the questions that sometimes derail the faith of many struggling Christians. She does a good job of keeping the tone civil and open for discussion, and it is a skill she brings both to her blog and her book.
I especially enjoyed her chapter called "Survivor's Guilt" where she discusses what she calls "pond-scum theology." She writes: "Pond-scum theology makes even less sense in the context of the Gospels. To believe that people are inherently worthless to God strips the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of all their meaning and power. It makes Jesus look like a fool for dying for us, and it leaves His followers with little incentive to seek out and celebrate the good in one another." (p.117)
There were little paragraphs like that through the whole book that made me want to shout, YES! YES!
And although I don't agree with some of her liberal political persuasions, I appreciated reading about how she came to her conclusions. Her book allowed me to go deeper into understanding who she is and what events led to her crisis of faith. I was also truly impressed with how she's rebuilt (and rebuilding) her faith. She manages to think critically without thinking cynically. I admire that.
My only concern arose near the end of the book when she begins discussing how the Christian faith is adapting to the modern world. She writes: "My generation is perhaps more equipped than any other to defend the uniqueness of Christianity, but we are also the most capable of seeing things from a different perspective." (p.204)
This troubled me because the truth is, our generation is just as capable of making the same mistakes as earlier generations. In attempting to right the wrongs of the past, we should walk carefully and humbly. All the good intentions and idealistic hopes for change do not guarantee our own infallibility.
However, we are agreed on the most important thing: "Taking on the yoke of Jesus is…about loving God and loving other people." (p. 209) And yes, it really is "that simple and that profound. It's that easy and that hard."
Thanks, Rachel, for writing such a thought-provoking, enjoyable book! I look forward to many more discussions!