I don't remember how I got to Rachel Held Evans' blog, but once I got there, I was hooked. I connected immediately to Rachel's provocative, yet disarming manner of taking on certain traditional statements, stances, or interpretations of evangelicalism. Asking questions of her readers in a way that provides room for discussion without judgment, Rachel provides a venue like I've rarely experienced on the Web. So when Rachel asked for readers to review her book Evolving in Monkey Town, I jumped at the opportunity.
Honestly, I have not read a more relatable book than Evolving in Monkey Town, from growing up with a fundamentalist Christian background to AWANA to winning Best Christian Attitude awards, I wondered if Rachel might have been going to my church and school in my hometown. But the book really began to hit me where Rachel starts asking her questions. What happens to the Muslim woman she just watched get executed for allegedly killing her husband, despite signs of known abuse against her? Did Rachel simply win a "cosmic lottery" by being born in the US and a Christian culture? What about all of the acceptable tactics of genocide rampant in the Old Testament that is allowed, if not ordered, by God? As a woman, and one who was complimented for her leadership gifts, where is her place in the church in spite of St. Paul's direct and opposing statements on women? What really is the kingdom of God? Is it really all, and only, about heaven?
Where Donald Miller gave the our generation of Christians an alternative voice and position to evangelical Christianity, Rachel Held Evans is giving us a voice to ask questions about Christianity that we've never dared, or maybe even been allowed, to ask. Through a mixture of personal reflections of the evolution of her own faith journey and vignettes of people that have influenced her journey, Rachel takes on her doubts and questions with a sincerity and honesty that cannot be easily turned away or dismissed as naivete or immature faith. Using the Scope's Monkey Trials of her hometown Dayton, TN as an example of the need for intellectual honesty to the beliefs we have carried or inherited, Rachel takes us through three phases of her journey: habitat, challenge, and change. Just as a Christian embracing an evolutionary Creationism position by digging into the available information themselves, through Evolving in Monkey Town we have the chance to re-examine our own habitat and question are our positions - a healthy check that might just reveal places where the love of God might fill us out a little better. For myself, the beginning of examination began at Rachel's summary of the social context of young evangelicals: "To experience the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we didn't need to be born again; we simply needed to be born." (p. 78) What better place to start asking questions about my own faith than examining what faith elements I experienced for myself rather than inheriting it from my family and surrounding culture.Because I related so much to Evolving in Monkey Town, I asked Rachel Held Evans if she would be interested in answer some questions for this column. I'm thrilled she agreed. When it is published, you'll be able to read more at the Burnside Writers Collective... (I'll post the exact link when the BWC has published it.)