Monday, July 12, 2010

Evolving in Monkey Town: The (real) Book Review



This is Rachel Held Evans' spiritual memoir. At the ripe old age of ...27.

But, as Indiana Jones put it, "Its not the years, Honey, it's the mileage."

And Rachel has covered some ground.

"Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned to Ask The Questions" is the sweeping account of Rachel's self-professed evolution from Apologetic All-Star to She Who Sees Value In The Questions.

Doubt has given legs to her journey.

Summingly it up succinctly: "...doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves." (p 219)

Psst.... We kind of need it.


Generally, amongst most of us church-goers, there's been a tacit understanding that when it comes to troubling questions, to doubt, we just don't talk about it. Not publicly, anyway.

However, when we fail to take seriously our questions & doubts, our journey is stunted. Instead of growing, we become ingrown. (which can express itself in some ugly ways)

The following quote is a veritable passport for exploring the uncharted territory that lies between a taught faith and one that's been road-tested; one that really belongs to you (or is it the other way around?) ~

If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that serious doubt-
the kind that leads to despair- begins not when we start asking
God questions but when, out of fear, we stop. (p 226)

Fortunately, Rachel does forge ahead. She confronts her questions with courage & integrity, and strikes out on a spiritual adventure towards a more authentic faith.

Along the way, encounters with various people & places cause Rachel to question what she's been taught. It's not matching up with what she's experiencing. So like Jacob, who grabbed hold of that heavenly shade..... she wrestles. She doesn't let go. Something's gotta give, and when it does, it's that which she cleverly identifies as the "false fundamentals" of her faith.
Here's a gem:
...I sometimes wonder if I might have spent fewer nights in angry, resentful prayer if only I'd known that my little systems-
my theology, my presuppositions, my beliefs, even my fundamentals- were but broken lights of a holy, transcendent God. I wish I'd have known to question them, not him. (p 220)

And with that, she provides an important piece of framework for integrating faith & earnest questioning. With that, hers seems to become more of a living faith. A wild faith.

She traverses a lot of territory, covering curiosity, community, outsiders' perspectives on Christianity (the times when she found herself on the "outside" were especially poignant), the mindset of defending vs embodying faith, the multitude of worldviews, and more...
A lot more.
She asks if getting THE answer in a world of worldviews is possible, or even the point? Maybe there is more to it than that. It's a theme she touches on throughout the book, and she hits on some really. good. stuff.
As evidenced by my copious notes in the pic, this book is bulging with fodder for conversation! (perfect for book clubs & small groups)
Though her story is not unique, it is well told. Refreshingly honest & well put together, Evolving takes us along for the journey.

Knowing the answers is safe. Being willing to experiment outside of the lines is risky, but it seems to be part of the deal if you want to embody your faith in the real world. She does this. And, it's encouraging for others who are tentatively confronting their own boundary lines.
Evolving is a map of her journey. No doubt everyone's will look different, but it's helpful to know that others have passed this way. Its reassuring to happen across a blaze on the trail less travelled.
At the end of the day, this is why I felt less crazy. It's disconcerting to sit in a pew, surrounded by 100s of seemingly content people, and wonder, Is it just me who has a few questions here?
Seeing those questions in print, hearing her story brought a measure of courage and excellent company for the road!
Wonder what it might do for you?
PS: if you are looking for company, i recommend her blog. you'll find community in the comment section
PPS: as a reminder & full disclosure, i got a free copy for review as part of Rachel Held Evans' "Blog Tour."
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