Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Evolving in Your Faith

I just read another great book that I really enjoyed.  This book details the faith journey of Rachel Held Evans growing up in a very conservative Christian community as she "evolved" into the Christian she is today.  In many ways you can see this as a story that fits into one of the most significant shifts in our generation: the shift from a modernistic to a post-modern outlook on life.  Rachel grew up in the town that has become famous for the Scopes Monkey Trial - Dayton, Tennessee.  Her childhood and teenage memories as she describes them are hilarious.  She has a great sense of humor as she casts a comic, yet critical, interpretation of her upbringing.

I felt convicted when she went into her description of her spiritual journey during her teen years.  She explains how having a "biblical worldview" was a high priority. I remember in my early youth ministry days that I took this very, very seriously.  Now this is not to say that the Bible does not help to shape our worldview.  Of course it does, especially if you actually pick it up and read it!  But what Rachel is saying is that the "worldview" talk was used to systematize a set of beliefs that where imposed on everyone with very little room to think for yourself.  The reality is that instead of all things being so black and white, there is a lot more grey than we are willing to admit.  Rachel comments that "our interpretations are colored by our culture, our community,our presuppositions, our experience, our language, our education, our emotions, our intellect, our desires, and our biases. My worldview affects how I read the Bible as much as the Bible affects my worldview." (p. 192) 

Wrestling with doubt becomes a main theme as she enters into a world that she thought she understood in black and white categories, only to discover that she was the one who began questioning things and having doubts about what she has grown up believing.  And it is in wrestling with these doubts that has actually made her faith stronger.  Rachel states that, "After I'd thought for so many years that good Christians are always ready with an answer, it was a question that eventually drew me back to belief. In the end, it was doubt that saved my faith."  (p. 119)

Rachel turns some of her childhood beliefs on their heads and exposes them for what they are.  But then by wrestling with doubt she is able to gain a much greater appreciation of the mystery of God, a humility that gives way to finally not having to think that we have to have all the answers to life, and a deeper sense that we are to fully live into our faith right now, in the present.  Our faith is not so much about the after life as it is more about the present life that we are currently in the midst of.  

I loved Rachel's ability to tell her story in a fun and comical way but with enough heart to feel the true journey that she struggled with as she emerged into the person she is today.

I would highly recommend "Evolving in Monkey Town.  It was a great read.

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