O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Interview with Rachel Held Evans (Part 2)

posted by Jason Boyett

Yesterday Rachel Held Evans and I began discussing her new book, Evolving
in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the
Questions
.

monkeytown.jpgHere’s the second part of the interview. Make sure you stick around to the end for an opportunity to win a free copy of the book.

—————

JB: We’ve discussed this before, but a big part of your book is the
idea that, in order to survive, faith must adapt and evolve. The book
discusses your faith evolution, of course, but I’m wondering how your
faith has evolved since you finished writing? And where do you see it
headed in the future?

RHE: Good question! Since writing the book, I’ve become a little more comfortable with my views about evolution, having found some cool resources like the BioLogos Foundation that help me work through a lot of my questions. I’m also settling into a new way of reading the
Bible that embraces the fact that it doesn’t exist to answer all of my
questions. I suspect my faith will continue to change and evolve
through the years; I just hope that, overall, I change to look more
and more like Jesus. Right now there are good days and bad days when
it comes to that.

Big picture: How do you see Christianity as a whole adapting in our
lifetime? Where do we need to go in order to remain relevant?

I’m actually really optimistic about the future of Christianity
because throughout history it has shown a remarkable ability to thrive
in new cultural environments. There are a few things that make me
especially hopeful: I see more and more people from my generation
choosing to pledge allegiance first and foremost to the Kingdom of
God, not to any political party or platform of this world. I see
people willing to engage in tough conversations about how to embrace
both science and faith. I see my friends and family taking a more
loving posture toward the gay community. And I see Christians around
the world re-prioritizing Jesus’ command to care for “the least of
these.”

Is “Christian skeptic” an oxymoron?

It’s only an oxymoron if we buy the lie that being a Christian means
agreeing to a set of propositional statements. But if being a
Christian means following Jesus Christ, I think it’s entirely possible
to be curious and intellectually engaged while simultaneously caring
for the poor, forgiving enemies, and sharing the good news. My friend
David put it this way, “The line between faith and doubt is the point
of action. You don’t need certainty to obey, just the willingness to
risk being wrong.”

You come from a journalism career, but you got this book deal out
of nowhere, it seems. What are three pieces of advice you would give
to aspiring writers?

1. Read everything you can get your hands on — fiction, non-fiction,
poetry, song lyrics, magazines, newspapers, science, theology,
prayers, children’s books, the backs of cereal boxes, whatever — and pay
attention to how the words are put together.

2. Start a blog.

3. Write a kick-ass book proposal.

In your opinion, who are the three most significant monkeys and/or
apes in popular culture? (You are not allowed to cite the one on the
cover of your book.)

#3: Curious George

#2: Donkey Kong

#1: King Kong

(Other
contenders include Bubbles the Chimp, Koko the Gorilla, and the evil
monkey living in Chris’ closet in “Family Guy.”)

I’d love to hear what
your readers have to say!

—————

Me, too. Our publisher, Zondervan, has graciously agreed to give away two free copies of Evolving in Monkey Town.

So here’s what you have to do to become eligible for the giveaway: Leave at least one comment on this post. That’s it. We’ll pick a random winner from among the commenters. List your own suggestion for culturally significant monkeys, discuss how your own faith has evolved, or ask Rachel a question. (She’ll be stopping by, and is a pro when it comes to meaningful interaction with readers.)

In the meantime, check out Rachel’s blog and follow her on Twitter.

UPDATE: The comment to win giveaway ends at 11:59 pm CT on Thursday, June 24.



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Comments read comments(45)
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Corey Davis

posted June 23, 2010 at 8:36 am


Interesting article! Can’t wait to read the book….



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Joel Rieves

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:03 am


Very good. Although, I can’t believe she Tarzan’s best pal, Cheeta, off the list of significant monkeys.



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vanilla

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:15 am


Bonzo. (Shows my age much more clearly than it demonstrates my faith.)



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Matt

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:21 am


Zira and Cornelius from Planet of the Apes!



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Jane Ann

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:28 am


Since I studied and now work in a scientific field, evolution has always made the most sense to me. However, I was raised in the church and have felt conflicted many times.
I obviously enjoy science, so I would add to the list Albert, the first monkey astronaut.



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Russ Nemec

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:34 am


Can’t wait to read the book!



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Andrew

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:53 am


Mighty Joe Young.
Sounds like a great book.



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Charlie H.

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:54 am


Rachel – lots of people’s faith evolves or progresses, especially when you come from a conservative background, stories of faith evolving from fundamentalism are n longer novel. Drawing the metaphor with evolution – an animal evolves along a line, towards something, however has your faith ever evolved unexpectedly – like adapted something totally new & unexpected and not along the progressive line/spectrum? As in ever began to evolve a tail for stability that suddenly became wings?



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Kristian

posted June 23, 2010 at 10:14 am


“Clyde” (real name Manis), an orangutan from Clint Eastwood movie “Every Which Way But Loose” has been one of my favourites.
Also; Macaco Tião, a chimp who had the habit of throwing poo at visitors to the Rio de Janeiro Zoo. He ran for Rio de Janeiro Mayor in 1988, and got 9.5% of the votes.



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Felicity

posted June 23, 2010 at 10:22 am


How about Marcel, Ross’s monkey on FRIENDS? He must have experienced difficulty during contract negotiations because he only lasted a couple of seasons, but he played a significant role.
Rachel, you mention reading the Bible differently, and that has really helped me also. I especially enjoyed books by Leland Ryken on genre and interpretation.



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Sarah

posted June 23, 2010 at 10:25 am


Thank you both for the interviews, so insightful!
I have to mention one of my favorite bands, The Monkees, as an influential ‘monkey’ in this world. They started out going with the status quo, but then broke off and wanted to do things their way – they wanted to write their own songs, their own TV episodes. They wanted to be creative in their own way. Plus their TV show was crazy cool and they had a lot of good music, not to mention the first music video and the first band to use a screen on tour (to show the credits from their show.)



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Katie

posted June 23, 2010 at 10:29 am


I could stand to evolve a bit more (always).



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Rebecca

posted June 23, 2010 at 11:25 am


I’m not sure either of these are culturally significant, but my favorites are Rafiki from The Lion King and Chim Chim from Speedracer.



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Mr. Big

posted June 23, 2010 at 11:50 am


Thanks for the interview. I like her, plus she’s cute. I have to agree with Curious George and Cornelius from Planet of the Apes.



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Rob

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm


Getting ready to order this one up! I loved Jason’s book, and I love Rachel’s blog, so can’t wait to read her book as well!



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Rachel H. Evans

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm


Felicity – Love Marcel from “Friends”! Also love your comment about his contract negotiations. :-)
Charlie H. – The evolution metaphor does break down a bit when you consider the length of time involved in the evolutionary process! Although I suspect scientists would argue that animals do not evolve along a line, toward something – but rather through random mutations that favor survival in a particular environment. With that in mind, my experience is at least partially reflective of the evolutionary process in the sense that at times I’ve adapted my approach to Christianity in an effort to make sense of faith in the context of changing environments.
There have been many instances in which my faith has evolved unexpectedly. For example, as I moved away from the idea that salvation is all about “going to heaven when you die,” I rather suddenly encountered an entirely different way of thinking about the Gospel – in terms of a Kingdom of God that is both present and yet-to-come. This has changed how I think and live and interact with other people in some dramatic ways.



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Andrew Hackman

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm


Glad I heard about Rachel through New Ways Forward and a blog friend of mine who is reading her book… great stuff!



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Gretchen

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm


I have a question: aren’t some of the “monkeys” people are listing as favorites actually apes/primates? :) Isn’t there kind of a difference?
Sorry. Don’t wish to offend anyone or start any big debates (I hate conflict). I really just wanted to get a chance to be randomly picked for a free book.



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Jason Boyett

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm


Gretchen:
You’re right, but I carefully covered the bases in my original question to Rachel about “monkeys and/or apes,” so it’s all good.



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Ben

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm


Donkey Kong’s nephew, Diddy Kong.



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Knighton

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm


I’ve spent a good portion of the past couple days reading Rachel’s blog, and I’m thrilled to find out I’m not alone. I would love a copy of her book.
Famous primate: Clyde (orangutan) from Every Which Way But Loose.



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shawn smucker

posted June 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm


good questions Jason. thanks for posting. i seem to have luck winning books from your site so i’m rolling the dice again.



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Kenny Johnson

posted June 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm


I’m very eager to read Rachel’s book. I’ve ordered a copy (but would still gladly take a free copy if I win!). My faith has been ever evolving. I grew up unchurched. I was baptized in a Lutheran church as a baby and went to my sister’s wedding at a Lutheran church when I was 9. Other than that, I had not been in a church until I was 24 (10 years ago).
I’m a person that thinks too much and in my early years as a Christian I struggled with doubt (still do). My resolution to those doubts was to find an answer for everything. I’ve evolved in my thinking and realize that for me my faith stands on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and what that means (atonement, salvation, and hope) and not on all the particulars. While some of the particulars can still be important and even worth defending, I can’t hold on to them so tightly as to make them suffocate my faith.



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Marquis Crocker

posted June 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm


Comment for entry for free book.



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Kristian

posted June 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm


I wouldn’t have listed Clyde if the question had been just about monkeys. Any self-respecting orangutan would repeatedly punch you in the kidneys if you called them a monkey.
I agree with Rachel about evolution in that it’s not goal-driven, it just does its best to adapt the species to its current environment (in a very large timescale). It’s not a constant line of improvements, it’s a bunch of changes brought forth by changes in the surroundings. Many people see evolution as some sort of gradual path from imperfect to perfect, which isn’t what its about.
Religions evolve with Zeitgeist. They either adapt or they die. There are always the conservative groups that drag behind times (these days, for example those people who still have negative view on gays) but these groups will slowly die out as morals evolve to condemn their views as abhorrent and evil. The same evolution happened with interracial issues not too long ago.
In this sense the evolution of religion and the evolution of species are very similar. It’s not a purposeful progress, it’s just adapting to the surroundings.
Nothing is written in stone, not even the ten commandments. Like the rest of the bible, they’re worthless without interpretation, and they’re always interpreted in the light of Zeitgeist, and the interpretations evolve along with mankind.



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Marcio

posted June 23, 2010 at 5:41 pm


Interesting comment on the “Christian skeptic” issue. People usually ignore that lots of things we believe now depended on people asking questions and gathering to find answers. Early Christianity has an amazing history of councils where religious leaders would try to find answers for the questions asked at that time, like those on the true nature of Jesus. For 21st century people such questions may be silly, but after some reading we discover that we could compare those issues to the current creation-evolution debate.



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Matt @ The Church of No People

posted June 23, 2010 at 5:42 pm


I’m reading through Rachel’s book, and I have to say it is one of the best memoirs I have read in a long time. It’s well thought out, well crafted, just an all around great read. I’m not quite done, so I’ll be anxious to see how it ends.



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Micha Boyett Hohorst

posted June 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm


I would love a copy of Rachel’s book for three reasons:
1. Someday we are going to be friends.
2. I want to talk about her on my blog.
3. I’m a pro at making monkey sounds. Ask my two year old.



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Kristian

posted June 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm


I’m currently reading “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know” – an autobiography of Sir Ranulph Fiennes. I’m holding off reviewing Monkey Town until I’m done with Sir Ranulph’s book, and will do both at the same time.



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Rachel H. Evans

posted June 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm


Micha,
We should definitely chat sometime…but only if you make the monkey sounds. :-)



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Kathryn

posted June 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm


“List your own suggestion for culturally significant monkeys” ? You’re trying to make me look stupid?
The winged monkeys from Wizard of Oz? Wickershams from Horton Hears a Who? Are all monkeys evil?
For either Jason or Rachel – do you find embracing doubt, or at least saying that it is not antithetical to faith, invokes a fear reaction from many Christians? How do you handle that? (I tend to keep my mouth shut in order to not “cause them to stumble.”)



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Kristian

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:06 pm


Also, the coolest entirely fictional ape is Librarian of the Unseen University (an orangutan) in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.
Discworld is a world traveling on the back of a giant turtle. Which makes for a decent tie-in between Monkey Town and OMOLF.



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Mark

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:19 pm


Favorite Monkee Michael Neismith
Extremely interesting conversation. I’d love to have a cup of coffee with you guys!



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Jason Boyett

posted June 24, 2010 at 12:34 am


Kathryn:
That’s a great question, and yes, I’ve found that some Christians can be apprehensive about those who admit doubt. The “causing others to stumble” question is one both of us have dealt with. I won’t answer for Rachel, but I can point you to a post I made on the subject and the great conversation that resulted:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/omeoflittlefaith/2010/05/The-Problem-with-Asking-Hard-Questions.html
I’ve found that sometimes it’s good to keep my mouth shut, either to keep from scandalizing someone who might not handle it well, or just to avoid the arguments (or apologetics) that might result. It comes down to attitude. Am I revealing my doubts in order to practice transparency, engender conversation, and encourage others who in the same doubtful place? Or am I just throwing darts at your faith to see what kind of damage I might do? Those are the questions I always need to ask before spilling my guts.



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Sara M

posted June 24, 2010 at 12:58 am


Tarzan is not really a monkey, but he was raised as one and was the first “monkey” character that came to my mind. I really enjoyed reading Tarzan of the Apes when I was a kid. Also, Thanks for the interview posts. I have Rachel’s book on order at Barnes and Noble and am looking forward to reading it!



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Kathryn

posted June 24, 2010 at 6:25 am


Thanks for the link, Jason. That must have been before i was reading your blog, or i missed it somehow. (Or simply forgot, my memory is atrocious.)
BTW, i wrote some on your 2nd chapter today, if you should be interested. Not much about your book, more on my ideas spring-boarding from it. But it can be found here: http://4katekattoo.blogspot.com/2010/06/chapter-2-turtles-all-way-down.html



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Justin

posted June 24, 2010 at 8:36 am


That monkey from the “Pirates of the Carribean” movies that turns into a ghost at night. Wicked cool.



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Dave S

posted June 24, 2010 at 10:46 am


Lancelot Link Secret Chimp. By far the coolest primate on TV ever.



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Adrienne

posted June 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm


Hi Rachel!
I look forward to reading your book. I will even buy one if my cheapskate nature does not come through with a free copy for me, because I’m proud of your journey (and taste in music)
I have no famous monkey (although I am quite fond of siamangs, which are apes). We did just see an old Disney movie called “The Monkey’s Uncle” a few months ago. Which in addition to having an ape in it, not a chimpanzee, did NOT age well. Sorry, Disney.



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MIssy

posted June 24, 2010 at 9:57 pm


Sock Monkey (but not the man-sized one in that commercial–he creeps me out)
To Rachel, I am interested in knowing more about your comment:
“I’m also settling into a new way of reading the Bible that embraces the fact that it doesn’t exist to answer all of my questions.”
I think the Bible’s failure to clearly answer my questions is a significant part of the reason why I no longer have any interest in reading it. Your comment carries hope for me, and since this evolution of faith occurred after the book, I’m dying to know, how might I read the Bible and not become increasingly frustrated and confused?



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Robert

posted June 24, 2010 at 10:57 pm


The monkey from the Disney movie *Barefoot Executive* as well as King Louie from *Jungle Book*
A question for Rachel-how do you deal with doubt in light of Pauls statement in Romans 1 where he says everyone is without excuse because God has given ample evidence for His existence and His character??? Great reviews you and jason have been getting for your books!!!



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Rachel H. Evans

posted June 24, 2010 at 11:23 pm


Missy,
Great question. I think we may be kindred spirits. :-)
There are still days when I am frustrated and confused by the Bible. That hasn’t really changed…but my expectations have.
In the book I write about how I grew up in an environment where the goal was always to get everyone on the same page, “to come up with one consistent, coherent, and comprehensive biblical worldview so that we can confidently proclaim that God indeed has an opinion about everything, including politics, economics, theology, science, and sex. We think that if we can just have a perfect, seamless book that can be read objectively and without bias, we will have the ultimate weapon. There will be no need for a God who stays hidden up on Mount Sinai, and there will be no need for each other. Instead, we will have a physical representation of God on which to dwell, personal idols made of paper and ink.”
I guess I’ve just resolved that maybe the Bible isn’t supposed to make perfect sense. Maybe we’re supposed to wrestle with it…and that we learn what we need to learn in the wrestling, together. In other words, if the Bible were an easy read, we wouldn’t really need community.
At this point I could pretend like I spend a lot of time with rabbis and know all about Jewish culture – but that would be a lie. However, I have read some Rob Bell books and sat in on some theology conferences, and what I’ve heard from these guys is that for Jewish readers of Scripture, it’s been a long-held assumption that we learn as much in the dialog surrounding the text as we do from the text itself. After all, having our own copies of the Bible is a relatively recent phenomenon. Historically, it’s been read in a group setting.
So I guess you might say that since finishing the book, I’ve sort of settled into a habit of not demanding so much from the Bible. I’m more open to listening to scholars doing work outside the bounds of conservative evangelicalism. I’m more willing to confront my own frustrations with the text. And I’m more honest with my friends, family, and faith community about the fact that I don’t like everything I read.
It helps to think of the Bible as something that’s meant to start conversations, not end them.
Hope that helps.
Feel free to drop me an email via the Web site anytime!



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Rachel H. Evans

posted June 24, 2010 at 11:30 pm


Robert,
The problem is that sometimes I doubt whether Romans 1 is true! :-)
That’s what makes the whole cycle a bit vicious. When you’re wrestling with tough questions about your particular faith tradition, answers from within that faith tradition seem suspect.
Now, given the fact that at the moment I am inclined to believe Paul was on to something in Romans 1, I would say that the passage gives me a lot of hope because it means no one is beyond the reach of God’s pull – Everyone has access to evidence that he is there, reaching out. I love the passage in Acts that explains, “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” I find that really encouraging, not just for myself, but for people all around the world.



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Susan

posted June 24, 2010 at 11:49 pm


by far, grape ape
Thanks for a great interview, look forward to getting a hold of the book at some point to read…
what is the right way to go about a blog?…not sure I have anything to say people want to hear :)



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Ross

posted June 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm


Ham the Astrochimp – first hominid launched into outer space!



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