Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith. Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask.
She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years. In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, Evolving in Monkey Town is a fearlessly honest story of survival.
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Customer Reviews for Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions
Review 1 for Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions
First, the good news, the author does write clearly—unlike the professorish types who use twenty words to say what a human being could say in five words. Her tone is conversational and pleasant, and she isn’t openly harsh toward people whose views differ from her own. Still, there is an air of intellectual superiority here that becomes tedious.
The book is the familiar tale of the ex-evangelical who “evolved” and hopes to get other evangelicals to do the same—meaning, switch from conservative to liberal, or “commited Christian” to “post-modern sorta kinda semi-Christian.” She cast aside her belief in the literalness of Genesis and, like most converts to liberalism, seems to think that all evangelicals talk and preach about Genesis on a regular basis—which is not true at all. Part of the problem with writers like Evans is that when she looks at evangelicals and fundamentals, she sees them through the eyes of the secular culture, meaning she is trained to see Christians as anti-science (also anti-woman, anti-gay, etc), meaning they are stupid about some things and (by implication) stupid about everything else too. Anyone who believes God made the world in six 24-hour days must be wrong about God being the Creator, right? Like all ex-evangelicals, she criticizes the Bible’s “condoning of genocide”—specifically, the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament relates God ordering the Israelites to move into Canaan and kill the natives. Yes, it is a violent book—but does she really think that genocide today is motivated by people reading the Book of Joshua? There is no hint in the New Testament that Christians are to slaughter infidels, and no Christian today condones genocide. Again, she is looking at Christianity through the secularists’ eyes instead of looking objectively at what Christians today practice. She employs the familiar liberal tactic: make a connection between Christianity and the word “genocide,” and you make the doubtful Christian even more willing to give up his faith. (Ditto for “witch hunts.” No witches have been executed by Christians for four centuries, but in the secular view of things, they are still piling up the firewood.) What a pity that the secular version of history never includes millions of act of charity done by Christians over the centuries, people who took “love your neighbor” as a direct command. There is a seductive quality in this book—as in, a doubter trying to seduce others into doubting. In fact, the author seems to honor doubt more than truth. Probably any purchaser of this book has already begun to doubt her faith, so it’s a relatively easy seduction. It is a sign of immaturity to boast of being in the Doubting Thomas Society instead of the Christian church—or, as the Doubters might call it, the Boring Close-Minded Reactionary Club. As a rule, the Doubting crowd ends up believing not much of anything, so there is no discernible difference between the ex-evangelical and the secular agnostic. Frankly, I have more respect for the ex-Christian who completely abandons the faith and says so bluntly. It is hard to respect this author who sorta kinda hangs on to the name of “Christian,” while she and her supposedly Christian publisher are happy to make money from books designed to tear down people’s faith instead of enrich it. When you find yourself mentally more comfortable with unbelievers than with believers, do the obvious thing: exit the church.
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Review 2 for Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions
Date:July 20, 2010
As someone who grew up in a small town in the deep South, there were many times that I wondered if she was talking about Dayton, Tennessee or if she was really talking about my own small towns. I really appreciated the history she shared about traditional evangelical beliefs and how those beliefs paved the way for her own discoveries. I learned a lot in this book not only about Rachel herself, but about Christianity in the South and how my own traditions fit in.As I read, I was struck by one major theme Rachel seemed to most struggle with the traditional views of heaven and hell. If youre born again and saved you go to heaven no matter what. If youve never accepted Jesus, you go to hell again, no matter what. So many people, particularly in the South, see this belief as the core of Christianity. If you dont believe this, youre not Christian. And yet this belief calls into question the unconditional love of God that Jesus proclaimed and lived. I admire Rachel for wrestling with this question and for being brave and honest enough to put it out there for the world to see.Im encouraged by her willingness to live in the gray to see the world as a rainbow of colors instead of black and white. She encourages us to see Christianity not as a set of beliefs, but as being Jesus in tennis shoes.