The church is struggling to move from modernity to post-modernity but it must do if it wants to engage with this next generation.  Rachel Evans writes Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions as an under 30 aged woman who grew up with all the modern conveniences of American Christianity – Christian home, private schooling, a dad who was a theologian, she even won the `Best Christian Attitude Award’ in her school four consecutive years!

For example:

  • This is a girl who wrote out the plan of salvation on construction paper, folded it into a airplane and sailed it into her Mormon neighbour’s back garden.
  • Rachel learned that abortion was wrong before she learned where babies came from.
  • She cried when she learned that her grandfather voted for Bill Clinton, thinking he would now be sent to hell when he died.
  • She would move the wise men away from the holiday manger scenes since the Magi didn’t really arrive till Jesus was a toddler in order for the scene to be more biblically accurate.

But as certain as Rachel was in her belief system as she grew up it simply didn’t answer the questions she faced in life.  Just as her hometown of Dayton, Tennessee is famous for the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925 against a teacher who taught evolution in his classroom) Rachel found her own faith on trial.  It didn’t survive, at least not in the form it started in.  It would be safe to say it evolved.  Here are her words:

“I encountered a different Jesus, a Jesus who requires more from me than intellectual assent and emotional allegiance; a Jesus who associated with sinners and infuriated the religious; a Jesus who broke the rules and refused to cast the first stone; a Jesus who gravitated toward sick people and crazy people, homeless people and hopeless people; a Jesus who preferred story to exposition and metaphor to syllogism; a Jesus who answered questions with more questions, and demands for proof with demands for faith; a Jesus who taught his followers to give without expecting anything in return, to love their enemies to the point of death, to live simply and without a lot of stuff, and to say what they mean and mean what they say; a Jesus who healed each person differently and saved each person differently; a Jesus who had no list of beliefs to check off, no doctrinal statement to sign, no surefire way to tell who was `in’ and who as `out’; a Jesus who loved after being betrayed, healed after being hurt, and forgave while being nailed to a tree; a Jesus who asked his disciples to do the same thing.”

There are few minor issues: her conversations with friends seem a bit contrived – the voices of her friends all begin to sound the same.  She does not explain how the very church and educational institution she criticises could produce such a free thinker as herself.  But these are minor flaws – this is a good book.  It will speak to anyone who has ever felt the stifling heat of orthodoxy, to those who want to be free to worship God without a spiritual Big Brother looking over their shoulders.

I recommend this book to anyone who is considering whether there is room in the church to ask troubling questions without being ostracised.

Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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