Halted Evolution in Monkey Town
I recently read Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans. I’ll admit I’m slow, as this came out years ago. When I read the blurb, I was intrigued. The book is Rachel’s story about her trials in trying to find out if what she has been raised to believe is true. As you might imagine, that was something that sounded interesting to me.
Rachel grew up in Dayton, Tennessee, the home of the famous Scopes Monkey trial. Despite growing up in a Christian home with a theologian father, and attending a Christian university, she eventually started asking questions that Christians are not supposed to. Why is there evil? Why does the Bible say that most people will be tortured forever? Is the Bible really inerrant? Can someone live by the teachings of the Bible?
I admit, I was sucked in. During her journey, Rachel passed many of the same milestones I had. She talked about learning about the history of the Bible. She learning about other cultures and met people who didn’t match what she had been taught. She learned about what science has found out (and can prove) about the world and its history and mechanisms. I thought I had found a kindred spirit. I loved learning about Rachel’s journey into questioning, and I couldn’t wait to hear where it ended.
Then came a turn. In her book, Rachel describes a conversation with her theologian father. After unloading her very good questions, Rachel apparently came to the line she would refuse to cross. She questioned aloud if God is real. She writes with deep emotion about the shocked and hurt look on her father’s face. This was a turning point for Rachel, as after this her tone changes considerably.
After this conversation we are given the story of her reading late one night in Revelations. She had of course read it many times before. This time, however, she decides that the diverse multitudes described in the book are people from all religions and cultures, which will somehow be saved instead of being sent to hell. Rachel decides to carve her own liberal Christianity by extracting whatever she doesn’t agree with out, and deciding that the majority of humanity will not be punished for being human. Her quest for truth stops short and she decides that if Christianity doesn’t make sense, then it just needs to be changed into something that does. Any teaching or dogma can be rejected. Her plan is clear, and she even explicitly states later in the book that questioning things is great, EXCEPT questioning the existence of God is a vice.
Why Rachel? Because it could hurt your dad’s feelings to know that you don’t believe? So you will propagate beliefs that don’t stand up to scrutiny? I’m disappointed, Rachel. In your book you state that kids grow up when they learn that they can hurt their parents. I put forth that instead kids grow up when they realize that their parents can be wrong.
It’s time to finish growing up, Rachel.