I agreed to review this book as part of a blog tour, mostly because it was one of the few nonfiction offerings on the list. I’m glad I did. While I’d love to say I read this as a totally objective reader, just reading someone else’s memoir, I found myself relating to some of the same struggles and doubts the author has experienced.
In a nutshell, Evolving in Monkey Town (so titled because she grew up in Dayton, Tennessee, home to the famous Scopes Trial of 1925) chronicles the faith journey of author Rachel Held Evans, from her upbringing in a Christian family and church, through her college years and beyond. It brought to mind fun memories of AWANA clubs and Bible drills. It also brought to mind some questions I’ve had along the way, and the slow realization I’ve come to in understanding that God is quite okay with our questions. Answers are great on a test, but in our walk with God, it’s often our questions that serve to connect us more deeply to God. How great of a relationship would you have with someone you already knew everything about?
Along the way, and in the midst of her doubts, Evans comes face to face with the Jesus of the Gospels – as she puts it, “God in Sandals.” This Jesus extends to her the same invitation he extends to us all – the invitation to live a radical faith. I appreciated her reminder that Peter’s challenge to always be ready with an answer was written to potential martyrs whose radical faith would most likely result in their death, and whose radical living would arouse curiosity. “This passage is not about fearlessly defending a set of propositions; it’s about fearlessly defending hope . . . !” How often have I tried to reduce my faith to a set of safe, definable propositions?
My favorite line in the book comes towards the end, where she says, “Love is bigger than faith and it’s certainly bigger tha works, for it inhabits and transcends both. (. . . still speaking of love) How ironic that the most important fundamental element in the Christian faith is something that is relative, something that cannot be measured with science, systemized with theology or managed with rules. . . . How lovely and how terrible that absolute truth exists in something that cannot really be named.”
Brilliant writing, admirable courage and a gentle spirit combine to make Evolving in Monkey Town a surprisingly worthwhile read. I’m glad it ended up on my list!