Part 1 of my interview with Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town was posted yesterday.
Today the interview continues and you have a chance to win a copy of her book. Leave a comment before Monday and you could win!
Yesterday, I listed a number of the topics Rachel writes about in the book. Today I asked her questions about a few of those topics. I would love to discuss the whole book here, but the interview would be way too long — plus you’d have no reason to read the book. If you’d like to hear Rachel’s thoughts on the other topics, enter to win a copy below or pick up a copy of Evolving in Monkey Town here.
Janet: Zarmina’s story touched me, as did your realization of a crack, then multiple cracks in the biblical worldview wall. What’s your opinion on a biblical worldview now – is there such a thing? Can a worldview be summed up in one or two words?
Rachel: I think “biblical” can be an unhelpful word when it is used prescriptively rather than simply descriptively. For example, technically speaking it is “biblical” for women to be considered property and for men to have multiple wives. That’s just what the culture was like when the Bible was written. But few people would argue that submitting to a husband’s desire for multiple wives constitutes “biblical womanhood” today. The same goes for cosmology and creation and all kinds of other topics in which the Bible’s ancient cultural context plays a role. In that sense, a “biblical worldview” includes a flat earth with a solid firmament in which the stars are fixed, the acceptance of slavery, and the assumption that people think and feel with their stomachs!
So I find it problematic when modern Westerners advocate the acceptance of a “biblical worldview,” as I think it’s impossible for us to share the minds of ancient near eastern people. What I think they mean is that as Christians we should have a view of life and the world that is impacted by the many timeless principles found in Scripture, and particularly in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. I agree, but considering the fact that we all interpret the Bible a little differently and we all have different opinions about which of these principles are indeed timeless, I think the phrase “biblical worldview” sounds a bit too singular, too presumptuous. I think instead we should celebrate the fact that there are as many views of the world as there are people, and that even within the Christian community it’s possible to see things a little differently. While the Bible certainly informs my view of the world, I do not claim to have a monopoly on its many truths.
Janet: You write about your frustration with the practice of calling everything a “God thing” from good weather for a picnic to cars, jobs, etc. I agree with you. Recently a nasty storm in my hometown blew over a lot of trees – some people had their houses/barns hit, some didn’t. The ones that didn’t said or posted updates like “So thankful for God’s protection.” “It was a God thing – he was really watching out for us.” I was sad for the people who had damage – guess God was too busy protecting the others or something. Have you found a creative way to respond to the “God thing” conversations?
Rachel: That’s such a great example of why “God things” can be a frustrating turn of phrase! If God’s goodness is determined by how much stuff he gives out, then he’s not particularly good—at least not to the widows and orphans I met in India, who suffered from extreme poverty and disease. Yet the fact that these widows and orphans seemed to have such a beautiful relationship with God makes me wonder if material “blessings” are really blessings after all. Maybe Jesus was purposefully turning the concept of blessing on its head when he said “blessed are the poor,” and “woe to you who are rich.” Maybe new cars and spared homes aren’t really “God things,” but rather neutral events at best and temptations at worst.
I understand why people use the phrase and I don’t try to “correct” them when they do. (I believe they are sincerely wishing to show gratefulness and appreciation to God for those things that are indeed out of their control.) But in my own life, I try to look at both the good things and bad things that come my way as opportunities for me to do evil or good. I believe something becomes a “God thing” when we use it to advance love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And that’s our choice, not God’s.
Janet: Was there a particular chapter in Monkey Town that was really fun and/or easy to write? Why? What about one that was difficult to write? Why?
Rachel: I really enjoyed writing those short, in-between chapters about some of the interesting people I’ve met in my life—from June the Ten Commandments Lady, to Laxmi the Widow, to Sam the Feminist. It was nice to take a break from myself and my own story for a while! The hardest…(though perhaps most cathartic)…chapters to write were chapters 7-11 because they touch on some of the troublesome theological issues that triggered my doubts. I cried a lot and ate a lot during those months of writing. (Animal crackers and red wine are my writing vices.)
Janet: Now that your ‘baby’ is out and traveling around the world, is there something you wish you could change and/or add to it?
Rachel: Oh yes! Every time I pick up the book I find a sentence I would rewrite! But I would keep the content exactly the same, even though my perspective has “evolved” in some ways since I finished the book. I really want my story to serve as a companion to young people who are asking similar questions about their faith, and I think they will relate more to my voice of two years ago than my voice of today.
This concludes the interview. If you want more of Rachel, she’s on Facebook and Twitter or visit her blog. She writes regularly there addressing issues from politics to seeking peace to vacations.
Order Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions here.
Everyone that leaves a comment here will have a chance to win a copy of Evolving in Monkey Town. So say hi, ask a question or start a discussion in the comments below about something in the interview or something that you wish would have been in the interview. (Leave contact info (email, twitter) so I can contact you if you win)
Disclosure – I received a free copy of Evolving to review. That in no way influenced my review, I would like the book whether or not I paid for it.