Hey everyone, I’ve got an interview with a really cool blogger today, Rachel Held Evans. I found Rachel’s blog a few months ago and now I’m a huge fan of hers. She’s not afraid to talk about tough subjects, speaks bluntly but graciously, and she’s written a book that’s coming out in July that I’m really excited about. In fact, Rachel is so cool, that she’s letting me give away free copies of her book. Anyone who leaves a comment on this interview will be entered to win!
Okay, Rachel, who are you anyway?
Well, I’m from Dayton, Tennessee, home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. As you may have noticed, my name forms a complete sentence, which I figured made me important enough to write a blog. I’ve lived in Dayton for about 16 years and am happily married to a Jersey transplant named Dan. I have a Southern accent that only surfaces when I’m really excited or really mad. I’m obsessed with college football, and if eating had no consequences, I’d eat a roll of refrigerated cookie dough every morning for breakfast. I try to follow Jesus Christ, but fail at it most of the time, which is why I am so thankful for God’s grace.
Oh, and my fist book comes out with Zondervan later this summer. It’s called “Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Used to Ask the Questions.”
There’s lots of Christian stereotypes out there. If there was a Christian stereotype named after you, what would it conjure up in peoples’ minds? What’s a Rachel Held Evans Christian?
Wow. This is a really interesting question. I recently took a quiz entitled, “Are You a Christian Hipster?” and my numbers were off the charts, on account of my affinity for Sufjan Stevens, NT Wright, creation care, “authenticity,” and calling myself a “follower of Christ” rather than a Christian. I’m pretty much your classic twenty-something searcher, who is cynical about church and hopeful about Jesus. I relate to a lot of what is being said in the emerging church circles, but (like a good Christian hipster) am wary of labels. I’m not special enough to create my own stereotype. I fit too nicely into existing ones.
Your blog says you’re an author, speaker and blogger. How long have you been going on this career path? Do you call that your career? How did you get started?
In third grade I wrote a short story entitled “A Helping Wing” (a poignant morality tale about avian cooperation in the wake of Mrs. Robin’s nesting disaster) and read it at my elementary school’s talent show. It was a big hit, and later that year I dressed up as an author for career day, which of course sealed the deal. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since. I majored in English Literature, worked for peanuts in a newsroom, tried the freelance thing, wrote book proposals, cried after getting rejected by several publishers, and did a little happy dance after getting accepted by Zondervan. So far it’s been a great ride.
Wait…how do you dress as an author for career day? I dressed up as a scientist because I got to wear a lab coat. Don’t authors just sit at their computers in their pajamas all day? Anyway…
What authors and bloggers do you look up to? Any bloggers you totally resent?
LoL! You must be referring to my classic, “On Resenting Anne Jackson” post. Unfortunately, my admiration for other writers tends to be accompanied by a twinge of jealousy, which is why I need the aforementioned grace of God so much. Off the top of my head I think of Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, Jon Acuff, Sara Miles, Jim Palmer, Shauna Niequist, Scot McKnight, Anne Jackson, and that Matt guy who writes “The Church of No People” (shameless kissing up). Then there’s always the greats, like Flannery O’Conner and William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson…but as far as I know, they don’t have blogs.
Shameless kissing up is always acceptable. You are right to be jealous of me. Even I am jealous of me.
Is being an author / speaker / blogger as glamorous and fulfilling as you hoped it would be?
Nope. Career achievements are rarely as fulfilling as we expect them to be, but relationships are. And I’ve been really blessed by some of the relationships my writing has enabled me to build. I love meeting other people from around the country who know what it’s like to struggle with doubt or fear or insecurity and who feel a strong connection with what I have to say. That is really encouraging and rewarding.
The book is a memoir about wrestling with religious doubt in the buckle of the Bible Belt. It’s about how I overcame my own fundamentalism by learning to hold my beliefs with an open hand. It’s also about how faith, like a living organism, has a remarkable ability to adapt to change in order to survive. I like to say that the book is about how my faith evolved, hence the title, “Evolving in Monkey Town.”
What’s your angle on doubt?
I believe that doubt can be both helpful and harmful. It can be helpful when it forces us to reexamine our beliefs about God with humility, openness, and a willingness to admit we don’t have all the answers. It can be destructive when we use it as excuse to not obey, to avoid living as Jesus lived and loving as Jesus loved.
Now, I grew up in a culture that emphasized apologetics to such a degree that asking difficult questions about Christianity was looked down upon. I held so many beliefs to be fundamental that I left very little room in my faith for change. So when I started asking myself some tough questions about origins, the Bible, religious exclusivism, politics, the Problem of Evil, heaven and hell, I thought my entire faith was falling apart. But as it turns out, doubt played a really redemptive role in my life. It forced me to reconsider some of my assumptions and led me to learn some beautiful new things about Christ and his kingdom. I haven’t figured everything out yet, and I still struggle with some serious doubts, but I’m convinced that the worst kind of doubt, the kind that leads to despair, does not begin when we start asking God questions but when out of fear we stop.
Who would you most like to go on a date with: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or the late Jerry Falwell?
If Jerry Falwell went to the trouble to rise from the grave just to have dinner with me, I figure I should take him up on it and hear him out.
Note to self: I think I just got the scoop of the year. Rachel Held Evans has it bad for undead Jerry Falwell. I’m taking this straight to The Enquirer. Now to find Jerry…
What does this generation of Christians have to offer the next generation?
There are a few things that I really hope our generation does differently, for the benefit of the next. First, I hope we choose to pledge our allegiance first and foremost to the Kingdom of God, not to any one political party or platform. Second, I hope we transcend the false dichotomy between faith and science and have the courage to start some tough conversations about how to embrace them both. Third, I hope we agree to call a truce and stop using the Bible as a weapon. Fourth, I hope we take a more loving posture toward the gay community. And finally, I hope we re-prioritize caring for “the least of these,” the hungry, the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed, the thirsty, and the homeless, both in our own neighborhoods and around the world.