Blogger Interview: Rachel Held Evans

May 28, 2010

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!

Here’s Rachel:

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.

Tell us about Evolving in Monkey Town.

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.

That’s Rachel.  Be sure to check out her blog, pre-order the book, and comment here about doubt, monkeys, or anything else to enter for a chance to win a free copy! 

22 responses to Blogger Interview: Rachel Held Evans

  1. It’s always nice to be the first commenter. It’s always cool to hear about those that live thier dreams – and to read great writing about things that have real meaning.

    Thanks for sharing Racehl and Matt.


  2. Wow, it’s fun to be the first commmenter.

    I love to hear how childhood dreams are fulfilled. Thanks for sharing Rachal and Matt.


  3. There is something about a dream becoming a reality that is beautiful beyond words. Maybe I should go back to school for that Marine Biology degree after all. :)

  4. Good interview! I look forward to reading Rachel’s book and I’m thankful that while I grew up in a “conservative” household, “fundamental” could never really describe it. I have many friends who can’t say that so they have their “God box” where they keep all things “religious” that is separate from real life where they are allowed to question.

  5. When I read, “…hold my beliefs with an open hand” I was hooked. I’d love to win a copy!

  6. Good stuff. Looking forward to the book Rachel Held Evens (I just like typing your full name)/

    Good questions Matt, you know how to get to the real matters, like who would she go out on a date with. :)

  7. What a fun interview! I’m thinking “Rachwell” for the Rachel/undead Jerry thing.

  8. Thanks for sharing! I read about her book somewhere else … can’t remember where, now … and it sounded intriguing. I love the new honesty coming from our generation about faith.

  9. I don’t agree with a lot of her theology and positions but I’m glad you did the interview with her. Discussion is always good and the Falwell question made me smile. :)

  10. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share, Matt. This is one of my favorite blogs, so it’s an honor!

    Y’all feel free to ask follow-ups, and if you’re interested in participating in the blog tour, let me know. We still have a few spots left:

  11. I love Rachel’s blog. I love the open discussion that happens there that’s raw and honest. That’s what I love about this blog too. I say amen to what your generation has to offer the next. I can’t tell you guys how encouraged I am when I read both of your blogs that you guys won’t drop the ball as much as my generation did… that you will offer hope and encouragement to the generation following you that says it’s ok to ask questions, it’s ok to be who you are in the journey, and it’s ok to do things differently than it’s been done in the past. May your tribe increase! Thanks you guys for always inspiring me to live that way too.

  12. Rachel’s blog has a special position in the top 3 of the many blogs that I enjoy. I can’t wait to read her book.

  13. Great interview! I also enjoy Rachel’s blog. I find her take refreshing and look forward to the book.

  14. Matt, so I suppose you’ll be looking for the witch of Endor for your matchmaking endeavor?! :) pvk

  15. Great question about writing/speaking being fulfilling – Donald Miller has sparked a “want to be a famous spiritual memoir-ist” in Christendom and I hypothesize that its the motivation behind many bloggers, hoping to make it big and become a famous & respected author

  16. curious to know if Rachel ever does guest speaking… that last paragraph along about this generation doing things differently is a big deal

  17. Great interview!! I am hooked on reading Rachel’s blog every day! Ican’t wait to read her upcoming book!!

  18. Awesome interview matt, especially all the humor displayed in it!!! I am like kim above, hooked on Rachels blog and cant wait to read her book!! A question Matt seeing as how the church IS people and you are the church of no people, isnt that an oxymoron or something??? *grins* Great blog Matt!!

  19. Kande,

    I do a little bit of speaking here and there. Here’s a link to my topics:

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words!

  20. Way to snag the first interview with Rachel, Matt! Good questions — I learned some things about her I didn’t know (particularly her dinner date preferences). I love Rachel, appreciate her candor and intellect, and can’t wait to read her book.

    Nicely done.

  21. Good interview. So many people have preconceived ideas about Christians and it is great to see Rachel’s humor and faith come through.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Rachel Held Evans Interview - June 21, 2010

    […] Marshall: I’ll second that recommendation. He even did a month-long series on doubt a few months back. And here’s Matt’s version of the Rachel Held Evans Show. […]