Evolving in Monkey Town
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith.In Faith Unraveled, Rachel recounts growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, struggling as her own faith unraveled one unexpected question at a time.In order for her faith to survive, Rachel realizes, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty to doubt to faith, Evans challenges you to disentangle your faith from false fundamentals and to trust in a God who is big enough to handle your tough questions.In a changing cultural environment where new ideas seem to threaten the safety and security of the faith, Faith Unraveled is a fearlessly honest story of survival.This book is also available, with this same ISBN entitled "Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions"...with a published date of 2010 by Zondervan...it has the reddish cover, not this cover.

Evolving in Monkey Town Details

TitleEvolving in Monkey Town
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 26th, 2010
PublisherZondervan
ISBN-139780310293996
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Christian, Autobiography, Memoir, Religion, Theology, Spirituality, Biography, Christianity, Faith, Biography Memoir

Evolving in Monkey Town Review

  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    Perhaps I am just reading this book at the exact right time in my life, but I think this is one of the best spiritual memoirs I have ever read. Rachel Held Evans is funny, brilliant, and brutally honest, but in a gracious, loving way. This is a book all about questioning our beliefs in God, and that it is okay to do so. This book has given me the courage to ask those questions I have been putting pins in, questions that I thought might destroy my faith if I asked, questions that might get me dir Perhaps I am just reading this book at the exact right time in my life, but I think this is one of the best spiritual memoirs I have ever read. Rachel Held Evans is funny, brilliant, and brutally honest, but in a gracious, loving way. This is a book all about questioning our beliefs in God, and that it is okay to do so. This book has given me the courage to ask those questions I have been putting pins in, questions that I thought might destroy my faith if I asked, questions that might get me dirty looks, questions that might never be answered. After reading her book, I am even firmer in the belief that questions are part of the journey and I must embrace them, even love them, if I have a hope of growing in my spiritual walk.
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  • Annalie Riordan
    January 1, 1970
    This book is 200 pages of “Let’s all read what Rachel Held Evans feels about things." For a self-proclaimed critical thinker she displayed little of it here. Yes, her words sound pretty, but as soon as you stop and think – fluff.It's pretty obvious from reading this book that Rachel Held Evans values feelings and experience above Scriptural authority. There are so many examples that I will not list them all, but at one point she says, “The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes, This book is 200 pages of “Let’s all read what Rachel Held Evans feels about things." For a self-proclaimed critical thinker she displayed little of it here. Yes, her words sound pretty, but as soon as you stop and think – fluff.It's pretty obvious from reading this book that Rachel Held Evans values feelings and experience above Scriptural authority. There are so many examples that I will not list them all, but at one point she says, “The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes, the more likely we are to discount the work of the Spirit when it doesn’t conform to our presuppositions” (155). On the surface this seems true – wise, even – but only if she said incorrect theological absolutes. As it is, she has it flipped around. I should hope that if nothing else, we cling to true theological absolutes as tight as we can. I should hope that our theology as based on the Bible interprets, validates, or invalidates spiritual experience, not the other way around. After all, not every spiritual experience is Godly experience (1 John 4). If theology and what appears to be the work of the Spirit contradict, then we should follow Scripture.For a person rightly frustrated by Christians picking and choosing verses to support their causes, Rachel Held Evans sure did a lot of picking and choosing. On more than one occasion she cited passages from the Bible to prove her “point,” while at the same time completely ignoring verses from the same passage that would’ve challenged or even proven her wrong. (e.g. when she quotes Isaiah 55). This is related to my next point: Rachel Held Evans loves the straw man fallacy. It was extremely frustrating reading her dismiss “conservative” interpretations of the Bible by attacking either ultra conservative beliefs that the majority of people don’t hold (at least in my generation), or by tearing apart sunday school answers that no one above the age of 5 believes. Not once did she tackle what I consider to be valid “conservative” arguments.Sometimes I found her arguments just plain odd. On multiple occasions she said things like, “I’m an evolutionist because I believe that the best way to reclaim the gospel in times of change is not to cling more tightly to our convictions but to hold them with an open hand. I’m an evolutionist because I believe that sometimes God uses changes in the environment to pry idols from our grip and teach us something new. But most of all, I’m an evolutionist because my own story is one of unlikely survival – If it hadn’t been for evolution, I must have lost my faith,” (22, again on 212). Wait. She’s an evolutionist because of…metaphors? Not because of…science?This, I think, is the prime flaw of Monkeytown. Her arguments hinge on stories and metaphors, on analogies and fluff.
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  • Crystal Starr Light
    January 1, 1970
    Bullet Review:I am really glad the name changed from "Evolving in Monkey Town" to "Faith Unraveled" because the correlation between the actual subject matter of the book and the Scopes Trial is tenuous, at best. Reading the various attempts to intertwine the two were kinda painful, such as the mostly frivolous Chapter 3 on the history of Dayton, as really the only relation is that Evans became less fundamental (or as she calls, "evolved her Christianity") in the town where teaching evolution in Bullet Review:I am really glad the name changed from "Evolving in Monkey Town" to "Faith Unraveled" because the correlation between the actual subject matter of the book and the Scopes Trial is tenuous, at best. Reading the various attempts to intertwine the two were kinda painful, such as the mostly frivolous Chapter 3 on the history of Dayton, as really the only relation is that Evans became less fundamental (or as she calls, "evolved her Christianity") in the town where teaching evolution in science class was challenged.I've read Evans' A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and I really enjoyed that. I thought it really challenged many Christians perception of biblical womanhood - that there was ONE and ONLY ONE way to be a woman and the Bible spoke very clearly on that matter. (The quick and dirty answers are: No and nope. And don't bother commenting on this review how I'm wrong, because this is NOT the place for a debate. You wanna debate, write your own review. Thank you, Goodbye.)This? Not so much. Not only because of the aforementioned desperate attempt to tie in living in Dayton with her "evolution" of faith. It's a memoir, not a really in-depth look into Christians accepting scientific principles (which the old title, "Evolving in Monkey Town", somewhat hints at). This is just one woman having a crisis of faith - a very thoughtful topic, to be sure, but completely different from the one expected.Also, I find it strange how the author has this crisis of faith but never chose to look outside the Christian box for answers (or if she did research outside Christian circles, she never mentioned it). Did she investigate the historicity of Jesus by reading Bart Ehrman or Richard Carrier? Did she pick up "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins or "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens? What about other non-theistic religions? Did she research Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and many other tribal religions as well and how they answered her myriad of questions about heaven and hell and if homosexuality was a sin?I do completely understand her journey because many Christians can be very resistant to the "hard questions": Evil, heaven and hell, abortion, being gay, etc. And I think her book could be the path to move away from hardcore fundamentalism, which seeks to "conquer and destroy" and a more encompassing form of Christianity. I just wish that I had seen (if it happened) some form of Evans reaching to non-Christian sources for answers to her question.Also, I found the writing pretty choppy; it was odd how every other chapter (after the first section) focused on a different person and Evans' interpretation of that person and some facet she could morph into talking about her "evolution".My personal opinion is this: If you want high academic, this is not your book. If you are looking for some insight into Christians adopting scientific principles, this is also not your book. If you are a Christian asking questions or seeking comfort, you may enjoy this book. And if you are the type of person that loves the smooshy reads like Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women or Chicken Soup for the "Fill in the Blank" soul, this is pretty much up your alley.
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  • Deb
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book because I love Rachel Held Evans' blog. I think she might be one of my kindred spirits, theologically speaking. She was raised in a family and church steeped in conservative fundamentalist/evangelical American thought. She was a good student. She knew all the rules of who was saved and who was damned and how she was going to convert everyone to Christianity. She could win "sword" drills (remember those? finding a passage in the Bible faster than any other kid in the Sunday schoo I read this book because I love Rachel Held Evans' blog. I think she might be one of my kindred spirits, theologically speaking. She was raised in a family and church steeped in conservative fundamentalist/evangelical American thought. She was a good student. She knew all the rules of who was saved and who was damned and how she was going to convert everyone to Christianity. She could win "sword" drills (remember those? finding a passage in the Bible faster than any other kid in the Sunday school class). She held onto her beliefs with a death grip. But slowly she started to lose that grip. She grew tired of easy answers and started to ask the really hard questions. And the really hard questions rocked her world view. This book documents her journey from certainty through doubt to faith...but a different faith. A faith that "isn't about being right, or settling down, or refusing to change. Faith is a journey, and every generation contributes its own sketches to the map." This journey feels familiar to me as a "good Christian girl" who repeatedly has had to re-examine what I believe and make room for growth and evolution. Over the Rhine, my favorite band, said it best, "I'm not letting go of God, I'm just loosening my grip."As a "memoir" that Evans wrote at the tender age of 27, it's a bit choppy in places and underdeveloped. But there are moments of brilliance expressed with compassion, pop culture references and self-deprecating humor that catch my attention, that leave me underlining and starring passages in the margins. As I've seen her thought process and writing style develop on her blog, I have hopes she might be in the same lineage as Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Madeleine L'Engle, Anne Lamott...Women writers who inspire me to think harder, love bigger, question fearlessly."Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day." --Rainer Rilke
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  • LaKay
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book because of a post on Amanda Lawrence's Facebook page. I am so glad that I did. I highly recommend it for anyone who grew up in the ultra-Baptist world and has found themselves "progressive," "intellectual," "critical thinking," or any synonym of these. I grew up in Independent Fundamental Bible Believing Baptist Churches - just the kind Ms. Evans describes in this book. We were never taught to question or criticize anything and just told that the Bible is the "inherent Word of G I read this book because of a post on Amanda Lawrence's Facebook page. I am so glad that I did. I highly recommend it for anyone who grew up in the ultra-Baptist world and has found themselves "progressive," "intellectual," "critical thinking," or any synonym of these. I grew up in Independent Fundamental Bible Believing Baptist Churches - just the kind Ms. Evans describes in this book. We were never taught to question or criticize anything and just told that the Bible is the "inherent Word of God" and we should take it at face value. However unhappy I am with the squashing of all things smart and female, I did take one amazing thing from that experience which is my Faith and belief in God and Jesus. When I became a mom, I started struggling with how to reconcile my Faith (which I strongly feel has allowed me the grace to survive many things and has provided me with a sense of optimism) with my desire to raise a critically thinking strong progressive young woman. For many years I was unable to connect the two. After slowly edging my way back into church, I was finding a peace and happiness in that fellowship but still struggling with the childhood experiences I had. This book allowed me the freedom to connect my faith with the negative experiences of the churches I grew up in - and find a way to talk to my daughter about faith and feminism in one breath.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I went into this book with an open mind. "How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions" might stand in as the tag line for my own faith journey. I too attended Bryan College, drank coffee at Harmony House, and had a minor crisis of faith in college. I even took the Christian Worldview class under Professor Held, Rachel Held Evans' Dad. I too grew up in a Christian home, won the awards, and knew all the answers. Then I moved 12 hours away to attend a private, Christian college I went into this book with an open mind. "How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions" might stand in as the tag line for my own faith journey. I too attended Bryan College, drank coffee at Harmony House, and had a minor crisis of faith in college. I even took the Christian Worldview class under Professor Held, Rachel Held Evans' Dad. I too grew up in a Christian home, won the awards, and knew all the answers. Then I moved 12 hours away to attend a private, Christian college and found myself personally confronted with the problem of pain and the hypocrisy within the Bible Belt. My freshman year I struggled in the face of personal tragedy to believe that the God I loved could be good if He allowed evil in the world. All my academic answers fled and my emotions wreaked havoc. Yet the Millennial Christians around me used words like community and doing life together and emphasized that we were a chosen, unique generation. They dismissed my confusion. So yes, I get the crisis of faith. And I get coming back to the answers you originally dismissed and holding them lightly. Yet Evans stops there. She praises evolution of faith and tells us how she left fundamentalism to find her own fundamentals. But what fundamentals? Apparently some hidden truths discovered through community. (Presumably because we advance in our knowledge or goodness as time passes. After all, Christians no longer believe in a geocentric universe.)She dismisses the reason and arguments of "fundamentalist" by ignoring many of the real arguments and focusing on the fringe groups. And yes, I agree Dayton, Tennessee may have an inordinate number of fringe Christians, but that does not mean the articulated beliefs and hopes of countless Christians can be so easily dismissed. My greatest problem with this book is that Evans dismisses fundamentalism and replaces with...nothing. She pushes her emotions and personal stories and then hides behind them. This book offers mockery but not reason. And because she focuses more on how she feels about things, I finished this book and realized I felt less annoyed and more disappointed. I went in hoping to reason and talk together. I walked away told to respect her feelings and hold my beliefs loosely because after all...the Bible endorses multiple wives. Or something. (Also, this review is excellent. I recommend it.)
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    I wish there was an option for half-stars. I liked this book much more than three-out-of-five stars would suggest. While I'm not convinced that I subscribe to everything Rachel (her, not me) believes or suggests in the book, I'm coming away from it feeling like I really *get* her. Or like she really *gets* me; I'm not sure which. Maybe it's because I have a natural affinity for other strong-willed women who love Jesus, love reading, and who have got wind of the idea that they can be or do anythi I wish there was an option for half-stars. I liked this book much more than three-out-of-five stars would suggest. While I'm not convinced that I subscribe to everything Rachel (her, not me) believes or suggests in the book, I'm coming away from it feeling like I really *get* her. Or like she really *gets* me; I'm not sure which. Maybe it's because I have a natural affinity for other strong-willed women who love Jesus, love reading, and who have got wind of the idea that they can be or do anything a man can be or do (and bonus points if her name is also Rachel!). Anyway, the best way I could possibly put it is that it's like those people with the stickers on their Wranglers or Rubicons that say, "It's a Jeep thing; you wouldn't understand". The best way I could synopsize my "amen" for this book would be: "It's a raised-in-church-kid thing; you wouldn't understand." I too grew up with sword drills, apologetics classes, and scare-the-hell-out-of-you (literally) alternatives to Halloween. Not everyone who grows up in that kind of environment chooses to spend the rest of their life afterward following Jesus. I have. The adjustment to the adult, independent thinking version of this requires some self-confrontation. This book is a pretty brave confession of the good, the bad, and the ugly details of what that journey looked at for one girl (it's different for all of us), and how different life and faith look when you've come out on the other side. It's comforting. It's a great reminder that you can have a great "testimony" even if yours doesn't involve the big SDA (you know--sex, drugs, and alcohol!). It's a relief to say, "yeah, me too" that many times in less than 250 pages.I have a copy of Ken Wilson's book "Jesus Brand Spirituality" on my shelf. One day in June of 2008 after hearing him speak, I had him sign it for me after a brief but impactful conversation on this very topic: letting one's faith adjust and become more real in spite of/because of the idiosyncrasies of church culture. On the inside, he wrote, "Rachel, Without a church it's just words. Thanks for your patience with her." While at times patience has been required in working out the stuff of faith and life, I remember that God offers us His own character, which is never subject to change or adjustment, in response and in invitation. He's way more patient with me than I deserve, and He just keeps holding His hand out and beckoning me in closer. I'm grateful for the reminder. Thanks, Rach. :)
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  • Jenn LeBow
    January 1, 1970
    So many wonderful bloggers I follow have books coming out. BooMama, BigMama, Annie Downs, Sarah Bessey, Elizabeth Esther, Ed Cyzewski, and on and on. Plus the marvelous and very funny Lisa McKay released her memoir, Love At The Speed Of E-Mail, in May, which I promptly devoured on my Kindle and tweeted to her in real time exactly where I was in the book so she could permanently classify me as a potential stalker enjoy my reading experience by proxy. Then I bought a hard copy. I know the Kindle i So many wonderful bloggers I follow have books coming out. BooMama, BigMama, Annie Downs, Sarah Bessey, Elizabeth Esther, Ed Cyzewski, and on and on. Plus the marvelous and very funny Lisa McKay released her memoir, Love At The Speed Of E-Mail, in May, which I promptly devoured on my Kindle and tweeted to her in real time exactly where I was in the book so she could permanently classify me as a potential stalker enjoy my reading experience by proxy. Then I bought a hard copy. I know the Kindle is supposed to make our book load lighter as we move all over the world, Honey, really, but sometimes a gal needs two copies of one book. Like Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts, for example.So, in the spirit of all things blogger, 3-Book 3rd Thursday today features three great books by bloggers that I have read recently. I could have done 6-Book 3rd Thursday today, but that’s not nearly as catchy, so I’ve narrowed it down. Reluctantly. I left in two Texans, one from (of course) Perfect Austin. Because of the self-imposed rule of 3, I have cut out some of the snark. I hate cutting out snark. I won’t let it cross the lips of my kiddos without giving them the arched-brow Mommy Manners Meltdown glare, but I’ll read it, laugh until I snort, and dream of being able to snark it up out there in this crazy world. Oh, and read it to Honey even after he’s fallen asleep. He loves it when I do that.Let’s start with the snark that stayed. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson, who many know as the Bloggess, is hilarious. Foulmouthed, yes, and snarky, and certain to leave you truly thankful that she’s too old to be in your kid’s class at school, but hilarious. Her arguments with her husband, Victor, had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Then her account of her daughter’s birth brought out the Bloggess’ tender side. Throughout it all, I simultaneously felt A) sympathy for Jenny due to the wild oddity that characterized her childhood, and B) aversion to the wacky (and numerous) zoo of taxidermy she collects. Here’s my advice about Let’s Pretend: read it one chapter at a time, no matter how tempted you are to read more. You’ll draw the hilarity out longer, reduce the factor of profanity shock by a small margin, and maintain more of a fascination than an aversion to her taxidermic triumphs, and her life.Some people may also feel an aversion to the sentiments expressed in the title of Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkeytown: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions. I hope that readers will look past the title and think about some of the questions Rachel poses here; many of the issues she grappled with are ones that we all face at some point in our spiritual journeys. Reading her account with the intention only of debunking her points, one would miss the valuable exercise of opening up to the relationship one of our fellow humans has forged with God. Monkeytown is a jewel of a book because Rachel is gifted at seeing what is precious in people, then passing that sight on to us. I did not agree with every conclusion Rachel draws, but I support firmly her freedom in letting her faith grow and change. I want that freedom, too. Reading through her memoir brought me the chance to laugh at things I might not have otherwise, and think more deeply about questions I might have dismissed had I encountered them in college. I follow Rachel’s blog and her Twitter feed; not a week goes by that I haven’t read and tried to process her insightful posts.Another writer I found on Twitter is Elora Ramirez, whose new book is Come Alive. I stayed up way too late two nights in a row on our road trip reading Come Alive, and found myself compelled to finish it, encouraged by people and organizations working on behalf of the powerless, and sickened by the atrocities people inflict on each other. Stephanie, a high-school girl narrating the story, commits the common teenage hyperbole of seeing the people in her life as completely good or absolutely evil. Given Stephanie’s family life, such hyperbole seems well-founded at first, and only deeper into the book did I wish that her perspective permitted a deeper understanding of the other characters’ internal lives. However, her absolutism feels familiar; I tended to think in those terms in high school, and have witnessed our son Cartwheel’s progression in this area over the years. All in all, Elora has crafted a book that I hope will persuade many others to do our own individual part in rescuing the “least of these,” wherever we find them.Thanks to all the bloggers I’ve mentioned, and particularly to the three whose books we explored today. I look forward to many more lovely opportunities to read and share books written by my online friends. A special thanks to Elora, also, for giving me a copy of her book. She did so generously, with no strings attached. I usually post on 3-Book 3rd Thursday about books I’ve purchased or borrowed for my own reading pleasure, and yet I liked Come Alive so much, I included it here despite the fact that it was given to me.
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    I decided to read this book based on a blog post I saw in a couple of places on my social media feeds. The title of that post is "Everyone's a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony." That post, and this book, hit on very personal issues for me. In essence, this book rails against:1)The idea that Christians should have blind faith, ignoring their intellect 2) The idea that Christians/saved people have the right/ability to judge other people, especially gay people3) The idea that the bes I decided to read this book based on a blog post I saw in a couple of places on my social media feeds. The title of that post is "Everyone's a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony." That post, and this book, hit on very personal issues for me. In essence, this book rails against:1)The idea that Christians should have blind faith, ignoring their intellect 2) The idea that Christians/saved people have the right/ability to judge other people, especially gay people3) The idea that the best example of a Christian is someone who has all the answers, and a good Christian would never say "I don't know," or "I don't like that Bible verse, I don't know what to make of it."These three concepts are a huge part of the reason why I've personally struggled with where to place religion and faith in my life. Like many who have read and reviewed this book here, I was raised believing that once you were "saved" you could go to heaven. Very early on, I got a horrible taste in my mouth when I was told by well-meaning Christian friends/family to eliminate various significant others from my life because we wouldn't be "equally yoked." Right then I thought to myself, "if God exists and agrees with this judgemental/one-dimensional idiot, then I want nothing to do with him." As I got older I only found more and more occasions to have this same thought. "Hmmmm," I'd think... "why would anyone go into that country where people have such a rich tradition of their own beliefs, and presume to tell them what the REAL faith is and 'convert' them?? Isn't there room for more than one possibility? Wouldn't God want us to be more humble than that??"Reading this book, and Rachel Held Evans' blog, has been like a breath of fresh air. It's good to know that there are people like Rachel-- thinking people-- that still align themselves with the church. I still don't know where all of it falls for me but I enjoyed reading this, and if you have ever felt in a similar place you'd probably enjoy it too.
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  • Ivonne Rovira
    January 1, 1970
    Rachel Held Evans and her two sisters grew up in a fundamentalist family in Dayton, Tennessee, a place best known for the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that H.L. Mencken so deliciously sent up. Equal parts memoir, Christian philosophy, and explication of modern fundamentalism, Evolving in Monkey Town provides something for Christians and agnostics alike. I found myself really invested in Evans’ spiritual evolution, if you’ll pardon the pun. Despite living in Kentucky, home of snake handling, the Chur Rachel Held Evans and her two sisters grew up in a fundamentalist family in Dayton, Tennessee, a place best known for the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that H.L. Mencken so deliciously sent up. Equal parts memoir, Christian philosophy, and explication of modern fundamentalism, Evolving in Monkey Town provides something for Christians and agnostics alike. I found myself really invested in Evans’ spiritual evolution, if you’ll pardon the pun. Despite living in Kentucky, home of snake handling, the Church of Christ (non-instrumental), and crackpots like Governor Matt Bevin and Senator Rand Paul (an Aqua Buddhist), I learned quite a bit from this slim volume. I was completely unfamiliar with both Bryan College (located in Dayton) and “Christian worldview” (a sort of scientific fundamentalism and quite an oxymoron), and Evans explains both its origins and its finer points. And I really appreciated Evans reminding me that an open mind, loving respect, and constant questioning is the best way to build a relationship with God — and each other
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  • Katharine
    January 1, 1970
    I've struggled in my review of this book. From a literary perspective, it's not amazing. Yet it is an honest and thought-provoking account of a woman questioning the unquestionable truths of faith she was taught as a child. Evans grew up in Dayton, TN where the Scopes Monkey trail was held - hence the title. She tries to illustrate her faith struggles with the parallels of the Creation vs. Evolution debate. I found this to be the weakest part of the book, as her questions and struggles with the I've struggled in my review of this book. From a literary perspective, it's not amazing. Yet it is an honest and thought-provoking account of a woman questioning the unquestionable truths of faith she was taught as a child. Evans grew up in Dayton, TN where the Scopes Monkey trail was held - hence the title. She tries to illustrate her faith struggles with the parallels of the Creation vs. Evolution debate. I found this to be the weakest part of the book, as her questions and struggles with the Christian faith are profound enough to stand on their own. For me, true faith only emerges after a series of soul searching, painful, scary questions. It's hard to want certainty in matters of faith and find that to be elusive. I'm realizing I have to let go of preconceived notions and enter a world of uncertainty in the hopes of finding confidence in my own beliefs - even if they must change. Evans went through a similar process, which is encouraging to me. While I might not agree with all of her conclusions, I admire her courage to ask hard questions about her Christian faith.
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  • Melle
    January 1, 1970
    I appreciate the author honestly sharing her doubts and her interpretations of her personal faith and her reconciliation of how she was taught to perceive the world and her faith and how she actually perceives the world and her faith, but this book felt light in its explorations of how literal biblical interpretations of Christianity disenfranchise women and create an unequal power balance in relationships (her male friend's faith-mansplaining email (pp. 115-118) raised my hackles), it felt dism I appreciate the author honestly sharing her doubts and her interpretations of her personal faith and her reconciliation of how she was taught to perceive the world and her faith and how she actually perceives the world and her faith, but this book felt light in its explorations of how literal biblical interpretations of Christianity disenfranchise women and create an unequal power balance in relationships (her male friend's faith-mansplaining email (pp. 115-118) raised my hackles), it felt dismissive of legitimate theological and historical questions raised by the scholarship of serious biblical and church history scholars like Bart Ehrman, and the book felt like let the character or being of a biblical, specifically Christian, God off the hook: "[Doubting God] has the potential to destroy faith; [doubting what we believe about God] has the power to enrich and refine it." (219) The author did a good job of demonstrating the closed-mindedness, dismissiveness, ostracization, and lack of place in faith communities for people who question and who doubt, and her narrative was strongest when talking about what caused her to question ideas like exclusive salvation. I was disappointed this book didn't explore more of how she reconciles those (what to me are huge and significant) gaps of understanding between what she was taught to believe and what she understands and believes. Unfortunately, I don't think the ideas of evolution and adaptation as they were presented relate as strongly to the author's faith journey, and, indeed, with the title and limited blurb, I was actually hoping for more of an intellectual delving into how people who identify as Christian, especially evangelical Christians, reconcile such literal bible-based religious worldviews with a world that is being understood differently with advancing scientific knowledge. This is the kind of book to make Christian apologists and doubters feel less alone but wouldn't push them toward any serious intellectual or emotional crisis of faith. Not a bad read, very sympathetic but also maybe not as serious and impactful as it could be.
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  • Drew Dixon
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a crescendo.When this book began it was much like any other Christian memoir of late. It was kind of edgy, talked all bad about fundamentalism, and told a whole lot of stories. (After writing that sentence, I realize how much it sounds like a description of Jesus.) As I read the beginning, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things she wrote, but not being at all impressed by any of it. "Yeah," I thought to myself, "I've been there before too. I've heard all this before. I'm k This book is a crescendo.When this book began it was much like any other Christian memoir of late. It was kind of edgy, talked all bad about fundamentalism, and told a whole lot of stories. (After writing that sentence, I realize how much it sounds like a description of Jesus.) As I read the beginning, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things she wrote, but not being at all impressed by any of it. "Yeah," I thought to myself, "I've been there before too. I've heard all this before. I'm kind of bored with it." It's kind of like I was reading Blue Like Jazz again, except this time it was written by a girl.Once I made it to the second section of this book, I was hooked on reading it all. Her stories of protest became stories of progress. She began to contribute rather than complain. You see, I like construction and the first portion hardly had anything to offer. But, I guess that's the point because when you begin to see problems with your roots, you only focus on uprooting for awhile before you look for new soil to dig into.As the book progressed it got louder and had more to offer. I was drawn in to the stories and began to feel like I knew Rachel. (It may help that I met her about 3/4 of the way through my reading of it). Ultimately, I'll say that this book is wonderful. It's probably not for everyone, but I know a lot of people who have walked down a similar road to Rachel Evans, and I think this book is a wonderful and honest contribution to the stories of Christians who wade into the waters of postmodernity.I've given it five stars, because I believe Rachel's stories have the power to transform a generation.
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    When I read this book for the first time in 2012, I was still fairly early in my own deconstruction process. So Rachel's book challenged me and encouraged me in so many ways. I identified with so much of her own background. I've read it two more times since then and the last time was almost a year ago. I know that after that reading I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, but that may be more of a reflection of how I am impacted by the book now vs. the first time I read it. The bottom line is, I would r When I read this book for the first time in 2012, I was still fairly early in my own deconstruction process. So Rachel's book challenged me and encouraged me in so many ways. I identified with so much of her own background. I've read it two more times since then and the last time was almost a year ago. I know that after that reading I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, but that may be more of a reflection of how I am impacted by the book now vs. the first time I read it. The bottom line is, I would recommend this book to anyone who was raised in a conservative evangelical way, especially if they have ever had questions or doubts along the way. We need to learn to ask questions and we need to know we are not alone in this.
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  • How
    January 1, 1970
    I can relate to almost all the book as a former fundamentalist and do find she expresses herself with humor and grace. However I think she has for the most part moved from one set of proof texts to a different set that she now feels more comfortable with and so now is still in the same basic mindset but about different things.
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  • Dichotomy Girl
    January 1, 1970
    Ok, so I confess, my 5 Star rating of this is highly biased, because so many parts of it were like getting inside my own head of several years ago. This is a great read for anyone who ever struggled with trying to hold onto their faith, while having unorthodox views on evolution, homosexuality, politics, salvation and certain parts of the Bible.
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  • Linda Hall
    January 1, 1970
    Loved, loved this book. It resonated with me on every page. I'm so glad there are other Christians like me in the world, other Christians who are going through the same questions and situations.
  • C
    January 1, 1970
    Before I begin this review, I must confess that I know this author. Rachel and I were classmates at Rhea County High School, and graduated together as members of the class of 1999. Though not tight, I always enjoyed Rachel as a bright, funny, and incredibly kind young woman. Therefore, I was particularly excited to learn of her success with this book. That said, I did approach the book from a very neutral standpoint. It's a bit odd to read the viewpoint of someone who grew up in the same communi Before I begin this review, I must confess that I know this author. Rachel and I were classmates at Rhea County High School, and graduated together as members of the class of 1999. Though not tight, I always enjoyed Rachel as a bright, funny, and incredibly kind young woman. Therefore, I was particularly excited to learn of her success with this book. That said, I did approach the book from a very neutral standpoint. It's a bit odd to read the viewpoint of someone who grew up in the same community, in the same time, shared many of the same experiences, and knows many of the same people. I wanted to make sure I gave the book a fair shot, without my own memories clouding my judgment. Turns out, I did not need to worry. Rachel touches on many of the same questions I struggled with while growing up in that environment. The big difference is that Rachel comes at the questions from the viewpoint of an "insider"... one who grew up ensconced in the biblical and evangelical traditions of Dayton, Tennessee. I, on the other hand, occasionally attended the Methodist church and always wondered why many of the people who professed to be the Very Best Christians often didn't act in a very Christian way.That is why, for me, Rachel's standpoint is so refreshing. I realized that for so long, I've held a lot of my own prejudices about those who consider themselves evangelical. Yes, many do follow their belief system to the letter, and are of the opinion that the only way to have a relationship with the Lord is to sit your butt in THEIR church's pew every Sunday. However, I now know that there are the devout (like Rachel, and even myself) who have a tough time believing that God is mean and vengeful and "out to get us." Rachel opened my eyes to the reality that there are may different paths we can take (even within the same religion) on our walk with the Lord.I appreciated Rachel's insight, and her efforts to find her place in her faith and relationship with God. Even if you don't agree with Rachel, I think it's fair to say many of us have shared that same quest, and can feel a sense of kinship with the author. It's a never-ending quest, as long as we recognize that we all Evolve, in some way or another. Because as Rachel so eloquently puts it, if we don't evolve, we die.
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  • Kelly Hager
    January 1, 1970
    Earlier this year (in fact, just last month), I read her other book, The Year of Biblical Womanhood. This one is even better, because it's not based on a gimmick. (Note: don't take that to mean that I didn't love The Year of Biblical Womanhood, because I did. But it's hard to compare the two, because they're very different.)With this book, Rachel Held Evans discusses her faith and how she reconciles the idea of a loving God with the idea that you can only get into heaven if you believe some very Earlier this year (in fact, just last month), I read her other book, The Year of Biblical Womanhood. This one is even better, because it's not based on a gimmick. (Note: don't take that to mean that I didn't love The Year of Biblical Womanhood, because I did. But it's hard to compare the two, because they're very different.)With this book, Rachel Held Evans discusses her faith and how she reconciles the idea of a loving God with the idea that you can only get into heaven if you believe some very specific things. (As in, how can you believe in a loving God if He's also a God that would send Anne Frank, for example, to hell for not believing in Jesus?)And as someone who went to religious schools---including a Bible college---that isn't a good place to be. In fact, it's a very uncomfortable place to be. It's a scary thing when one of the things that you absolutely considered to be unshakeable turns out to be...well, very shakeable.But Evans manages to work through it, and her rationale is very simple. I'm paraphrasing but the general gist is that we have to believe that God is better than we are. She quotes C.S. Lewis, who says something about how the way to God is through Jesus and that's in the Bible. But what isn't in the Bible is whether you have to KNOW Jesus for Him to save you. (She explains it better.)But it touches on something that I often think about, which is that you can't really judge God based on our own thoughts of what He must be like. Because while, yes, the Bible was used to justify all kinds of horrible things, that's not really God's fault. We interpret everything through the lens of our own experiences.Highly recommended.
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  • Renee
    January 1, 1970
    It was this description that caught my attention. In Evolving in Monkey Town, Rachel Held Evans recounts her experiences growing up in Dayton, Tennessee, a town that epitomized Christian fundamentalism during the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. With fearless honesty, Evans describes how her faith survived her doubts and challenges readers to re-imagine Christianity in a postmodern context, where knowing all the answers isn't as important as asking the questions.I was drawn to the book since my daug It was this description that caught my attention. In Evolving in Monkey Town, Rachel Held Evans recounts her experiences growing up in Dayton, Tennessee, a town that epitomized Christian fundamentalism during the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. With fearless honesty, Evans describes how her faith survived her doubts and challenges readers to re-imagine Christianity in a postmodern context, where knowing all the answers isn't as important as asking the questions.I was drawn to the book since my daughter had just finished playing Melinda Loomis in Inherit the Wind and I the role of a scientist. I expected the book to have more about the trial but that was mainly limited to chapter 3 - Monkey Town. But within the fourteen pages, I did learn the play took many creative licenses to create a much more dramatic story.Although the author and I do not share the same Christian background and disagree about some things such as the number of inspired books of the Bible and the relationship of the apostle James to Jesus we both went through doubts, questions and searching for Faith. I questioned teachings in high school religion class, I tried out other churches during college, even as a young wife/mother I attended Protestant Bible study. My searching and questioning lead me right back to the Catholic Church.I do agree with Rachel Evans that doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves." Evolving in Monkey Town will not provide answers to your questions; if anything it will make you ask questions and see God in the answers.You can find links to more reviews at: http://reneesuz.blogspot.com/2010/07/...
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  • Jim Gaston
    January 1, 1970
    This is quite simply, a fantastic book. I have traveled a very similar faith journey as Rachel has (or I should say "am traveling" since I think we both believe faith is more of a journey than a destination). Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from her book: But Jesus rarely framed discipleship in terms of intellectual assent to a set of propositional statements. He didn’t walk new converts down the Romans Road or ask Peter to draft a doctrinal statement before giving him the keys to the k This is quite simply, a fantastic book. I have traveled a very similar faith journey as Rachel has (or I should say "am traveling" since I think we both believe faith is more of a journey than a destination). Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from her book: But Jesus rarely framed discipleship in terms of intellectual assent to a set of propositional statements. He didn’t walk new converts down the Romans Road or ask Peter to draft a doctrinal statement before giving him the keys to the kingdom. His method of evangelism varied from person to person and generally involved a dramatic change of lifestyle rather than a simple change of mind. To Jesus, “by faith alone” did not mean “by belief alone.” To Jesus, faith was invariably linked to obedience. After I’d thought for so many years that good Christians are always ready with an answer, it was a question that eventually drew me back to belief. In the end, it was doubt that saved my faith. When we require that all people must say the same words or subscribe to the same creeds in order to experience God, we underestimate the scope and power of God’s activity in the world. I could add a few dozen more but I would rather that you just get this book and read it for yourself. I highly recommend it to anyone - whether you struggle with your faith or not.
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  • Elizabeth Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    I bought Rachel Held Evans's book because I was intrigued by the phenomenon of her blog, which attracts tens of thousands of readers and has made her a force in evangelical circles. Why? And how?EVOLVING IN MONKEY TOWN holds the answer. Evans is a solid story-teller, her theology is thought-provoking, and she's clearly a likeable, faithful woman. Her memoir is a quick, clear, moving read--if you don't mind occasional Biblical exegesis. But what makes this book (and Evans herself) extraordinary, I bought Rachel Held Evans's book because I was intrigued by the phenomenon of her blog, which attracts tens of thousands of readers and has made her a force in evangelical circles. Why? And how?EVOLVING IN MONKEY TOWN holds the answer. Evans is a solid story-teller, her theology is thought-provoking, and she's clearly a likeable, faithful woman. Her memoir is a quick, clear, moving read--if you don't mind occasional Biblical exegesis. But what makes this book (and Evans herself) extraordinary, I imagine, is how it traces the path of an entire generation of evangelical Christians coming of age in the 1990s, into the extreme challenges that a globalized, internet-driven culture presents to people of faith. And Evans's faith survives, albeit changed. This is a story of resilience. I imagine Evans is so popular because she illustrates how rigid belief can transform into flexible, resilient, and enduring faith. And this is a story our culture needs."In the end, the same question that frightened and intimidated me as a child provided the clearest way out: What if I’m wrong? … To be wrong about God is the condition of humanity, for better or for worse. … In the end, it was doubt that saved my faith." --Rachel Held Evans
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  • Kimberly Knight
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fantastic read, something for Christians across the cultural spectrum. As a progressive Christian who grew up in a fundamentalist family it is good to be reminded where I came from, how far I have come and to be humble about how far I have yet to go. For mainline or progressive folks who've never experienced this type of Christian community, or never had a relationship with with one who's worldview is so carefully shaped by the culture Rachel describes, this is a very important read to This is a fantastic read, something for Christians across the cultural spectrum. As a progressive Christian who grew up in a fundamentalist family it is good to be reminded where I came from, how far I have come and to be humble about how far I have yet to go. For mainline or progressive folks who've never experienced this type of Christian community, or never had a relationship with with one who's worldview is so carefully shaped by the culture Rachel describes, this is a very important read to understand exactly who and what they are dealing with if caught in a debate with a fundamentalist evangelical. I am not one who feels called to the theological acrobatics of these sorts of debates, nor do I think such conversations tend to exhibit much grace, it is good to more fully understand "what you're up against" if you are in fact called to this line of work. Perhaps someone needs to open an apologetics camp for progressive Christian youth?!Thank you Rachel for inviting us in to your evolutionary journey and perhaps encouraging a few folks to take that leap from lily pad to lily pad.
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  • Daniel
    January 1, 1970
    Rachel Held Evans' memoir isn't without its weaknesses -- an occasionally mom-blog tone, chapters that cut out before digging into the heart of the material, a deference to social codes that belies a sad conservatism to her approach to gay rights -- but the strong parts really work. She writes about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian society and what happened as she moved through doubt and back to faith by asking probing questions and refusing to take easy answers. She's funniest and smart Rachel Held Evans' memoir isn't without its weaknesses -- an occasionally mom-blog tone, chapters that cut out before digging into the heart of the material, a deference to social codes that belies a sad conservatism to her approach to gay rights -- but the strong parts really work. She writes about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian society and what happened as she moved through doubt and back to faith by asking probing questions and refusing to take easy answers. She's funniest and smartest when she isn't trying to be. The book won't appeal to a mass audience, but anyone who grew up in a Southern conservative religion should read it as soon as possible. It feels like dispatches from the battlefield by a woman who believes, as we all should, that faith and intelligence aren't mutually exclusive.
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  • Jordan
    January 1, 1970
    This book has put words to my current faith journey in ways I didn’t even know were possible. I felt like I wrote the book, and was sharing my own experiences about growing up in a conservative Christian context and wrestling with doubt for the first time. Rachel’s book gives me so much hope. That even as I wrestle with doubt and ask questions about my faith and the Bible, that perhaps my faith can evolve with me into something stronger, better, and healthier.
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  • Elora Ramirez
    January 1, 1970
    I appreciate Rachel's thoughts here - especially her honesty. It wasn't groundbreaking and I have trouble with some of her theology but I think that may be the point of the book, really. Allowing us to hear her side and providing questions for us to consider our own beliefs. I resonated with some of her cynicism and cringed at a lot of the familiarity in the stories. Overall it was a good read. Not sure I can proclaim the same "loved it!" status as some of my friends...
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  • Hanna Osterwyk
    January 1, 1970
    This was like reading a memoir I haven't written yet.
  • Joe
    January 1, 1970
    Well, this one hit a little too close to home. If you ever grew up in a world of AWANA, Bible drills, apologetics, Left Behind and other hallmarks of '90s Christianity, and you don't quite know how to make sense of it all anymore, then Faith Unraveled is for you.Author Rachel Held Evans walks through her fundamentalist childhood and explores the unwelcome questions that eventually drove her to step away from her faith community and rediscover her beliefs on her own. Evans is a great writer and s Well, this one hit a little too close to home. If you ever grew up in a world of AWANA, Bible drills, apologetics, Left Behind and other hallmarks of '90s Christianity, and you don't quite know how to make sense of it all anymore, then Faith Unraveled is for you.Author Rachel Held Evans walks through her fundamentalist childhood and explores the unwelcome questions that eventually drove her to step away from her faith community and rediscover her beliefs on her own. Evans is a great writer and some of her insights and questions were incredibly jarring (even for this skeptic), but she never slides into self-pity or mean-spirited criticality. Faith Unraveled is a great book for those wrestling with their own deconstruction or who are parting ways with the traditions of their upbringing to pursue something better. Highly recommended.
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  • Brianna Silva
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't get much out of this memoir, but maybe only because I'm already on the same page as the author in many ways, so her ideas aren't new for me. The ending was encouraging, though.--EDIT: Okay, this book was more helpful that I initially realized right after reading it. Some of the effects took a few days to sink in.I honestly feel like my faith is stronger after reading this. That last chapter helped me realize how I can still be a Christian, fully and wholly and passionately, even as my v I didn't get much out of this memoir, but maybe only because I'm already on the same page as the author in many ways, so her ideas aren't new for me. The ending was encouraging, though.--EDIT: Okay, this book was more helpful that I initially realized right after reading it. Some of the effects took a few days to sink in.I honestly feel like my faith is stronger after reading this. That last chapter helped me realize how I can still be a Christian, fully and wholly and passionately, even as my view of the world is radically changing. It assuaged some my angst around Christianity.I think I really, really needed that. Depending on where you are on your faith journey, this book might be helpful for you, it might not. But for me, it was ultimately just what I needed in the moment.
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  • Luke Hillier
    January 1, 1970
    I've admired Rachel's writing and presence via her Twitter and blog for years and years, but had never felt too drawn to read her published writing. This was mostly because, due partly to the former title (Growing Up in Monkey Town), I thought it was solely about coming to terms with evolution, which isn't a theological issue I find too interesting or even relevant (ironically, she comes to a similar conclusion). However, when the book was assigned as a part of the program I am doing (MissionYea I've admired Rachel's writing and presence via her Twitter and blog for years and years, but had never felt too drawn to read her published writing. This was mostly because, due partly to the former title (Growing Up in Monkey Town), I thought it was solely about coming to terms with evolution, which isn't a theological issue I find too interesting or even relevant (ironically, she comes to a similar conclusion). However, when the book was assigned as a part of the program I am doing (MissionYear - check it out!!!), I was happy to finally have a reason to read her, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that while evolution is explored here, she tackles far more than that.This is a compelling conversion story (irony of word choice is intentional) about a former glowing star of fundamentalism who has all her answers blown apart and then spends the following years going around gathering up the pieces, forming something new with them. In some ways, I was surprised by how much she manages to wrestle with -- evolution, yes, but also hell, interfaith universalism, biblical inerrancy, queerness, and suffering-- and was appreciative of the inherent risks that she took in doing so. More than anything, I appreciated and respected her integrity in simply forcing herself to ask the hardest of questions and actually go there rather than allow herself to continue skating around them and avoiding that scary, scandalous kind of confrontation. While I would have appreciated a more thorough and in-depth examination of all these topics, this simply isn't that kind of book and I think her tone managed to be wry, humble, and thoughtful partly because of that.Although there moments where I felt frustrated by the implications and undertones of tolerance rather than justice being a primary concern (which seems to reflect the norms of white Mainline progressive theology that she found a home in contrasting with my own liberation theology roots), I really resonated with the vast majority of it. Many of her conclusions were ones I'd come to prior to reading, but I can imagine this would be a tremendously hopeful and life-giving resource for those in the throes of their own unraveling. I know for one of my housemates, this book was a true balm for her, and incredibly affirming and energizing. For me, it was a joy to read, but even more of a joy to simply know it's out there for folks struggling through their own process of deconstruction and rebuilding.
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