I like Rachel a lot. We've chosen different disciplines--she is definitely a writer and I am more in the scholarship camp--yet we often see things quite similarly.
Lately, there have been a few popular negative reviews of her book. That's to be expected. But what I didn't expect was that the people sharing those negative reviews on my social media networks would mostly be clergy. Almost all of them have a strong voice in their communities of faith, and most of them I respect a great deal.
Not a few of them have implied that her voice is not welcome in their churches, or in the Church. They have questioned her credentials.
As someone in seminary, learning the art of Bible scholarship, I get where many of them are coming from. She raises a lot of questions that we feel have already been answered. She uses the words "pick and choose" when we use the words "Wesleyan Quadrilateral." She is a mere writer; we are the ones who examine Scripture.
I just read a story in Numbers 11 that reminded me an awful lot of this situation. In short, two men, Eldad and Medad, start prophesying even though they had not been "authorized" to prophesy. Moses was Israel's prophet and Joshua was his mentee. A young lad runs to Moses and Joshua to tattle on these two unauthorized prophets. Joshua says, "Yeah, Moses, tell Eldad and Medad to stop!" But instead of reserving prophecy for himself, an understandable move in my opinion, Moses says, "Are you jealous on my account? As far as I'm concerned, I would like everyone to be a prophet! Let God bring that to pass!"
Okay, so I'm not saying Rachel is a prophet in the line of Moses. But perhaps she's a prophet in the line of Eldad and Medad. It's not a perfect parallel, but you get the idea.
However, dear clergy of America, even if you don't think Rachel has a prophetic voice, there is one thing that gives her credentials in my book:
She writes what many of your parishioners have been thinking--silently, quietly, or even shamefully thinking.
There's a reason her blog and books are so popular; she is giving a voice to the millions of Christians in America who don't easily relate to you. When you stand at the pulpit and preach a sermon of conviction, they leave wondering how someone could ever be so sure of something. When you have come to terms with the Bible's tensions, they have not.
And she is their voice.
If you can't respectfully hear the words of Rachel Held Evans, my guess is that you can't respectfully hear the questioning voices in your own congregation.
Yes, she plays with the sacred Scriptures in a way that makes us uncomfortable. But let's suck it up and get uncomfortable for the sake of the millions of young people who are unsure about following Jesus. They didn't go to seminary with us. They don't know how we arrived at our conclusions. Start back over at the beginning and walk alongside them. You will be a better fisher of men for doing so.
Besides, I'm not so sure God is against playing with Scripture. He does it quite a lot Himself. As does our beloved Scripture-teacher, the Apostle Paul.
You might not like what she writes, but please realize that she's not trying to be a Bible teacher. She's trying to be a Bible student. And isn't that exactly what we ask all Christians to be?