Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For The Rachel Held Evans In Your Pew


Yesterday, Rachel Held Evans' new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, was released. As I write this, it is ranked as the 15th most popular book in the Christian Living category on Amazon. Her blog, rachelheldevans.com, is usually ranked within the top 20 Christian blogs in America. 

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?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Unique Authority of a Sufferer


I am reading a fabulous book for class called Getting Involved With God by Ellen F. Davis. Today I stumbled across some words in her chapter on the Book of Job that I think will resonate with many of you:
Job gives us immeasurably more than a theology of suffering. It gives us the theology of a sufferer. In it we hear authoritative speech about God that comes from lips taut with anguish. From this book above all others in scripture we learn that the person in pain is a theologian of unique authority. The sufferer who keeps looking for God has, in the end, privileged knowledge. The one who complains to God, pleads with God, rails at God, does not let God off the hook for a minute--she is at last admitted to a mystery. She passes through a door that only pain will open, and is thus qualified to speak of God in a way that others, whom we generally call more fortunate, cannot speak.

I haven't been in deep pain recently, but I know many of you have been. May we all keep looking for God, even when we feel like all we can see clearly is our pain.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How Having a Baby Didn't Change Me



August is eight weeks old today. He sleeps now, fist to mouth, in the sling on my chest. Contrary to popular belief, my mothering began much longer than eight weeks ago. But eight weeks ago, something monumental did happen, and it was a milestone in my life.

Since then, life has changed. I now type and eat one-handed. I sleep easily and deeply, something that was elusive to me before. I have a bit of a looser tummy, though I honestly view it with pride. I smell like milk constantly. And there's a little man who knows my voice, my face, and my smell and finds comfort in all of those things.

But contrary to what I expected, I don't feel like I've changed.

I mean, of course I've changed on some levels. But fundamentally, I am the same. 

"Everything's about to change," they said. 

I worried about this a little bit. Would I suddenly become a different woman with different priorities once I had given birth?

On top of being a graduate student, I accepted a job offer when I was six months pregnant. I was excited about what seemed to be a position that was a great fit for my skills and experience. But a little part of me worried that I would lose interest in non-mom things once I heard his little cries and kissed his little feet. I worried that my schoolwork would be uninteresting and my work would be drudgery. 

But I worried for no reason. No magical spell overtook me at the moment of his birth. 

I am still Laura. For the most part, I have the same loves, the same sins, the same desires, and the same fears. 

Of course, I realize that I am an evolving creature. I've changed dramatically over the past 2, 5, and 10 years, and I will continue to change. 

But August does not define me. 
He has not changed everything. 
My life does not revolve around him. 

(Why do I feel like this makes me sound cold and heartless? I promise that I love him a lot and am so excited about being his mama. Really!)
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