Minding the (Faith) Gap
Yesterday evening, I willingly set foot in a Baptist church for the first time in 10 years in order to see author and blogger Rachel Held Evans at Asheville’s First Baptist Church. I first became a fan of Rachel’s work when I stumbled upon one of her many insightful blog posts about the relationship between the church and the LGBT community. I admire her bold stance on the subject (in short, she believes the church should welcome its LGBT neighbors with open arms), the blend of humor and vulnerability with which she approaches this and many other loaded topics, and her ability to present even the most intricate workings of faith and the Bible in layman’s terms.
Much of Rachel’s talk yesterday was about her most recent book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” which documents her year spent attempting to adhere as closely as possible to what many Christians and Jews believe to be the “proper” behavior for a woman. In it, she uses her disarming humor to dissect the church’s treatment of women, though this is so much more than a women’s-lib book. For starters, it encourages both women and men — regardless of their faith — to be people of valor. But beyond that, Rachel presents the Bible not as a hard and fast blueprint, but — as she so astutely put it yesterday evening — “a conversation starter, not a conversation ender.” In fact, last night she stressed that the best way to truly understand the Bible — or any topic at all — is to surround yourself with people who have different interpretations of it. The latter is something that we’re all woefully remiss at, whether it be talking religion, politics, social issues or what have you.
And this is why I have such a great deal of respect for Rachel Held Evans. She encourages thoughtful dialogue between the church and people who feel marginalized by it, whether it be because of their gender, sexuality, race, political affiliation, age or any number of characteristics that don’t fit within the tiny, unyielding mold of a “true Christian.” She (and other authors such as Justin Lee and Chris Stedman) can play a vital role in bridging the harmful (to both sides) “us-vs.-them” gap that’s growing deeper and deeper. Speaking as someone who grew up gay in the Southern Baptist Church and has had a distaste for any kind of church for many years, I appreciate the healing power that her brand of dialogue and attempts at understanding can provide. Thanks, Eshet Chayil!
- "Homosexuality, Evangelicalism, and the Danger of a Single Story," (blog post) by Rachel Held Evans
- "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" by Rachel Held Evans
- "Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate" by Justin Lee
- "Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious" by Chris Stedman