Monday, July 6, 2015

Searching for Sunday - Rachel Held Evans

Searching for Sunday
Title: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
Author: Rachel Held Evans
Publication Date: 4/14/15
Pages: 258
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've been a fan of Rachel Held Evans for a while now.
Date Completed: 5/18/15

Summary: Evans shares her relationship with the Church from her fundamentalist beginnings to her years of doubts. Her honest voice doesn't profess to have all the answers; rather, she invites the reader to join her on the journey and, together, fall in love with the Church in a fresh way.

What I Thought: I loved this book. From the first pages, I felt Rachel (I totally feel like we should be on a first name basis even though I don't know her. I'm telling you...we would be friends. I know it.) had honed in on my own experiences, doubts, and longings regarding the Church. Kevin just read the back of the book and said, "Wow. Did she write this for us?" It really felt that way at times.

At the risk of getting too personal and at the expense of preserving some anonymity for and harmony among people and places I still love, I feel compelled to share a bit of my own journey. Without that, I do not think I can properly express the impact this book had on me. The short version is this: like Rachel, I was raised in conservative evangelicalism. While I have nothing but respect and admiration for the faith of most I interacted with there, there were plenty who preached legalism over love. I then studied at a small, Christian college which, while still conservative in many ways, taught me to think critically, to seek wisdom and Biblical truth rather than accept anything stated from a pulpit, and to make my faith truly my own once and for all. Administrative changes over the past years, however, have brought drama and internal battles to the school. As I worked and watched in the years following graduation, I began to struggle with many of the same things Rachel faced in and after her own Christian college experience. I had some doubts and my relationship with the Church deteriorated to the point where I hated going on Sunday mornings...or any time. American Christianity felt hypocritical and isolating to me. There certainly did not seem to be much genuine love going around - at least not if you failed to fit their mold. In moving to North Carolina, Kevin and I were given a fresh start in so many ways. After a lot of discussion about what we valued in a church (community, genuineness, biblical truth, outreach, love before judgement, among other things), we found an inter-denominational church that I absolutely love. For the first time in years - perhaps ever - I look forward to going to church. Not every week or every time, but far more than I ever have before. I am working on healing my relationship with the Church and God has placed a beautiful and imperfect faith community in my life to help me do just that. 

All that to say, Rachel seemed to know right where I was coming from, have been, and hope to be in the future. I do not agree with every single point she makes in the whole book, but that's ok; that's what those critical thinking skills are for. I think, better than anything else, she really nailed the searching spirit of the Millennial American Christian. I've included a great quote from the book below that expresses her, me, us perfectly. 

I especially loved her chosen format. Rachel broke the book into seven sections, one for each of the traditional sacraments in the Christian church. She opened each section with a beautifully written reflection on the sacrament and its place in the spiritual life. These short chapters are truly some of the best writing I have seen from her. 

I strongly recommend this book. I have every intention of readinig it again - and soon! Again, I want to throw out the disclaimer that by recommending the book am I not necessarily ascribing to a line by line doctrinal agreement with Rachel. Rather, I'm saying that her book spoke to me and she has some great points to make. Her words are poignant, genuine, transparent, and brought me to tears of both sorrow and joy. More than anything, she reminded me how thankful I am to be on this journey of faith and to call the people of the Church my family. We are not perfect, just loved beyond measure and redeemed through that love. 

Quotes I Loved: 
  • "We're tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we're for...not just what we're against. We don't want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, to tell the truth, even when it's uncomfortable...Millennials aren't looking for a hipper Christianity...We're looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity.
  • "Baptism declares that God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life, so if you want in on God's business, you better prepare to follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world - including those in your own heart - because that's where God works, that's where God gardens.
  • "We are people who stand totally exposed before evil and death and declare them powerless against love. There's nothing normal about that."
  • "The story of Jesus is a story I'm willing to risk being wrong about."
  • "[Christianity] tells the truth about the human condition - that we're not okay."
  • "We think church is for the healthy, even though Jesus told us time and again he came to minister to the sick. We think church is for good people, not resurrected people."
  • "Unity does not require uniformity." 

Rating: ★★★★★
Will I Re-Read: Definitely
Other Books By Rachel Held Evans: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

A Reduced Review: In her latest book, Rachel Held Evans tackles the complex relationship between Millennials and the Church. Poignant, genuine, and moving, she spoke straight to my heart. 

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