Unraveling ‘Faith Unraveled’

I’ve just finished reading ‘Faith Unraveled,’ the first book posted by the now well know Christian author Rachel Held Evans. It tracks RHE’s journey as a young woman raised in evangelical America who suddenly encounters questions and doubts about faith she wasn’t equipped to answer.

I found the first half of this book rang very true for me and my experiences – I was also raised in a Christian family, in a Christian community. Just like Rachel, as a kid I prided myself on knowing bible facts and understanding tricky concepts. I consumed books, I answered every question in kids church and zealously invited my friends to church.

But just like Rachel, I’ve struggled with the suffering in the world and the hypocrisy of Christians. I have slowly let go of the rote answers and neat explanations I once clung so tightly to. On many issues now, my answer is simply ‘I don’t know,’ and it’s not for lack of reading and research and thinking and praying. I have lost certainty in my own rightness, but I have not lost my faith. I just don’t think there’s one way to follow Jesus or one group of Christians who have a monopoly on truth and have it all right.

‘When we refer to ‘the biblical approach to economics,’ or ‘the biblical response to politics,’ or ‘biblical womanhood,’ we’re using the Bible as a weapon disguised as an adjective. We inadvertently imply that embracing the Bible as truth requires embracing one interpretation of it. This results in false fundamentals, which results in an inability to change, which results in a failure to adapt and evolve.’ – RHE, Faith Unraveled. 

I agree that for too long the statement ‘I am a Christian,’ has come along with a lot of baggage and assumptions about your opinions on things. I can see that changing though, at least in my corner of the world. But I am still not sure about the nature of truth, and what is and isn’t open to interpretation. Some things must be sacred, some things must be true, or what is point?

RHE spoke a lot on what she doesn’t think the Bible is, but I’m not quite sure what she does think it is. If Jesus is true and real and good, and his word is good, than surely that must be true? If he says that scripture is the word of God, than surely that must be true?

I’m still figuring it all out – I’m still thinking things through. I don’t agree with all that RHE says – but her story is still important and helpful to me in figuring out my own story. Maybe I’m moving to a place where I can see people in more than black and white terms – good or bad, right or wrong – but instead can see the shades of grey and rainbow of opinions instead. I can accept what is helpful about someone’s work or writing or worldview with taking it all with me.

I don’t think it will be the last RHE book I will read, but not because I think she’s right about everything – but because I know I am still figuring it all out.

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The way we talk about singleness and marriage

I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about singleness and marriage, as we’ve been looking at 1 Corinthians 6-7 at church. But it also feels like I’m always thinking and talking about these issues, that every second article that pops up in my newsfeed has ‘words of wisdom’ to offer.

There’s a running discourse that if you are a Christian you will be destined for marriage and married for life, or you will be given singleness and never marry. It’s even spoken of as a choice we make – we should choose to be single if we can, but otherwise the choice of marriage is available as a concession. It becomes an identity. But the reality is, it’s not an identity. Because it’s not forever. It’s not even for all of this lifetime. It’s just a season.

My Grandma wasn’t married until later in life. Then she married my Grandfather and had three children. But after my Grandpa died, the last few years of her life were lived as a single person again. She had seasons of singleness, seasons of marriage, of motherhood, of grand-motherhood. And she had seasons of singleness at the end of her life too.

I never felt like I chose singleness. It’s true, I’m young and I don’t know what is ahead. But this is my reality right now – single, for this season, however long it lasts. When we use the language of ‘choice’ or when we speak of it, even implicitly, as an identity, we take away the reality that sometimes, our relationship status is just a reflection of circumstances. This also helps with the unhelpful wording that can get used with singleness – the waiting or temporary season – while marriage gets the permanent language. Because the reality is, marriage isn’t guaranteed to be forever – it will end, in death or a breakup. This is the truth of the world we live in. In heaven, there will be no marriage.

Talking about these things in a way that acknowledges that this is the current season, the current moment is helpful. It points us back to the one in control of all our circumstances, and grounds our identity in him. It reminds us that we do not know what tomorrow or next year will bring – let alone a lifetime.

 

Today’s Prayer

Give me freedom and light and peace now. Give me love and life and joy. I don’t want to be stuck in the old ways, in depression and heaviness and pain and crying. I want God’s grace, flowing out of the cross and into my heart and out of my life into others.

Give me peace and the ability to forgive and forget now. Give me healing and soothing words of God’s great mercy. I don’t want grudges and anger and hurt. I want to move on, to let this be a story I use to help others and nothing more.

Give me hope and excitement for the future ahead now. Give me longing for the days yet to come and the good yet to do. I don’t want the past or the dread of what’s to come. I want to embrace each new day as one God has given as a gift.

Give me calm and tranquility and rest now. Give me restoration and redemption of my soul. I don’t want anxiety and restless energy and stress. I want to rest in God’s goodness, knowing I am cared for, and confident that all is well.

Give me your goodness and grace God. Take the sin and the darkness away. I don’t want anything that’s not from you, because all I want is you.

Critique: ‘The Beauty of Womanhood’

It’s not new to me that Desiring God, a ministry of John Piper, holds unhelpful, unbiblical ideas about male and female, marriage and gender. John Piper, after all, once said in an interview that women should avoid jobs where they hold authority over men, for example, a job in the police force. This isn’t just sexist, it’s unbiblical. Which is also how I would describe the post written on Desiring God’s blog recently – ‘The Beauty of Womanhood.’ The picture it paints is not beautiful to me, and it’s not even realistic. But the real tragedy is that it misses the better beauty in following Jesus, male or female.

Let’s work through the problems of this article. First of all, it discusses the vision our culture supposedly offers women that trades in feminine strength and beauty for a ‘treadmill race to nowhere.’ Now it’s hard to understand as the disappointing vision being offered is never defined, but as the next few sentences focus on the home as the centre of life, I can only assume it means women pursuing work and lives outside of that setting.

This is a very narrow view of what a women’s – or a person’s – life should be. More than that, it’s a very limited view of what a women’s life can be. I have to spend days at uni studying, because one day soon I will have to support myself. Then I will have to spend days at work, at a job I hope I will love, because again, I will need to support myself, and because I want to do good work as I work for the Lord. And this comes from someone in a fairly privileged situation. What of women who need to work to support a family? Though the author would probably say that is her husband’s job, which again exposes a key fault in not only this article, but this kind of theology: it speaks only to those in a married family situation and ignores those outside it. But I will come back to that.

For when a woman sets herself up alongside a man — as made for the same things and without distinction — the result is not uniformity, but rather, a reverse order. Indeed, in order for her to become like a man, he becomes less and less like one.

I do not see how women working and living and serving Jesus alongside men, as equals, makes men less. Rather, it makes everyone better, it makes the image of God we reflect more full, more complete. I reject the author’s assertion that women are usurpers when we ask for equality, when we live our lives as God’s children, equally called to serve him with our everything. I reject the idea that our differences are essential. Our differences are important, because they show the range of ways there are to reflect God’s image in our world, but essential? Our essence is who we are in Jesus.

But it doesn’t really matter whether I reject these arguments, because the truth is, they aren’t biblical. There is not a godliness to be followed by males and a godliness to be followed by females. To use the author’s wording, real Christians mimic Jesus. And the image of God show to us in Jesus looks the same if you are male or female. We are all called to be like him, together.

I am called to follow Jesus and be like him, and live out that grace and mercy he shows at the cross, and point others to him. I am not called to ‘transform a promising bachelor into a promising, respected husband.’ My purpose is in Jesus.

Not every women gets married. Not every women has children, or can have children. The image painted of this ‘transforming role’ is a lovely, unattainable fairytale. The author tries to vaguely address those who are single, by saying we have to nurture and grow all God has given us, and be mothers that way, but it is a brush off, a consolation prize. The truth is, this brand of theology is false, and I do not hesitate to say that. I know it is false, because it does not hold up under the scrutiny of real life, of the real experiences of women. If it is not true for all people, in all places, in all time periods, how can it be true? If it only fits certain people in certain situations, and has no backing from the bible, how we can declare it the only way to live as a women following Jesus?

Jesus’ words were for us all, and I will follow him, and be like him. I will live as though I am a person freed from fear and darkness and legalism, because I am. I will submit to Jesus and I will treat people well and do my best. I will show grace and mercy to others, even at a cost to myself. But I will not try and achieve some true beauty of womanhood when the real beauty is right in front of me, in following Jesus.