Friday Filter: Book “Evolving in Monkey Town”

I recently finished this book as part of the weekly virtual women’s devotional I have with two of my friends. It’s pretty much a highlight of my week every week talking with these gals!

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Here is what Goodreads had to say about it:

In Evolving in Monkey Town, Rachel Held Evans recounts her experiences growing up in Dayton, Tennessee, a town that epitomized Christian fundamentalism during the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. With fearless honesty, Evans describes how her faith survived her doubts and challenges readers to re-imagine Christianity in a postmodern context, where knowing all the answers isn’t as important as asking the questions.

This was a phenomenal book, and even better used as a discussion starter. I am kind of kicking myself that I bought the Kindle version and not the paper version because I wanted to write all over it and highlight like crazy! But I digress…

As a Christian, I have had my days of doubting the existence of God. My faith has had it’s own ebb and flow due to questions I had and events that occurred in my own life.

Unfortunately though, I feel that in the community of church goers (overall-not as individual people), it is not normal to vocalize these questions. So there were times that I didn’t feel like I could be a part of the Christian community because I had so many questions. I felt like an outcast in a society that should have been accepting and loving of all kind.

I have since grown into my own faith and understand that those questions are ok. With this self-acceptance I had to do a lot of searching for a community that I felt comfortable sharing. And there was A LOT of “church shopping” because of this journey. This was another sad reason for leaving Iowa because I found a church community that was encouraging but also challenging in a sense that I could grow in a healthy non-judgemental environment. It is sad to me that it is so hard to find a church community like this. I know that I am not a perfect Christian nor would I ever claim that this is possible. I have however found a good balance for me where I believe whole-heartedly in God and am able to grow each day in my walk with Him and not feel ashamed by questions that creep in.

The way that Rachel Evans described her journey was very similar to mine. I connected to her experiences on so many levels as if I had written the book myself. It was very refreshing to talk about the human struggles during life and how faith factors into it all. It was a realistic look at Christianity, the acceptance, and the evolution of yourself and society.

Our little trio had a lot of really thought-provoking discussions as we each looked at our our own situations and how our faith was infused into our relationships, jobs, political affiliations, life circumstances, etc.

I think there is a shift in our society about Christianity. Unfortunately, I do believe that many people (especially young people) drift away from Christianity and their spirituality because they are not allowed to have questions or spark up discussions that are against the words of the Bible. For example, I think we can all agree that slavery is wrong, and at some point we all had to put aside that the Bible talks about the governing rules of slavery and know that this is context from the times. Things have to evolve otherwise I would have been traded for goods in my marriage. Why can’t we have honest and open discussions about all faucets of the Bible and faith? It is in these discussions that people can share their experiences and feel valued. You learn through these debates and can grown more through understanding different view points.

Now don’t take that as I don’t believe in the Bible, because I very much do. It provides me guidance daily, and I find comfort in the Word. But I also believe that it is ok and healthy to ask questions or say, “How can this be?” or “I don’t understand where this is coming from.” I feel that through these questions you learn perspective and have a deeper understanding of what the Word is trying to say.

The thing that resonated with me most while going through this book is that in our society there is this over arching idea that there is one way that Christianity should look. However, one of my biggest questions is why is that? None of our lives or experiences are the same. We all look, feel, react differently. So wouldn’t it make sense for our faith to look a little different too? Sure we can share some ideals and practices, but how we ended up there is going to be totally different. None of us will see everything the same exact way.

It is what makes us unique.

And I finally have gotten to a point where I am ok with my faith being uniquely mine. There was a time that I felt like I needed to fit into this cookie cutter way of being a Christian, almost like being part of the popular crowd. I didn’t want to stick out and not be “normal.” But what we often forget is that Jesus was never considered normal. He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with his thoughts on love and caring for others. Why do we insist now to put ourselves into a box to all be the same?

Which brings me to the cornerstone of my faith which is love and being as human as possible with all that we meet. It is only then that I feel we can actually have our faith be infectious and live on as I believe God would want.

But again, these are all my thoughts. I would love to hear yours.

This is a great read that will spark questions and make you go through a wave of emotions. Not only is the content great, which I usually see myself reading faster, but the chapters are fairly short anyway and are broken up nicely. It didn’t hurt that when she wrote this book, she was around my age, and a lot of the stories she used I had my own personal context of “where I was” in those moments. Especially with a topic so personal as faith, I like when an author makes me feel like we are at a coffee shop talking to each other, and that is exactly what she did. She infused a lot of humor into her personal anecdotes that keep you connected to her life story. It is never condescending, but always engaging and heartfelt in her process.  She brings Christianity down to a personal level and encourages you to examine your own biases and how you arrived to where you are. I highly recommend it for any devotional group or for a personal read, although I do think having the group discussions was an added bonus for my personal reflections. I also don’t think you have to be a Christian to read it. She explores so many different topics and history lessons that I feel that anyone can read this and gain some take aways.

2 thoughts on “Friday Filter: Book “Evolving in Monkey Town”

  1. This book sounds so good that I already added it to my Good Reads and checked to see if my library carries it. They do! Looks like I might be making a trip there later today!

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