Evans, Rachel Held. Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned the Ask the Questions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.
Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans is a book that is a joy to read. The book feels more like a conversation at a coffee shop with a friend; Evans writes in an open and refreshingly honest style. I chose to review this book for a variety of reasons. First, I believe that readers will be able to relate to Evans’s story. Some of us were raised in very similar ways to her experience growing up, but as “Reformed fundamentalists,” characterized by a heavier dose of law than grace that manifested itself via legalistic Sunday observance, an emphasis on obedience, and strict church attendance. I am proud to say I had nine years of perfect attendance at Sunday school and the most extensive tract collection that I knew of until I met my wife!
Second, I chose this book because of Evans’s honesty about her journey of trying to own her faith, asking tough questions, and then coming to a point of peace and trust without all the answers in hand. I believe this book is important reading for those of us who are educators: We should have strong and intense conversations with each other and the parents of our students about how we handle issues of faith and doubt with our students. This type of discussion is not optional if we desire to be true to the missions of our schools.
In the preface to her book, Evans makes clear via a number of cautions to the reader that her journey is ongoing; thus she deflects reader criticism from the outset. She is clear in stating that she is not writing this book because she has it all together, but as a seeker on the journey. What I appreciate is not only this humility, but also her ability to so clearly articulate the questions and the issues Christians face in the faith development process. Her thinking has obviously resonated with her readers, as this book was on the New York Times best-seller list.
My point in this review is not to critique the maturity/comprehensive nature of her thinking or her theology—I will leave that to others more qualified. My concern is to raise questions about how we as Christian educators might approach issues of doubt and faith with students.