I spent much of today dealing with the “echo effects” of being a writer. These are the things that go with publishing books and articles but are not connected to the writing process itself.
I was greeted this morning by a nice stroke on facebook that generated a bit of humor. Rachel Held Evans, author of the delightful coming of age memoir Evolving in Monkey Town, recently blogged about “15 reasons I left the Church.” Unknown to me, for the past three years Rachel—who I consider a friend— has apparently not been attending church which, in Dayton, TN, probably means she is the only person at home watching Meet the Press on Sunday morning. Like the 8 million other 20-somethings that have left evangelicalism in the past few years, Rachel feels like the church has stopped trying to nurture her faith in a meaningful way. I understand her concerns and am aware of many of my more thoughtful college students over the past few years who have left the church for the same reasons. Although it has been decades since I was a 20-something, I share the concerns. The institutionalized church seems to have become obsessed with protecting a small number of social structures and conserving its power and money, rather than addressing issues of social justice, a central concern of young people.
Reason #5 on Rachel’s list of frustrations is “I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith.”
(I should add here that this identical issue is one of the reasons why some young people, including my daughter, left the church they grew up in. I complained to the church leadership that bashing science in Sunday School should not be occurring but my concerns were ignored. I am pretty sure this is happening everywhere.)
Today, however, Rachel listed her reasons why she has “returned to the church.” (I believe this is the church as a collection of believers, not any denomination.) Anyway, I was pleased and surprised to see this reason for why she is still in the fold: “Karl Giberson, who was the first to reach out to me and tell me that I didn’t have to choose between my intellectual integrity and my faith.” This affirmation from a thoughtful person like Rachel makes up for many of the assaults from annoying and sometimes drooling anti-science loonies that have been perpetually trying to get me fired from Eastern Nazarene College. So, thanks, Rachel.
My afternoon was spent on two radio shows and a most interesting conversation with Beau Underwood of the DC project Faith in Public Life. I will report on these tomorrow.