I’m tired of reading Rachel Held Evans’ blog

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A few years ago, a friend linked to a blog post by Rachel Held Evans. I don’t remember what the specific post was about, but I remember it being insightful, funny, wise, and ballsy. After that, I read her book, Evolving in Monkey Town, (which has been re-released under the title, Faith Unravelled). It was like she had written the story of my own evangelical upbringing.

From that point, I became a faithful reader of her blog. I learned things about biblical history, became exposed to other religious writers and thinkers, and was forced to finally look up what hermeneutic means. It was also the place where I was introduced to the likes of Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Al Mohler, Denny Burk. (If you don’t know who these people are, don’t look them up. Your blood pressure will thank you.) I rediscovered the culture of patriarchy from which I had fled so long ago. I confirmed that the socio-political culture that has become evangelicalism wasn’t just all in my head.

The four stages
For a long time, I read all the posts in which she (rightly) called out the giants, the bullshit, and the douche-baggery of evangelical subculture with vim. They were followed by shock and anger because: 1) I couldn’t believe that the things she was posting about were actually done/said; 2) I could believe that the things she was posting about were actually done/said; 3) Controversial posts almost always led to people, (usually men) trying to silence her in the comments or responsive blog posts. Words were used to attempt to beat her into submission, whether they were passages from a selective interpretation of Scripture, “feminist” used as a derogatory term, or an ultimate flipping over of the game board by declaring that she “hates the Bible” when nothing else seemed to stick.

But now, my reaction is a bit different. I’ll call them the four stages of reading Rachel Held Evans.
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1) Fatigue, otherwise entitled, What the actual fuck have they done now?
I’ll be honest and say that lately, I’ve skipped reading some of Rachel’s posts. It’s not that I don’t care for what she has to say or am annoyed by Rachel herself. It’s because I am fatigued by the frequency and predictability of evangelical culture’s bullshit. Once again, Mark Driscoll has said something misogynist or homophobic. Once again, conservatives are trying to put women in their place, as God clearly intended. Once again, Christians trying to shed light on the ugliness of abuse within the church are told to remain quiet for the sake of unity.

2) The Re-return
Like the episode of How I Met Your Mother, this stage may also leave you vomiting on Robin Scherbatsky’s custom door mat. In stage 1, you skip Rachel’s post. In this stage, you go back, click on the link, and start reading. By the second sentence, you’re already exhausted by the subject matter, so you close it. Finally, you go back and read it like you knew you would eventually. In this case, it’s the post from yesterday, Patriarchy and Abusive Churches. You are bothered by what Rachel has written, that abuse has become such a problem within the church. Or, rather, that it has always been a problem and we know more about it now because of technology. You agree with her premise, that patriarchy is an underlying cause of the abuse problem within the church. You’re glad that you have read the post.

3) Incredulity
If you’re like me, you’re an idiot. And what do idiots do? They read the comments and Twitter responses. At first, comments range from praise and encouragement to constructive criticism. But then they quickly devolve into general, off topic nonsense, lobbing clobber passages, and attempts to silence and discredit Rachel by calling her names and saying that she hates the Bible. At first you have to laugh. It’s just so predictable. It’s almost as if these people have a cabinet with a set of pre-packaged responses. I imagine an alarm sounding each time Rachel posts, and these people drooling as they peruse the options. You laugh because, if you don’t, it’s just sad. And you keep laughing until….

Much like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief, it is also possible to experience this stage concurrently with fatigue and incredulity. It’s the stage that takes you from saying $!?@%# to only having the time and energy to quickly shout just the beginnings of all the curse words to just roar-screaming at your computer. It leaves you feeling exhausted and powerless.

And we’ve come full circle
Rage dumps you in a rainy gutter, weak and ready to walk away from it all.

You’re tired of the fact that such abuse exists. You’re tired of the fact that Rachel has to write yet another post on patriarchy because there are people who would rather cling to that power structure than to the love of Jesus which makes us all equal and sets us free. You’re tired of Bible passages being cherry picked and used as bombs in culture wars. You’re tired of the fact that any of these people who espouse such ideas actually matter and have influence over anyone. You’re tired of the fact that whenever a thoughtful, brilliant, and sharp woman like Rachel writes blog posts that call out patriarchy, (mostly) men will inevitably try to silence her and put her in her “place”. I’m tired of the fact that Rachel has to repeatedly write about such things in the year 2014.

And then, a few days pass and…
Ooo, Rachel’s posted something new! Click.

12 thoughts on “I’m tired of reading Rachel Held Evans’ blog

  1. if I choose to not be the head of the house, and I’m being treated really well, I get support for my freedom of choice to have my house as a patriarchy, right? 😉 inquiring minds want to know! I get uncomfortable with these because it’s a life style/system that I choose and I feel like I have to apologize for it. Mark Driscoll is/can be an asshole. But he’s also part of the reason I didn’t lose my ever loving mind. Way back when I was searching for anything to save my sanity because I’d buried 2 kids and was pregnant with #5 and he was shortly about to die, I knew our life/marriage wasn’t working the way we both needed it to work. We switched up how we do things just before I lost Simon and I think that for the first time I felt safe enough to really let go, fall apart and grieve as hard as I needed to because I didn’t feel like I had to hold the fort down. In my typical fashion I went headlong into it and became a fanatic but I’ve come down off that high horse and I’m working on that quirk.

    NO one should be abused. No one should be made to feel less. If I said “this isn’t working, we go back to a non-patriarchal marriage” Jonathan would go with it because it’s ultimately my call. I don’t want to feel like I’m a demon, that I’m wrecking feminism for this or that I should be mocked or ridiculed or shamed (which I don’t think you are saying or doing in anyway, just sharing my POV).

    I think she needs to point out the abuse and people need to shut the hell up and stop being abusing and trying to control her into silence, because the abuse needs to go away, but I think the anger and the outrage at all this shit buries the ways that it can work for some people. It buries where Not everyone should homeschool, but it works or some. Not everyone should be gay, but it works for some people, not everyone should in a 2 parent household, and it doesn’t work for everyone to have multiple wives but it does for some people (God help them!)

    Everyone should use car seats correctly. I’m not budging on that one.

    • The fact that you used the word “choose” says a lot. This was not something that was imposed upon you because reasons. I’m so glad that you and Jon have worked together to find something that works for your marriage and brings you peace. I don’t think that anyone who knows you and your family would label your marriage as patriarchal.

      • I think that’s because how people view a patriarchy is mostly negative. I promise we are, and it’s mostly subtle stuff but it’s there in the decisions and the way we run the home. So maybe I should say it more so that people can have a positive view of it in some way even if it isn’t their own personal choice.

      • I think what may be happening is that we’re labeling one thing with different words. Many people would label your construct as complementarianism. Jon leads and makes decisions, and you submit to him. What makes it different from patriarchy is that this is a construct that you, together, chose. Together you decided that that is what works best for your family. It was not imposed upon you. And as you said yesterday, if it wasn’t working, you could chose to do something else. If your household were truly patriarchal, you would have no say in whether you submitted or not. You would have no voice in whether a complementarian was working or not.
        That is truly where we have a problem with patriarchy: the way in which women are silenced and the powerlessness.

    • Sarah, I really appreciate your comment. I have often felt there is a severe hypocrisy in saying, “Patriarchy is evil because women have a right to choose how their homes are run” but then to turn around and say, “Well, women have a right to choose as long as they don’t choose traditional complementarian roles.” To me, that’s just imposing a new demands and restricting women’s freedom to actively choose in a different way. Obviously, I don’t think abuse should ever be allowed or excused and I don’t think a woman should be forced to submit to a certain role in a marriage or in a household without having any say in the matter. Personally, I am fairly egalitarian in my views and in my marriage. I just don’t think it’s fair to say that every woman in a more traditional complementarian marriage is being abused or manipulated or deceived. You can’t be a true feminist who really stands up for the rights and voice of women and say, “A woman has the right to choose as long as she doesn’t choose this.”

      • I’ve been told I’m not a feminist because I stay at home and have kids. I got a freaking minor in women’s studies! It’s unbelievable. I agree, support someone in their choices.

        and I run 2 businesses on my own so anyone who says I’m not a feminist can bite me 😀

      • Chomp! Just kidding. 😉
        Different people have different definitions of feminism. Your fight for women to have choices in birthing makes you pretty damn feminist to me. As far as I’m concerned, feminism is about being free to make your own choices. I chose to be a stay at home mom. No one made me. If I wanted to go back to work, I could. You’re in the same boat, I feel. You chose to stay at home. You chose to homeschool. You chose to to have a sewing business. You ARE badass!

  2. Thank you for this great post, Julie! Sarah, I hear what you’re saying (and my heart goes out to you for your losses; I can’t even imagine how hard that’s been). I do want to mention that the actual premise of egalitarianism is that each individual and couple should be free to work out the dynamics of their relationships for themselves. It is not egalitarianism which is saying, “Every couple needs to do their marriage just like we say.” Egalitarianism says, “If you’re happiest with him leading and you following, by all means, let him lead on, and more power to you both!” But that’s not patriarchy— because patriarchy is not about one couple choosing the husband as leader: it’s about every man being the sole leader in every marriage.

    I agree that the anger and the outrage at “every marriage needs to have the male in authority” can obscure the fact that egalitarianism really isn’t about not allowing any marriage to have the male as leader. But that really is the egalitarian viewpoint, even if it doesn’t get articulated.

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