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.
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.
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.