February 15, 2013

Rachel Held Evans: An Evolved “Evangelical”

Rachel Held Evans Operation Vaginagate shirts

Rachel Held Evans poses with members of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at William and Mary. The t-shirts cite Evans’ allegation that some Christian book distributors refused her book because it used the v-word. (Photo credit: Max Blalock/Twitter)

By Kristin Rudolph

“The Bible doesn’t give us a blueprint,” said Rachel Held Evans to a group of about sixty students and adults gathered in a classroom at the College of William and Mary Sunday, February 10th. “Instead, the Bible gives us history and traditions, and stories and proverbs and poetry, well mostly stories. And stories don’t fit very well into a blueprint,” she explained. “The fact that it’s not a blueprint; that’s what brings us into community with one another.”

Evans, a self-described “evangelical” blogger and writer with a rapidly growing following was invited to speak at W&M by the college’s Wesley Foundation, a campus ministry sponsored by the United Methodist Church. She also preached Sunday morning across the street at Williamsburg United Methodist Church. During her two days in Williamsburg, the Dayton, TN based writer recounted her “year of biblical womanhood,” in which she claimed to “follow all the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible” to answer the question: “Is there really just one right way to be a woman of faith?” and to prove a hermeneutical point. The project resulted in her recent book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master.”

Growing Up Conservative Evangelical
The 31 year old writer related her experience growing up in a conservative evangelical church that “forbade” women from positions of authority based on scripture, and how she has “since evolved in [her] thinking on how to interpret those passages.” Describing “womanhood” or anything else as “biblical” is problematic because interpretation is complicated by various factors, including cultural context of scripture, said Evans. She pointed to the contradictory definitions of “biblical womanhood” given by the complementarian Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the egalitarian Christians for Biblical Equality as evidence of this difficulty.

Growing up evangelical she observed “No one could seem to agree on exactly what ‘biblical womanhood’ was.” Frustration about overuse of “biblical” as an adjective prompted the writer to prove Christians are “inherently selective” in choosing passages to support their “biblical,” and thus authoritative position on “loaded” topics, particularly womanhood.

Becoming June Cleaver
According to Evans, evangelical attempts to define “biblical womanhood” “arose as a reaction to second wave feminism” and are a nostalgic “call to return to the good old days … when the man went to work and the woman stayed home.” To these Christians, biblical womanhood is “epitomized by Ward and June Cleaver, and so [books about biblical womanhood] will emphasize passages of scripture that emphasize domesticity and motherhood.” Further, she asserted complementarians have created a narrow “mold” into which all women must fit “based on stereotypes … [that] glorified the post industrial revolution nuclear family.”

“Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t really have that much to say about domesticity, but those passages get a lot of air time so I decided to try and brush up on my domestic skills,” Evans explained. Relating her attempts to fit in the domestic “mold,” she showed a photo of her first homemade Thanksgiving turkey and told a story of her failed apple pie.

“Biblical Personhood”
After her “biblical” year of excessive attention to cooking and cleaning, doing penance for “contentious words” on her rooftop, calling her husband “master” for a week, caring for a computerized doll for a few days, and myriad other projects and interviews, Evans determined there is no such thing as “biblical womanhood.” At least not distinct from “biblical manhood.”

“True biblical womanhood, biblical personhood is loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself.” Following Jesus Christ’s example is the closest we can get to a “definition of ‘biblical,’” she claimed.

When Christians describe something as “biblical,” Evans said, they “[suggest] that the Bible has a single position on a certain topic.” She elaborated: “Technically speaking, it’s ‘biblical’ for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt, it’s biblical for her to be required to marry her rapist … Why are some passages of scripture considered ‘biblical’ while others are not?”

To further prove her point, Evans described her visit with a “biblical” polygamist family she found through “BiblicalFamilies.org.” She mentioned her interviews with others who take a “biblical” approach to life including an Orthodox Jew, Amish, and Quakers. Notably, Evans did not address a historic Christian understanding of femininity and masculinity that predates and informs the modern complementarian movement she disparages.

The Bible, she said, is meant to be a “conversation starter not a conversation ender,” because God wants us to be in relationship with Him and each other to “struggle through” difficult texts. Evans declared she emerged from her year “wrestling” with scripture “loving the Bible more than I’ve ever loved it before.”

Evolving Evangelicalism
When asked why she still calls herself evangelical, Evans answered: “I love evangelicalism and I want so badly to see it evolve … and I think it is. I’m very optimistic.” One reason “It’s so important to address gender issues, is that they do have justice implications down the road … in how our LGBT brothers and sisters are treated.” With this cause in mind, she urged evangelicals to move beyond “gender essentialism,” the belief that men and women are created with inherent masculine and feminine natures.

In a relaxed talk the following evening, Evans spoke on “Doubting Well,” to a group of about 40. She read a selection from her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town describing her faith crisis that began in college. After growing up believing faith in Christ is essential for eternal life, Evans said her thinking “evolved” and she “No longer [has] this sense of despair for people” who don’t know the Gospel.

In time she “learned to live with doubts and questions” and decided God may even want to “use doubts” to keep us humble, give our faith “more meaning,” and foster a “childlike faith.” Accounting for her faith despite doubts, the writer said: “This is the story I’m willing to risk being wrong about … there’s something so compelling about Jesus.”

According to Evans, doubt is not just a personal struggle, but something to be embraced by the Church. “The Church is certainly in an identity crisis right now … Evangelicals are sort of like fighting to the death … They’re losing the culture wars,” she said. Consequently, “Christianity’s going to look a lot different in the next ten, twenty, 100, 200 years … There’s a lot of people talking about [doubt] right now and I think that’s part of the catalyst for all this happening,” Evans asserted.

Churches in her hometown of Dayton, TN, which she described as “an epicenter for fundamentalism,” have not embraced this change. It is difficult to find a church home in Dayton as a liberal Christian, Evans said, explaining that “The P.C. USA [Presbyterian Church USA] church in town died, the Episcopal church actually died in town. They didn’t have enough folks coming … There’s not a single gay affirming church in town.”

Although Evans did not define “biblical womanhood” in any real sense, she showcased clearly her approach to scripture, which deviates dramatically from that of evangelical tradition. It seems unlikely that most evangelicals, who have historically emphasized the authority of scripture, will follow her call to evolve into communities of questioning and doubt.


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[02/20/13 3:50 PM: Editors note: Kristin Rudolph has posted a response, which appeared yesterday. The full text is available on our blog.]

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84 Responses to Rachel Held Evans: An Evolved “Evangelical”

  1. prefer not to use it says:

    so, based on the photo, people who wave their hands a lot are evangelical? wtf? I do that at sporting events. how can you take her argument that she is for evangelicals when she starts by making fun of ‘them’?
    just another writer turning the words around.

  2. Sandy N says:

    This woman’s Katie Couric wannabe act has gotten a little tiresome.

    Her book Evolving in Monkey Town is the familiar tale of the ex-evangelical who “evolved” and hopes to get other evangelicals to do the same—meaning, switch from conservative to liberal, or “committed Christian” to “post-modern sorta kinda semi-Christian.” She cast aside her belief in the literalness of Genesis and, like most converts to liberalism, seems to think that all evangelicals talk and preach about Genesis on a regular basis—which is not remotely true. When writers like this look at evangelicals and fundamentalists, she sees them through the eyes of the secular culture, meaning she is trained to see Christians as anti-science (also anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-tree-hugging, etc), meaning they are stupid about some things and (by implication) stupid about everything. Anyone who believes God made the world in six 24-hour days must be wrong about God being the Creator, right? (Logic is not her strong suit.)

    Like all ex-evangelicals, she criticizes the Bible’s “condoning of genocide”—specifically, the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament tells of God ordering the Israelites to move into Canaan and kill the natives. Yes, it is a violent book—but does she really think that genocide today is motivated by people reading the Book of Joshua? There is no hint in the New Testament that Christians are to slaughter infidels, and no Christian today condones genocide. Again, she is looking at Christianity through the secularists’ eyes instead of looking objectively at what Christians today practice. She employs the familiar liberal tactic: make a connection between Christianity and the word “genocide,” and you make the doubtful Christian even more willing to give up his faith. (Ditto for “witch hunts.” No witches have been executed by Christians for four centuries, but in the secular view of things, they are still piling up the firewood.) The secular version of history never includes millions of acts of charity done by Christians over the centuries, people who took “love your neighbor” as a direct command.

    There is a seductive quality in this book—as in, a doubter trying to seduce others into doubting. The author honors doubt more than truth. Probably any purchaser of this book has already begun to doubt her faith, so it’s a relatively easy seduction. It is a sign of immaturity to boast of being in the Doubting Thomas Society instead of the Christian church—or, as the Doubters might call it, the Boring Close-Minded Reactionary Club. As a rule, the Doubting crowd ends up believing not much of anything, so there is no discernible difference between the ex-evangelical and the secular agnostic. Frankly, I have more respect for the ex-Christian who completely abandons the faith and says so bluntly. It is hard to respect this author who sorta kinda hangs on to the name of “Christian,” while she and her supposedly Christian publisher are happy to make money from books designed to tear down people’s faith instead of enriching it. When you find yourself mentally more comfortable with unbelievers than with believers, do the obvious thing: exit the church and go dabble in whatever flimsy-fluffy “spirituality” the All-Knowing Oprah is recommending that week.

  3. Peg says:

    Is it possible for Evangelicals to listen to what someone has to say, take what’s good and leave the rest? Or must we always judge, categorize, and dismiss completely?

    • Sandy N says:

      I took what was good from her book and left the rest. I didnt’ find any good in it – no meat there, just cotton candy fluffed up with hot air. But feel free to read her books and draw your own conclusions. She’s a publicity sponge getting a lot of mileage from having been born in Dayton, TN, which is not exactly a criterion for writing well or thinking clearly, and I’m not going to change my views on “LGBT brothers and sisters” just because someone born in Dayton says so. Bad ideas are bad ideas, whether they’re being spread by a perky cheerleader or a grumpy old man.

    • bravelass says:


      In the case of Mrs. Evans, everything is so intricately interlaced with poison, it’s impossible to separate what little good may be there from that which is dangerously bad. In other words, there’s no baby in the bath water.

      • Clearly you either haven’t read the book, haven’t read her blog, or haven’t met her. She is the farthest thing from polarizing and poisonous that I can think of.

      • This is precisely what is so hard for me… I regularly read and comment on RHE’s site because I believe in honest conversation and I believe that conservatives have our blind spots. But every time I do, I walk away feeling like it wasn’t really a conversation, just propaganda for already established beliefs couched in the form of questions and dialogue. Maybe I need is to be a bit more honest with myself about what’s missing from the whole conversation.

      • bravelass says:

        Mr. Sramek is clearly unfamiliar with my lengthy engagement with Mrs. Evans’ writings. Entirely understandable since I am pretty much a nobody with a few well-placed friends who value my judgment regarding Mrs. Evans. In all honesty, I would have dismissed her early on if one of those friends, personally acquainted with Mrs. Evans, hadn’t asked me to engage her writing.

        She presents us with a textbook case of theology-by-emotion built on a foundation of ecclesial deism. It’s the chosen theological poison of many of her compatriots.

        Even if it weren’t, I’d have a hard time taking seriously any 30-something writer who engaged in the puerile antics of V-gate and admits publicly to having a “pouting chair”.

      • Ben Welliver says:

        Back to the old “you didn’t read the book” ploy. Must be some kind of reflex.

    • Peg says:

      I’m not saying I agree with everything Rachel says, and I am no fan of fame or popularity. I’m just saying she makes a few good points that conservative Christians would do well to listen to… including being able to use anatomically correct words in books without being shamed… seeing men and women as equals (not separate-but-equals)… loving gay people as Jesus would… just for starters. People who see “nothing good” in her (or in anyone for that matter) are doing the Creator an injustice.

      • Ben Welliver says:

        Yes, that’s a real step forward for Christian literature, using the V word in a Christian book. Puts her in the league with C. S. Lewis and Augustine.

        Glad you are impressed by “anatomically correct words in books without being ashamed.” By your standard, porn would count as great literature, wouldn’t it? Maybe you can talk your church into passing out copies of Lady Chatterly’s Lover in the vestibule.

        Do you honestly believe this folderol you write? You think it pleases God when a woman who calls herself a Christian stages a publicity coup by including the V word in her book?

  4. The Bible is more than a blue print, it is God revealing the only answer to man’s initial problem of sin and that is the cross. The reason why the church is changing is because Paul declared in 2 Thessalonians that a great falling away would come in the faith due to apostasy in the last days. We do not have 100-200 years. We are in the end of the age and the only hope is the cross.

  5. Donnie says:

    A few years ago,she didn’t even want to be called a Christian but a “Christ follower” She felt “Christian” had been co-opted by political conservatives and Biblical literalists. Now that it can sell her a few more books, she’s an “Evangelical”

    As long as snarky hipsters like her use the word I want nothing to do with it. I never embraced the word to begin with, but I have even less desire to do so now.

  6. Norman L says:

    For somebody who thinks “doubt” is such a virtue, she sure seems certain of her own positions on issues. Apparently when she praises “doubting well,” she means “doubt whatever you learned in your evangelical churches, and keep doubting till you see things as I do.” You find this same attitude in Brian McLaren’s books. Obviously if they were consistent they wouldn’t be able to write a book at all, since they couldn’t stake out a position on any issue, but it’s rather obvious they are very sure of their beliefs about gender, gay rights, immigration, the whole works. So doubting is just a ploy for undermining faith and replacing it with Political Correctness, which never shows any signs of doubt.

  7. J S Lang says:

    Sometimes an author is so one-dimensional that you can get the gist of her writing in one sentence: “I’m not comfortable with a religion of rules, that doesn’t fit my image of God.” So says Evans in Year of Biblical Womanhood, where she also says that rules make us “guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused.” Really, Ms Know-It-All-at-Age-Thirty-One? When your Mom told you not to run with scissors or touch your finger to a hot stove, was that to make you “guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused”? And if you catch your husband with another woman, will you still think that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” was given by a killjoy God to make humans “guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused”? I think your rule-less religion has left you confused, and you seem bent on spreading that confusion to others.

    This is my take on her: she’s a liberal, not an evangelical, which means she’s very dishonest using the label “evangelical.” Evangelicals don’t design their own God, they take the one in the Bible “as is,” on the assumption that since Jesus called that God “Father,” then Father does know best, which explains the rules Father gave us. “I’m not comfortable with a religion of rules.” Well, me neither, Rachel, but whoever said Christianity was all about being “comfortable”? It would be a blast to break all the Ten Commandments in one day, wouldn’t it, but I couldn’t do that and still be a Christian, could I? If I shoplift a $300 sweater from Neiman-Marcus, then I darn well better be “guilt-ridden,” because a guilty conscience is a conscience that works. Here’s a news flash: God gave us rules because humans NEED rules, or the world would be a very unpleasant place to dwell. There’s more to the Christian life than the rules, obvously, but, as Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commendments.”

    Evans wants to toss aside evangelicalism because it doesn’t fit HER image of God. Judging from her books, her image and the image in the Bible are radically different.

  8. Kevin says:

    “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3

  9. Ben Welliver says:

    “The fact that it’s not a blueprint, that’s what brings us into community with one another.” That has to be one of the stupidest things I ever read. Christian community exists because the Bible is not a blueprint? I’ve seen nonsense like that on the websites of liberal churches and am amazed that would attract anyone. A community based on NOT being sure of anything?

    Something has happened to the reasoning power of college students if they could sit through such poppycock and not laugh or walk out. She says we’re supposed to doubt (no Bible verse to support that, needless to say), but they says we’re supposed to have a “childlike faith.” Apparently she’s never had any contact with actual living children, because kids don’t like doubt, quite the contrary. I do agree that Christians should have a childlike trust in God, but in her mouth “childlike faith” sounds like an admonition to not think in a mature way about our beliefs and values. I don’t want to sound unkind, but the author strikes me as an overgrown kid who likes attention and knows bit and pieces of the Bible but isn’t mature enough to see the overall themes in it. Could we please get some adults to write Christian books?

  10. Greg P says:

    IRD, thanks for posting that new (and more revealing) photo of Rachel Evans. Communicates a lot about her, also about the maturity level of the Wesley Foundation at William and Mary. The liberal bishops and bureaucrats of the UM must be proud of this rising generation, although odds are these deep thinkers with their V–gate T-shirts won’t be darkening any church door within ten years.

    • Max Blalock says:

      Hey Greg, I’m Rev. Max Blalock, the United Methodist campus minister at The Wesley Foundation at The College of William and Mary. Our leadership team at Wesley came up with the idea for the t-shirts and designed them as a fun way to welcome Rachel to William and Mary. I believe that it is completely fair game to criticize someone in the public sphere like Rachel and our bishops. However, to disparage college students whom you have never met is simply out of line. Those college students in the photo are amazing people of Christian faith who love the church. One teaches a young adult Sunday School Class at her church, and all four are active presently in churches here in Williamsburg or at home. They have committed huge amounts of time in their college lives to sharing the love and grace of God in amazing ways here on campus and beyond. Our theme for this year is “Keep Calm and Love Your Neighbor.” I hope that you can embody that as well.

      • With all due respect, Rachel has insisted she was not to blame for the proliferation of the vaginagate controversy. Don’t you think you’ve further perpetuated the claim that she has by welcoming her to the school with those tshirts, as well as perpetuating the lie that that was the reason the book wasn’t carried by Lifeway? With all due respect, your decision to create and wear those shirts….and for Rachel to give them a “thumbs up” as she did in the photo, does NOT silence that issue nor does it reflect the fruit of the spirit. Perhaps its fair not to critize those students, but they’re old enough to know fact from fiction, and godliness vs. godlessness. They should have been fully informed of the state of the controversy, and if they had and they chose to create/wear the shirts, then it is on them. Let’s stop the desparaging of Lifeway for a business decision they chose to make based on the sales of her first book as they stated in their public statement.

  11. Donnie says:

    That new picture pretty much sums up the snarky hipster set. Tantrum throwing 12 year olds trying to be shocking and daring and upsetting mommy and daddy. Of course, they only come across as immature, petty and shrill.

  12. The Russian Eagle says:

    I seriously think Rachel held Evans’ goal in life to make Christian Men just as disinterested in marriage a secular men.

  13. Mark says:

    Another 31-year-old re-discovering the wheel. So, she thinks she’s the only one that has wrestled with doubt? Perhaps she should read St. Augustine (if she’s ever heard of the fellow).

    She totally misunderstands the reasons Christ and the early church distinguished ceremonial law from moral law (saying it is Biblical, in a Christian sense, for the victim of a rape to marry her rapist is absurd).

    These nuances with respect to understanding Scripture are lost on modern liberals. They think you either view everything as totally literal (which has never been the case except for extremists), or everything is figurative and you can irrationally treat Scripture as little more than a spiritual/philosophical ink blot test. (The latter being the more enlightened view, of course.)

    • Bart Gingerich says:


      Laziness in addressing the Law, Old Testament, the old and new covenants, and the interaction with the Gospel is rampant. Like you said, the Church has already addressed these items with tremendous effectiveness. Nevertheless, feckless commentators (I won’t deign to call them theologians) dismiss parts of Scripture for their inconvenience. We see it everyday from revisionists old and new.

    • Ray Bannister says:

      Mark, she isn’t “wrestling with doubt,” that’s just liberal claptrap, makes it sound like they’re openminded and consider all the options while evangelicals are stuck in our rigid orthodoxy. They have their own orthodoxy of core beliefs that are non-negotiable, but they can’t come out and admit they’re trying to replace one orthodoxy with another. Ask a liberal if she has doubts about gay marriage or ordination of women, and she won’t hesitate a second. They’re not sure is marriage is essential for men and women any more but they’re gung-ho for same-sex couples.

  14. Kevin says:

    Sigh…I just roll my eyes when I hear people saying this stuff. I’m actually very politically liberal, but even still, I really detest it when people like Rachel Held Evans force us into pigeon-holing ourselves in these two mutually irreconcilable warring camps of foaming-at-the-mouth Religious Right/Tea Party crazy conservative or skeptically secularist liberal that gives greater loyalty to the teachings of their political faith than to their Christian faith.

    She does make some good points.

    Yes, we tend to mistake our cultural interpretation of truth for the truth itself, with sometimes awful consequences. Yes, we need to be wiser with how we speak biblical truths in various cultural environments. Yes, we need to avoid heartless, pitiless legalism that enthrones man at the expense of the one true Ruler of the heavens and the earth, and be humble and know our places in the universe (i.e., not on the judgment seat or throne of heaven).


    Evans misapplies her valid observations and arrives at some dreadful conclusions.

    First, she takes the rigid, fundamentalist interpretation of Christian teachings as Christianity itself, and turns her discussion into a take it or leave it proposition that apparently leads her to conclude that weakly grounded faith is better than toxic faith, instead of concluding that biblically-grounded faith is the better option.

    Wasn’t it C.S. Lewis who once said that it’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but that it hasn’t been tried at all? I think that’s what we’ve got here.

    I have a major problem with the conservative expression of Christianity. At its worst, it’s as bad as what the Pharisees offered to the people of their day: heartless, death-producing moralism. But the option that Evans offers is just as bad: replacing legalism with license, with virtual agnosticism.

    After having watched the Religious Right wreak their havoc and destruction for thirty years, I’m absolutely convinced that the solution is not the creation of a Religious Left to counteract it. Thirty years of Religious Right activism has not made us more moral, it’s just made us more judgmental, and I also think that the Tea Party insanity is partially fueled by the angry, moralistic spirit of the far right wing of the Religious Right. No, I don’t want a liberal version of this, much as my flesh would like it. We just need a return to the true spirit of our faith: grace and truth working together with humility, gentleness and respect.

    Also, I frankly resent it when people like Evans imply that to be authentically liberal, you must go as far as she has in rejecting biblical teaching. No, sorry, sister: you can’t be authentically liberal without a strong respect for the authority and teaching of scripture. It is a large part of the reason why I am liberal and not conservative. Secularism is NOT a prerequisite to liberalism, and I reject this utterly.

    • Kamilla says:


      That was GK Chesterton. “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and not tried at all.”

    • bravelass says:


      That was GK Chesterton. “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and not tried at all.”

    • Mark says:

      You make some good observations here, but you are mistaken if you are saying that, at least in modern times, theological liberals and theological conservatives are two sides of the same coin. Today’s theological liberalism (which is basically the same as today’s political liberalism) has had far more damaging effects on the church and society than has theological conservatism. Don’t buy all the media hype about “judgmentalism,” etc.

      For example, Jerry Falwell, for all his faults, started a Christian University which continues to grow and thrive today. Lefty theological firebrand William Sloane Coffin provided society with some good insights, but he also left a legacy of permissiveness and theological ambiguity, resulting in lives ruined by sin (which Coffin served as an apologist for and which he rationalized as anything but sin).

      • Greg P says:

        Sorry, but I do keep up with the news and somehow I missed all this “havoc and destruction” that the Religious Right has been engaged in, according to Kevin says. If you’re going to throw out terms like that on a blog where some of the people (like myself) would fit into the Religious Right category, I think you better rephrase your accusation or defend it, and you can’t defend it, because there is no “havoc and destruction,” because the lefty media wouldn’t exactly hesitate to report any “havoc and destruction.” You have a knack for making statements like that with zero evidence. I side with both the Religious Right and the Tea Party, and I’m not (despite your accusations) insane and don’t get into havoc and destruction, quite the contrary, would like to keep the society from going to hell in a handbasket, but maybe to you that’s “havoc.” You’re not exactly an object lesson in agape yourself.

        I gather you must be pastor, because you sure love to dramatize things. Always a frustrated actor/demagogue lurking inside every clergyman.

      • Kevin says:

        Mark: I sort of see what you mean, but I would point out though, that the legalistic moralism like that which Falwell practiced has resulted in lives ruined by sin too, but in a different way than rabid secularism. The difference I see is that the sins we associate with legalism (pride, contempt, etc.) are more socially acceptable than those we associate with secularism (abortion, homosexuality, etc.).

        Also, I think that legalism’s great legacy of spiritual death lies in the fact that it has alienated many younger evangelicals like Evans from true faith. I know people who I know are true believers, yet have over the years gravitated away from biblical orthodoxy on some issues because of how offended they have felt at the behavior the Religious Right. I can certainly see in the thinking of many of them the line of reasoning that goes: if the Religious Right believes it, then I must believe the opposite, because they are such jerks. Not very sound reasoning, granted, but this is how an increasing number of Christians are thinking these days.

        Also, you have probably have heard recent news about polls that indicate that the numbers of the religiously unaffiliated, that is, those who profess no religion, is rising. Of course, I’m speculating when I say this, but I believe there is no more damning evidence of the destructive effect of legalism than this.

        Now ultimately, all of us are responsible for our own choices. When we stand at the judgement seat of God in heaven, we will not be able to get away with saying, “The Religious Right made me do it.” Nonetheless, those who fill the airwaves with hostility and contempt will be rendered accountable for the effect of their harsh words, just like those who chose to abandon God altogether, even despite the extenuating circumstances (i.e., that they didn’t understand true biblical faith because they were never offered anything other than a twisted caricature of it).

      • Greg P says:

        You do love to throw pairs of slurs around, don’t you – “havoc and destruction,” and filling the airwaves with “hostility and contempt.” I asked you before for some examples, but why bother asking? You like the image created by the secular media, so stick with it. No point confusing you with reality.

        My pastor and I have discussed the “alienation of our young people.” What is the solution? There isn’t one. We don’t possess the seductive power to influence people’s minds 24/7 the way the culture does, plus we have people like Kevin who call themselves Christian and openly hate the Religious Right as much or more than the unbelievers do. I don’t think we lose Christians, I think we lose the lukewarm, halfhearted types whose religion consists of worship with a lot of clapping and swaying, an occasional pizza party, and other busy-work. Tell them that the Christian life involves self-sacrifice and self-denial and they flee. No problem. A smaller and spiritually richer church would be a great thing. Shallow, vapid narcissists like Rachel Evans would love the church to cater to her crowd – “cool” people, no moral standards, no boundaries, lots of vague chat about “love.” Would I love to see people like her convert and become stouthearted, world-changing Christians? Sure. But most people like that won’t. Didn’t happen in Acts either. Christ told us to make disciples, not pack people into church like sardines. Quality, not quantity. One Billy Graham is worth ten thousand Rachel Evans types.

        • Kevin says:

          Some comments:

          “My pastor and I have discussed the “alienation of our young people.” What is the solution? There isn’t one.”

          Wow. That’s a pretty astonishing statement for Christians to make. It sounds like you all are admitting defeat, not to mention have you forgotten that we serve a God that can change lives, even lives of those among us who are the worst?

          “We don’t possess the seductive power to influence people’s minds 24/7 the way the culture does.”

          You just said something very important. Yes, you’re right. WE don’t have that power, but the God Who lives within us does. We have power to influence for the better only insofar as we are surrendered to God’s ways. As it is, I think much of the church has lost its influence because we have become so worldly and so political. We long ago stopped seeking the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to work and express Himself through us, and instead, we now try to do things according to merely human ways and human wisdom, with predictably awful results.

          “I don’t think we lose Christians, I think we lose the lukewarm, halfhearted types whose religion consists of worship with a lot of clapping and swaying, an occasional pizza party, and other busy-work.”

          Yes, true. Even the Son of God Himself had this issue to deal with. Absolutely right.
          Tell them that the Christian life involves self-sacrifice and self-denial and they flee.
          Yeah, pretty much. Of course, if we really confronted pride, greed and selfishness in our churches, the pews would empty out even more.

          “Shallow, vapid narcissists like Rachel Evans would love the church to cater to her crowd – “cool” people, no moral standards, no boundaries, lots of vague chat about “love.” Would I love to see people like her convert and become stouthearted, world-changing Christians? Sure. But most people like that won’t.”

          Wow. That is a sweeping judgment, don’t you think? How do you know this? Do you really think so little of the life-changing power of God? If you want an example of the kind of heartless contempt that so typifies the Religious Right, this is it. It communicates to me that you think people are like this because its their unchangeable nature, and that they will never be anything different, so then, they are the enemy that must be crushed. Oh you of little faith…

          “Didn’t happen in Acts either. Christ told us to make disciples, not pack people into church like sardines. Quality, not quantity.”

          Well, yes and no. Reality is that not all the people thronging our megachurches are going to be saved. But that should not stop from hoping and trying. After all, if God desires that all be saved, why shouldn’t we? We don’t have to be stupid about this, even as we’re hoping for the best. We have to be realistic, but yet hopeful.

          “I asked you before for some examples, but why bother asking? You like the image created by the secular media, so stick with it. No point confusing you with reality.”

          Okay, well, if you really want me to offer examples, I can. But a few points first. One reason I didn’t bother offering examples is that I expect that you will dismiss most of them as either unrepresentative or taken out of context. I also was uncertain I really wanted to bang on this drum much harder than I already have. But, well, you really wanted examples, so examples I got. The examples I’m going to offer I are representative, and they are legion in number, so much so that I won’t even be able to offer even a small fraction of what’s out there. These are really only the most public examples taken from the words of Christian radio and TV personalities, Christian politicians and political activists, pastors, etc., but I have to tell you, I’ve heard with my own ears Christians say things like these, except not usually as vehement and extreme. Nonetheless, it has become clear to me over the years that a lot of Christians approve of such attitudes as I’m about to cite. By the way, I want to try to clear up something that I’ve done a poor job of communicating. I don’t think that all evangelicals are haters and bigots. Most of my friends are conservative evangelicals, and they aren’t as ugly and nasty as the more publicly visible Religious Right types are, although, again, I do see a lot of approval among them of some of the attitudes that drive me crazy. I look at it like this: it’s like how in the South during the slavery era, very few people owned slaves. It was the wealthy planting class and those the next few rungs down economically that did. Nonetheless, while slave owners were a minority, they set the dominant tone for their culture. Similarly, while most evangelicals are not as nasty as those that I so often deplore, the nasty ones have set the dominant tone for our culture, and a large number of people give at least passive approval to it, or at least do nothing to confront it.

          Well, anyway…

          You wanted examples? Here are some. Read ‘em and weep.

          “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” Jerry Falwell

          “The decline in American pride, patriotism, and piety can be directly attributed to the extensive reading of so-called ‘science fiction’ by our young people. This poisonous rot about creatures not of God’s making, societies of ‘aliens’ without a good Christian among them, and raw sex between unhuman beings with three heads and God alone knows what sort of reproductive apparatus keeps our young people from realizing the true will of God.” Jerry Falwell

          “And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’.”
          -On Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club, Sept. 13th, 2001, Jerry Falwell

          “But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”
          -Speaking on his Morning In America radio show, Sept. 28th, 2005.

          “Our culture is superior. Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free.”
          -Speech to the Christian Coalition, Sept. 1993, Pat Buchanan

          “I think that actually AIDS is a guardian. That is I think it was sent, if you would, about forty years ago, to destroy Western civilization unless we change our sexual ways. So it’s really a Godsend.” Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute

          “If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong.”
          -Interview with Florida Baptist Witness, August 24, 2006, Katherine Harris

          “The terrible immoral and physical uncleanliness of homosexuality makes it the next moral crime to bestiality. If one does not have moral scruples against committing the verminous unnatural act of homosexuality, he or she will not scruple against the filthy and unnatural act of bestiality. This is one of the things that make the act of homosexuality so vile and heinous. When depraved humans get adjusted to practicing and receiving pleasure from a particular level of depravity, they will not remain satisfied with the degree of degraded pleasure they receive in that realm, but will begin to lust for the pleasure that can be derived from the next level. For those who derive sinful pleasure from the act of homosexuality, the next level is bestiality.” Robert T. Lee, Society for the Practical Establishment of the Ten Commandments

          “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It’s no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.” Pat Robertson

          “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” Pat Robertson

          “Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.” Phyllis Schlafly

          “Many years ago Christian pioneers had to fight savage Indians. Today missionaries of these former cultures are being sent via the public schools to heathenize our children.” Phyllis Schlafly

          “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.” Randall Terry of Operation Rescue

          “They would have us believe that Islam is just as good as Christianity. Christianity was founded by the virgin-born son of God, Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, the last one of which was a nine-year-old girl.” Jerry Vines, Southern Baptist Convention

          “We are engaged in a social, political, and cultural war. There’s a lot of talk in America about pluralism. But the bottom line is somebody’s values will prevail. And the winner gets the right to teach our children what to believe.”
          — Gary Bauer, Family Research Council

          “But integration and equality are myths; they disguise a new segregation and a new equality…Every social order institutes its own program of separation or segregation. A particular faith and morality is given privileged status and all else is separated for progressive elimination.”
          –R.J. Rushdoony,

          “The end goal of gay activism is the criminalization of Christianity.”
          –Robert H. Knight, Director of Cultural Studies at FRC

          “Now I have learned that the radical, perverted homosexuals and lesbians are already promoting their ‘2000 Disney Gay Day’ — with Disney’s help! And they are timing it to occur in June — right when children out of school will be flocking to Disney-owned parks! This proves the true intent of these homosexuals: they are after our children!!”
          –Bonnie Mawyer, wife of Christian Action Network founder, in a March 2000 letter blasting Disney for allowing gay groups to visit Disney World.

          “I don’t care what the liberals say, I don’t care what the naysayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation…There is only one God and his name is Jesus. I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words.. Listen to me, If you don’t love America, If you don’t like the way we do things I have one thing to say – GET OUT. We don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammad, we don’t worship Allah, we worship God, we worship God’s son Jesus Christ.”
          Greenwell Springs Baptist Church pastor Rev. Dennis Terry

          One other example I remember from a long time ago. Cal Thomas the syndicated evangelical columnist once wrote a book called “Liberals for Lunch.” The title says it all.

          And then there’s Michelle Bachmann, the evangelical congresswoman from Minnesota, who never lets an opportunity for making bizarre, baseless accusations go by, like the recent accusation she made with a number of other congresswoman, charging that Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Clinton’s top aide, was a radical Muslim and practically an al Qaidah plant.

          And I could go on and on and on.

          There are also the hosts of the Christian talk radio station here in Washington, too, Don Kroah and Janet Parshall (although Janet has become syndicated on a national radio show now). I remember listening to them fulminate with fury about all the terrible things that liberals are doing, and woe betide you if you dared to call in with a different point of view. Both of them would aggressively berate and interrupt and bully any caller who expressed a liberal point of view (especially Don Kroah, not Janet Parshall as much). It was painful to listen to. Really embarrassing that this was the face we Christians were showing to our city.

          So there you go. You’ve got your examples now.

      • Greg P says:

        Since you bothered to cut-n-paste all those lovely examples, I’ll give them a look – later, kind of in a crunch now. I saw Janet Parshall’s name and know her personally, she is a peach, been on-air with her but doesn’t look like you included quotes by her. Her show has been nationally syndicated for at least 17 years, btw. She is very nimble on live radio, never caught her saying anything that would fall into your “havoc and destruction” folder, don’t think she’s “foaming at the mouth,” but you might measure foam differently than me. She could be the template for smart Christian woman. I see no problem in verbal battles with liberal callers. Who knows, might plant a seed in some listener’s heart, make him realize how absurd liberalism is when the opponent is quick on the draw. I gather you are not comfortable with that “put up your dukes” style. I love it. I’ve seen old film of people like Billy Sunday, former pro athlete, never stood still, testosterone off the chart,, what a guy. Wish we had some of those types now instead of dweebs like Rick Warren bragging about his church’s weight loss program and how God wants all his children to be mesomorphs with firm abs. (Chapter and verse, Rick?)

        Regarding what I said about Rachel “Modesty Personified” Evans: I hardly call it “heartless contempt” to wish that she and her crowd would convert to Christianity. God can do anything, but he doesn’t force himself on people. It’s possible to convert atheists and agnostics. Liberals who wear the “Christian” label are REAL hard to convert, because they think they’re already there.

        I’ll scan your “havoc and destruction” quotes later. Should be amusing.

      • Mark says:

        Kevin, just a couple of things in response to your very long commentary. Some of the quotes you cite were taken out of context, some of them I very much disagree with, and a couple were from people that most orthodox Christians would consider extremists. So, I don’t think these selective quotes provide a good representation of evangelical or orthodox Christians.

        Many of these quotes contain truth but were expressed in offensive ways. While I may not like some of the content and tone, I would rather have a little truth expressed harshly than lies expressed lovingly. Postmodern thought has become infected with the politically correct notion that if we happen to be offended by something then we are free (even obligated) to disregard it, regardless of its merits.

        While, as Christians, we are admonished to express God’s truth in love, it doesn’t always come across that way because we are human. I could fill a book with incendiary rhetoric from secular and religious liberals that would make the quotes you mention look like kindergarten stuff. But that would serve little purpose as we would end up in an endless game of gotcha last.

        Last, but certainly not least, is the following thought question: Why do we even know what these people said in the first place?? A big reason is that the overall media is biased against conservatives, especially if they happen to be Christian, so when a Falwell or a Bachmann makes an inartful comment we are much more prone to read about it in the New York Times than when a liberal figure screws up (e.g., a Congressman who (perhaps) consorted with young prostitutes, or a liberal Democratic Presidential candidate who fathered a love child while his wife was dying of cancer, or any number of other examples where liberals are given a pass and conservatives are lambasted (who knew Marco Rubio drank water?).

        In other words, Kevin, your perspective echoes your environment, and that environment, as far as most information sources are concerned, is far more likely to be liberal than conservative (yes, despite talk radio and Fox News, which are still just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall media).

        Unless you make a strong effort to see the other side, the predominant environment will influence you in a leftward theological and political direction. The most objective study ever done on media bias pretty much confirms this, and most of the results were published in a peer reviewed journal considered one of the most prestigious in the Western Hemisphere: http://www.amazon.com/Left-Turn-Liberal-Distorts-American/dp/1250002761

        • Kevin says:

          Hey, Mark.

          Some of these quotes may be out of context, perhaps, but nonetheless, I think they do represent the thinking of a large and dominant majority of evangelicals. Some evangelicals think like this more than others, of course. There’s certainly a spectrum of belief and attitude, as is always true in these situations. I would agree that they don’t represent what all evangelicals believe, but still, these extreme attitudes are tolerated by the majority, even by many who personally would not state their beliefs in this way.

          I know that some religious liberals can be ugly too, but in evangelical circles, liberals are very small in numbers, a tiny minority of a minority, so they don’t have the power and influence of the conservative majority. Trying to compare the two is like comparing pebbles with boulders. It just isn’t the same. In Christian circles, when the conservative nasties speak out, people listen and take them seriously. When the liberal nasties pipe up, most people roll their eyes and tune them out.

          I would very much disagree with your concept of the liberally-biased media in this sense: it’s not I don’t think that most people in media are liberal. There is polling information that demonstrates that this is true, yes. The problem with this liberally-biased media narrative is that it presumes that the MSM people put their politics before their job. No, I don’t buy that. I’ve worked briefly in the media, and my experience is that most news people don’t consciously set out to spin events according to the dictates of the liberal worldview: it finds its way into news content anyway, but I don’t think it is conscious and deliberate with most. The conservative media is very much the opposite. They are VERY biased, simply because the conservative media has always had this chip on its shoulder about being the minority, and feeling like it has to prove itself the equal of its liberal competitors, necessitating that they shout louder and more consciously and deliberately. Add to this the reality that news organizations are first and foremost a business. With establishment news organizations that have to appeal to broad audiences, this limits how far out on a limb they go without alienating viewers/readers. The conservative media, since it speaks to a smaller, more ideologically committed audience, can afford to have fewer inhibitions. Also, consider what the role of the media is: its their job to afflict the powerful on behalf of the little guy, to fight for change, to hold the powers that be accountable. Since conservatives seem to be on the side of the powers that be, since they are far less comfortable with change, it’s difficult to see how working in the news/media biz would be appealing to them. It stands to reason, in my view, that most media people are more liberal, because liberals are all about pushing change forward, and are more likely to find themselves in an adversarial role with the powerful.

          Also, I understand what you’re saying about preferring to hear a harshly-spoken truth than a smoothly-spoken falsehood, but why are we limited to those two choices? I don’t see harshly-spoken truth as any better, really, because truth is not a matter of being theologically correct. It’s about attitude as well. “If I know all mysteries and all knowledge, but do not have love, I have nothing….If I give all my possessions to feed the poor but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Right? I think scripture really does not support this needlessly binary choice, and really abhors it even. We are not called to wage holy war against the infidels among us. We just aren’t. To do so reduces the teachings of Christ to a merely intellectual worldview that must be defended like any other political party, and of course, we have become accustomed to “standing up for the truth” in the same way that other worldly political entities do: by acts of intellectual and verbal war that aims at the destruction of the other side. Jesus came to save the world, not condemn it, and it can be done without the harshness we’ve come to tolerate or approve (see the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8: perfect example of upholding biblical standards without throwing stones). I think that if we submit ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit to produce godliness in us, we can give the unbelieving world a reason to be interested in Jesus, rather than repelling them with our harsh judgments, don’t you think?

        • Kevin says:

          Mark: one other addendum to the above…one of the reasons I don’t believe this view of conservative majority is not just a figment of liberal-media-inspired imaginations is that I have been hearing these sentiments expressed with my own ears (although in somewhat less vehement form, although not always) for almost 30 years. Representing the minority view as I do, I notice it in a way others don’t. The conservative majority, in my experience, is very comfortable in its legalistic views because they are the majority, and very few people ever challenge them, so most conservatives are pretty free in expressing what they think without trying to filter what they say, because they usually assume (and they’re usually right in this) that most everyone in earshot will agree with them. Well, I often don’t, but I’ve had to learn to just politely nod my head, and carefully offer a different view without being aggressive about it. Of course, discussing these things online tends to remove a lot of those inhibitions for all of us, as you’ve no doubt noticed, but anyway, the truth is that based on what I’ve heard coming out of the mouths of evangelical conservatives, these attitudes are rampant.

      • Greg P says:

        K, I read all your quotes (well, two thirds maybe) and I can’t really improve on what Mark said earlier, except to say “ditto.” I’d also add that Rushdoony is someone that liberals talk about more often than evangelicals do. I have hundreds of evangelical acquaintances, the only time his name ever comes up in when we noticed he got mentioned in some liberal’s writing as the Big Nasty Evangelical. He is barely on conservatives’ radar, and wouldn’t be on it at all if liberals didn’t frequently bring him up.

        I didn’t see any quotes that would seem capable of “havoc and destruction.” I guess there’s “hostility and contempt,” but I see those as contempt for sins, not sinners. Pat Buchanan can seem a little extreme, but I think he enjoys his role as provacateur, and he’s good at it.

        Of all the ridiculous things you’ve said so far, this one takes the cake: “Very few people challenge them.” What alternate universe are you residing in?? They/we get challenged constantly by liberals (not just challenged but, as your posts show, slandered and demonized). If you could lower yourself to actually sit through an hour of Limbaugh, Bennett, Prager, or Medved, you’d know there is no conservative monolith, just some general agreement on core principles. Prager and Medved give priority to liberal calls, and almost always shred them up and spit them out like confetti.

        You said “these attitudes are rampant.” In your head, maybe. If you think Mark and I are staging some kind of coverup of our true sentiments, go ahead and think that. My view of conservatives is based on frequent interaction with them, yours is based on what filters through the media, and if you think it’s unbiased, you really are deluded. I I’m not bothering with your posts any more, it’s getting tedious because it always comes back to you thinking you know what conservatives really think, and you apparently enjoy using the term “conservative nasties,” in spite of lack of evidence of their nastiness.

        If you haven’t read Evans book, I’m sure you’d love it. She doesn’t think, she emotes, and facts are of no interest to her. She shares your contempt for “conservative nasties.

        C Nasty

        • Kevin says:

          Greg: yeah, I thought you might react exactly the way you just reacted, which is why I was reluctant to give you the examples you wanted. When I said no-one challenges conservative evangelicals, I mean no-one from the inside of the church challenges them. This is why so many conservatives feel free of any obligation to filter what they say, because they’re cloistered in this bubble from which they can lob stones at liberals and other people they don’t like with impunity. No, Greg, I have constant interaction with conservatives. I am an evangelical myself, and I have gone to evangelical churches for 27 years now. I know quite well how conservatives think, because I’ve been surrounded by them for years. I don’t even need to read the news to know these things, when I hear them with my own ears. You obviously haven’t bothered to actually read some of my comments above that pretty clearly show that no, I don’t approve Rachel Held Evans’ denigration of the authority of scripture. Dude, you just don’t listen. I’m also astounded that you can’t discern the scathing contempt the people I have quoted hold for all the categories of people conservatives don’t like. It comes through to me loud and clear. But this just exemplifies what I’m talking about. Too many evangelical conservatives are so isolated in their own echo chamber that they no longer are able to hear these things any more. I and Christians who think like I do, on the other hand, have to listen to our way of looking at the world denigrated and sometimes just spit upon week after week. We don’t have the luxury of being tone deaf, because we get this stuff shoved in our face, and because we’re outnumbered, we have little choice but to seethe in silence.

      • Ben Welliver says:

        The obvious question is, since you despise evangelicals so much, why do you have anything to do with them? There are lots of leftyloony churches out there who are losing members and would gladly take you in. Hobnobbing with people who don’t share your values makes no sense, unless you just enjoy grousing. You’re like someone who hates Italian food but you keep going to Olive Garden for lunch.

        • Kevin says:

          Ben: Good question. To start with, I’m a believer. Most Christians in most churches are conservatives. What choice do I have? “Leftloony” churches as you call them would be teaching mushy theology at best, or out and out apostasy at worst. At least in conservative churches that have solid teaching, there’s at least a possibility that the people that go there could get a better attitude…someday. Also, when I talk about conservative churches, I’m talking in general. The church I actually go to is one of the exceptions, one of the few churches I’ve been to where I don’t (totally) feel like the odd man out, otherwise I would be out of there. I’m glad I don’t live in the South, otherwise, I’d be food for the sharks.

      • Mark says:

        Kevin, you do make some reasonable observations here, some of which I agree with.

        Just a few more things you may want to consider. You say there is a conservative majority within Christianity, and statistics back you up…but why do you think this is so? Liberals certainly have an equal opportunity to start churches, do they not?

        I have also been in meetings where liberal points of view were dismissed, sometimes quite judgmentally. I get that. But if someone is arguing for things that are clearly outside the realm of historic Christian teachings–say, gay marriage or abortion-on-demand–then there may well be some excesses in responding, though I don’t excuse invective. And often liberals are a bit hypersensitive.

        You said that conservatives tend to be less inhibited in their proclamations. In effect, you are saying that they are more transparent. What does that tell you?

        You observe that “Also, I understand what you’re saying about preferring to hear a harshly-spoken truth than a smoothly-spoken falsehood, but why are we limited to those two choices? I don’t see harshly-spoken truth as any better…” Well, I don’t limit it to those two choices but that is sort of the way the argument has been framed.

        Along those lines let me pose a question: if you needed surgery and you had a choice between a surgeon who was a bit rude but who believed in washing his hands before surgery, vs another surgeon who thought hand-washing was unnecessary but who was a very nice guy, who would you pick?

        You assert that “In Christian circles, when the conservative nasties speak out, people listen and take them seriously.” Well, maybe some in Christian circles take them seriously, but the dominant media doesn’t take them seriously other than to characterize them as bigots and hatemongers, which they typically do with no small amount of relish. And if these “nasties” make over-the top statements then many conservative Christians speak out against them as well (e.g., the FL pastor who wanted to burn the Koran was denounced by both conservatives and liberals). So, I have to agree with Greg P (alias C Nasty) when he calls you on your assertion that “very few people ever challenge” the conservative majority. That’s simply not true.

        Now, on to your comments about the media, and let me offer you a disclaimer: I have studied the media as an avocation for about 20 years. I have read close to 100 statistical surveys and peer-reviewed journal articles on the topic, as well as 10 to 12 books. Let me give you the results in a nutshell: the media is, without question, biased in a leftward ideological direction. It is not the result of some “conspiracy” but of a dominant culture that has evolved over several decades. It is not necessarily the result of people putting “their politics before their job” (although that happens more than you realize), it is the result of people conforming to their environment and training.

        You say the conservative media is even MORE biased because they have a chip on their shoulder? Well, maybe you have a small point, but if you think for one second that Chris Mathews doesn’t inject his politics into news stories every bit as much as Sean Hannity then you are living in an alternate universe.

        Where you really miss the mark, however, is in your view of what the news media is supposed to do: “consider what the role of the media is: its their job to afflict the powerful on behalf of the little guy, to fight for change, to hold the powers that be accountable.”

        Uh, no. Your may be confusing the media with a law firm. The news media is supposed to report the news. And they should do it accurately and objectively, without bias toward rich or poor, black or white, conservative or liberal, powerful or weak (all of which are Biblical principles, by the way), and they ought report stories with a reasonable degree of perspective. If that means afflicting the powerful then so be it, if it means implicating the less powerful because they have done wrong then so be it, but your observation puts the cart before the horse and is truly emblematic of the problem with today’s media. As a corollary, some have observed that media bias is exacerbated by an incompetence reflected, in part, in this confusion about mission.

        Our worldview is shaped by the information sources we choose to consult or that are readily available to us, and I think it’s becoming clear that we have been sold a bill of goods. The answer is not to further polarize things by having two different competing medias, but until the general news media becomes more competent and less biased it appears we will continue evolving in that direction.

    • Peg says:

      Excellent post Kevin… that’s what I was trying to getting at. CS Lewis’s “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it’s that it’s never been tried at all” – exactly. Time for both sides to knock off the posturing and drop the Phariseeism.

      • Kevin says:

        Peg: right on. What I’ve learned from all the useless arguing I’ve been doing on this page for the last week is that it’s virtually impossible to even enter into the “discussion” without stumbling in the same way as the very people one often criticizes the most. Even if you are right, which I believe I mostly am (although I do admit I should tone down my rhetoric some), it’s all for nothing if you end up losing your temper, or allow yourself to speak through long pent-up frustration and anger, as I have done on this page. You don’t change anybody’s minds anyway, especially those who think they are so righteous that they are beyond correction or beyond the need to consider different points of view. Of course, the moment I say this, the question arises in my mind: isn’t this just as true of yourself? Kind of tends to shut you up. But then, you think, what if you see both sides of these debates speaking falsehood or displaying a legalistic attitude? Doesn’t somebody need to challenge that? When evangelical conservatives would say such things to me such as anyone (like myself) who votes for Obama is “duped by the Antichrist”, how can you keep silent in the face of such outrageous nonsense? That just makes me crazy. Round and round it goes in my head. It’s a difficult, knotty issue I don’t know how to resolve. Any thoughts on this?

  15. There is much commentary here vilifying Rachel Held Evans for expressing her doubts about the literal interpretation of scripture and encouraging others to do the same. There is the suggestion that expressing doubts and wrestling with scripture is somehow unfaithful, even unbiblical. There is no “trying to seduce others into doubting” in her book–there is no need: doubters and questioners are everywhere. There is just a recognition that we are in a dynamic relationship with a living God, not a static and rigid relationship with a book. After all, the Word (logos) of God is Jesus Christ, not simply text, as sacred as that text might be. The problem, as a cursory reading of her blog posts and the responses would reveal, is that faithful people DO have questions and DO have doubts–and the church often does a better job of dismissing or suppressing them than in engaging them as genuine, faithful inquiry. Many people are leaving the church because their doubts and questions are not taken seriously. And yes, gay people ARE our brothers and sisters, deserving at least of our love in Christ, whether or not we approve of their relationships.

    • J S Lang says:

      Sorry, but I read her book and saw no evidence she was “wrestling with Scripture,” her aim was to convince readers that “living by the Bible” is an unattainable – indeed, farcical – goal. In trying to prove that “biblical womanhood” is meaningless, she was telling the reader that the very word “biblical” was a joke. Do you wonder why evangelicals would “vilify” someone who writes two books, plus her blog, to release people from any obligation to “live according to the Bible”? Once you agree with her that there is no such obligation, that “love” alone is the guide, then you can do and say darn near whatever you like, including jumping on the liberal bandwagon, which, she obvously has.
      So, back to your claim she was “wrestling with Scripture.” No, that would imply really engaging with it, getting at its real meaning – and that was the last thing on her mind. Someone “wrestling with Scripture” doesn’t do something totally infantile like cooking kosher, when it’s very clear the Christians put aside the kosher laws and all the ritual laws. Why wrestle with the Bible at all? that takes effort. Call yourself a Christian (“I am one, because I say so”), blow a raspberry at evangelicals and snicker at them for their silly obsession with “biblical” living. Just say you’re full of love, and that’s that. That’s a religion that could’ve been invented by a 9th-grader hoping that the cool kids will let her sit at their table during lunch.

  16. Josh says:

    Can’t wait until she stops being relevant enough to pollute my preferred blogs. Please, God.

  17. Ray Bannister says:

    IRD, a correction to your photo caption: LifeWay is not the Southern Bapts’ publishing arm, it’s their chain of retail stores (formerly “Baptist Bookstores”) and online store, which chose not to stock Evans’ book, which is published by Thomas Nelson. As of the time I’m posting this, LifeWay does not sell either of her books. She owes a lot to that decision, considering the mileage she’s gotten out of her being “banned” by one bookstore chain (which, thankfully, has higher standards than Thomas Nelson). Bless her dear heart, she refers on her blog to the “chokehold” that those nasty Christian bookstores have on the Christian book industry (imagine that). She doesn’t look choked to me. So fun to be a liberal – pose as being persecuted without ever having to actually suffer.

    • bravelass says:

      Such a chokehold that every one of the bookstores carries books published by the pornographer Rupert Murdoch (who owns Nelson and Zondervan).

      If she were honest, she’d put a stop to all this V-gate silliness and admit the reason Lifeway didn’t carry her second book is because of the poor sales of her first book.

  18. Tim Vernon says:

    I posted a review of Honey BooBoo’s book on Amazon, and that provoked the Attack of the Killer Shrews. Wow, talk about LOYAL fans! If only people were that committed to Jesus of Nazareth! The comments all followed a pattern: “How dare you! Rachel loves Jesus! I love Jesus! Rachel is a woman of valor! You didn’t read the book! Rachel has opened up the Bible for millions of women!”

    Never confuse “fame” with “greatness.”

    • bravelass says:


      Sigh. “You didn’t read the book!” Is the agreed-upon response to most negative reviews and comments I’ve seen — no matter how detailed and substantive the assessment.

    • Not only did I pay for the book and read it cover to cover, Rachel accused me of snagging a pre-release copy and, therefore, not quoting her accurately. You can read my lengthy view on my site and at amazon. http://www.womenfaithculture.com/index.php/2012/10/21/rachel-held-evans-review/

      • bravelass says:


        If I recall correctly, not only were you falsely accused of that, but Evans also touted the misguided “pre-cog” review post by one of her friends who wasn’t able to understand you were reviewing the YBW project blog posts and not a book which (at that point) had not been written.

        One of the hints those who havent followed the work over the purse of the project year and since is that Mrs. Evans has alternatively told those who “misunderstand” her to “wait for the book”. Then, once the book was out we were told, “I clarify that on the blog” or some such nonsense.

      • J S Lang says:

        Sarah, I’m familiar with your review, and the firestorm it provoked. It was in-depth, and very few of the comments actually responded to your points in the review.

        Another review referred to Evans as a “publicity w—-” (which she is, frankly), but in the blogosphere word got around that that review had referred to Evans as a “w—-” (big difference between “publicity w” and plain old “w”). So, more marshalling of the troops – “ooh, that nasty review called Rachel Evans a w—-!”

        I’m always suspicious of lots of five-star reviews that all sound alike, aren’t you? “Funny, touching, vulnerable,” some variation on that. Evans has definitely sold some copies of the book thanks to the contrived “controversy,” but I doubt all the reviewers actually read the book.

      • I didn’t mean to accuse you of snagging a pre-release copy, Sarah. You quoted from a section that had an error that I thought we had corrected, but had not, so I just assumed you were working off a pre-release copy and requested that you consult the final copy before quoting. But as it turns out, the error had not been fixed…so I had a word or two with Thomas Nelson. 🙂 So my sincere apologies for that.

        As for the rest of the comments here, I confess they are painful to read. I believe we can discuss issues related to the Bible and gender without resorting to name calling – “Honey Boo Boo, publicity whore, shrew,” etc. or motive questioning – “her goal is to make Christian men as uninterested in marriage as secular men,” “she’s not a real Christian,” etc.

        We are better than this.

        You may doubt my salvation because of where I stand on women in ministry, but this strikes me as an area in which we can disagree while still affirming one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. I love Jesus, and I want to follow Jesus. I can affirm the historic creeds of Christianity with conviction and joy. There is (imperfect) fruit in my life, grown not through my own merit, but through the grace of Jesus Christ alone.

        That may not be enough for you, but it is enough for me.

        I wish you all grace and peace in your journeys. May the love of Christ be with you.

      • Rachel I appreciate that apology. I really do. I sincerely wish we could be in dialogue. I wanna say that I haven’t doubted your salvation as it pertains to the role of women in ministry, but I don’t recall that I’ve doubted your salvation or that my concerns have been with your views on women in ministry. Time and again I’ve declared I have many friends with whom I disagree with on that issue and I don’t count them out of the faith. My challenge to you has always been on your relationship to scripture, let’s be clear about that. I don’t go around shouting who is saved and who isn’t, but I will always argue for the authority of scripture and its very important role in the shaping of doctrine and informing the Christian life. A worldview if you will….or as you call it, a “blueprint.” One of our biggest disagreements is your “no blueprint” perspective.

  19. Unfortunately, if we judge Ms Evans solely by her remarks (and nearly all of us are left to this since we do not know her personally), her remarks lead to a conclusion that she is not a Christian,much less one who adheres to Evangelicalism.

    We are called by Jesus and affirmed by the apostles on multiple citations in the NT to judge believers according to the faith. Using those standards given to us by Jesus and the Apostles, it seems Ms Evans follows more of a cult of Christianity theology, than one based upon NT standards. This is NOT to be legalistic as some will charge. As Jesus noted, we are to be aware and stay clear of the leaven of man made doctrines that corrupt the bread (being the bread of life)

    The teachings of Jesus on the requirements of separation from the world’s morality and instead reflecting our submission to Jesus as not just Savior, but as our Lord are clear and undeniable to all who seek His truth

    “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21

    “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:10

    Matthew 5:20 ”For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

     “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23

    While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
    But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50

    Jesus declares “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
    Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
    “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:13-16

    Jesus- “But cowardly, unfaithful, and detestable people, murderers, sexual sinners, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will find themselves in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

    Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?
    15 What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
    16 What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in and with and among them and will walk in and with and among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
    17 So, come out from among [unbelievers], and separate (sever) yourselves from them, says the Lord, and touch not [any] unclean thing; then I will receive you kindly and treat you with favor,
    18 And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
    2 Corinthians 6:14-18

    Again, this is not about legalism, but about what it means for us to walk in HIS holiness and righteousness, and love. Real love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is manifested in rejecting the wisdom of the world and reflecting Jesus to each other and the world, in His love, mercy, grace, AND holiness and righteousness.

    “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.” Romans 14:17,18

    I pray Ms Evans finds the true joy and peace that comes from submission to the Lord instead of the worldly wisdom she currently serves.

    Rev Larry Robinson

  20. […] This article first appeared on the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s blog and is used with permission. […]

  21. Listen, my brothers and sisters in Christ: You may not agree with Rachel Held Evans’ views, you may think she is merely making fun of or denigrating the Christian faith, but you don’t have any way of knowing what her relationship with God is like, and calling her “Honey Boo Boo” or a “publicity whore” or “poisonous” is simply not in keeping with the love that Jesus commands us to have for our neighbor–which she at least is, if not our sister in Christ. The “Biblical Womanhood” book was intended to be an entertaining, somewhat satirical piece of writing, not an extensive treatise on the topic. it was also meant to provoke discussion surrounding the question of whether “biblical womanhood” is code for a June Cleaver-like role and behavior, or whether a totally egalitarian marriage with roles decided by giftedness rather than by gender can also be an example of “biblical womanhood” or is simply “biblical personhood.” Period. Those who follow her blog may defend her vehemently, but that is no different than some of the vehement attacks on her I’ve read here.

    I’ve met Rachel Held Evans. I’ve had dinner with her, I’ve spoken with her. While you may vehemently disagree with her, she is hardly the despicable character she has been painted as In this blog post’s comments.

  22. I replied to Sarah above. But this is for everyone:

    I confess the comments here are painful to read. I believe we can discuss issues related to the Bible and gender without resorting to name calling – “Honey Boo Boo, publicity whore, shrew,” etc. or motive questioning – “her goal is to make Christian men as uninterested in marriage as secular men,” “she’s not a real Christian,” etc.

    We are better than this.

    You may doubt my salvation because of where I stand on women in ministry, but this strikes me as an area in which we can disagree while still affirming one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. I love Jesus, and I want to follow Jesus. I can affirm the historic creeds of Christianity with conviction and joy. There is (imperfect) fruit in my life, grown not through my own merit, but through the grace of Jesus Christ alone.

    That may not be enough for you, but it is enough for me.

    I wish you all grace and peace in your journeys. May the love of Christ be with you.
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    • bravelass says:


      “Better than this”? You’ll forgive me for being cynical about that given your support for the V-gate fiction. That would ring a bit less hollow if you also made an effort to urge your followers to be better than the name-calling not a few of them are fond of engaging in with regard to your critics.

      Oh, and lets not pretend this is about your views on “women in ministry”. I became acquainted with IRD’s late president, Diane Knippers, current board member Janice Shaw Crouse, and IRD’s indefatigable warrior for religious liberty and the people of Sudan, Faith McDonnell because of the IRD’s project bringing together women on both sides of that theological divide to work together for the sake of common goals.

      And they were doing all that back when you were still faking your way to the “Best Christian Attitude Award” at school.

      This is not about a view of women in ministry and you know it.

      Rachel, you are a gifted, clever, talented and attractive woman. I have no doubt that your heart breaks over many of the same injustices that break my heart. I think you believe you are following God – but what you are doing is following a deity and religion of your own making. No one who can, “affirm the historic creeds of Christianity with conviction and joy” in the understanding of the creeds of the Church which gave them to us can casually utter blasphemies against God and disrespect His bride as you do without an intolerable amount of cognitive dissonance.

      Turn back to Jesus, to the Church and to the faith once for all delivered to the saints while you still may. You remain in my prayers,


    • Ben Welliver says:

      Is this her, or someone in the V-gate herd? Not sure it matters, given the conformity.

  23. The overt sexism and misogyny in the comments on this thread is disgusting…as are the insinuations that Rachel is a blasphemer who has ‘turned away from Jesus’.

    You have elevated scripture to idol status and worship your interpretation as the only and true interpretation of scripture.

    Honestly, most of you folks sound like the religious leaders whom Jesus referred to as whitewashed tombs and a ‘brood of vipers’.

    • Donnie says:

      I find the whole “crime” of “idolizing scripture” to be one of the more maddening accusations the snarky, hipster-Christian crowd. Basically it boils down to them removing the parts of scripture they don’t like and hectoring anybody who disagrees with them.

    • Sandy N says:

      You are lucky being a liberal. When you encounter people who don’t see things just as you do, you just go quickly through your checklist – Are these people: 1) sexists? 2) racists? 3) homophobes? Don’t bother to actually engage with the people or their ideas, just throw out a couple of “isms” and that’s that. When someone defends the Bible, makes the standard accusation that they make an “idol” of the Bible.
      Then, of course, at the end throw in a good Jesus quote to show you’re a true believer.
      That apparently passes for deep thought on the left.

      People who take their faith seriously (as opposed to using it to prop up the Democratic party) hardly qualify as a “brood of vipers.” I do think “brood of vipers” works pretty well for a group of people who come out as cheerleaders for some silly, insubstantial book by someone whose knowledge of the Bible and Christianity would fit on a gum wrapper, a book that would be totally ignored if the hack writer hadn’t maneuvered herself into Martyr Mode by boohooing about the mean old bookstore chain that objected to her reference to the female anatomy. If the writer had any sense of decorum she’d be embarrassed that no one is buying the book (or at least claiming they bought it) because it’s some literary gem or that she has a thimbleful of talent, they want to prove how hip and cool they are, because, after all, V-gate is a watershed incident in the culture wars.

      Mr. Scalafia, you can think that the critics are “sexists” and “misogynists” if you like. The real reason the book has gotten criticized by Christians (including a lot of WOMEN) is that it is a rotten, worthless book, as numerous reviews have proven in great detail. With any luck, it and its author will be forgotten and we can find more substantial matters to discuss. She won’t be able to pull off another V-gate.

      • Sandy,

        I find it difficult to believe that, on one hand, you can claim the mantle of Christ while on the other spew such bitterness and bile. If out of an abundance of the hear, the mouth speaks, your words expose a heart full of bitterness, insecurity, and anger topped off with a healthy dose of intolerance for those who don’t see the world as you do.

        The allegations of sexism and misogyny are well-founded and evinced by the comments in this thread. Referring to Rachel in the manner seen below is inexcusable… especially for those who claim to be a follower of Christ.

        Yes, I am a liberal and yes, I’m proud of that fact. I am also a United Methodist and a degreed theologian. So, you’ll pardon me if I dismiss out of hand your insinuation that anyone who is a liberal isn’t a “true Christian”.

        I take my faith very seriously and I take scripture very seriously. As Rachel has said, scripture should be a conversation starter and not a conversation ender. Even within scripture itself, the authors and people within the early church often debate the meanings of earlier writings and, in come cases, reframe those writings dependent on who they are speaking to.

        If this were about Rachel’s books, it would be a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

        However, it’s not.

        From the original post through the comments, the focus has been on Rachel herself, her salvation, her theology, her knowledge, and even her character. This post, along with the comments, serve as nothing more than character assassination dressed in Christian clothing. So, please, spare us the “oh liberals hate true Christians” victimology. It simply shows you as a bully with a theology that’s a mile wide but only an inch deep.

        The bible does not need to be “defended”, and it certainly doesn’t need to be defended by some orthodox Gatekeeper who wields it as a weapon.

      • Sandy N says:

        So what sort of response would please you? You accuse people of “sexism and misogyny” and then what kind of reaction do you expect? Groveling, guilt, contrition? Oh, dear, he’s onto us, pointed out how sexist and misogynist we are (which makes me a sexist, misgynist woman – I don’t think so!), so we’re caught, let’s admit how wrong we are, and let’s all become liberals,

        You see what you want to see, so you see an ad hom where it doesn’t exist. You’re just dancing around the fact that it’s her book that’s getting criticized, so you come around with your “shame, shame” act, and how dare we be mean to Rachel. Instead of throwing slurs, do something challenging, like point out where the criticisms of the book are mistaken. Telling me I’m guilty of “character assassination” doesn’t cut it. She assassinated her own character in both her books. She’s not a Christian, she’s someone whose theology is based on her image of God that makes her “comfortable,” like she was picking out a pair of shoes. I’m glad my God is bigger than hers. He’s a Father, not some spiritual pet to play with.

        You’re right about the Bible being a weapon. It is. Paul even referred to the Word of God as a sword that’s part of a Christian’s spiritual arms (Ephesians 6:17). It’s very useful for slicing through false sub-Christian teaching. Whether you like it or not, the New Testament contains lots of admonitions to be on our guard about false teaching. If we don’t do that, we’re not doing our job.

        Liberals’ hate for Christians is not “victimology,” it’s reality. If you want to see Exhibit A, check that mirror.

        I’m not impressed with your UM seminary degree. Those aren’t bestowed by God, they’re bestowed by liberal faculties who indoctrinate students for 3 years, and when you’ve proven you’re sufficiently indoctrinated, you get called Master of Divinity, which apparently substitutes for an actual connection with God. There will be plenty of clergy in hell, as Dante showed in vivid imagery.

    • bravelass says:

      Mr. Salafia,

      You are mistaken. I did not insinuate – I make the charge clearly and directly. Mrs. Evans makes reference to God as “she” and “her”. That meants the classical definition of blasphemy whether you like it or not.

      • Well, then, I guess that makes the authors of Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Psalmist, Matthew, Luke, and, oh, in Genesis and Deuteronomy as well, they’re all blasphemers because they all refer to God in the feminine.

        I would suggest you get with someone who has actually studied scripture before you make another simplistic error as that in the future.

      • Adrian C says:

        That is BS on steroids. God in the feminine? Give us some chapter and verse if you want to play Scripture guru. You can’t, because there aren’t any. Hosea, whom you mentioned as an example, refers rather often to God as the Husband of Israel, so Hosea doesn’t exactly back you up.

        Jesus refers to God as “Father” 102 times in John’s Gospel. In fact, the only time Jesus refers to God by another title is on the cross, where he says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” quoting Psalm 22.

        If you think you have a better notion of the nature of God than Jesus did, you are in the wrong religion. Start your own, or link up with the Unis, they pander to feminists.

        Bravelass, thanks for that bit of information. I had not heard that before. She’s gone beyond liberal if she’s calling God “she.” Very sad.

  24. In response to Sarah, and others –

    To be clear, I believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. And I love the Bible – more now than ever. You and I just interpret it differently, and perhaps think of it in different terms.

    When I say that the Bible is not a blueprint, what I mean is that the Bible does not serve as a sort of flat list of instructions without context. Instead, the Bible consists of poetry, history, letters, laws, prophecies, proverbs, traditions, and stories – which require interpretation, wrestling, and humility and which often evoke questions, disagreement, and conversation. This doesn’t mean the BIble is useless or without applicability. Far from it! What it means is that we arrive closer to the truth of what the Bible teaches when we read it together, in community, and when we look to Jesus Christ as the ULTIMATE expression of God’s Word – the word made flesh.

    My concern with the biblical womanhood movement is that it tends to take the Bible and conform it to the standards of the post-industrial revolution nuclear family instead of understanding it in its ancient Near Eastern context…which changes how we think about and engage this idea of “biblical womanhood.” I am concerned that passages like Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 have been turned into job descriptions for women – and forced into our culture’s gender stereotypes and sense of “traditional” gender roles – when I believe that was not the original intent of those texts. My work represents a sincere & humorous (though certainly imperfect), effort to engage in conversations about what we mean when we say “biblical womanhood” so that, in the end, we work together to try to honor what the text actually says rather than what we want it to say.

    This is the conversation I want to have, and it is happening on my blog, at college campuses where I speak, churches, and conferences, and in many other books and blogs on the topic by many, many people much smarter than me.

    But it’s not really happening here. Not in this comment section. The conversation here has been cruel and hurtful. We should be able to disagree on what “biblical womanhood” means without calling one another names. It is by our LOVE that the world will know us as followers of Jesus.

    I do not know exactly how to offer such love in this context, but I offer it as best I can to each of you, with the humility of a fellow traveler- broken and desperate for grace.

    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

    With love,


    • J S Lang says:

      When a husband gets caught in an affair, he will use the word “love” frequently for several days, as in “but you know I really love you!” The wife may fall for it, because it’s a very powerful word. But her proper response would be “If you love me, you sure don’t ACT like it!”

      This author has published two books in which she mocks the Bible and people who believe in it. Now she attempts to smooth over things. We must’ve misunderstood her books, she really LOVES the Bible. We just aren’t as smart as she is, she understands the “ancient Near Eastern context” and how evangelicals try to twist the Bible to “conform to the standards of the post-industrial revolution nuclear family.” When someone uses phrases like that, she must be brilliant. We’re just too stupid to appreciate her deep love for the Bible.

      Sorry, I’m not buying.

    • Donnie says:


      There is NOTHING special about your message. You try and act like you’re doing something different, but you’re doing the same thing thousands of other false teachers have done since before recorded history began.

      And stop acting like we’re just a bunch of plebs who don’t “get it.” I’ve heard it all before. I’m not impressed. I’m just embarrassed people like you supposedly represent my generation.

    • Kevin says:

      Rachel: I don’t necessarily agree with your message either, but still, you’re right: the atmosphere on this thread is really pitilessly cruel and hurtful. By the way, I know I have said some nasty things to people on this thread, and said some things in an offensive tone, and I do apologize for acting offensively. “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips,” as Isaiah said, although I see little to no evidence of the presence of the Lord of Hosts in any of our comments. We should all be ashamed of our behavior towards each other, frankly, every one of us, myself included. Perhaps we should all meditate on the story of woman caught in adultery as a model for how to speak to people we believe are erring in some way: “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and sin no more.” Grace AND truth must typify our behavior. If we are theologically correct, but cruel, spiteful and contemptuous, we are still wrong.

      Thus endeth the sermon.

    • Rachel et al.,

      First, thank you, Rachel for taking the time to respond. I was traveling this weekend and just now had a chance to review the comments, and I agree with you, many of them are hurtful and unproductive. Certainly not reflective of what a Christ honoring community should be. The intent of the original post was not at all to attack you or elicit attacks from others. Our job at IRD is to observe and report on trends within the Church, so that was my intent in writing about your talks in Williamsburg. I welcome discussion about the substance of your message, but do not condone the assumptions about and attacks on your character.

      Second, to those who have posted accusatory and mean-spirited comments: please do better. This blog often discusses contentious matters that Christians ought to engage, but name-calling and accusations have no place in that. Please be thoughtful and rigorous in debating the actual issues at hand, but don’t verbally attack individuals.

      Some of the comment threads on this blog have become quite appalling recently and consequently, we will begin moderating the comments more stringently. Please read our code of conduct here: http://juicyecumenism.com/our-code/

      Thanks to everyone for reading and engaging in this conversation – let’s please be more civil in the future!

      In Christ,


  25. […] note: The above post appeared in Juicy Ecumenism's Comments section of the Rachel Held Evans: An Evolved “Evangelical” blog post. We thought it best to place it […]

  26. The negativity in this comment thread is disgraceful. It is possible to disagree with someone’s interpretation of Scripture and views on various spiritual issues without resorting to name-calling.

    Many of you have disparaged liberals in your comments. What I can tell you is this: I hear a lot more common courtesy in any given debate on NPR than I hear on this comment thread.

  27. There is a large and increasing part of this world that is either not Christian, or have found the faith alluring but the practice of it by the Church abhorrent. In the case of several comments here, I find them abhorrent as well. There are certainly disagreements within Christian circles about many issues, and we feel strongly about them. Personally, I am as orthodox on many of these issues as the day is long – and there is nothing wrong with standing up for the faith. But our holdings of faith, however staunch and sure, do not excuse some of the responses I have read here. This is a public venue – and the world is watching. Quite frankly, I am ashamed, and I am fairly sure our Lord is not pleased with our arrogance or our lack of charity.

    We are better than this, brothers and sisters.


    Sky McCracken
    District Superintendent, Paducah District
    Memphis Conference, United Methodist Church

  28. torri043 says:

    Yo, y’all.

    This whole thread is absolutely heartbreaking.

    If you guys are seriously concerned that people take God’s word seriously, how about you start by treating one another with grace and respect and kindness and love? I see a certain degree of irony in the way that so many here have been so cutting and unkind and judgmental about Evans’ alleged lack-of-respect for the scriptures, yet, based on the color of “each side’s” responses, I see much more respect and honor for the scriptures in Evans’ responses than in those of her critics. Evans has taken the charges to love her enemies and extend grace and walk humbly, at least from an outsider’s perspective, much more seriously than her critics, who have been vulgar and demeaning and flat-out mean. So, who is actually doing what the scriptures say?

    I love Jesus with all my heart. I care deeply for the right treatment of his word, for his Church, and for the lost he’s put in our care. Honestly, despite Evans’ critics’ claims to be defending God’s word, I don’t see too much evidence for that in their behavior. And that breaks my heart because not only is it a mistreatment of the word they claim to be defending, but it is an offense to the Church (how quickly we commit to ideas instead of to one another – and yes, there is certainly value in good theology, but hateful internet posts are most definitely not the right way to converse about that), and it absolutely ruins our witness to those outside the Church.

    It seems to me that Evans is more interested in having good, thoughtful, and edifying conversation than she is about changing anyone’s mind. And that’s a really good thing – something we as believers should value. So let’s have these conversations. They’re great things to dialogue about. But let’s leave the slander and spite at the door. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you that you’re not gonna change my mind by being mean to me.

    This is a forum for dialogue, not har məgiddô.
    We represent Christ. Follow His example, please.

    • skotiad says:

      You are correct about all her comments on this article being very courteous and respectful. However, her book Year of Biblical Womanhood is disrespectful, toward the Bible and also to evangelicals. She goes on and on about the “patriarchy” in the Bible and speaks of people who “suffered abuse at the hands of Bible-wielding literalists.” She says the commands in the Bible were given to make us guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused,” overlooking the fact that commands she chose to obey as publicity stunts for her book (such as cooking kosher) have never been binding on Christians. Having performed all these stunts, such as sitting on the roof, she claims “I’m not comfortable with a religion of rules, that doesn’t fit my image of God” – as if her “image of God” overrides the Bible and Christian tradition. This is, to put it mildly, a very adolescent way of looking at the Bible – her “comfort” level is the important thing, so make the Bible fit you instead of you fitting the Bible. She seems never to have read Jesus’ words “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Aside from this, she makes some leaps of logic that are bizarre – such as concluding that since Paul condoned slavery, and slavery no longer exists among Christians, then Paul’s worse about wives submitting to their husbands no longer apply either. Throughout the book she uses a ploy that has been used for decades by liberals (also by agnostics and atheists): if you don’t try to obey every single rule in the Bible, then there’s no point obeying any of them. Following that logic, if you break one of the Ten Commandments, may as well break them all. The author doesn’t seem to grasp that, over a period of two millennia, Christians have reached some agreement over which parts of the Old Testament are still binding on Christians.

      Torri, I understand your desire for “dialogue,” but if you read all the comments, you’d see that there were some very detailed and insightful criticisms of the book. Those comments still apply, regardless of some name calling that got a little juvenile at times. As for some other comments about how it was wrong for anyone to write Evans off as “not Christian,” it’s true that God alone knows the state of her heart. However, I think the comments that suggest she crossed the line from “evangelical” to “definitely not evangelical,” given her cavalier attitude toward the Bible. Liberals have been judging the Bible by their own “comfort level” for many years, hence their efforts to abandon male terms for God, teachings about homosexuality, military images used for God and for Christians. But evangelicals, given our commitment to taking the Bible as it is, cannot sit quietly while some author blithely says “I’m not comfortable with a religion of rules, that doesn’t fit my image of God.” There is no pope or council that decides once and for all who is or is not truly evangelical. But having read the book closely, I can honestly say that in my opinion her book is definitely not an evangelical book. The author may be a perfectly nice person, and some of our comments may have been crude, but a book with such a false view of the Bible needs to be critiqued and its errors pointed out. You can’t make “I’m not comfortable” your hermeneutical principle and call yourself an evangelical.

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