We Are All the Ages We Have Ever Been: An Interview with Rachel Held Evans
|Photo by: Maki Evans|
Although it may get talked about in the local grocery store, not many of us make the national news when we switch churches. However, most of us are not Rachel Held Evans, "the most polarizing woman in evangelical Christianity," according to the Washington Post. Rachel, a New York Times bestselling author who has chronicled her search for a thoughtful and authentic faith in books, blog posts, and through social media, has just published a new bestseller, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church.
The book has become a sensation, largely because of the primary storyline being condensed from the book's subtitle: that Rachel, one of America's best-known evangelicals, has left that tradition for the Episcopal Church. However, as she notes in this exclusive interview for Patheos with another evangelical turned Episcopalian, Greg Garrett, you can leave home, but home doesn't leave you, and the story everyone is telling doesn't do justice to the truth.
Greg Garrett: Rachel, thanks for Searching for Sunday, which has already been a gift for me and many others. A friend on Facebook the other day chided me for spoiling your story, which I really kind of did by mentioning where you wind up (although, admittedly, that has also been the lead of almost every feature or review of the book). You've written a beautiful book about going on a quest in search of a more authentic faith, which is something that lots of Americans do at some point in their lives. Why do most of the headlines (and people like me, in less conscious moments!) insist on reducing your story to "Episcopalians 1, Evangelicals 0"?
Rachel Held Evans: I just had this flashback to Princess Jasmine in Aladdin flouncing back her hair and declaring, "I am not a prize to be won!" Clearly all this denominational scorekeeping is because everyone wants a piece of Rachel…(just kidding!)
Or, more likely, it's because we humans have an affinity for labels. They help us determine who's "in" and who's "out," what we support and what we oppose, who we love and who we fear. But the thing is, each person's faith represents a complex amalgam of culture, experience, compromise, and conviction, so very few of our church stories fit tidily into the categories they've been assigned. I attend an Episcopal church, sure, but I still carry with me attitudes and convictions from my evangelical upbringing. Evangelicalism is like my religious mother tongue. I could no more "walk away" from evangelicalism than I could "walk away" from my parents.
Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post, Salon.com, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.