Rachel Held Evans’ latest post at CNN’s religion blog has stirred up controversy in just the way RHE knows how to do so well. See here and here for some reactions. Part of what’s challenging about her piece (and all her writing, really) is that it contains a lot of truth. In her comments on liturgy, authenticity, and a broader Christian cultural-political mandate, RHE offers or, at least, approaches some important insights. The merits of some of her points have not been fully appreciated by some of the commentators (rightly) expressing concern about her larger message.
But I too have difficulty sympathizing with her millennial-centric approach to church message reform. When Evans states, rather emphatically, that, “We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there,” I start to get nervous.
This statement is at once true and not true. It’s true in that there is obviously much that churches can do to better engage with Christ, with the fullness of who he was and what his message required. But it also reflects the astounding arrogance of individualism. The assumption underlying that statement is that the individual is the arbiter of truth in the world. It implies that millennials would know Jesus when they saw him, and the church needs to change itself until they can see him there. What it leaves out is the idea that millennials need to conform themselves to the church to find Christ there—which is, after all, the point of the very liturgies RHE references.
[Image of Rachel Held Evans from American Vision]