Reading the introduction, this book scared me. Within the opening pages, Rachel Held Evans captured my doubts, fears, and hurts regarding church and God more succinctly and confidently than I ever could.
Reading this book has held a mirror up to my own life (spiritual and secular), and while I have not always liked or understood what it has shown me, it is a reflection I need to examine.
This book defies categorization. It is not simply a faith book, or a memoir, or a social criticism, or a theological discussion, but a little bit of all of that and so much more.
Evans ruthlessly examines the modern (and historical) church, and applies the same hard criticism to herself, admitting when she has been petty, proud, pedantic, and pessimistic. There are no topics off limits. Through personal stories, poetic ramblings, and scriptural analysis, Evans simultaneously deconstructs and reconstructs the church–showing how we have failed, how we have succeeded, and why it is imperative that we do not give up on this ancient communion between the human and the divine.
She balances on the middle line by not shying away from highlighting our failures, but also being sure her readers know that church is important, and not something to be cast aside casually or derisively.
That summary makes it sound like a tidy book–it really isn’t. There are no quick fixes to apply or problems to remove in order to make every church a good church. And while that is immensely unsettling, it is also deeply comforting.
That summarizes this book well–full of paradoxes, providing both hope and disappointment, laughter and tears, peace and fear.
As an intellectual young adult struggling with church, this book was desperately needed. It provided a healing balm (not a cure) and like any good antibacterial, it stings. But it is the pain that comes before renewal, so I bask in it.