In het christelijke wereldje is de Amerikaanse Rachel Held Evans geen onbekende. Ze schreef meerdere boeken en is op Twitter een veelgevolgd en (prettig) uitgesproken vrouw. Haar eerlijkheid over twijfels en een verandering in haar (geloofs)leven spreken me aan. Ze kwam als eens ter sprake in deze blog over profetisch spreken. Eerder dit jaar kwam haar boek ‘Inspired‘ uit. Ik las het in zomervakantie en deel graag enkele voor mij inspirerende teksten met jullie.
Ja, haar boek heeft een flinke titel: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. Kortweg schreef ze dit boek over haar worsteling met de bijbel (reuzen, op water lopen) en hoe dat boek (weer) tot haar spreekt. Later schreef ze er ook een soort ‘werkboek’ bij (hier gratis te downloaden).
Ik werd geattendeerd op Rachel bij het luisteren van de laatste episodes van de The Liturgists Podcast. Zij zijn een serie gestart rondom de vraag ‘Zie je jezelf als een christen en waarom (niet)?’ Direct al bij de eerste episode uit deze reeks werd ik positief verrast door haar ‘gastoptreden’. Enfin, de episodes kan je zelf hier vinden. Voor nu dus meer over haar boek.
A lot of people think the hardest part about religious doubt is feeling isolated from God. It’s not. At least in my experience, the hardest part about doubt is feeling isolated from your community. There’s nothing quite like going through the motions of Christian life—attending church, leading Bible study, singing hymns, bringing your famous lemon bars to potlucks—while internally questioning the very beliefs that hold the entire culture together. It’s like you’ve got this ticker scrolling across every scene of your life, feeding you questions and commentary and doubts, and yet you carry on as though you can’t see it, as if everything’s fine. Say something and you risk losing friendships and becoming the subject of gossip. Keep your doubts to yourself and you risk faking it for the rest of your life. I know a lot of people, including some pastors, who are faking it.pagina 68
I’d always thought the more time I spent with the Bible, the more clarity I would receive, but as my nightstand grew cluttered with precarious stacks of books presenting Four Views on Atonement, Three Views on Hell, Five Views on Evolution, and Four Views on Homosexuality, it became apparent that, even among people who believed the Bible to speak with authority, the Bible’s message is not always plain. The presence of hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian denominations makes this point obvious.pagina 101
I had encountered what Catholic sociologist Christian Smith termed “pervasive interpretive pluralism,” which simply refers to the reality that even among people devoted to its truth, the Bible yields different interpretations and applications of its many teachings.pagina 101
The beasts of Daniel and Revelation need not be literal to be real. To the people who first read the Bible, they were as real as the imperial soldiers who marched down their streets, the royal edicts that threatened their homes and livelihoods, and the heavy fear that crept into every fitful dream, every visit to the market, every hushed conversation about what to do if the emperor demanded their worship or their death.pagina 124
“The point of apocalyptic texts is not to predict the future,” explained biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine in The Meaning of the Bible; “it is to provide comfort in the present. The Bible is not a book of teasers in which God has buried secrets only to be revealed three millennia later.” Rather, she argued, apocalyptic texts “proclaim that a guiding hand controls history, and assure that justice will be done.”
Like it or not, the gospel is a story unleashed. Even Jesus had trouble keeping a lid on it. According to Matthew and Mark’s accounts, Jesus often asked those he healed not to tell anyone about his miracles, but to no avail. Sure enough, the crowds got so big, Jesus had to flee to the desert to get some privacy. Jesus predicted the gospel would reach people from the east and the west, the north and the south; John described them coming from every tribe, every language, and every nation. There’s just no way you can give this many people a story and expect them to stay “on message.” The gospel fails rather epically at brand management.pagina 155
And that makes some people nervous. That makes me nervous. Because it means every Christian gets a testimony, every Christian gets a “gospel according to . . .” whether you’re Desmond Tutu or Tim Tebow.
The gospel means that every small story is part of a sweeping story, every ordinary life part of an extraordinary movement. God is busy making all things new, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has opened that work to everyone who wants in on it. The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things; the church is a group of people caught up in the same story, with Jesus at the center.pagina 157
[…] it can be easy to imagine God as a set of ideas, a philosophy, or a system of thought.
And yet the scandal of the gospel is that one day the God of our theology books and religious debates showed up—as a person, in flesh and blood. And while God indeed delivered a few sermons and entertained a couple of theological discussions, it is notable that according to the Gospels, when God was wrapped in flesh and walking among us, the single most occupying activity of the Creator of the universe, the Ultimate Reality, the Alpha and Omega and the great I AM of ages past and ages to come, was to tell stories.pagina 158
Unfortunately, our familiarity with these often-told tales can numb us to their provocations, which are rooted in an ancient honor-shame culture, yet have survived the centuries to make frequent appearances in children’s sermons and watered-down morality tales. It may be touching, though unremarkable, to us that the father welcomed his prodigal son home with open arms when, unlike the first people to hear that story, we don’t live in a culture where the disavowal of an inheritance is akin to wishing one’s father dead.pagina 159
The apostles remembered what many modern Christians tend to forget—that what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out but who it lets in.pagina 177
So what does this mean for a perpetual skeptic like me, someone who isn’t certain any of these miracles actually happened?
I like how Dallas Willard put it: “We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it,” he said, “or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
Act like you believe and maybe, at long last, you will. Move your feet and your heart will catch up.pagina 188
It’s been said that if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. Sometimes getting out of the boat looks like showing up for another recovery meeting. Sometimes it looks like filling out hospital paperwork for an elderly neighbor. Sometimes it looks like making a casserole for the family down with the flu or offering free babysitting for the friend with a job interview. Sometimes it looks like jumping when it matters.
Christian life isn’t about intellectual assent to a set of propositions, but about following Jesus in the context of actual marriages, actual communities, actual churches, actual political differences, actual budget meetings, actual cultural changes, actual racial tensions, actual theological disagreements. Like it or not, you can’t be a Christian on your own. Following Jesus is a group activity, and from the beginning, it’s been a messy one; it’s been an incarnated one.pagina 206
Mocht je je (wel eens) herkennen in mijn schrijfsels hier op geloofsvoer, dan kan ik je dit boek van Rachel Held Evans van harte aanbevelen. Het boek(je) leest vlot weg en je hebt ‘em uit voor je er erg in hebt. Dat is bijvoorbeeld bij dit boek, dat ik momenteel lees, wel anders ;-)