Sunday, January 15, 2017

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

“I explained that when our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either, and that not every young adult gets married or has children, so we need to stop building our churches around categories and start building them around people.” 
For many years I've struggled with church attendance. Ok, in truth, I gave it up a long time ago. Why? Because every time I attended I noticed that things weren't falling in line. That is, a jab at my liberal politics (the horror!), an all-white, all straight (or so we pretend) congregation. A money-rules attitude. Everyone knows who the big donors are, y'all. No women allowed to deliver a message outside of Sunday school, and then, only for the littlest of the congregation.

In short, feeling invalidated, not good enough, not wealthy enough, not subservient enough. Not "lady like" enough. Not knowledgeable enough.

I have hated Sunday School my whole life. As an elementary school child, worksheets and reciting verses. As a teen, empty discussion, judging the people in the room who everyone knew had premarital sex or smoked weed. Playing favorites.

In Rachel Held Evans's book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, I finally saw my concerns. While Evans's father is a theologian and she grows up in church, her experience as an adult was much like mine: the overwhelming disillusionment, the hypocrisy, the exclusion. A sense of the lack in the conversation. A lack of complete and utter realness. A hiding from the problems of the world.

Despite the problems, Evans feels the conviction of any devoted Christian. She always comes back to her belief system, despite her questions, her doubts. She believes in science and religion, in the grace of God, the necessity for social justice work, the importance of equality for all, a place for every person at the table. Every person.

In listening to her experiences--the ones that weren't so great, like mine--as well as the really great ones, I found an overwhelming amount of hope. Knowing that there are Christians with these concerns and that they are writing and sharing and preaching and loving gave me more incentive to search for myself, to study. I am not alone. None of us are. And no person is perfect and no church is either, but the Christian world is not wholly disregarding these issues. We are not alone.


  1. I loved this book! I've been through a lot of struggles with church over the years. I'm lucky now to live in an area full of churches where progressive ideas and serious questions are welcome, but that wasn't the case for a long time. It was rough to feel alone in the struggle. I'm glad books like this are out there to provide companionship and hope.

  2. LOVE this! I need to find a copy and read for myself.
    This much I know is true - I am a Christian, in that I follow Christ and his teachings which can be summed up in a single word: LOVE
    I abhor religion and its litany of rules and judgmental stance on anything that does not fit into its small-minded box.
    Okay... off my soapbox now :)
    Thanks for a great review!

  3. I've never had a problem with religion - just like you, it's the politics of the church that get me.

  4. Yeah. Reading this book felt a little bit like reading my own life. I have come to appreciate RHE so much, as a brave and compassionate voice for the progressive Christian outlook. So much good stuff here.

  5. Thanks for pointing out this book. I'll take a look.

  6. I can deeply relate to your frustration. I am happy to have found a church that is inclusive and welcoming, which was huge for me. It's such a weird disconnect to believe in a loving God who loves all people and then go to a church that says, "Well, but actually, no."

    I just wish my church were more racially diverse, but they're actively working on it, so there's that.

    (Also, I have this book on my TBR, glad to hear you enjoyed it.)

  7. The politics of the Catholic Church have always prevented me from fully embracing religion. Of course, I shouldn't have allowed that to happen. Now that I'm older, I find myself leaning on religion more, but don't really subscribe to just one faith. Honestly, I just read daily devotionals from Joel Osteen's church and focus on the positive messages that he encourages his congregation with. I think that is what we all want - positvity and hopefulness. I love that you found this book that you can relate to. Sounds like it was the right time for it.

  8. Sometimes, I wonder whether the geographical space in which I dwell has something to do with my experience of church and the feeling that I am alone in my thoughts, that I don't quite fit in, that I'd like to stand up and yell, "Hey! Did y'all know I was in prison a few years ago?" It might not; it may be like this everywhere but, like you, voices like Rachel Held Evans remind me that it's okay. :)

  9. Oh my gosh. This is the book I've been looking for! We tried, when the kids were little, to be regular church goers but, like you, the hypocrisy and the holier-than-thou attitude of so many of the members of the church completely ruined it for us. We have tried other churches but found the same thing. But we were raised believers and I cling to the idea of God for the comfort it brings me and I've been looking for a way to make it work for me.

  10. I've had issues with churches for years and never really connected to religion because of some of the things you mentioned. Yet I still consider myself a spiritual person and would like more of a connection to something bigger than myself. This book sounds like one I'd love.


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