monkey town read-along (final week!)

Last week of our summer read-along! Craziness! Thanks so much for joining us, friends. I know it wasn’t an easy thing to stick with, but whether you were in and out or super-engaged or randomly stalking or what-the-heck-ever, THANK YOU.

You’ve inspired me and made me think and helped me grow.

I loved this last section. Lots to comment on.

First, this comment from Rachel’s co-worker, Sam: “Now, I’ve got no problem with Jesus. But it seems to me that if evangelical Christians were the only ones to have God all figured out, then they would be the kindest, most generous people around. No offense to you, but in my twenty-plus years in this business, I haven’t found that to be true. Most Christians I know are only interested in winning arguments, converts, and elections.” (201)

Ouch. And true. You don’t really have to look much further than Facebook.

We’re supposed to be recognizable as Jesus-followers by our love.

“As far as I’m concerned, the teachings of Jesus are far too radical to be embodied in a political platform or represented by a single candidate.” (206)

Yes. Jesus for President!

The Love the Lord Your God… and Your Neighbor verses were the theme verses for Camp Mission Meadows this summer. And I’m so glad.

I love what Rachel had to say about them.


It’s that simple and that profound. It’s that easy and that hard.

Taking on the yoke of Jesus is not about signing a doctrinal statement or making an intellectual commitment to a set of propositions. It isn’t about being right or getting our facts straight. It is about loving God and loving other people. The yoke is hard because the teachings of Jesus are radical: enemy love, unconditional forgiveness, extreme generosity. The yoke is easy because it is accessible to all–the studied and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, the religious and the nonreligious. Whether we like it or not, love is available to all people everywhere to be interpreted differently, applied differently, screwed up differently, and manifested differently. Love is bigger than faith, and it’s bigger than works, for it inhabits and transcends both.” (209-210)

Faith, hope, love. And the greatest of these is love. I think we’re missing this, folks.

Two more, and then it’s your turn:

“And slowly I am learning to live the questions, to follow the teachings of a radical rabbi, to live in an upside-down kingdom in which kings are humbled and servants exalted, to look for God in the eyes of the orphan and the widow, the homeless and the imprisoned, the poor and the sick. My hope is that if I am patient, the questions themselves will dissolve into meaning, the answers won’t matter so much anymore, and perhaps it will all make sense to me on some distant, ordinary day.  (225)

Some of us are living what we think is upside-down to the world, but it’s the dead wrong upside-down. We’ve got to figured out what really mattered most to Jesus–and put our minds, hearts, hands, and feet to that.

Last, this statement. Love.

“Those who say that having childlike faith means not asking questions haven’t met too many children.” (225)


Any closing thoughts to share with the class?

Thanks again for hanging out with us this summer. Let me gather up some energy, and hopefully we’ll read something else together in the fall. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

17 thoughts on “monkey town read-along (final week!)

  1. Amy

    I have been watching this discussion from a distance (mostly because I was afraid to read the book) and finally bought the book last week and finished it in 3 days. Wow! It articulated so much of what I have been suppressing in my head after rereading thru the gospels in the Spring. I felt like those precious words in red were speaking straight to me (about Pharisees, the rich, etc.) and I had lost much of my assurance/confidence in my own salvation. I wasnt even sure that I liked this Jesus guy.

    I feel more confused than certain of things now than I did before reading Monkey Town, but am excited to be on this journey of faith and belief and am thankful to finally read something different than the cultural American Christian doctrine. I find that my questions are causing me to press deeper into the Word, deeper into Jesus and not further away like I feared.

  2. Liz

    I will say this book and discussion gave me a better understanding of what it is like to grow up or live on the other side of the aisle. I loved the book itself – not being raised or believing what she believed made it pretty easy to read it as memoir and not as a challenge. Of course I related to things, but mostly, it was a window into a culture I don’t belong to and had thought I’d understood.

    I see how naive I was to think that I am a Christian and therefore I get other Christians. I didn’t get it at all. Lately, I see the divide growing more and more, mostly over legalizing same sex marriage -there was an outpouring of “end times” stuff on FB after the Chick Fil A discussion and that really made me puzzled – and then I remembered some parts of this book. So it helped bridge that gap in my head. I don’t see the connection but i understand somewhat why others might (between a possible chick fil a boycott and the mark of the beast).

    It makes me really sad to see such a divide but I was grateful to be acknowledged and included in these discussions. I actively try to understand how this type of faith, culture, and background influences every choice, be it clothes, chicken, or voting. My faith and culture influence mine but it’s so different, we really might as well be speaking another language. What makes total sense to me doesn’t to an evangelical Christian – and I didn’t really know why, or even know that there was such a fundamental difference. I’d been looking on the what-we-have-in-common side.

    Thank you for letting me be part of it, respecting me, and making me feel welcome. I can say that is the first time that’s happened.

    I hope discussions and dialogues that question and engage can continue to start, grow, and thrive.

    1. Marla Taviano

      We’ve loved having you, Liz! Really and truly!! And if you have any book recommendations that would help me understand better where YOU are coming from, I would love, love to read them!!

  3. Deb T

    I love the last section of this book so much, I have recommended it to many of my clergy and church leader friends to give them a sample of what the under-30 crowd is thinking about life and faith and church, along with some of us over-30’s. As much as we want certainty, the institutional church will wither and die if it continues to insist on rigid boundaries and absolute black and white answers to questions that are too big for our minds and hearts to fully understand.

    It seems that today many in the church keep telling us that we have to live inside a box – that rules were not meant to be broken. But relationships grow and change, and if we’re honest and willing to see it all through, living a little grey will help us to grow and give us a stronger foundation on which to go forward into the world. This book feels special to me because, like Rachel, I find that the more I think I know, the more I have to learn. I have found that questions just make the box bigger, instead of finding me outside it bounds. I hope that my willingness to change and adapt is seen as a strength and not a weakness. But how do we know when it’s time to hold ground and when it’s time to update our thinking?

    For me, there are not hard and fast rules, as long as I continue to live according to my understanding of who God has called me to be. Love God, love neighbor, love self – and all for the glory of God. It is impossible for human beings to find 100% agreement on every idea regarding faith, family and life. But when we are at our best, we find a middle ground. We figure out how to make a life together and we do it out of love for God and love for each other. Relationships with our spouses, our family members, our friends and our enemies are often defined by what we are willing to give up in order that others might find joy and/or peace. When challenged, we find that many things that we thought were really important are, in reality, just things, or ideas, or habits of doing things a particular way. And when push comes to shove, we often have to choose between competing ideas. But through it all, we have to practice love.

    [Jesus said,] “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 (The Message)

    This is the high bar that is set for all of us. And God’s gives us the ability to choose how to live out that love in our own lives. My life looks very different from most of yours, and that’s a good thing. But it is my hope and prayer that our choices will draw us closer together and not put up walls that will keep us from supporting one another as we live our faith in the world today.

    I wanted to weep for the ugliness that good Christian people can be capable of when they feel that there theological foundations are being challenged… for the hateful things that people can say and do… for the ways that we take sides and shut people out if they don’t fit into the rolls that we have defined as right and wrong. And all of this was percolating in my head when I heard for the first time the song, “The Proof of Your Love” by For King and Country (obviously, I don’t listen to Christian radio very much). The song is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 and in the middle is a monologue quote from verses 1-3 in The Message translation by Eugene Peterson.

    If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

    “Do this… don’t do that…” Rachel’s stories remind me that it’s easy to pick and choose what we want to live out every day. But that was the whole problem in Corinth and the reason that Paul writes his letter in the first place. Paul wanted to make it plain that everything we do must be motivated by love, before anything else. If love isn’t at the root of it all, then it’s just a house of cards.

    Many blessings to all who struggle with questions and doubts. But we always have to remember that it’s not really God that we doubt, just what we believe about God. And in this journey, we are never alone. May we continue to seek God and one another in love.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thank you, Deb. Those verses in John are what I was referring to when I said, “We’re supposed to be recognizable as Jesus-followers by our love,” but I was looking in 1 John instead and couldn’t find them. 🙂

    2. Rachelle

      Thank you, Deb , I love this!

      I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. From a saint in the faith that’s in heaven now. She was 80-something, would stand up in church and say, “We live under grace while making everyone else live under the law”. Those words made a big impression on me. Love and only love can cover a multitude of sins. The kind of love that is unexplainable yet present in our everyday moments.

  4. Jen Hanson

    LOVE that last quote about children and questions. Hahaha – so very true!

    “Some of us are living what we think is upside-down to the world, but it’s the dead wrong upside-down.” Man, oh man is that one true. I hear so often Christians defending the negative feelings others have towards them with Jesus’ words about “they will hate you because of me… count it joy when you suffer because of my name”. But the reality is that a lot (A LOT) of the time, the world hates us because we’re just plain mean to them and bash them when we should be finding ways to show them love despite the things about them we don’t agree with.

    Have you heard the song “Jesus Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns? Every line is so potent, but there are two lines that always strike me hard every time I hear the song: “We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing” and “Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded”

    As you said, “We’ve got to figured out what really mattered most to Jesus–and put our minds, hearts, hands, and feet to that.” We’ve gotten so lost and I’d imagine Satan is dancing a happy little jig over this fact. I don’t want to throw Satan a dance party with the way I live my life.

  5. Brooke

    my favorite part of the entire book was in this last section about how in our quest to be non-judgmental we become judgmental of those who disagree with us. which of course i found fitting because i did see snippets of her being judgmental through the book (like in the 10 commandments lady chapter) and i judged her judgmentalism through the entire chapter. 😛

  6. Ruth

    I haven’t finished the book yet – it’s taking me awhile cuz I can’t seem to read it without contemplating, questioning, feeling a wide range of emotions, & crying almost every single time! Which, btw, is not so fun when you’re in a Panera. You get funny looks. 🙂 I can say this, though. It’s rocking my world, making me think so much differently (better!), & making me so thankful for God’s grace. Thank you for suggesting this book & doing this read-along. Even tho I’ve been a slacker, I wouldn’t have read it otherwise.

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