monkey town read-along (week 3)

Good Tuesday to you, friends! I’d like to start off today with a handful of quick observations.

1. Time flies when a girl’s not blogging. Can’t tell you how Monday night catches me off guard these days. Ack! Read-along’s tomorrow!

2. This summer read-along thing’s not for pansies, is it?? Goodness gracious. It takes quite a bit of effort to stay on top of this. I am SO IMPRESSED with all of you!

3. My mind is in a million different places right now (Cambodia, for one, and also several locations that are more mental than physical/actual), so if I’m a little distracted…

Let’s jump in.

Um, Chapter 3 wasn’t my favorite. I hate that I was bored to death by all the Monkey Trial & Dayton details, but yeah. You are so welcome to share any thoughts you had on the trial, but I’m skipping right to p. 65, the last page of the chapter.

“These days,” Rachel writes, “most Christians, even conservative Christians, acknowledge that the Monkey Town approach of stubborn isolationism and anti-intellectualism is an outdated and ineffective strategy for expanding the kingdom.”

“To survive in a modern world, they needed to be more prepared to respond to its questions. They could no longer simply resist evolutionary theory, secular humanism, higher criticism, and other modernist threats; they had to learn to effectively engage them instead. So after years of opposing any concept of survival of the fittest, a funny thing happened to the evangelical community of Dayton and around the country: it evolved.”

Hold that thought. Because the very next chapter talks about “being prepared to respond to the world’s questions,”(i.e., Christian apologetics), but then Rachel starts wondering if that’s the best way to handle things.

“I grew increasingly uncomfortable with how verses were lifted from the Bible to support political positions like gun rights, strong national defense, capital punishment, and limited intervention in the free market. These seemed more like Republican values than biblical values to me.” (67)

Question #1: What do you think of that last quote? Unfair? Ring true?

“It was the first time I wondered if perhaps there is no such thing as one, single biblical worldview, if perhaps there are as many worldviews out there are there are people.” (68)

Question #2: How would you define “a biblical worldview?”

This next part has been on my mind and heart for a couple years now. The whole battle to “win back America for God” or whatever we call it. Where Christians can only watch FOX news and vote for whoever’s running against Obama. Where patriotism and Christianity are Siamese twins. Where modern-day racism is something black people are just making up to cause a ruckus. Where gays are to blame for everything that’s gone sour in our great nation.

“From keeping nativity scenes in public buildings to keeping ‘one nation under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, defending America from the perceived takeover of secular humanism became the purpose of the modern church.” (77)

Do we not have any higher purpose as the people of God, the body of Christ??

Like, oh, I don’t know, caring for the poor, rescuing the enslaved, doing justice, feeding the hungry, racial reconciliation…

If I sound exasperated, I am. Some of the stuff we waste our time on in this country when people are suffering and dying just makes me sick. (And as the Bible would suggest, it makes God sick too.)

Question #3: In the grand scheme of things, how much priority do you think Jesus would give “defending America” compared to loving the poor?

Last thing.

“Most worrisome, however, was how we criticized relativists for picking and choosing truth, while our own biblical approach required some selectivity of its own.” (80)

Question #4: Do we read/interpret/apply Scripture selectively? If your answer is no, are you sure? If yes, is this okay?

Here are all the questions in one place:

1. What do you think of that last quote (seem more like Republican values than biblical ones)? Unfair? Ring true?

2. How would you define “a biblical worldview?”

3. In the grand scheme of things, how much priority do you think Jesus would give “defending America” compared to loving the poor?

4. Do we read/interpret/apply Scripture selectively? If your answer is no, are you sure? If yes, is this okay?

Take it away, friends. Remember, be kind and respectful. So far so awesome!

*Next week’s reading assignment: Chapters 6, 7, & 8.

23 thoughts on “monkey town read-along (week 3)

  1. Deb T

    I have been posting my blog, but this week I am driving from Virginia to Washington state, so that has taken up most of my time. I’ll try harder next week when I’m not driving 600 miles a day.

    On the Monkey Trials chapter, I thought that it just showed how we will often go to the extremes in our behavior in order to “prove” that our point of view is not only “right” but “ordained” by God and scripture. I think that we’re in a time like that right now, so in many ways, we are just repeating behavior that others have engaged in over and over and over. So I guess the question I am left with is, do we ever learn from the lessons of the past? Not sure that we do.

    Each of these questions make me think of how easy is it to use the bible to justify our own agendas, rather than letting scripture shape and mold us. I think that the way we view scripture in its history and context will define the ways we use it. I see many contradictions within the whole biblical story, and when teaching or preaching, I continue to encourage people to look at a whole story, chapter or book before lifting a verse or two to prove any particular point. But it takes a lot of work, and we often have to challenge what we were taught before.

    I am wary of those who claim a biblical worldview without having them explain exactly what that means. I certainly want the bible and the biblical story to have a major influence over my life and my choices, but the bible doesn’t address many of the inconsistencies of life in the world or in the US today. But then again I have discovered that many people do not life to acknowledge or address the contradictions that life presents every day. While I’m not sure that I’m brave enough to have made the statement Rachel did, I understand the frustration that fuels it, and it does ring somewhat true for me.

    As for what Jesus thinks about how we as Americans have prioritized our choices of national security, I am thankful that he is full of grace and forgiveness. I know he said that the poor would always be among us, but I think he wanted us to try harder to help and less to keep or better our own status at their expense.

    People have been selectively interpreting scripture since before it was written down… that’s why it got written down. And commentaries are selective interpretation that has been proclaimed since the canon was set. Even a sermon or a bible study will take a particular bead on a passage.

    Is this bad? No, I think that God continually enlightens us and makes scripture come alive. That’s why it’s lasted so long.

  2. jolie

    1. Rings true to me. I felt growing up in a Christian environment that it was implied that if I was a Christian, I had to be Republican. Once in one of my churches I had the ask the pastor to stop someone from handing out Republican slanted political pamphlets. While I am not Republican OR Democrat, I have always felt that Democrats have just as many or more ideologies about them that can be supported biblically, namely, social programs that defend and serve the poor.

    2. I agree with Rachel that it can look different for so many people. I feel in the end it should boil down to two very simple things: love for God, love for his people (all people). The rest is details.

    3. Compared to loving the poor? Not much.

    4. Absolutely we do. In all sorts of ways. We crucify homosexuals and make them the brunt of offensive jokes (or the blame for our problems) yet gluttons, liars, and adulterers live among us with no real eye from us. Not that either are living Biblically, but why such a magnifying glass on one? Also I feel gender roles and women’s rights have already been discussed, but we very selectively read into those verses as well.

  3. Mandy

    I’m here! I’m late, but I’m here. I have to confess, I finished reading the whole book a couple weeks ago and I haven’t re-read the chapters in question for this week, but I think I can respond anyway…

    1. Rings true to me.

    2. Biblical Worldview: A view that is shaped by eating and drinking and breathing God’s Word with one’s heart (spirit, mind, soul); a view that is shaped by the transformation and renewing of the mind and heart by Scripture and the indwelling Holy Spirit. God’s Word is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword, penetrating the mind, body, and spirit – digging deep into the heart and revealing what is hidden there. It isn’t just a bunch of words on paper and it isn’t a prescribed way of viewing the world. It’s so much more than that.

    3. I think Jesus loves people, not countries/nations. He is all about the individual person’s heart. So I think Jesus sees our country for what it is: a mass of sinful people in a sinful world who desperately need him every moment of every day. Just like the people in all the other nations and countries out there.

    4. I think we interpret Scripture in our imperfect minds and hearts, so we should always be humble about our interpretations and open to God revealing more of his truth to us through his Word and his people. Scripture can’t be truthfully interpreted apart from the Spirit of God and the people of God. I would imagine that everyone interprets Scripture somewhat selectively because we are all imperfect. However, I constantly marvel at how God’s Word can change us if we let it. It’s about deep heart transformation, not about gaining ammunition to defend a certain pride-based position. When pride comes in, we get it wrong every time. When selfish ambition comes in, we get it wrong every time. “Without love, we can do nothing” and it’s the absence of love in politics and in many people’s iron-grip interpretations that causes the “word” to ring hollow and hate-filled, like a clanging gong or ringing cymbal. But with a more accurate view of who we are and who God is, with the love of God in our hearts, we can interpret and teach the Scriptures in a way that will tug at the hearts of the lost and lead believers into deeper relationship with God, equipping them to love God and love their neighbors.

  4. Jud

    1. I’m not a fan of a lot of standard “Republican” positions, but I can’t say I know the verses to which she’s referring here (except for the capital punishment ones). The real problem I see is that too many Christians specifically don’t have biblical support for many of their political views, but hold to them anyways because for some reason to accept a “pro-life” candidate means accepting all these other positions too.

    2. One of my least favorite words in Christian parlance is “biblical” (i.e. when someone says “this is the Biblical view of womanhood”, “this is the Biblical view of government”, etc). Things are never so cut and dried. So I would say that I don’t believe the term “biblical worldview” can be defined. The simple truth is that there are many “biblical worldviews”. And while I may think some seem more “correct” than others, who exactly am I to judge that?

    3. Jesus cares about people. And to the extent that “defending America” means “doing what’s best for the people who live in the United States”, I think he’s all about that. Of course with the caveats that 1) what we think is best for us often isn’t what’s *really* best for us, and 2) he doesn’t magically favor our interests over the interests of people in other countries just because we’re “Americans”

    4. Absolutely we do, that much is self-evident. The question is really “on what basis do we selectively apply the Bible?” For further reading I highly recommend the book “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuality”. It blew my mind a few years ago, and finally gave me a reasonable rubric for selectively applying the Bible.

    As for whether or not “selectively” applying the Bible is “okay”, my only response to that is that if God had intended for us to interpret the Bible as we would a textbook, he would have written it as such. Instead he chose to give us his word through the pens of dozens of authors, spread out over thousands of years, and in a variety of literary forms. And that makes the Bible really hard to understand at times, even ambiguous in places. Given that, I wonder if God actually planned on us having multiple conflicting interpretations as a way for us to 1) be diverse in our approach to him, since no one method of understanding him could ever be complete, and 2) be forced to rely on him and not our own wisdom.

  5. Liz

    Okay, well I LOVED Chapter 3! The whole thing was a publicity stunt! Brilliant. And here we have been throwing down over it like it mattered to that town – when it was a bid for tourism. Loved the insight into Bryan – loved his work on behalf of the vote for women and worker’s rights – loved that in those times, being a good Christian meant being a Democrat. Loved the contrast to today, all around. Made me chuckle. So much of what we think is MAJOR is simply a minor sign of our times.

    1. I agree. You should belong to a political party because you agree with their overall views. There should not be one party for Christians, and the feeling that you’re not really Christian if you don’t subscribe.

    2. I would define it as what evangelical Christians think it is. Conservative, literal, and engaged in attack or criticism of the culture at large. How do I THINK it should be defined? Well, not like that. Because I think we get pretty far away from what Jesus is asking of us, sometimes. I sure as heck do. I think a true Biblical worldview would take into account all of the Bible, especially the parts where our Savior commands us to lay down our possessions and follow Him. He asks us to be uncomfortable. I for one love to ignore that part and think I’m not rich…I for one am SO wrong.

    3. I personally think Jesus would be gently telling us to go help that family down the street and kindly redirecting us to serving our neighbors instead of defending America, in that sense.

    4. Yes, of course we do. It is okay? Well, no but we are human. Not one of our churches doesn’t pick and choose – not one of us doesn’t do the same. Again, I don’t think one church or human has the answer – only God. So I assume basis and human error in all of that.

    I am loving this book, and reading all your comments! Highlight of my week, no lie.

  6. Judy

    Rachel seems good at creating straw men and looking smart by knocking them down. I really don’t understand what this accomplishes.

    Question 1: Of course there are some Christians who are Republicans that can’t back up why they believe these things. Many take Scripture out of context or have shallow arguments. But so do people who believe other things. This proves nothing. It would be much more useful to actually engage people who believe in a free market, etc who can articulate their arguments well and explain why they believe in these things.

    Sometimes I also think she is trying to sow confusion. If there are as many worldviews as there are people, does it make them all equally valid? Is she giving the impression that it’s impossible to know the truth?

    #2. Some of the efforts to win back America annoy me as well. False dichotomies also irritate me. What would it accomplish if Christians left politics entirely to the ungodly? Why would this be a good thing? You mean we can not engage in politics and also care for the poor at the same time? Since when do we have to pick one or the other? Bad economic policies, corruption, etc create poverty, so we should engage in both.

    We all have biases. Conservatives, Independents, liberals, even Rachel Held Evans. This should not keep any of us from pursuing the truth, to strive to understand Scripture as much as is humanly possible.

    #3 I really don’t like this question.

    I think this ‘defending America’ is a loaded term. It’s become popular recently to bash conservatives. There are a lot of people who conflate patriotism with Christianity. This is a problem. It is also a problem to mock people who want to preserve many of the values that make this country special. I would like to avoid both extremes.

    Depending on what is meant by ‘defending America,’ I guess Jesus is interested in some of it and some he has no interest in at all. And I also hesitate to declare the mind of Christ. We can read the bible and make our best guess, but his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways.

    And I really don’t see it as an either/or situation. A government that is just, provides the most economic opportunities, and does not consolidate power to a very few is better for the poor and everyone. Caring for the poor is not just giving money and handing out food and clothes. What about supporting an energy policy where gas isn’t $3-5 a gallon? How about creating an environment where small businesses could succeed and provide jobs? Wouldn’t that help the poor? Those are just a couple of examples.

    #4 I think this question relates to what a biblical worldview is. We as Christians should seek to understand Scripture and live by the full counsel of the Bible rather than cherry pick verses to prop up our own beliefs. We’re sinners and must admit we’re not perfect, remain humble, and try to do this the best we can. Of course some people will use the bible or anything else for their own purposes. But this is not reserved for conservatives. Liberals and others do it too.

    1. Liz

      I love so much of what you said here – “It would be much more useful to actually engage people who believe in a free market, etc who can articulate their arguments well and explain why they believe in these things. ? YES! Agreed! More useful, smarter, more responsible – YES.

      “You mean we can not engage in politics and also care for the poor at the same time? Since when do we have to pick one or the other? Bad economic policies, corruption, etc create poverty, so we should engage in both.” YES!!!

      #3 – very smart replies. I agree. Loaded term and I think it pits people against each other.

      # 4 Yes, EVERYONE does this.

      Wish I had the solution to even a part of it!

    2. Marla Taviano

      Thanks for this, Judy. I don’t have time to comment on it all, but I totally agree with you that #3 was a loaded question. I knew I should have worded it differently, but I was in a mood. (boo)

  7. Marla Taviano

    Y’all are so sweet. I was out of town with family for 12 hours today, and I was afraid I’d have a lot of comments/answers to wade through when I got home. Thanks for making my task so easy. 😉

  8. brooke

    i read the chapters, but (for now) i’m not sure i’m up to a blog post. maybe its unfair, but i’m also reading “Interrupted” right now and my mind is focusing more on it.

    I will say that this weekend I got pulled into the “Sunday best” argument again. I’m a member of a “Christian friends” group on Facebook. While the group is good to lift each other up in prayer, they also have very polarizing view.

    When I dared to question why they were so harsh of someone who wore flip flops to church, I was accused of taking James 2 out of context…of course their rebuttal was not with a different scripture, but rather the great theologian Aretha Franklin (its all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T).

    I’m weary. Weary of Christians making the rest of us Christians look like hate-mongers. Wear of Republicans making the rest of us Republicans look like mindless idiots. Weary of people blurring the line between religion and politics.

    In my mind, these comments are on-topic so I apologize if they don’t make sense/fit with the discussion to anyone but me.

    1. Marla Taviano

      I’m weary too, friend. And I can’t even comment on the flip-flops right now. I worship my God every single Sunday in them.

      No worries on the blog post. I didn’t really have one in me this week either. 😉

      Hugs to you. Been praying for J.

  9. Megan at SortaCrunchy

    Just popping in with some thoughts on #3. I would go so far as to say that Jesus has ZERO interest in defending America. Believe it or not, America is just one nation in a long line of nations/empires – many have risen and fallen before us and more will rise and fall. ONLY the Kingdom of God is eternal. Like you, Marla, I am sick unto death of the way the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has gotten so mixed into the nationalism in this country.

    I know I sound like a broken record in recommending this book, but Jesus for President (Chris Haw, Shane Claiborne) really helped me to grasp a more historic and accurate view of this concept. Sure, it’s a little more radical than some people are comfortable with (it’s Claiborne, after all), but you cannot read it and not walk away with a renewed sense of purpose about what we are really here to do. And be.

    MAJOR kudos to you, friend, for keeping up a summer read-along. You are doing wonderfully with the discussions! Good, good stuff. XOXO

    1. Marla Taviano

      Oh, I love you. I got Jesus for President from the library last year and didn’t finish it before I had to return it. Why did I not check it out again?? I also have the audiobook. I need to open it up and start listening.

    2. Kim

      Excellent! You said it way better than I could have. I am still finding areas of my life where I have confused being American with being a believer.

    3. ali

      Well said. I’m reserving that book from the library. It’s my new favorite thing to do (reserve books from the library, that is).

  10. Donna P

    We as a society definitely use Scripture selectively. Many versus can be interpreted very differently when spoken alone without the actual context and awareness of the times in which it were written.

    #3 – When I first became really involved in a church I heard all the conservative stuff about America and poverty and guns, blah, blah, blah. And many of the churches, including the one I attended, do things like soup kitchens and clothes drives however, at least in my experience, many times it’s with the “left-over” resources. I don’t see many churches hurting themselves to provide for widows & orphans. So do I think Jesus would be pro defending America over providing for the poor.

    1. Rachelle

      Good comment~

      The only thing though is that America,as a nation, is probably doing more for the poor than many churches. We, as a church(body of Christ), might even use that as an excuse not to “hurt ourselves” to provide for orphans and widows, that we already “give” enough. So I wonder, would God defend my church or me for how I have cared for the poor? Wow-tough questions, huh?!

  11. ellen

    I find the whole thing tiring – We need to be in the Presence of God –and do what He tells us – as far as helping the hurting, voting, life in general- what He tells me is not exactly as what He tells you — God doesn’t protect America – He protects His people — where ever they are — and they (His people) need to help the hurting – I think it is as simple as that –
    p.s. – God doesn’t get sick

    1. Marla Taviano

      Sick as in grieved, disgusted, this-is-not-my-perfect-plan. (the Lord was sorry he had made man and it grieved him in his heart…the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice… Jesus turning over temple tables).

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