monkey town read-along (week 4)

Last week I started off with 2 observations. This week? 2 apologies.

1. I’m sorry for the “loaded” question (#3) from last time. Some of you felt it wasn’t fair, and you were right. Please forgive me.

2. I’m sorry I won’t be around again to comment. I know y’all will keep it sweet.

This week I’m just going to highlight some of the quotes from the book that I found most interesting and ask you for your thoughts.

Starting on page 84, with Nathan the Soldier:

“I’m not trying to offend you or anybody, but there’s this attitude that we’re Americans, we’re right, and God is on our side, and they’re Muslim, so they’re wrong, and God wants us to defeat them. People think we’re over there fighting a one-dimensional enemy. They think we’re over there fighting evil.”

What would you say in response to Nathan?

And now, a series of quotes about hell:

“But the idea that this woman (Zarmina) passed from agony to agony, from torture to torture, from a lifetime of pain and sadness to an eternity of pain and sadness, all because she had less information about the gospel than I did, seemed cruel, even sadistic.” (p.91)

“In Sunday School, they always make hell out to be a place for people like Hitler, not a place for his victims.” (p.92)

“If salvation is available only to Christians, then the gospel isn’t good news at all. For most of the human race, it is terrible news.” (p.93)

“Are we supposed to believe that five seconds after Jesus rose from the dead, everyone on earth was responsible for that information?” p.94)

“We just assumed that little kids and mentally disabled people go to heaven. The Bible doesn’t come right out and say that. So why can’t we believe that people without the gospel go to heaven? What’s the difference? Why won’t anyone give me a straight answer on this?” (p.94)

Do you have a straight answer (or any kind, really) for Rachel?

I loved Chapter 8, where a doubting, angry girl fell in love with Jesus, God in the flesh. I underlined and starred so much of the chapter, but I’ll just quote one paragraph from p. 106-7:

“It was the summer I encountered a different Jesus, a Jesus who requires more from me than intellectual assent and emotional allegiance; a Jesus who associated with sinners and infuriated the religious; a Jesus who broke the rules and refused to cast the first stone; a Jesus who gravitated toward sick people and crazy people, homeless people and hopeless people; a Jesus who preferred story to exposition and metaphor to syllogism; a Jesus who answered questions with more questions, and demands for proof with demands for faith; a Jesus who taught his followers to give without expecting anything in return, to love their enemies to the point of death, to live simply and without a lot of stuff, and to say what they mean and mean what they say; a Jesus who healed each person differently and saved each person differently; a Jesus who had no list of beliefs to check off, no doctrinal statement to sign, no surefire way to tell who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’; a Jesus who loved after being betrayed, healed after being hurt, and forgave while being nailed to a tree; a Jesus who asked his disciples to do the same.”

How would you describe the Jesus you’ve encountered? What would you keep/change from Rachel’s description?

That’s it for today, folks. Excited to hear your thoughts as usual!

*Homework for next week: Read Chapters 9-11.

9 thoughts on “monkey town read-along (week 4)

  1. Kelly

    I’m so glad there is a community reading through this book together. I read it several months back and it had an enormous impact on me. Like many of you, I found that much of Rachel’s struggles and questions mirrored my own.

    I’m just going to respond to the second question right now. And specifically, I want to respond to Mandy’s comment below. I admire – and envy – Christians who can respond to Rachel’s tough questions by just “trusting God”. Many say that it’s wrong to question God’s way of doing things. Many are content with trusting that God is just and fair. But what about those of us who simply can’t? I’ve prayed and begged God to give me the kind of faith to trust in his goodness and his way of doing things. But I can’t turn off the questions and doubts. It’s a part of my nature, I guess. And I just have this feeling that there is something missing when my view of justice seems SO different from the Bible’s portrayal of God’s justice (literal interpretation of hell, etc.). Why would God make me to have a sense of right and wrong that is so far from his own? I hope this is all making sense – I don’t have time right now to go into more detail. But please comment if you have any thoughts.

    1. Marla Taviano

      “Why would God make me to have a sense of right and wrong that is so far from his own?” What a great question, Kelly. And I don’t have an answer. I do know that I’m DONE regurgitating things I’ve heard for years. I’m trying to read the Bible through lenses uncluttered by preconceived ideas (soooooo hard) and asking the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and discernment. It’s one thing to trust God; it’s another to trust God as he’s been (not always rightly) interpreted and defined by others in the past. I want to KNOW GOD as he really, truly is.

  2. Mandy

    I will answer these questions together. These are tough issues to wrestle with. Here are some of my thoughts. I’m sure they won’t deal with all of the questions and issues raised.

    God is just, he is the judge, he knows what he’s doing, he loves everyone equally, and it’s really all up to him. All we humans have to do is give our lives to him, worship him, trust him, and obey him. Part of obeying him means spreading the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. Rather than trying to judge God or others, we need to examine ourselves and ask ourselves what we’re doing. Are we obeying him?

    I really trust him with all the tough stuff. There are just some things we can’t know right now and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with the fact that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the only way to God. Since God made everyone, knows everyone intimately, and is perfectly just, I trust him to give everyone equal opportunity to know him. I can accept the mystery beyond that.

    I’ve been reading Ezekiel lately and I came across these two passages of Scripture:
    Ezekiel 18:32
    “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”
    Ezekiel 33:11
    “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”

    God isn’t sadistic. He isn’t unloving, cruel, or unreasonable. He’s the most loving, grace-filled, just, merciful, truthful, good, powerful being in existence.

    And Jesus is the best Friend ever. He is what makes God accessible to us. Looking at his life and the way he knew exactly what each person he encountered needed from him, I know he hasn’t changed. He still draws all people to himself (John 12:32). It’s up to each one of us to choose as best as we are able. Will we answer his call or will we be too hung up on things we can’t understand to enter into the love relationship he offers each and every one of us?

  3. Kristen

    Thank you for hosting these discussions, Marla. I read the book a few weeks back. This issue of whether or not people can go through life w/o hearing the gospel and whether or not they’ll get into heaven has been bugging me ever since I read this chapter. Somehow I never thought of that before. I’d been taught that everyone can know about God because He’s written in the trees and in the sky, etc. I don’t have any answers, but wanted to share that I am having the same struggle.

  4. ellen

    salvation is available to any one ANYONE who accepts Jesus – that makes us Chrsitians — a muslim who accepts Christ as his salvation is a Christian – any our job is to tell everyone so they all have a chance. Being good doesn’t get anyone into heaven. And the word says that everyone knows that God is there — There is a hell and unfortuneatly good people go there . I have heard a few missionaries say that even in remote locations where English isn’t spoken — the native people know about God and His salvation on a tree by his son

  5. Ruth

    Ok I feel like I have so much to say, yet so little. Honestly, I have so many of the same questions that Rachel was dealing with & I could barely get through these chapters without being in tears. I can’t stand things to not resolve, & although chapter 8 was really good, it still didn’t give answers & it still left me frustrated. In answer to the first question, I don’t know what my exact response would be but right now it would’ve been something along the lines of, “Those are some of the same thoughts I’ve been having & been frustrated with.” As for the second question, I don’t have a straight answer either. I was raised in an evangelical Pentecostal church & taught very similar things as she mentions. I went to Bible college & learned how to say all the right things. But she’s right. It doesn’t seem fair. As for the Jesus I’ve encountered, he loves unconditionally, cares for those no one wants to care for, & is quick to forgive. I know hell is real, but there is so much more to God’s grace & his forgiveness & sovereignty than we could ever comprehend. Rachel’s description is excellent. I couldn’t have said it any better.

    This book is messing me up in a good way. I’ve had these questions going on inside of me for the last year & no one I’m able to bring it up with, unless, like Rachel, I want to be approached as being backslidden. I am reading ahead because I can’t stop. Not sure what the homework is for next week, but I am already on it. 🙂 Looking forward to the other comments on here.

  6. brooke

    so glad our “homework” ended for the week on chapter 8 instead of 7! what a depressing chapter!!! but chapter 8 was so uplifting!!!

    i’m interested to read what everyone has to say about this week. once again i’ve got a lot of stuff going right now and don’t have time (or rather won’t make it) to post. i will say that i covet your prayers for me.

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