Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn't want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals--church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it. Centered around seven sacraments, Evans' quest takes readers through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest. A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, Searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.
I was pretty impressed with this one! I found myself hooked just by the intro and continued to nod along in agreement with most everything Evans said throughout the rest of her memoir. There was also a nice, fun tone and a sense of humor about her journey that I really appreciated and found relatable. She points out how the world seems to have recovery plans / methods for things such as grief, depression, addiction, death... but there's no real plan for a person going through a crisis of faith. You're just sort of expected to figure it out for yourself, find your own way through it. She also discusses the frustrations that can come with this realization, because oftentimes having questions of faith are regarded by others as "acts of rebellion" as she puts it.
While my parents had always welcomed questions and discussion, my friends and professors diagnosed the crisis of faith as a deliberate act of rebellion... I found myself on the prayer lists of churches I didn't even attend. My best friend wrote me a letter comparing my doubts to a drug habit and explained that she needed to distance herself from me for awhile...It became increasingly clear that my fellow Christians didn't want to listen to me, or grieve with me, or walk down this frightening road with me. They wanted to fix me. They wanted to wind me up like an old fashioned toy and send me back to the fold with a painted smile on my face and tiny cymbals in my hands. Looking back, I suspect their reactions had less to do with disdain for my doubt and more to do with fear of their own. As my mother tried to tell me a million times, they weren't rejecting me for being different, they were rejecting me for being familiar, for calling out all those quiet misgivings most Christians keep hidden in the dark corners of their hearts and would rather not name.
There was one whole chapter dedicated solely to discussing some of the atrocities carried out "in the name of God". I found this chapter so powerful. Sad though it was, I liked the way she wrote it all out as a sort of prayer, with thanks given at the end for all those who fought to reverse backward thinking in the world, some who lost their lives for it. The one bummer I had with it though is the part where she gives thanks to William Wilberforce for his work abolitioning slavery in England, but she gave no mention to William's close friend, poet Hannah More, who also had a very large role in making abolition a thing in England.
I was also especially moved by her story regarding her friend Andrew, who is the gay son of a Fundamentalist Presbyterian minister. She shares that immediately following Andrew coming out to his father, the father wrote an article in the church newsletter ranting on about how homosexuality is "sickening". Imagine the heartbreak Andrew had to endure! Andrew's father also refused to baptize his own son, as well as denying him communion! Andrew goes through a spiritual struggle, desperately wanting to find his place in his faith but, thanks to his dad, always feeling "not good enough, not holy enough". Thankfully, he does finally find a church who fully embraces him as he is.
I really enjoyed Evans' story for the most part, though there were a few sections where I started to feel like she was veering a little too far into soapbox territory for me. That's just me though. I would recommend this for anyone who likewise is struggling or has struggled through crises of faith or perhaps congregation members simply looking for new material for bible study classes. This one is definitely bound to be discussion-provoking material. The format, with its short chapters, is especially nice for classes or supplemental reading for individual daily devotional periods, easy to take and think on a section at a time. It is also a good resource if you are looking to broach the topic of same-sex acceptance within your church. There's some great reference material for that here!
FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com & Thomas Nelson Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.