Doubters in the Bible Belt

Paul Vander Klay

July 22, 2010

Interesting review, Paul. Seems like a book I might like. I'm wondering: you seem to think there is something particularly feminine about Rachel's perspective. Are you saying this simply to avoid male-gendered pronouns, or do you not think young men will also resonate with her perspective?

July 22, 2010

Hmm, hadn't thought of that. The feminine pronouns in the Keller quotation were his.

Given the different expectations for gender roles the subculture she is responding to clearly evokes a particularly female response. Also because it is a spiritual memoir gender comes through strongly in the book as well. I think plenty of men could relate to the issues raised but to me the book had a very clear feminine voice and I think young women in particular will resonate with it.

July 22, 2010

I really didn't think that it has a strong feminine perspective. As a male (and 10 years her senior) it could have been my story except for some of the details. I had some different questions than caused me to question my faith, and the way I dealt with them was different. But I don't think that difference was gender.

July 22, 2010

I agree. I identify a lot with Rachel's writing for a number of reasons. The fact that we're of different genders doesn't affect the impact of her writing on me.

A writer's gender definitely influences the experiences they have to write about, but the significant questions she asks are universal.

July 23, 2010

Hi Paul

Thanks for your thoughts on this book and the struggles that Rachel and others like her have gone through.

One central issue seems to be the question, "what is the nature of faith?" Faith is a word that means different things to different people, and has been largely de-valued, even within the church. So, what do you think Rachel means by the word / concept of faith? Indeed, what do you mean by it?

Daniel Nathan Booÿ
July 24, 2010

I haven't read this book myself, and may not find the time to do so... so forgive me if my comments come across as non-issues in light of what the book itself says.

Doubt seems to be something of a mixed bag. While it's good and productive to raise doubts, I don't think doubt is something that should be prized for its own sake. That is, while doubt can function as a means by which new questions are asked, it's somewhat static all by itself... which is to say that I don't believe that doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves. At all. Especially if this doubt is raised out of resentment toward im/proper authorities, rather than being raised in response to the injustices that said authorities propogate. Doubting the idea that women are second class citizens, that LGBTs are lower than that, and that the Bible doubles as a science primer are good things to doubt, but doubting is not enough, and effects no change on its own. No: for faith to really evolve, these reasons for these doubts need to be explored, and a good constructive response to these doubts needs to be put forward.

I myself do not doubt the conservative positions on LGBTs, women in church office, pluralism, the Bible, or creationism. I flat out reject them. And I don't see why people like myself should beg to be included within the Christian communitiy we've questioned and opposed... we're already a part of it. Individual communities and churches may not accept us, but Christianity is as much our inheritence as it is theirs.

Injustice does not require a pleading subvoice... it requires a response and a resolution. If resolution comes at the price of no longer bearing the mantle of traditional Christian orthodoxy, then that's a price I think we should be willing to pay.

I worry about exemplifying doubt. I find that most people who hold to "traditional" values often do so over and against the futility that doubt can lead us into. Doubt is good because doubt is honest, but doubt itself doesn't lead very far. To praise doubt as the means by which faith evolves is good in that it allows us to doubt without thinking of ourselves as being unfaithful, but I wouldn't want to ever suggest that doubting for its own sake is a good idea, or that convictions and leaps of faith are bad ideas because they lack sufficient doubt. "Traditional" values require questioning, yes... but what they require even more are alternatives.

August 9, 2010

I think "doubt" in our language has a broad lexical range and that we tend to ignore. Skepticism is a very strong value in our culture and there is a lot of faith in its capacity to reveal error but it is possibly less capable at actually yielding satisfaction. CS Lewis noted that the value in seeing through things lies in seeing through them to actually see something real. When we always see through everything and never actually see anything real we are simply lost in the process or perhaps making an idol out of the process itself.

Thanks for your helpful comment. pvk

August 9, 2010

Well, I just happen to live within thirty minutes of Dayton, and actually have some kinfolk up there (no, that's not a picture of one of them smiling on the cover - thanks for asking). This down-home familiarity plus the obvious southern hospitality expressed by that inviting smile on the primate on the cover combined to make buying this book an absolute must. And I am so glad I did.

The questions she asks,especially the one biggie that causes a lot of people to stumble - "God, if you so love mankind - if you so love me - why did/do you allow certain things to happen?" - are relevant to every human being on this planet, not just to some gal raised in the south. It's a courageous thing to ask such questions, and even moreso to admit one's disagreements with almost everybody in your community.

I laughed out loud in some places - Held's humor and writing are wonderful - cried in others, and it surprised me to discover that her background (she had/has firm Bible-believing parents, an "in-church-nine-months-before-I-was-born" life, and was totally immersed in Christian pop culture for her entire life) - still led her to have questions about her faith. My upbringing was almost exactly opposite hers, and I ended up with the same questions. Until I read this book, I thought that I wouldn't have had so many doubts if I had been raised Christian. But I was wrong in this assumption. This book is really good when it comes to dealing with breaking down people's assumptions!

Add your comment to join the discussion!