This Facebook post by Rachel Held Evans has a lot of likes from a lot of people I know.
Reading her post. I find myself having a reaction I have frequently to spiritual and theological commentary. I usually find myself agreeing with a lot.
Yes, good news must be good news to the poor or it is not good news.
Yes, theological reflection is not the private reserve of white guys with PhDs.
Yes, everyone is qualified to talk about faith.
But in these agreements, I know that Evans is not really agreeing with me. Her point is not these simple truths, but a polemical one. What she is arguing is that these young white theologians she has in mind “seem” to think certain things and those things are bad. She is painting with a pretty broad brush here and speaking in generalities, so it is not exactly clear how she knows what these people think. It would be helpful if she’d quote or even name her targets. It is hard to know if her adversary in this argument is a straw man, a phantom, or a actual person expressing the actual arguments she is putting in their mouths.
But putting this aside, I do have a deeper question about this argument.
What I’d like to know from Evans — and I guess the question I have for my United Methodist friends who liked the post — is how do we hold her statements here up against a fairly broad based conversation in the church that we have done a bad job of catechesis for the last 100 years and that our people are largely biblically illiterate.
I recall the words of that straight, white — but old so perhaps not unclean in Evans’ eyes — theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who said that his students come to his classes without minds formed well enough to have anything interesting to say. And yet, Hauerwas would argue strongly that the most interesting thing the church does theologically is be the church in the midst of the world in all its diversity.
There is a movement in the church — not by any means a universal one — to raise standards and requirements for membership. A lot has been said about the need to teach our people the doctrinal foundations of our faith.
Doesn’t the very notion that people need education and training in order to be well-grounded Christians run counter to the sentiment of Evans’ post?
Or is there a way to hold the two together that I am not seeing?