We don’t need no thought control?

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?


8 thoughts on “We don’t need no thought control?

  1. I love people who claim to be so insightful that they can not only see past their own privilege and biases but can determine mine as well. If you want to try a fruitless activity, try engaging RHE’s army of sycophantic minions at all. RHE can speak no wrong.

  2. John:

    Not sure this is much different that what you already are grappling with. But I think they can be blended.

    RHE is right – Theology is for everyone. She is also right that our theology is the poorer (worse off) for never considering the perspectives of others who are not “like me”. This could be different theologically, economically, gender etc.

    We should consider another perspective. It may point out somethings we would otherwise miss. We should be humble enough to rethink some of our views.

    These sentiments would be difficult to challenge.

    But all of this goes both ways.

    And as we hear other perspectives, we must ultimately evaluate what we hear. We are all called to be Bereans and search the Scriptures and evaluate what is being taught.

    And that means we all have to be Biblically literate. And that does require some training. I have been studying Ezra/Nehemiah and in these books it is clear that there is a need for training to understand the Scriptures. I think that the need for learning/training is more true today than in Ezra or Jesus’ day since we don’t live in that time period or culture or speak Greek/Hebrew.

    Thanks for letting me post.

    1. Thank you for posting.

      I think I’ve been influenced more by Stanley Hauerwas than I am aware because any time someone tells me we have to consider other perspectives, I find myself wondering how perspectives formed by non-Christian identities and cultures can tell us much about God.

      I do, of course, agree that we must be humble and consider arguments that we have not heard or considered before. It just feels to me as if RHE is calling for more than that. Maybe that is my privilege speaking, she would say.

  3. Her point – that theology is for everyone and best done in community – is a good one but it’s obscured or undermined by the unnecessary judgments of everyone else. I had the same questions as you John when I first read it (I don’t follow her so I saw it first because a friend liked it) which were: Who are all these horrible people she’s speaking of? Of course none of us are unbiased. Those who don’t know that aren’t automatically power-hungry jerks but maybe just immature in their walk. How bout some grace?

    I also disagree with her last statement – that her theology is *only* as rich as the diversity of people who have contributed to it. That’s a very humanistic gospel, one that would be challenged through a decent seminary education.

  4. We don’t need no thought control, and I don’t need people telling me what I think. Jesus said you will know trees by their fruits, by which He obviously meant their words and actions, which are expressions of the thoughts, of the heart.

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