The Problem of Theological Cone Bras

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My part in this is simply to introduce a guest post by my daughter, Bekah Merkle. The subject is the doctrine of Rachel Held Evans, so you could consider that a trigger warning, I suppose.

By way of preface, I should simply say that if you have never heard of Rachel Held Evans then there is no real reason to read any further. If that name means nothing in your life, this post could seem exceptionally random and possibly uncalled for. But if, on the other hand, you have encountered the impact of her teaching in some way, if you have been outraged, or shocked, or if you’ve felt the force of some of her arguments, if you’ve had your faith rocked a little or if you know someone who has, then hopefully you’ll understand why I’ve decided that this is worth saying. And I may perchance, in the spirit of cracking myself up extensively, have put one or two extra eggs in this pudding – so if you’re not in the mood for that, tread not forward.

I need to speak a word, and I need everyone to not be all judgmental at me about it. I need people to come alongside me and enter into my feelings and bolster me up with their well-wishes and understanding, and not be all, you know, judgey and mean.

I need love.

I need encouragement.

I need affirmation.

I need.

Sniff.

Right then. Now that we all have agreed how we’re going to handle me, I’m going to speak my word.

I’m super bored by Rachel Held Evans. And when I say bored, I am intending to convey a kind of sweeping, majestic boredom. But not a pleasant boredom . . . not the kind where you’re lounging in a sepia-toned Instagram wearing a cozy and terribly flattering sweater, gazing out a window while nursing a lovely big mug of steaming wonderfulness and pondering what you’re going to do next now that you’ve finished up your morning hike in the Adirondacks. No. Not that. What I speak of is the experience of being trapped in a brown plush, slightly damp backseat that smells of mildew and tuna and the windows are fogged up and you’re wearing a turtleneck and your sock is bunched up in your boot and your hair is staticky and everything is kind of in slow motion and slightly too loud for some reason. That’s how I feel when I finally whack up enough nerve to look at her blog and I see that once again there is a 72-part screed about all the ways we’re making people feel sad when all that the poor little punkins want to do is have a crisis of faith and change their gender and be in charge of their husbands because, darn it, why shouldn’t they, and they also want to be pastors and publish memoirs about their intellectual tricycle journey around the cul-de-sac because THIS IS ALL VERY INTERESTING AND IMPORTANT AND SINCE I’M A WOMAN ANYTHING YOU SAY IS AUTOMATICALLY SEXIST YOU PATRIARCHAL EMBODIMENT OF ALL WESTERN INJUSTICES.

Granted, boredom is not actually an argument against something. But I believe that in this case, the boredom was very richly earned, as I shall explain.

Her whole blog is organized into the following categories:

1. Dear valiant people who want to both abandon the faith and also still be Christians: That’s totally normal and not contradictory at all and I shall affirm you.

2. Dearest tender souls who would like to be both a boy and a girl: That’s totally possible and also very biblical so I shall wrap my arms around you and shield you from the big mean world and its concubine named Reality.

3. Dearest victims: I shall spend all day and all night talking about subjects that are triggers for you and telling everyone else to shut up about those things because they are triggers for you and they hurt your feelings.

4. Dear intellectuals who want to be both gay and conservative: I love that because it’s so flashy and unexpected – I shall interview you to raise awareness that if people want to contradict themselves that’s ok.

5. Dear people who only want to stand on their heads doing scissor kicks but at the same time would like to be able to walk around without being made to feel different or weird in any way: I’m here to be your voice.

6. Dear people who want to be centaurs: You go girl.

7. Dear people who say that other people can’t be centaurs: You’re the worst.

8. Also I am more gifted at being my husband than my husband is thank you very much and I think Paul would agree with me on this. And actually I don’t care if he doesn’t because I never liked Paul anyway.

It’s not like she doesn’t address real issues. The issues are there – it’s just that her way of addressing them is so tedious and also utterly ineffective and so wretchedly boring. For instance. Let’s pretend that we have a busload of children  that has crashed on the side of the road and all the kids are trapped inside. There are people busily working to get them out, many of whom are risking their lives to do so, and meanwhile Rachel Held Evans has come out of nowhere and grabbed a megaphone. She’s standing off to the side with her megaphone, setting up a squawk about the kids in the bus, criticizing the efforts of the firemen, and threatening to stick her tongue to the flagpole about the whole thing. Then she writes a memoir chronicling the year in which she pretended to stick her tongue to the flagpole and she makes a boatload of money out of that endeavor because people buy her book for some inexplicably mysterious reason. And meanwhile, everyone is clustering around her telling her what a hero she is, and have somehow gotten convinced that they are the ones in the bus and she is the one who is working diligently to get them out. Who knows why. And because she is wearing a homemade paper miter which identifies her as The Voice of the Victimized, anyone who disagrees with her approach is automatically stigmatized as being one of the mean-spirited oppressors.

This whole sideshow I find excessively dull. It seriously puts a cramp in my soul whenever I try to concentrate on what she’s saying all the way to the end of an article, because every single one of those articles is so utterly predictable, and it’s the same badly performed pea-and-thimble trick with the exegesis over and over and over with the same unsurprising and tedious conclusions that are supposed to shock and overwhelm us and make us question everything we’ve ever been taught. There’s a whole world out here of color and music and taste and beauty and danger and excitement and joy and work and sacrifice . . . but she and her fan club are most insistent on staying in the brown plush backseat with the foggy windows in order that they may fully discuss The Issues and affirm each other.

She needs to come out. She really needs to come out into the world that has wind and cliffs and waterfalls and ostriches – a world that has horizons and doesn’t smell like a stagnant old stew of mildewed tuna and gendered gradations. But personally I think that as long as people keep climbing into that foggy car to rebuke her, she’s going to stay smugly inside feeling like the edgy bad girl and drawing lots of attention to herself. She clearly wants to be seen as the wonderfully accepting and understanding and protective mother hen, welcoming all the downtrodden and outcast victims and calling them to come nestle under her wings of safety and inclusion . . . but it’s equally obvious that what she really feeds on is the shock and awe that she creates with that mother hen schtick. She wants to be a shock jock, but one who can immediately retreat to her tender and motherly persona when everyone freaks out about her scandalous opinions.

All her detractors who get wound into a frazzle about the latest silly thing she said are the reason that she does what she does . . . but when you come right down to it, her shock-jockery is just downright comic. Her theological insights have all the gravitas of a puddy, middle aged, suburban Lesbyterian pastor in sensible shoes putting on a cone bra and then feeling like a sort of cross between Madonna and Xena Warrior Princess. I mean, she’s trying to very seriously argue, with a poignant and sympathetic look on her face, that the radical message of the gospel means that . . . the boys are going to (gasp!) go use THE GIRLS’ POTTY!!!!!

Seriously? I’m sorry, but you can see why a sort of suffocating ennui sweeps over me whenever I try to take her seriously.

Some of you may have noticed that I have not here interacted with a single one of her arguments, and that’s not accidental. I have learned, through my studies of the classics, that you should never get into fisticuffs with a tar baby. Solomon, you may remember, urged us to never answer a tar baby according to her folly, lest we become covered with tar ourselves. When the Lady of the Green Kirtle has started throwing powder in the fire and thrumming her little mandolin and using her soothing, sweet, understanding voice, the most effective move is not to interact with her arguments but to do your best to cause an unseemly smell.

For the good of her soul, and for the good of lots of other people’s souls, Rachel Held Evans really needs to come out of her sad little Pretendyville and into the real world. But I kind of think that maybe the best way to get her to come out is to walk away, to stop getting horrified, stop trying to talk her out of opinions that, like quicksand, only suck you further in the more you struggle, and definitely stop giving her the gratification of feeling like her theological cone bra is as startling as she had hoped.

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Michael
Michael
7 years ago

“She wants to be a shock jock, but one who can immediately retreat to her tender and motherly persona when everyone freaks out about her scandalous opinions.” <—–This.

Jdeklittle
Jdeklittle
7 years ago

“I think that as long as people keep climbing into that foggy car to rebuke her, she’s going to stay smugly inside feeling like the edgy bad girl and drawing lots of attention to herself. ”

Then why this post?

Jenny
Jenny
7 years ago

Wowzers! You have a way with words. I do not. I’m glad that you said, so much better than I could, what I’ve been thinking. Mildewed tuna indeed! Thanks Bekah.

mythopoeic
mythopoeic
7 years ago

THAT IS SO OFFENSIVE!

;)

Jessica Wilkins
7 years ago

This was amazing! I have been feeling such similar feelings but unable to word them in such a succinct, engaging, and humorous way! Thank you for showing me I’m not alone in my Rachel rage.

Centaurs! hahaha!

Kirsten Miller
Kirsten Miller
7 years ago

Holy Horseradish, Batman! THAT was bracing!

Jay
Jay
7 years ago

So true.

Whitney
Whitney
7 years ago

Ah, Bekah. Everything I ever wanted to say about this topic embodied in a hilarious and apropos blog post. I feel so much lighter after reading this. Thanks for opening a window!

Jacob Lupfer
7 years ago

I don’t agree with Rachel Held Evans on everything, but at her best, she makes me want to be a better Christian. You make me not want to be a Christian at all. And Rev. Wilson, if you hate Mrs. Evans so much, just say so yourself. It’s almost systematic — the most hateful anti-RHE blog posts and book reviews from women, as though the men are getting ladies to do their dirty work for them. I am truly sorry you both feel so threatened by her and are filled with so much contempt.

jdawg
jdawg
7 years ago

Come on, is it not obvious how utterly self-refuting this article is?

Meredith
Meredith
7 years ago

Wow. I couldn’t even read all of that because IT was boring. You have a little too much time on your hands… Oh, & you’re pretty downright mean too. I don’t know you, or your blog, or if you’re supposed to be a Christian, but if you are, you are EXACTLY the type that make Christians look like self-righteous a-holes.

Garrett
Garrett
7 years ago

Gross.

Ty
Ty
7 years ago

Holy run on sentences.

Not even a concession either?

That’s a lot of ad hominem for someone who’s bored, too.

Jeff
Jeff
7 years ago

Good grief. 1500+ words to describe how you are bored? I can certainly appreciate that you disagree with Ms. Evans. However, I do not understand how your mean-spirited words, your name-calling, and your over-the-top derision are meant to do anything other than to denigrate a fellow Christian. This entire post strikes me as bullying.

Melody
Melody
7 years ago

I’m laughing really hard and feel quite refreshed. Thanks so much and “Happy Thanksgiving”!

P.S. I’m sure she learned at the feet of the Master Christian Shock Jock, Mr. Tony Campolo, who delighted young Christian audiences for many years with his potty mouth.

Jake
Jake
7 years ago

There’s boring, and there’s worthless. This post is worthless.

ImNotListening
ImNotListening
7 years ago

Nothing says love of Christ like writing thousands of words intended to try to destroy a fellow Christian with whom we disagree. Meanwhile, I find it incredibly ironic that Beach’s main point is that Rachel is incorrect on her biblical interpretation while lambasting Rachel for reaching out to, listening to, and giving comfort to the marginalized and oppressed (Most likely the same group Christ himself would be hanging out with). Instead, Bekah has decided to ridicule those made in God’s image because she’s obviously got it figured out and there can be no doubting of her understandings of the scripture… Read more »

Hannah
Hannah
7 years ago

Haters gonna hate. But I’m just gonna shake.
And you just keep on hatin’, girlfriend.
Happy Holidays.

Drew
Drew
7 years ago

iI the spirit in which you introduced this post, while I disagree with your opinions, I’d like to affirm you in that I love your writing style. I love that, even though I simply read your post, I feel as though we had a conversation. I love that, even though we disagree, we serve the same God. I encourage you and affirm you as a beloved child of God to continue to faithfully seek out the One you love above all else.

CatherineS
CatherineS
7 years ago

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you mock others and hold them up to public ridicule them.” Oh, wait. That’s actually: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Not feeling the love here….

MB
MB
7 years ago

If what you’re trying to do is appear as if YOUR opinion and stance is more Christ-like, you might be the confused one. This is incredibly rude and arrogant.

Meredith
Meredith
7 years ago

It looks like you’re only approving commenters that agree with what you said. Why am I not surprised? Are you all having fun being mean & childish & making fun of others in a state of exclusivity? Ah, Christians being Christians, eh? Still not sure the point of your hateful post but something tells me it won’t lead one person closer to Christ. If that’s not what you’re going for, then what’s the point at all? Hope you’ve had your fun & haven’t hurt too many people in the process. I’m guessing you don’t care, & your mind is shut… Read more »

Stephen Moss
7 years ago

Bekah, I disagree with much of Rachel’s theology too, but I do not believe this post is any closer to the heart of Jesus than Rachel’s blog posts with which we disagree. Even as a Reformed Presbyterian myself, and one who often reads her blogs (and appreciates certain aspects of what she says and does), I can clearly see that you have mischaracterized and exaggerated Rachel’s positions. That is not how followers of Jesus are to interact with anyone…not our enemies, and certainly not those who also claim the name of Christ (whether you accept her as a sister or… Read more »

Brooke
Brooke
7 years ago

Wow. It is certainly okay to disagree with someone but I’m confused about why you have so much hate for her.

Sheridan Voysey
7 years ago

There’s a time to call out someone’s teaching, there really is. And I’ve struggled with much of what Rachel has said and the tone she’s said it in. But the demeaning, ridiculing tone of this post is problematic, and makes me shake when thinking of Matthew 5:22. Attack the ideas, yes, but not the person.

Neutral Party
Neutral Party
7 years ago

As someone without a dog in this fight, I can just tell you that the type of mean-spirited attitude with which this post was written is what has caused me to leave the church. Thanks for introducing me to this Rachel Held Evans. I’ll check out her blog now.

Darren
Darren
7 years ago

Apart from being quite funny, this is spot on. I’m sure RHE fans will get all upset, but her articles NEVER engage with the substance of someone’s views. Just dismiss them as bullies, or whatever, whilst she verbally bashes them, with very little grasp of what good they may be doing in the real world.

Austin
7 years ago

Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time and on the mark as well!

TD
TD
7 years ago

I like your talent at crafting a sentence! That’s not meant as condescension, I haven’t encountered your writing anywhere else, so if you blog or publish books, I don’t know. But allow me to point out, the best way to convince the Internet you’re so very over a particular topic is not to write a 1,700-word essay explaining in exhaustive detail why none of it is worth discussing in the slightest. It comes off kind of like the seventh-grade boy who covers both sides of a sheet of notebook paper in reasons why he hates that girl and he’s Not… Read more »

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

Then she writes a memoir chronicling the year in which she pretended to stick her tongue to the flagpole and she makes a boatload of money out of that endeavor because people buy her book for some inexplicably mysterious reason.

It’s amazing what you can do when unencumbered by the burden of honesty.

David Todd
David Todd
7 years ago

Jesus was able to be critical while also loving, a trait Rachel Held Evans has also cultivated in her own life. You’re rhetoric reads hateful a flippant, unwilling to engage the core of the argument and instead getting hung up in the periphery.

Lawrence
Lawrence
7 years ago

Excellent Bekah, and it is clear that the apple has not fallen far from the tree!

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

Thank you for this! I am always confused when people I know reference RHE. She is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and her come bra is deceiving. I always wondered if it was just me- if I wasn’t getting something. So glad it’s not just me- and thankful for the breath of fresh air and the laugh! :).

Matthew Paul Abel
Matthew Paul Abel
7 years ago

Climb in the car and rebuke her? Pshaw… she wishes.
I do not get in cars with strange girls to rebuke ’em – and the author has it right: no one else should, either. Tar, or who knows what, might stick to you.
Just leave her to her own devices in there.

Chas
Chas
7 years ago

A pen fit for the Master’s use.

re: wrassling with tar babies: thanks, immensely profitable advice.

Krista
7 years ago

Benah, this is the best thing I have read in months. THANK YOU. For the entertainment, but more importantly for sharing the truth about this woman and her false gospel and absolute refusal to love and live by the Word. The world needs to hear this message. I sincerely applaud you for this post.

Phoenix
Phoenix
7 years ago

So…what I’m getting from this is “because she disagrees with me on different aspects of Christianity, I’m going to mock her instead of engaging with her in dialogue, because she’s not worth engaging with because I think her opinions are stupid”.

Glad to see you’re taking the mature approach and not taking Atticus Finch’s advice–if we actually looked at something from another’s point of view instead of immediately mock it, we might gain some very dangerous perspective.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

I’ve always found her comment section even more depressing/frustrating than her actual postings. All these people looking to her as the voice of compassionate reason liberating them from the shackles of biblical exegesis, application, and self-discipline. She’s one voice but even if her cheering section comprises all of the people in the world who think that way, it’s still disturbingly many.

But Bekah really nails it. What a refreshing screed!

Paul
Paul
7 years ago

Dear Berke,

I’ve never heard of RHE but read past your warning nonetheless. Your descriptions of her blogs are great. I’ll be sure to NEVER venture there.

In this piece, you are in a sense describing liberal “christianity” as a whole. It many not be as explicity silly as the silos of intellect you described in RHE’s writings, but when viewed through the lens of Biblical Theology, most of them come darn pretty close.

Well done.

Paul

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

Phoenix, not quite. She’s not engaging it because there’s nothing to engage. It’s emotion and tantrum-throwing disguised as patient sagacity — except the patience runs out in about 15 seconds with people who actually want to engage the substance of her arguments. I’ve seen it over and over. The patience is only for people who come to her looking for reasons why word meanings are mean and feelings are the stuff of life.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

I think its ironic that the same thing you say you need from your readers at the beginning of the post is the same thing Rachel is trying to give her readers.
It hurts my heart to see so much hate thrown around simply because two people who love the same God disagree.

Josh Bishop
7 years ago

This:

intellectual tricycle journey around the cul-de-sac

You go girl.

Doug Ponder
Doug Ponder
7 years ago

All the comments of the ‘this-post-is-so-mean’ variety seem not to be very familiar with the Bible, in which the enemies of God are routinely mocked. The Lord himself laughs at them, and holds them in derision (Ps. 2:4). “Because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you.” (Prov. 1:26) Jesus mocked his enemies, too: “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good when you are evil?” (Mt. 1:34); “Woe to you, blind guides” (Mt. 23:16); “You blind fools!” (Mt. 23:17)… Read more »

Rick Davis
7 years ago

I am seriously disturbed by the un-Christlike tone of this post. It reminds me too much of the un-Christlike tone Elijah took with the prophets of Baal, or that Paul took with the Judaizers. Even worse, it almost descends to the level of un-Christlikeness that Jesus displayed when talking to the Pharisees and scribes. Poor, misunderstood Pharisees and scribes; all they needed was someone to come alongside them and love them…

All I can say is at least Mrs. Merkle refrained from calling anyone a brood of vipers or beating anyone with a whip. Whew. :)

Andy
Andy
7 years ago

Phoenix,

“Glad to see you’re taking the mature approach and not taking Atticus Finch’s advice–if we actually looked at something from another’s point of view instead of immediately mock it, we might gain some very dangerous perspective.”

We, most of us, I would presume all the people here, know her point of view: We were once unsaved and know the lense she looks through. Perhaps one day the scales will fall off Rachel’s eyes.

Matt
Matt
7 years ago

Well apparently this has been linked in some unfriendly place.

But the naysayers have a point. When you find something boring you usually have much less to say about it than this. It also demonstrates the common conceit that “our opponents don’t actually believe or care that what they say is true, they’re just attention-whoring”

ReformedCE
ReformedCE
7 years ago

Wonderful post. I think Blog and Mablog needs a Welcome/Warning Label to help the confused Postmoderns (not to be mistaken for confused Postmillennials…): WARNING: Blog of a Modern Thinker for Modern Thinkers: Ideas will be stripped down and discussed without dancing around the Postmodern Monolith of My Ideas are valid because they are My Ideas. Your Idea is Stupid is NOT the same as You are Stupid. We will discuss the first and not the second. (I like using capitalization like Edwards…) Degrading untruth and lies is not the same as degrading the image of God in the source of… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

All of you criticizing Bekah for writing about something she says is boring and unworthy of attention:

she didn’t write the article because she woke up one day, read the blog, and decided to explain why she didn’t care.

She wrote it because Rachel Held Evans is taken seriously. She’s explaining why this ought not to be so.

Duells
Duells
7 years ago

Oh my! (said in my best George Takei voice). This a wonderful read, and the comments section even more so… allow me to add to the chorus. This one’s a keeper.

FEEEEEEELINGS! Woe, woe, woe feeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings!

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

Rick Davis channels Greg Boyd.