The Internet is a blessing

Scott Eells BLOOMBERG “The Internet is a blessing because it connects people of faith who might otherwise feel alone in … Continued

Scott Eells

BLOOMBERG

“The Internet is a blessing because it connects people of faith who might otherwise feel alone in their questions and doubts with like-minded individuals interested in reform,” writes Rachel Held Evans.

I used to think I was the only one squirming in the pews of my conservative evangelical church on Sunday mornings, wrestling with questions I dared not ask out loud: Why are women forbidden from assuming leadership? Do I really have to be a Republican to be a Christian? What if I’m tired of the culture wars? What if I want to worship alongside gays and lesbians? Must I interpret every Bible story literally? Am I the only one who doubts now and then? 

It was the loneliest hour in my week…until I started blogging. 

Now, when I ask these questions out loud, thousands of people respond with two simple, but powerful, words: “me too.”  

It took about four years to grow a significant online community, but this month, more than 300,000 unique visitors have stopped by the blog to read, share their stories, debate, question, and interact. When I posted a response to North Carolina’s passage of Amendment One that expressed my frustration with the culture wars and my concerns that young people are leaving the church over its treatment of LGBT people, readers shared the post more than 55,000 times on Facebook. 

As it turns out, I’m not so alone after all. 

Of course, not everyone is happy with the blog’s success. Evangelical leaders have issued impassioned warnings against the growing number of progressive evangelical voices online, particularly against young evangelicals like me who are challenging the status quo regarding gender roles, women’s ordination, political engagement, biblical interpretation, LGBT equality, interfaith dialog, and the place of doubts, questions, and uncertainty in the life of faith. 

The tension reflects what has become the Internet’s blessing and challenge to religion: decentralized authority that gives voice to dissident and minority voices that might not otherwise be heard. As a woman, I may be forbidden from preaching at a Southern Baptist church on a Sunday morning, but when I blog, people listen.

In this sense, the Internet is a blessing because it connects people of faith who might otherwise feel alone in their questions and doubts with like-minded individuals interested in reform. It empowers the powerless, provides a platform for good ideas, helps hold leaders accountable, and exposes us to fresh, new perspectives from all around the world. 

But it’s also a challenge because, as I’ve learned the hard way, it’s much easier to call for change than it is to make change happen. My generation in particular likes for things to happen immediately, in 140 characters or less, which is not really how lasting, significant reform happens. Furthermore, our penchant for sharing our every thought and feeling with the world often leads to shallow, ugly, discourse. (Visited Facebook recently?) The same impatience that inspires us to challenge the status quo can prevent us from engaging in the prayerful, contemplative, and disciplined work it takes to live inspired lives of faith, the kind of lives that really make a difference.

Still, as a young evangelical woman living in the Bible Belt, it’s hard to imagine life without my “readers.” Even after four years of daring to ask my questions out loud, I find myself smiling in relief and surprise each time I go to the comment section and read those two simple words: “me too.” 

Rachel Held Evans, author of “Evolving in Monkey Town,”blogs at RachelHeldEvans.com. Her new book, “The Year of Biblical Womanhood,” publishes this fall.

More On Faith and the Web:

Doubting Mormons turn to online support

Hemant Mehta: How the Web is killing faith

Ultra-Orthodox Jews: The Internet threatens our way of life

Rachel Held Evans
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  • SODDI

    You should walk out of your church if you’re that uncomfortable. You just give them power.

  • ccnl1

    Putting the kibosh on all religions in less than a minute. Tis mind boggling how easy this is.

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • roberthagedorn1

    Google First Scandal.

  • DavidJ9

    I understand the social value of going to church, but I’m not sure that this outweighs the evil done by oppressive doctrines of various religious organizations.

  • salero21

    As far as Preaching or Prophesying, I don’t find nothing in Scripture that forbids women to do so. Phillip the Deacon had 4 unmarried daughters who prophesy Ac. 21:9 . However there are certain requirements that should be follow on how a woman should do it 1st Co. 11:5-13.

    What the apostle Paul was against and fobade, is for women to be in posts of or exert Authority over men in the church. Senior ladies can, ought and should guide and teach the younger ones, but NOT the men in church. As simple as that.

    NO you don’t have to be a GOPer, you are not the only one with doubts and difficult questions yet to be answered. If you’re tire of the culture wars, take a break. As for “worshiping” alongside homosexuals. I don’t know what good is that going to do if any at all to you or to them. We don’t worship Idols or alongside Idolaters; Do you?

  • ccnl1

    Sunday Morning, 2012

    The Apostles’ Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

  • longjohns

    So you think you found a way to skirt the church but if you really believe in the “teachings” in the Bible then finding technicalities around rules isn’t really the point–is it? At the end, you want women to have a voice yet your religion tells you that it shouldn’t be so.

    “11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”–1 Timothy 2:11-14

  • jjlc125

    I’ve never heard of such a thing as a “progressive evangelical.” It sounds like she’d be more at home in the Episcopal Church, except they’ve been dying since they abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ for some other message and began embracing strange theological innovations. Maybe she can worship in one of the empty or nearly empty buildings the Episcopal Church just obtained in Northern Virginia as a result of a recent court decision which will likely turn into a Pyrrhic victory.

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