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Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,503 Ratings  ·  487 Reviews
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith.

In Faith Unraveled, Rachel recounts growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, struggling as her own faith unraveled one unexpected question a
Paperback, 232 pages
Published June 26th 2010 by Zondervan (first published June 4th 2010)
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Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
Perhaps I am just reading this book at the exact right time in my life, but I think this is one of the best spiritual memoirs I have ever read. Rachel Held Evans is funny, brilliant, and brutally honest, but in a gracious, loving way. This is a book all about questioning our beliefs in God, and that it is okay to do so. This book has given me the courage to ask those questions I have been putting pins in, questions that I thought might destroy my faith if I asked, questions that might get me dir ...more
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

I am really glad the name changed from "Evolving in Monkey Town" to "Faith Unraveled" because the correlation between the actual subject matter of the book and the Scopes Trial is tenuous, at best. Reading the various attempts to intertwine the two were kinda painful, such as the mostly frivolous Chapter 3 on the history of Dayton, as really the only relation is that Evans became less fundamental (or as she calls, "evolved her Christianity") in the town where teaching evolution in
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this book because I love Rachel Held Evans' blog. I think she might be one of my kindred spirits, theologically speaking. She was raised in a family and church steeped in conservative fundamentalist/evangelical American thought. She was a good student. She knew all the rules of who was saved and who was damned and how she was going to convert everyone to Christianity. She could win "sword" drills (remember those? finding a passage in the Bible faster than any other kid in the Sunday schoo ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this book because of a post on Amanda Lawrence's Facebook page. I am so glad that I did. I highly recommend it for anyone who grew up in the ultra-Baptist world and has found themselves "progressive," "intellectual," "critical thinking," or any synonym of these.

I grew up in Independent Fundamental Bible Believing Baptist Churches - just the kind Ms. Evans describes in this book. We were never taught to question or criticize anything and just told that the Bible is the "inherent Word of G
Annalie Riordan
May 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is 200 pages of “Let’s all read what Rachel Held Evans feels about things." For a self-proclaimed critical thinker she displayed little of it here. Yes, her words sound pretty, but as soon as you stop and think – fluff.

It's pretty obvious from reading this book that Rachel Held Evans values feelings and experience above Scriptural authority. There are so many examples that I will not list them all, but at one point she says, “The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes,
Sep 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I wish there was an option for half-stars. I liked this book much more than three-out-of-five stars would suggest. While I'm not convinced that I subscribe to everything Rachel (her, not me) believes or suggests in the book, I'm coming away from it feeling like I really *get* her. Or like she really *gets* me; I'm not sure which. Maybe it's because I have a natural affinity for other strong-willed women who love Jesus, love reading, and who have got wind of the idea that they can be or do anythi ...more
Jenn LeBow
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
So many wonderful bloggers I follow have books coming out. BooMama, BigMama, Annie Downs, Sarah Bessey, Elizabeth Esther, Ed Cyzewski, and on and on. Plus the marvelous and very funny Lisa McKay released her memoir, Love At The Speed Of E-Mail, in May, which I promptly devoured on my Kindle and tweeted to her in real time exactly where I was in the book so she could permanently classify me as a potential stalker enjoy my reading experience by proxy. Then I bought a hard copy. I know the Kindle i ...more
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
I decided to read this book based on a blog post I saw in a couple of places on my social media feeds. The title of that post is "Everyone's a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony." That post, and this book, hit on very personal issues for me. In essence, this book rails against:

1)The idea that Christians should have blind faith, ignoring their intellect
2) The idea that Christians/saved people have the right/ability to judge other people, especially gay people
3) The idea that the bes
Ivonne Rovira
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians and agnostics alike
Rachel Held Evans and her two sisters grew up in a fundamentalist family in Dayton, Tennessee, a place best known for the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that H.L. Mencken so deliciously sent up. Equal parts memoir, Christian philosophy, and explication of modern fundamentalism, Evolving in Monkey Town provides something for Christians and agnostics alike. I found myself really invested in Evans’ spiritual evolution, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Despite living in Kentucky, home of snake handling, the Chur
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've struggled in my review of this book. From a literary perspective, it's not amazing. Yet it is an honest and thought-provoking account of a woman questioning the unquestionable truths of faith she was taught as a child.

Evans grew up in Dayton, TN where the Scopes Monkey trail was held - hence the title. She tries to illustrate her faith struggles with the parallels of the Creation vs. Evolution debate. I found this to be the weakest part of the book, as her questions and struggles with the
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Christian apologists and doubters who want understanding without further provocation
I appreciate the author honestly sharing her doubts and her interpretations of her personal faith and her reconciliation of how she was taught to perceive the world and her faith and how she actually perceives the world and her faith, but this book felt light in its explorations of how literal biblical interpretations of Christianity disenfranchise women and create an unequal power balance in relationships (her male friend's faith-mansplaining email (pp. 115-118) raised my hackles), it felt dism ...more
Drew Dixon
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is a crescendo.

When this book began it was much like any other Christian memoir of late. It was kind of edgy, talked all bad about fundamentalism, and told a whole lot of stories. (After writing that sentence, I realize how much it sounds like a description of Jesus.) As I read the beginning, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things she wrote, but not being at all impressed by any of it. "Yeah," I thought to myself, "I've been there before too. I've heard all this before. I'm k
When I read this book for the first time in 2012, I was still fairly early in my own deconstruction process. So Rachel's book challenged me and encouraged me in so many ways. I identified with so much of her own background. I've read it two more times since then and the last time was almost a year ago. I know that after that reading I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, but that may be more of a reflection of how I am impacted by the book now vs. the first time I read it. The bottom line is, I would r ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
I can relate to almost all the book as a former fundamentalist and do find she expresses herself with humor and grace. However I think she has for the most part moved from one set of proof texts to a different set that she now feels more comfortable with and so now is still in the same basic mindset but about different things.
Dichotomy Girl
Ok, so I confess, my 5 Star rating of this is highly biased, because so many parts of it were like getting inside my own head of several years ago. This is a great read for anyone who ever struggled with trying to hold onto their faith, while having unorthodox views on evolution, homosexuality, politics, salvation and certain parts of the Bible.
Linda Hall
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Loved, loved this book. It resonated with me on every page. I'm so glad there are other Christians like me in the world, other Christians who are going through the same questions and situations.
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Before I begin this review, I must confess that I know this author. Rachel and I were classmates at Rhea County High School, and graduated together as members of the class of 1999. Though not tight, I always enjoyed Rachel as a bright, funny, and incredibly kind young woman. Therefore, I was particularly excited to learn of her success with this book.

That said, I did approach the book from a very neutral standpoint. It's a bit odd to read the viewpoint of someone who grew up in the same communi
Kelly Hager
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Earlier this year (in fact, just last month), I read her other book, The Year of Biblical Womanhood. This one is even better, because it's not based on a gimmick. (Note: don't take that to mean that I didn't love The Year of Biblical Womanhood, because I did. But it's hard to compare the two, because they're very different.)

With this book, Rachel Held Evans discusses her faith and how she reconciles the idea of a loving God with the idea that you can only get into heaven if you believe some very
Jul 01, 2010 rated it liked it
It was this description that caught my attention. In Evolving in Monkey Town, Rachel Held Evans recounts her experiences growing up in Dayton, Tennessee, a town that epitomized Christian fundamentalism during the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. With fearless honesty, Evans describes how her faith survived her doubts and challenges readers to re-imagine Christianity in a postmodern context, where knowing all the answers isn't as important as asking the questions.

I was drawn to the book since my daug
Jim Gaston
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is quite simply, a fantastic book. I have traveled a very similar faith journey as Rachel has (or I should say "am traveling" since I think we both believe faith is more of a journey than a destination). Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from her book:

But Jesus rarely framed discipleship in terms of intellectual assent to a set of propositional statements. He didn’t walk new converts down the Romans Road or ask Peter to draft a doctrinal statement before giving him the keys to the k
Elizabeth Andrew
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I bought Rachel Held Evans's book because I was intrigued by the phenomenon of her blog, which attracts tens of thousands of readers and has made her a force in evangelical circles. Why? And how?

EVOLVING IN MONKEY TOWN holds the answer. Evans is a solid story-teller, her theology is thought-provoking, and she's clearly a likeable, faithful woman. Her memoir is a quick, clear, moving read--if you don't mind occasional Biblical exegesis. But what makes this book (and Evans herself) extraordinary,
Kimberly Knight
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic read, something for Christians across the cultural spectrum. As a progressive Christian who grew up in a fundamentalist family it is good to be reminded where I came from, how far I have come and to be humble about how far I have yet to go. For mainline or progressive folks who've never experienced this type of Christian community, or never had a relationship with with one who's worldview is so carefully shaped by the culture Rachel describes, this is a very important read to ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rachel Held Evans' memoir isn't without its weaknesses -- an occasionally mom-blog tone, chapters that cut out before digging into the heart of the material, a deference to social codes that belies a sad conservatism to her approach to gay rights -- but the strong parts really work. She writes about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian society and what happened as she moved through doubt and back to faith by asking probing questions and refusing to take easy answers. She's funniest and smart ...more
Elora Ramirez
Feb 07, 2012 rated it liked it
I appreciate Rachel's thoughts here - especially her honesty. It wasn't groundbreaking and I have trouble with some of her theology but I think that may be the point of the book, really. Allowing us to hear her side and providing questions for us to consider our own beliefs. I resonated with some of her cynicism and cringed at a lot of the familiarity in the stories. Overall it was a good read. Not sure I can proclaim the same "loved it!" status as some of my friends...
Hanna Osterwyk
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was like reading a memoir I haven't written yet.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, this one hit a little too close to home. If you ever grew up in a world of AWANA, Bible drills, apologetics, Left Behind and other hallmarks of '90s Christianity, and you don't quite know how to make sense of it all anymore, then Faith Unraveled is for you.

Author Rachel Held Evans walks through her fundamentalist childhood and explores the unwelcome questions that eventually drove her to step away from her faith community and rediscover her beliefs on her own. Evans is a great writer and s
Brianna Silva
I didn't get much out of this memoir, but maybe only because I'm already on the same page as the author in many ways, so her ideas aren't new for me. The ending was encouraging, though.


EDIT: Okay, this book was more helpful that I initially realized right after reading it. Some of the effects took a few days to sink in.

I honestly feel like my faith is stronger after reading this. That last chapter helped me realize how I can still be a Christian, fully and wholly and passionately, even as my v
Luke Hillier
I've admired Rachel's writing and presence via her Twitter and blog for years and years, but had never felt too drawn to read her published writing. This was mostly because, due partly to the former title (Growing Up in Monkey Town), I thought it was solely about coming to terms with evolution, which isn't a theological issue I find too interesting or even relevant (ironically, she comes to a similar conclusion). However, when the book was assigned as a part of the program I am doing (MissionYea ...more
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This book has put words to my current faith journey in ways I didn’t even know were possible. I felt like I wrote the book, and was sharing my own experiences about growing up in a conservative Christian context and wrestling with doubt for the first time.

Rachel’s book gives me so much hope. That even as I wrestle with doubt and ask questions about my faith and the Bible, that perhaps my faith can evolve with me into something stronger, better, and healthier.
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rachel Held Evans (RHE) is a winsome and effective communicator. What she isn't is Christian.

The timing of my reading of her book contributes to my rating of four stars, as well - her story exemplifies the problems of evangelicalism demonstrated in the 2016 election, and provide motivation for the problem I describe in my book (currently in editing).

Of course, RHE would disagree with my evaluation of her spiritual condition. She was raised an acolyte to cultural American Christianity, but not to
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Rachel Held Evans is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Faith Unraveled (2010), A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012), and Searching for Sunday (2015). Hailing from Dayton, Tennessee—home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925— she writes about faith, doubt and life in the Bible Belt.

Rachel has been featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Christianity Today, Slate, T
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“My interpretation can only be as inerrant as I am, and that's good to keep in mind.” 41 likes
“God's ways are higher than our ways not because he is less compassionate than we are but because he is more compassionate than we can ever imagine.” 35 likes
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