First the love, then the hate
Rachel Evans’s book, Searching For Sunday, is organized into the seven sacraments of the church: Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage. Each sacrament is given a handful of chapters, which gives the author the freedom to approach each sacrament from different angles.
And approach them from different angles she does.
I cannot fault Ms. Evans for her writing. She can truly find ways of making love with the subjects at hand. And she clearly has the ability to articulate the transcendent nature of the sacramental church.
It’s just that it doesn’t take very long to see a very distinct pattern in this book: First Ms. Evans describes the sacrament in ways that would make almost anyone of any age drop the book right then and there and make his way to the nearest church.
But the glory of any given sacrament is painfully short-lived.
After the buildup comes the inevitable fall.
It’s in the “next” approach to the sacrament that would most likely result in someone throwing the book away and swearing never to look into the matter of the church ever again.
It’s in the second-half of the write-ups where Ms. Evans grindingly defines her brand of Christianity: And it is exactly the same as the platform issues of the current Democratic Party.
Gender equality in all things.
And most of all, absolutely no respect for anyone who differs from these positions in any way.
Except where food in concerned. You are a good person if you bring someone else something to eat.
It’s not exactly what Jesus taught — You are a horrible person, generally, but since you brought a casserole, I’ll put by my attitude towards you while I eat — but it’s a whole lot closer than anything else she preaches.
Let me give you an example of what I call her spiritual bipolar tendency:
In the section on Communion, Mrs. Evans begins by telling us why she needs the Eucharist. She needs the Eucharist in order to begin each week with open hands (nonresistance to receiving the Eucharist and life in general). She needs the Eucharist in order to practice letting go and letting in. She needs the Eucharist in order to quit keeping score.
She wants desperately to stop judging people. No, there’s nothing in her list of needs that includes Jesus Christ, only herself. But she wants us to know how desperately she wants something else (the Eucharist) to transform her into someone she can live with.
A few pages later is the story of a “traveled, liberal, and lesbian” woman who found grace in going to church.
This just proves to the author that when it is said that communion is a sacrament of unity, it really is!
And then comes the rant. Should participation in communion be allowed only to baptized Christians?
I would say that she roared a most profound, NO! But that might be understating the matter.
What it is is something I can only describe as her showing us her scorecard.
I need the Eucharist because I need to quit keeping score.
Let’s talk about communion being a big, “sweaty, intimate, flesh-and-blood embrace” where there is no difference between us.
I’m happy to pass the bread to someone like Sara Miles [the traveled, liberal lesbian] or the neighbor who mows our lawn when we’re out of town.
But Sarah Palin? Glenn Beck?
(All together now: Hell NO!)
People who want to limit communion receivers to the baptized are on the scorecard as Self-Appointed Gatekeepers (very, very bad score). She doesn’t want to share communion with them either.
After all her attempts to woo us by telling us that the church is for everyone. That that is what church is for. For everyone to come together — no matter who you are or what you bad things you have done in your life — after all this, here is what she actually writes about that idea:
On a given Sunday morning I might spot six or seven people who have wronged or hurt me, people whose politics, theology, or personalities drive me crazy.
Never a word about being in church to connect with God.
The concept of forgiveness doesn’t exist in Ms. Evans’s church. Or mercy, for that matter.
It always comes down to interpersonal relationships. And qualifying the people involved.
Who are the worst of these, you ask? Well, let me tell you.
Each and every section winds up with a very similar description of those people who think they are in but are, in fact, (because Ms. Evans knows for sure) out:
Republican. Reformed. Doubtless. Submissive. Straight.
But if you bring a cake to a wake, then Mrs. Evans might give you a few Brownie points.
So cheer up. Jesus may have told us, What you do for the least of these, you do for me.
But if you are in Ms. Evans’s church, all you have to do is make it past her self-appointed gate-keeping (only a few hurdles) and you are in!