Rachel Held Evans, who died on May 4 at age 37, was a well-known figure in Progressive Christianity, but a name I’d only begun to recognize.
I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t that familiar with Rachel Held Evans and her writing prior to her death. I knew of her, and I subscribed to her blog on Feedly, but I hadn’t taken a deep dive into her writing yet.
When someone’s only 37 years old, it’s easy to assume that they’ll be around for a long time. There should be plenty of time.
Back on April 14, she tweeted she was in the hospital for treatment of the flu and a urinary tract infection and an allergic reaction to antibiotics.
Then suddenly she had been placed in a medically-induced coma to deal with brain seizures. The last word was that swelling of the brain, possibly from encephalitis, wasn’t survivable.
The Washington Post described Evans as “a best-selling Christian author who was unafraid to wade into fierce theological battles over issues such as the role of women, science, LGBT issues and politics on her blog and social media.”
Here are a few quotes various sources have attributed to Evans that resonate. I hope the quotes will be remembered and that those who read them will do so with an open mind.
1. “One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us.”
2. “What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”
3. “But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, ‘Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.’ This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.”
4. “Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; that latter has the power to enrich and refine it. The former is a vice; the latter a virtue.”
5. “Perhaps the most radical thing we followers of Jesus can do in the information age is treat each other like humans-not heroes, not villains, not avatars, not statuses, not Republicans, not Democrats, not Calvinists, not Emergents-just humans. This wouldn’t mean we would stop disagreeing, but I think it would mean we would disagree well.”
6. “It can be frustrating to try and talk about privilege with conservative evangelicals, for example, because many see changes in public opinion regarding things like marriage equality or feminism as indicative of their waning influence, and so they count themselves among the disadvantaged at best and as oppressed minorities at worst.”
7. “Perhaps we could push beyond these legalistic gender roles if we spent less time worrying about “acting like men” and “acting like women,” and more time acting like Jesus.”
8. “I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it.”
9. “If same-sex relationships are really sinful, then why do they so often produce good fruit-loving families, open homes, self-sacrifice, commitment, faithfulness, joy? And if conservative Christians are really right in their response to same-sex relationships, then why does that response often produce bad fruit-secrets, shame, depression, loneliness, broken families, and fear?”
10. “Contrary to popular belief, we (millennials) can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops, or pastors who wear skinny jeans.”
What I find most disturbing about the reaction to Rachel Held Evans’ death is the joy some conservative Evangelicals seem to have taken in the loss itself. They see it as a victory of some kind, as if the loss of a person with whom they disagree is something to be happy about.
I hope God will show them more mercy than they have shown Evans’ family.