Stop trying to make church cool. , When I left church at age 29, full of doubt and disillusionment, she added, I wasnt looking for a better-produced Christianity. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called none, Ms. Evans wrote, you know this truth deep in your bones: Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return. , Death is a part of life, she added. As of Saturday she had about 163,000 followers on Twitter. But the demographic was more varied than it seemed; many evangelicals were leaving megachurches with praise bands and coffee bars, but not abandoning a belief in Jesus. Regardless of ideology, holding oneself above others based on certitude is dangerous. He had travelled to Chattanooga to prepare dinner that evening for twenty close friends and family members of Rachel Held Evans, an influential Christian thinker and writer, who died unexpectedly in 2019. He got it, Dan said.
The town had been the site of the Scopes trial, which took place in 1925; the case centered on a science teacherJohn Thomas Scopeswho had been prosecuted for teaching evolution. They recalled how, as a senior, she was chagrined to be riding the bus to school, which was seen as supremely uncool. Her writing pushed theological boundaries and sparked debates, as she challenged traditional evangelical interpretations of the Bible, including those on the role of LGBTQ people in the church, for whom she was a vocal advocate. Cara Bentleyis a multimedia journalist and newsreader and covers Politics for Premier. Gleason had grown up in a conservative church in Pennsylvania, and, by the time she got to college, she was certain that her duty as a Christian woman was to keep her mouth shut and stay away from boys. Grownups dont have it figured out. Dan pulled the door shut and bent down to pick up three wet leaves that had blown in from the porch and come to rest on the kitchen floor; he stacked them carefully, so that everything would remain just so. She died on Saturday. She attended Bryan College, which is named after William Jennings Bryan. ", While Evans was hospitalized, fans and friends took to Twitter, using the hashtag #prayforRHE to share what she meant to them. Seminarian Becky Castle Miller wrote that she'd seen many women who said they wouldn't have pursued the ministry if not for Evans, adding, "I'm one of them.". The book, which comes out next month, is a collection of essays that continue Held Evanss exploration of divine love and doubt. To everyone who has prayed, called, texted, driven, flown, given of themselves physically and financially to help ease this burden: Thank you. Dan painted the front door red, as Held Evans had wanted, but he had to choose a different hue of gray for the exterior than the one shed been leaning toward. Her last blog post appeared online on Ash Wednesday, March 6, a day of repentance. She married Mr. Evans, her college boyfriend, the same year she graduated. Held Evans helped her roommate push back. She died on May 4, 2019. Darrow doesnt get a light, she said. There, she was influenced by the apologetics movement, which employs intellectual arguments and critical thinking to defend faith. Rachel Held Evans, a best-selling author who challenged conservative Christianity and gave voice to a generation of wandering evangelicals wrestling with their faith, died on Saturday at a hospital in Nashville. The arrogance of intellectual superiority, Held Evans writes, isnt a solely conservative folly. It says youre not alone because youre questioning., The group laughed while sharing stories of Held Evanss devout childhood. She supported Kaitlin Curtice, an Indigenous essayist and poet, by promoting her writings on the complex inheritance of Christianity among Indigenous people. Here was the breakfast menu that she wrote out on the whiteboard before leaving for her last trip, to California, in 2019. Once, it sparked dreams of community and counterculture. Rachel Held Evans amassed a loyal following over more than a decade of reflecting on faith issues. Chu gave them a hug. "This entire experience is surreal," he wrote. Rachel Held Evanss work still offers solace to the community she created, months after her death. Rachels presence in this world was a gift to us all, and her work will long survive her., An Episcopalian, Ms. Evans left the evangelical church in 2014 because, she said, she was done trying to end the churchs culture wars and wanted to focus instead on building a new community among the churchs refugees: women who wanted to become ministers, gay Christians and those who refuse to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith.. During treatment for an infection last month, Ms. Evans began experiencing brain seizures and had been placed in a medically induced coma. I will sow the seed I have received. She spoke at festivals and recently released her new book Inspiredthat aims to 'avoid noncommittal liberalism on one hand and strident literalism on the other', according to her website. She headed across campus to her fathers office, where, in pained terms, she laid out the injustice of a world in which salvation was a matter of geography. Rachel hadnt finished asking all her questions, and she never thought she had all the answers., One afternoon, Held Evanss family took me to the rolling expanse of the graveyard where their daughter is buried. After Held Evans died, thousands of letters, cards, and social-media messages inundated her family. She lived a life of generosity, justice-seeking, and inclusive faith. people. She would spar with evangelical men on Twitter, debating them on everything from human sexuality to politics to biblical inerrancy. "Rachel's presence in this world was a gift to us all and her work will long survive her.". She brought together once-disparate progressive, post-evangelical groups and hosted conferences to try to include nonwhite and sexual minorities, many of whom felt ostracized by the churches of their youth. Pastor and author Tim Keller wrote: "Kathy and I began praying for her as soon as we heard about her illness. Sorry, your web browser is not capable of supporting the features required by this website. In a world of fake news theres never been a greater need for quality Christian journalism. He had brought a wheeled suitcase in which he had packed sauces wrapped in newspaper, and the Chinese greens and mushrooms that he feared would be nearly impossible to find in Chattanooga. Appalled, Gleason decided to leave the church, and went to Held Evanss house. She wrote four popular books, which wrestled with evangelicalism and the patriarchy of her conservative Christian upbringing, and documented her transition to a mainline Christian identity, which moved away from biblical literalism toward affirmation of L.G.B.T. The two formed a team: she wrote and he managed her Web site and helped her think strategically about marketing. My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone., Rachel Held Evans, Voice of the Wandering Evangelical, Dies at 37, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/04/us/rachel-held-evans.html. She was 37. In 2010, she published her first memoir, Evolving in Monkey Town (later called Faith Unravelled), which, at first, gained little attention outside of Dayton. Chu, Bessey, and another close friend and well-known progressive Christian author, Nadia Bolz-Weber, flew in to be by Held Evanss bedside.
The so-called disso queen, whose former clients range from Kim Kardashian to Johnny Depp, reflects on the state of our unions. As a teen-ager, Held Evans fastened a piece of duct tape that read God is Awesome! to her JanSport backpack, and served as the president of the Bible club. Im still a Christian thanks to you. She often told the tale of how she had schemed to win her grade schools Best Christian Attitude award four years in row. I feel like I'm telling someone else's story. Dan rushed her to the emergency room, where tests indicated that she had a serious infection; she was then transferred to the I.C.U. Moreover, taking on the task was an admission that his friend would never be able to complete the book herself. I keep hoping its a nightmare from which Ill awake, Mr. Evans said in a statement. As we drove along the highway, Dan pointed out where his wife stood in front of the Welcome to Dayton sign, holding a sign of her owna poster board that read Dan Is Awesome! It was a stunt shed done for the booka way to enact Proverbs 31:23, which says that a virtuous womans husband is known at the city gates. She also used the word vagina in A Year of Biblical Womanhood, despite being warned that, as she put it, the word would anger the Christian bookstore gatekeepers and could prevent them from stocking it. But the book was an enormous success; it landed Held Evans on television talk shows like The View and the Today show, cementing her role as a leader of an emerging movement. She was eventually airlifted by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville. The challenge and poignancy of the collection is that its essays mark both the evolution of a consciousness and its abrupt end. For the past two years, Chu has interviewed Held Evanss family members. On a recent Saturday morning, Jeff Chu, a writer and ordinand in the Reformed Church in Americaa small Protestant denominationpushed a green grocery cart through a Whole Foods in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In late 2007, she started her own blog, calling it a "traveler's forum" for faith journeys. For the rest, hed have to improvise. Supporters of her work have been praising how she lived her life; challenging sterotypical gender roles, calling out politicians who were trying to tap into the evangelical vote, and giving a voice to those who had a faith but weren't sure about the moral culture they had grown up with. Held Evans chose the title Wholehearted Faith in response to the work of Bren Brown, a self-help writer who uses the term wholehearted living to encourage people to be their full selves in all aspects of their lives.
So many people were touched by her voice and her example. Dan Evans wrote on Saturday: "This entire experience is surreal. Before I left Dayton, Dan brought me to the old house that he and Held Evans had shared, a brick bungalow. When her brain couldnt stop seizing, the doctors induced a coma. Premiers news output takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. We will not notify you again about this until you next restart your browser.
Here was a framed coffee cup from the White HouseHeld Evans had been there twiceand an empty box of Presidential M&Ms, and a formal citation from President Obama. Her first book, originally titled Evolving in Monkey Town and later republished as Faith Unraveled, charted the evolution of her faith and her struggle with questions around Christianity. Rachel Held Evanss unique writing voice fostered a community of believers who yearned to seek God and challenge conservative beliefs. Shes one of the few spiritual teachers Ive known who had the humility to regularly ask herself, What if Im wrong?. When she was 14, the family moved from Birmingham to Dayton, Tenn., in the Bible Belt, where her father took an administrative job at Bryan College. I was on the other side of her Twitter indignation many times, but I respected her because she was never a phony, Mr. Moore said. An Episcopalian, she became a popular and sometimes divisive figure among evangelicals. "I cannot express how much the support means to me and our kids. On this visit, some of Held Evanss friends and family had assembled to celebrate the publication of Held Evanss sixth book, Wholehearted Faith, a posthumous memoir. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Cond Nast. Above the desk, on a corkboard, was a series of index cards on which she had left messages to herself, to read while writing: Tell the truth and Sentence is NOT in the refrigerator.. Ms. Evans was known to challenge traditional and largely male and conservative authority structures.
He has sifted through the remnants of her remarkable mind, listening to her on podcasts and puzzling through half-written stories and material that she had cut from other pieces. I imagined that until death do you part meant that, once one of you dies, youre parted, Dan said. In addition to him, she is survived by their two children, a 3-year-old boy and a girl who is about to turn 1. https://t.co/WUQ9DFC38q. Charity PPC Agency At a stoplight, you idle under a billboard, and what towers above you is a portrait of your boyfriends face. We grieve so much for her family who has lost wife and mother. When the beloved Christian thinker died, at thirty-seven, she left behind a legacy of constant spiritual questioningand an unfinished memoir. To these earnest seekers, Held Evans became a patron saint. This is where I had the most difficult conversation of my life, he told me. A mischievous smile flickered across her mouth. Her forthcoming conference, called Evolving Faith, to be held in Denver in October, describes itself as a gathering for wanderers, wonderers and spiritual refugees to help you discover You are not alone.. Even in her dissent, she made all of us think, and helped those of us who are theological conservatives to be better because of the way she would challenge us.. And when she died, the absence of that love brought on a collective heartbreak.) For Held Evans, wholehearted faith involved dropping the armor of intellectual certitude: Much as I prefer the self-protection offered by cynicism, caution and carbohydrates, finding my way back to my own belovedness has required receiving a new spirit, one of tenderness and one of vulnerability. Held Evans often drew on the ideas of Paul Tillich, a Protestant theologian who argued that doubt is a necessary element of faith. I think Rachel would be the first person to scoff at any attempt to beatify her, Sarah Bessey, her friend, told me. Sign up to our daily newsletterand receive more stories like this straight to your inbox every morning. She didnt care at all about fame, except for how it enabled her to proclaim a more just and expansive vision of Gods love, to encourage others, and to amplify voices that are typically marginalized in the Church and in the world, Mr. Chu wrote in an email. Although she was only thirty-seven when she died, Held Evans had become a beloved figure in the landscape of American religion. She worries that she is often guilty of this habit: At times it is as if I didnt dismantle that fortress at all. A stranger had left pink plastic peonies in a vase that was soldered to the headstone, which read Woman of Valor, a term Held Evans had used to celebrate womens strength. Here was the lime-green chair where Rachel breast-fed Henry and Harper. Jeff is the kind of friend who shows up, Dan told me. She made Christianity seem like a decent place to be while you asked questions, rather than something you had to abandon to be free, Kathryn Lofton, a professor of religious studies at Yale, said. She was 37. On the courthouse lawn stood a statue of Bryan, cast in bronze. Bryan was the hero defending the Bible against the liberals who didnt believe in God and didnt respect the Bible, Amanda said, repeating, with skepticism, what she and her sister had absorbed as children. On 30th April, she was starting to be weaned off coma medication for fear of the risks of being comatose for too long and the seizures continued at a reduced rate. Her close friends Sarah Bessey and Jeffrey Chu, with whom she organized the event, recalled how she had created space, and hope, for evangelicals questioning the institutions of their faith. 'Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.' Unlike many websites we haven't put up a paywall we want to keep our journalism free at the point of need and as open as we can. When she died, Held Evans left behind 11,762 words of the unfinished manuscript, and her husband, Dan, asked Chu if he would finish the project. In 2012, she published her second book, A Year of Biblical Womanhooda tongue-in-cheek how-to for the ideal evangelical woman, who cares for her family and serves her husband like a traditional housewife. ", He thanked everyone who had prayed, offered the family support and donated money. I now realize that for some thingssome things last until youre both dead. Her books were scattered everywhere: One Coin Found, by Emmy Kegler; Womanist Midrash, by the Reverend Gafney; Jesus Feminist, by Bessey. He was riding right next to me when I was driving back from the hospital the night when Rachel was going to die. Chu had reluctantly agreed, but he worried that he wouldnt be able to capture her gifts of immediacy and authenticity. If it werent for Rachel, Id have lost my faith, she told them. Evans was born in Alabama in 1981 and moved to Dayton, Tenn., as a teenager according to Slate. Your monthly support will make a world of difference. A lot of people said, Rachel gave me permission. She gave permission to doubt, permission to study as a woman, she said. The gray clapboard house, with two airy porches, is perched on the steep slope of an open field surrounded by woods. Death is a part of life. The Christian blogger, author and challenger of evangelical culture, Rachel Held Evans, has died at the age of 37. But we cant do it without you. "We plan to raise him Christian, despite of our own persistent doubts about God and struggles with the Church," she wrote. I feel like I'm telling someone else's story. He was scouring the produce section for lemongrass and galangal. Rachel Held Evans amassed a loyal following over more than a decade of reflecting on faith issues. Darrow stood across the grassy square, looking haggard and paunchy. Shed picked a shade called Repose, Dan said. One of the culprits became a calligrapher in adulthood, and carved one of Held Evanss sentences into a piece of raw wood that now sits by the door: Even here in the dark, God is busy making all things new., Today Held Evanss roomy and inviting theology is cherished by pop-culture icons such as the writer Glennon Doyle, who told me, Those looking in at Christianity dont know what an act of heroism it is for a woman inside to live this way. Ms. Evans started a blog and in 2010 published her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town, the title a reference to the Scopes case. My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.