Rachel Held Evans: In Memoriam
This past Saturday Rachel Held Evans, author, speaker and one of the rising young voices in Christian thought leadership, passed away. She was 37.
Like me, Rachel grew up in the fundamentalist Christian world. She spoke gently but firmly back into that world (something I still struggle to do), calling for grace, a wider understanding of the Gospel, the inclusion of all people and the empowerment of women in church leadership. I've been inspired by her example.
But there was a time not too long ago when I was still stuck in a fairly narrow-minded theological framework and had a hard time with people like Rachel. God was working on me, but I was fighting it.
It was out of this unhealthy space that I took to social media and viciously attacked some of the things that Rachel wrote. I remember at the time how gracious she was to me on Twitter, despite my own lack of grace.
Some years later, I had a crisis of faith and came through the other side of it changed forever. And I decided to reach out to Rachel and ask her forgiveness.
This is what I wrote:
I wanted to share this with you, for what it's worth. I was at one of the recent leadership/creative events that Rob Bell hosted in Laguna Beach. He told us something really wise when we asked him why he didn't respond to his critics, especially when they were constantly calling him a heretic. He told us, "It's a lot easier to call someone a heretic than to deal with your own shadows."
That struck me pretty hard, because I realized I had done the same thing to so many people in an effort to be "right" and not to have to deal with my own doubts.
I was fairly critical of some of your ideas and beliefs, to be honest. They felt too far outside of what I considered orthodoxy (whatever the hell that means), and of course, I was going through my own junk at the time. I'm an ex-fundamentalist Baptist serving in a fairly "liberal" mainline denomination and I've got a bunch of baggage as you can imagine.
First, I hope that you will forgive me---I know you don't even know me, but there it is. Second, I hope that you will take heart in what Rob taught me. These people that are hurtful to you are probably so full of their own doubts that your holding a mirror up to them scares the bejeezus out of them. They can't deal with their own shadows so they come at you with both barrels.
In God's economy, and in Jesus own words, you are blessed when you are reviled and "hated" for the sake of the Gospel. So keep being blessed.
Your brother in Christ and fellow heretic... Leon
Rachel actually took the time to respond to my message, and this is what she wrote:
Leon - This really, really meant a lot to me today. Just....thank you.What I learned from watching Rachel's faithful witness time and time again was a lesson in practicing forbearance with those who disagree with me without compromising my convictions. I am a work in progress on this, but God willing I will continue striving in her memory.
(Wish I had time to write more, but I'm packing for a trip to KY!)
Grace and peace to you today,
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
Rachel was the author of some amazing books that you should read as soon as possible: Evolving In Monkey Town, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Faith Unravelled, Searching for Sunday and her last book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking On Water and Learning to Love the Bible Again.