Like many people of faith all over the world, we at the Christian Feminist Podcast were saddened when author and speaker Rachel Held Evans’ standard hospital stay turned into a medically induced coma, and overwhelmed with grief upon receiving news of her untimely death on May 4, 2019. We share Rachel’s commitment to modeling a more inclusive vision of what it looks like to be a Christian, and many members of our panel have taken much joy and comfort from her work and her words over the years (including recording episodes on A Year of Biblical Womanhood and the first Why Christian conference). Because of this, we collected thoughts from some of our listeners and panelists, which appear below. If you’d like to share your own thoughts or remembrances, please feel free to do so in the comments.
Ilia Danner Grubbs, panelist: I admired Rachel Held Evans because although she had doubts and questions and disagreements with the church, the Bible, and her own faith, she didn’t walk away from it like so many others have. She has inspired me as I have wrestled with my own questions and my own faith to keep struggling and to embrace the messiness where it doesn’t all “fit” as neatly as we would like it to. I didn’t always agree with her, but I don’t think she would mind. She showed me that it was ok to have big loud questions and still live a bold Christian life even when people say you are too much or not enough. As I read her last book, I keep thinking about how well she embodies Paul’s command to “speak the truth in love.” She writes deep, tough truths, but her chapters spill over with love and gentleness towards her reader. She was a courageous theologian, a bold writer, and a strong feminist who pushed us to see past what was easy to what was right, and I grieve the loss of her prophetic voice to our generation.
Mary Debo, listener: I didn’t realize when I first read Searching for Sunday just how much Rachel was going to change my life. I had grown up in church, grown up hearing middle aged men telling me how to connect with God. Telling me how to worship and how to be. Telling me I should be filled with shame for being a woman and being the cause of original sin. My faith was battered and weak when I was introduced to Rachel’s work. Her pure love for Jesus was reflected in her care and love for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Her outspoken political views were more than just talk, she inspired so many examine their own views and show love to those around us. She spoke to those of us with weary souls and helped our faith reinvigorate in new ways. I am going to miss her so very much.
Carla Godwin, panelist: Rachel Held Evans believed in her questions and her internal voice enough to add them to a conversation that was largely reserved for men. Having been raised in an Evangelical culture that rarely gave women voice, she didn’t hedge or apologize or ask permission; she simply spoke. Her words resonated and her work gained popularity. As she gained platform, she shared it. The Why Christian conference that she co-created brought voices into the Christian conversation that had not been welcomed before. She was intentional about elevating and amplifying the voices of other women and people of color. She led collaboratively, with generosity, depth of thought, and fearlessness. Rachel’s voice and leadership will be greatly missed.
Victoria Reynolds Farmer, co-founder and panelist: When I first heard that Rachel was in the hospital, I couldn’t stop thinking of Glennon Doyle’s foreword to Searching for Sunday. She writes, “Whenever I want to scare myself, I consider what would happen to the world if Rachel Held Evans stopped writing.” It’s definitely terrifying to think of all the things Rachel had left to teach us, but it’s also incredibly heartening to consider all the things she already taught us, and the changes, big and small, we can enact because we learned those things. Here is a short list of things Rachel taught me personally:
- To glory in the companionship of marriage, and that my husband’s triumphs don’t take away from mine, but instead are mine to share in the joy of. In A Year of Biblical Womanhood, she mentions that she and Dan had a tradition of high-fiving and exclaiming “Team Dan and Rachel!” when one of them accomplished something. Michial and I try to do this as well, and it has helped me be a better, more selfless wife.
- To have passion and conviction, but to be quick to apologize when those things get away from you and hurt others. Rachel has a way of attracting opposing opinions, especially on Twitter. She stood her ground, especially when defending marginalized people, but she was thoughtful, too, and always apologized if she overstepped or hurt someone’s feelings.
- To work hard to notice the hard work of other women, and to celebrate it publically. And so it seems the absolute best way to end this post is to say eschet chayil, Rachel! Until we meet again.