Rachel Held Evans in Her Own Words

Rachel Held Evans was an immensely talented writer. This post will introduce you to some of her blog posts. We lost an incredible person over the weekend. I will do more analysis of her impact on a follow up post. 

“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.

Rachel Held Evans

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV

The Wondering Eagle is doing two posts about Rachel Held Evans. This is the first one, if the second one is not up tonight it will be tomorrow. Rachel sadly died on May 4, 2019 at the age of 37. She was an accomplished writer and blogger who challenged the evangelical Christian movement in a number of ways. From Biblical literalism, to creationism, to pushing back against complementarianism and politics. She took on some difficult issues. If you never read Rachel or got to read her blog this post is going to give you an opportunity. So for the post I will turn it over to Rachel and let her impart her thoughts with us that were captured at her blog. 

Rachel Held Evans on Differing Topics Over the Years

Rachel Held Evans on the problem of evil in “Have I Gone Off the Deep End?

“Does the story of Jesus really support the notion that refusing to fight back is disgraceful? In the face of the most unjust act in human history, Jesus did not fight back, but allowed himself to be crucified. Despite the human rights atrocities of the Roman empire, he did not urge rebellion. Not once did Paul or any of the apostles instruct Christians to fight back when they were being persecuted. In fact, the apostles specifically urged Christians not to fight back. They understood that Jesus came to show us that evil cannot be overcome by more evil, that killing cannot be overcome by more killing. Someone has to stop the cycle, and Jesus showed us how.”

On giving evolution a chance in, “Eight Reasons to Give Evolution a Second Chance.” 

“If you have already embraced evolution as a credible explanation for why life on earth is the way it is, I hope you will find the resources below useful in helping to harmonize this view with your faith. If you still aren’t sure what to make of evolution or if you have always been suspicious of it, I hope these ideas will inspire you to at least give the theory second chance. They certainly inspired me.”

On making peace with science in, “Making Peace with Science .” 

My parents never really pushed young earth creationism on me nor taught that it was a fundamental element of the Christian faith, but for most of my life I travelled in circles where it was assumed that good Christians embraced a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, which describes the earth as being created in six days.

Young earth creationism goes something like this: Because the Bible is God’s Word and is truthful in all that it affirms, the book of Genesis accurately records how God created the universe and life on earth. Based on the scientific accuracy of the Bible, one must conclude that the creation week consisted of seven 24-hour days, and that the earth is around 6,000 years old. Geological and fossil evidence does not conclusively prove an earth age of millions of years, but can be explained by the argument that God chose to create things at full maturity with the appearance of having developed, or by the argument that various factors, such as the earth’s magnetic field, may have changed through the years and affected the accuracy of carbon dating. Contrary to the theory of evolution, the Bible teaches that God separately created distinct kinds of organisms, and that the similarities between these organisms point to a common Creator rather than a common origin.”

A letter to pastors about being honest about doubt in, “Dear Pastors – Tell Us the Truth.” 

Dear Pastors,

Tell us the truth.

Tell us the truth when you don’t know the answers to our questions, and your humility will set the example as we seek them out together.

Tell us the truth about your doubts, and we will feel safe sharing our own.

Tell us the truth when you get tired, when the yoke grows too heavy and the hill too steep to climb, and we will learn to carry one another’s burdens because we started with yours.

Tell us the truth when you are sad, and we too will stop pretending.

On different kinds of doubt in, “Good Doubt vs. Bad Doubt: Six Indicators.” 

“I know we have spent a lot of time talking about doubt here, and I promise to take a break from the subject over the next few weeks. (Perhaps I should consider giving it up for Lent!) But a few things made another post seem like a good idea.

The first was your response to last week’s post about “Embracing Doubt.” Several of your comments really got me thinking. The second was a blog post written by Mike Duran in which he fairly and respectfully criticizes me and other “emerging” Christians for glorifying doubt. The conversation that followed his post made me realize that perhaps I need to be clearer about what I mean when I talk about doubt. And the third was an absolutely fantastic post by Dr. Richard Beck entitled “Faith and Doubt After the Cognitive Turn,” which was brought to my attention by a reader. I highly recommend reading the whole piece, but here a few highlights”

On homophobia from a well known Neo-Calvinist pastor Thabiti Anyabwile in, “Responding to Homophobia in the Christian Community.” 

“I debated whether to engage a post that is just as disturbing as the title suggests, but after speaking with an editor and several writers at The Gospel Coalition, as well as some of my gay and lesbian friends, I’ve decided it’s important to offer an alternative to the attitude presented in this post and, perhaps more importantly, to explore/discuss how Christians ought to respond when we encounter homophobia in our own faith communities.

Now let me be clear: I believe the post exhibits homophobia, not because of the author’s conservative position on same-sex marriage, and not because the author intended to be hateful, but because the post employs degrading, fear-based language to dehumanize gay and lesbian people.”

On evangelicals waging the culture war against gay marriage in, “How to Win a Culture War and Lose a Generation.” 

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

In the book that documents these findings, titled unChristian, David Kinnaman writes:

“The gay issue has become the ‘big one, the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity’s reputation. It is also the dimensions that most clearly demonstrates the unchristian faith to young people today, surfacing in a spate of negative perceptions: judgmental, bigoted, sheltered, right-wingers, hypocritical, insincere, and uncaring. Outsiders say [Christian] hostility toward gays…has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.”

On Calvinism and the issues contained within in, “Why Calvinism Makes Me Cry.” 

“This is not a post about Calvinism. Not really. It’s not about TULIP or John Piper or predestination or the Reformation.  It’s not about why I think Calvinism is a theological system based on logical inferences rather than the clear, consistent teachings of Scripture. It’s not about all of my nasty run-ins with hyper-Calvinists who have called me a “cotton-candy Christian” and an “enemy of the Church” for not subscribing to their theology. It’s not about John Calvin or the persecution of the Anabaptist or those “Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy” T-shirts.”

On choosing between emerging faith and Neo-Calvinist faith in, “Reformed or Emerging…Must We Choose?

“I ran across an old Mark Driscoll interview this weekend in which Driscoll was quoted as saying, “The two hot theologies today are Reformed and emerging. Reformed theology offers certainty, with a masculine God who names our sin, crushes Jesus on the Cross for it, and sends us to hell if we fail to repent. Emerging theology offers obscurity, with a neutered God who would not say an unkind word to us, did not crush Jesus for our sins, and would not send anyone to hell.” (Driscoll himself is Reformed.)

Now, I’m no fan of Mark Driscoll. I am troubled by the way he talks about women, gays, masculinity, and, quite frankly, Jesus. He’s been known to call anyone who disagrees with him a heretic, and often ridicules as “weak” or “queer” those who emphasize Christ’s teachings about loving enemies and turning the other cheek.” 

On the World Vision debate about gays in, “What Now?

“Twenty minutes after World Vision announced that in response to financial pressure from evangelicals it would reverse its decision to employ Christians in same-sex relationships, I climbed into the giant SUV of a Baptist minister, where bags of Chick-fil-A were waiting to be consumed by a group of hungry college students, and cried.” 

On Mark Driscoll in, “Inside Mark Driscoll’s Disturbed Mind.” 

“I haven’t blogged about Mark Driscoll in ages.

In the past, I’ve been critical of his bullying tactics and his views on sex and gender, but lately it seems the influential Seattle mega-church pastor has made plenty of news on his own, as it was recently revealed he plagiarized, used church funds to buy a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and engaged in other alleged misappropriation of funds.

Driscoll has long been known for his authoritarian leadership over Mars Hill Church, and for his controversial teachings regarding gender and sexuality. He made national news in 2006 when he blamed Ted Haggard’s affair with a male escort on Haggard’s wife for “letting herself go” and has often repeated the teaching that women who fail to please their husbands sexually (by providing regular oral sex and maintaining their attractiveness) bear some responsibility for their husbands’ infidelity.”

On Evangelicals supporting Donald Trump in November of 2016 in, “Life After Evangelicalism.” 

This is for everyone who stayed home from church yesterday—for every mom of a special needs kid, every survivor of sexual assault, every black or brown body in a predominantly white community, every son or daughter of an immigrant, every defender of the marginalized who just couldn’t bring yourself to stand and sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” alongside the people you feel sold you out this week, the Christians who supported Donald Trump.

Please hear me:

You are not alone.

You are not alone in your grief.

You are not alone in your anger.

You are not alone in your doubt, frustration, and fear.

The community that introduced you to Jesus—that baptized you and named you a beloved child of God—has aligned itself with values you don’t recognize, powers that oppress.

It’s an enormous blow, and it’ll knock the wind right out of you.

Your disillusionment with the Church may seem like a petty wound to nurse right now, with Latino children getting taunted by their classmates, Muslim communities facing religious persecution, and black families grappling with a world in which white nationalism has been validated and emboldened, but grief is grief.

And your grief is real and justified.

The stark reality is that most white Christians, including more than 80 percent of white evangelical Christians, supported Donald Trump for president, despite his evident immorality, bigotry, and disregard for the dignity of women, (not to mention complete lack of qualification or competency). We’re about to witness firsthand what happens when the established Church compromises its moral authority for the promise of power, and it won’t be pretty. I predict millennials in particular will continue to drop out of religious life, and the ethnic divides within American Christianity, which many sought to heal with a quick-fix approach to “racial reconciliation” that bypassed repentance and justice, will only widen.”

On Donald Trump, evangelicals and Jerry Falwell Jr in, “Donald Trump and a Tale of Two Gospels.” 

“As it becomes clear Donald Trump’s candidacy for president will be more than a sideshow this year, the probable Republican nominee is making his pitch to Christian voters.

You would think it would be a hard sell given the fact that the real estate mogul and reality star has boasted about his extramarital affairs, profited off casinos and strip clubs, said he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness, called for targeting innocent civilians in war, mocked a reporter with a disability, threatened the religious liberty of minority groups in the U.S., and gained wide support among white nationalists for consistently lying about and demeaning blacks, Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees.

But polls show that despite all of this, Trump remains favored among evangelical voters. After speaking at Liberty University last week, Trump scored an important endorsement from Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent leader of the Religious Right who, to the applause of thousands, compared Trump to Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr.”

On outgrowing American evangelism in, “On “Outgrowing” American Christianity.” 

“Every now and then a blog post or article will make the rounds in which the author claims to have “outgrown” church or religion or, in this case, American Christianity.

I remember having similar feelings of emancipation, of starting over, from scratch when I first began to realize the evangelical faith I had inherited was not the only kind of faith there was. And perhaps such feelings are a necessary and unavoidable part of growing up, of making that important distinction between oneself and one’s parents.*

And yet, when it came time to write a book about church (which, like every book, began with the rather rigorous and uncomfortable exercise of confronting my own bullshit), I couldn’t deny the reality that, as much as I may dream of it, there’s no starting from scratch…for any of us. Our culture, our past, our biases, our experiences, our communities, our wounds, our healing—this isn’t the baggage we carry; it’s the skin we wear. We can’t just slough it off.”

On evangelicals and being persecuted for their faith in, “For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex.” 

“Did you hear about the pastor who was arrested for not marrying a same-sex couple? What about the publisher that got sued for refusing to censor anti-gay verses from the Bible?

Both of these stories have been exposed as fakes of course, but that didn’t keep hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians from sharing them online this week. When I pointed out to a friend that the story he had just shared on social media wasn’t true, he replied, “well it might as well be. Christians in this country are under attack.”

It has become a familiar refrain. We hear it every Christmas when an unsuspecting store clerk wishes the wrong Christian “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” We hear it whenever a high school drops its traditional pre-football game prayer out of respect for those students who may be Jewish or Muslim or non-religious. An entire industry of books and films has blossomed in the red soil of the American Christian persecution complex, with the first “Gods’ Not Dead” installment caricaturing and vilifying atheists and the second set to expose liberal efforts to “expel God from the classroom once and for all.”

On getting people to go to mainline Protestantism in, “7 Ways to Welcome Young People to the Mainline.” 

“It’s been such a thrill to see my Washington Post op-ed, “Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool’” generate so much conversation over the last few days. Thanks for sharing it so widely! One common and helpful pushback to the article has been the question: “Well, if millennials in the U.S. are dissatisfied with highly-produced hip expressions of Christianity, why aren’t they flocking to the mainline?”

On Post-Evangelicalism in, “Post-Evangelicals and Why We Can’t Just Get Over It.” 

“It’s strange how the ghosts of your last church haunt the new one.

You’ll be doing the hard part, the showing up part, and suddenly a word or a song or the presence of a plate of deviled eggs grinning back at in you in the fellowship hall will flood every sense with memory—at once nostalgic and painful, comforting and sad. You will eye the nearest exit, wondering if the ghosts can follow you out the building, if you’ll ever really shake them for good.

I remember when I first heard the term “post-evangelical,” how I hated it and loved it at the same time. Oh, I rolled my eyes at its pretension, its unapologetic smacking of smarter-than-thou. And yet I glommed on to the label, to any label really, because a label means you’re not alone. A label means you can be classified along with species of a similar nature. A label gives you a family, an order, a name.

“It’s nice to be Episcopalian now and not post-evangelical,” I told Dan on the way home from church one cloudy afternoon, feigning a security I didn’t actually feel. “Who wants to be defined by what they’re not?”

“I don’t know,” Dan said, calling my bluff. “Seems like we’re all a little post-something.”


13 thoughts on “Rachel Held Evans in Her Own Words

  1. Oh boy!!! Another Trump hater.

    Ya know, the way I have been talking lately…I’m trying to make a point, ,that Trump isn’t the ONLY ONE who has lived a life of debauchery. But I have a bigger point to make, as well. What we hear in the news about Trump is all hype by the people who don’t like him. And the reason that they don’t like him is because he’s NOT ONE OF THE SWAMP Washington DC crowd, who we have come to know as DISHONEST, and corrupt to the core, from Feinstein, who began a slander against Kavanaugh to Pocahontas who stole public money to get an educion, Nadler and Schiff who wants to crucify Trump, not because of Russia collusion, but because Hillary didn’t win the election, Obama to Holder, to the IRS and FBI, who hates conservatives so much, that they spied on the Tea Party people to harass them on their taxes, and the FBI spied on people.


    Trump kisses someone and it’s a Lisa Bloom and Gloria Allred entertainment fest on CNN. Biden smells someone’s hair and kisses them, and he runs for president, and only a couple of women spoke out, and why? Cuz they, too, are running for president, not because Joe is creepy or anything.

    I mean serious, 3.6 percent unemployment rate, best since 1969…I was 4 years old…and we still got Trump haters…WHY? I just don’t get it.

    Oh, and then you have her saying:
    ““Does the story of Jesus really support the notion that refusing to fight back is disgraceful? In the face of the most unjust act in human history, Jesus did not fight back, but allowed himself to be crucified. Despite the human rights atrocities of the Roman empire, he did not urge rebellion. Not once did Paul or any of the apostles instruct Christians to fight back when they were being persecuted. In fact, the apostles specifically urged Christians not to fight back. They understood that Jesus came to show us that evil cannot be overcome by more evil, that killing cannot be overcome by more killing. Someone has to stop the cycle, and Jesus showed us how.””

    Whoa….stop…the last supper, Jesus told his disciples to GET SOME WEAPONS. I think he called them swords. Today, we call them GUNS. They told Jesus that they already have 2 swords. Jesus said, That’ll do!. He told them to get a few different things, for after Jesus went away…and he made a list. Swords was one of them.

    Now, what do you think that those swords would be used for? Slicing an ear off of a Roman soldier?

    NO. Jesus said that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. In other words, use them for DEFENSE. So, to say that Jesus taught for us to be cowards and back down from a fight is crazy…we have David who KILLED Goliath.

    It is not evil to kill. It’s evil to MURDER. There is a difference. Murder is killing, but murder requires something called malice.

    Oh, and we can’t forget about David’s adultery either, where he did murder the husband. And yet, Trump is the focus here, huh? Interesting.

    Seems that way too many people are focused on RELIGION instead of WHAT IS SIN? Who has sinned?

    I think that the bible states that Rachel has sinned. So, what’s she gonna do about that? Badmouth Trump for his sins, or concentrate on her own sins? Is she gonna concentrate on RELIGION, or what the Bible states? Is she gonna concentrate on what Pastors “so and so” states, or what the bible states?

    1 John 3:4 Sin is the transgression of the law [of Moses]
    Romans 3:20 The law [of Moses] is the KNOWLEDGE of sin

    FOR ALL HAVE SINNED. Does Rachel consider herself to be in the category of the word “ALL”?

    If so, what’s she gonna do about it? Badmouth white Christians for voting for Trump?

    Doesn’t she got better things to do?

    Ed Chapman


  2. I have read enough of RHE’s work and heard her speak often enough that I have a very clear sense of where she was coming from in her faith. She was very serious in her faith, wanting to understand it, exploring a lot of difficult questions — many of which were questions that I ask as well. I didn’t always arrive at the same conclusions as she did, but I understood how she arrived at those conclusions. They were consistent with her convictions and her faith understanding. She was thoughtful and genuine and transparent in sharing her thought process. She had a clear and distinct voice, and I am going to miss it terribly. She leaves behind a husband and two small children, a 3-year old and an 11-month old. Prayers for them at this most difficult time.


  3. I didn’t always agree with Rachel Held Evans, but I respected her courage and willingness to ask the tough questions about life and faith. We have too many robots in the church today who just accept the false promises of Evangelicalism without much thought, let alone willing to challenge them. She will always have my admiration and respect.


    • Muff Potter,

      Not a problem. I’m with you, regarding Pulpit and Pen, all the way back to the Canor situation, which is the first that I had heard of them. And, for the record, I do believe that Rachel is with Jesus right now.


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