So about…3 years ago, I found myself in the unenviable position of realizing that what my church was preaching was not what I was believing. If you don’t know the reasons why I was becoming disillusioned with my church it’s not my story to tell, but suffice to say that towards the end of my college years I turned from being an arch-conservative into what can best be described as a Social Democrat with an accompanying lurch leftward socially that my church and the larger group that it’s a part of don’t, and won’t, find acceptable. It was during this time that I was branching out into more progressive Christian spaces and writers and it was on a cruise to Bermuda that I read a book that had a profound effect on me and my walk with Christ and put me on a path where I have now found myself in the Episcopal Church. Specifically St. George’s Episcopal Church in Carmichael.
Rachel Held Evans’ book “Searching for Sunday” (hence the post title) details her journey from someone that was a devoted believer in the fundamentalist/evangelical movement to someone that was struggling with doubt in their faith to someone who had found a church movement where they could feel welcome. Like I mentioned earlier, the time when I started reading this book was a time where I was going through my own journey similar to hers. I too was going from the evangelical community towards a more progressive/mainline community with a small pit stop at doubt along the way. Granted, my journey wasn’t anywhere as dramatic as hers, thus a blog post rather than a full book, but it was similar enough that her book spoke deeply to me. After I was finished with it I experienced a serene sense of calmness about my faith and what was going on in my life. It still took a fair amount of time before I left my previous church and found my new church family in the Episcopal Church, but I was definitely on that path and moving towards my new faith life and church family.
In addition to her books, Ms. Evans had an active social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, and her own blog. On all of those platforms she was a prominent critic of the Religious Right and fundamentalism. Watching her there was another instance of seeing that there was more than just the Evangelicalism of my youth out there. She consistently spoke truth to the powerful members of American Christianity and uplifted and pointed towards members of marginalized communities when they pointed out how their experiences with Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism were different from hers. She was a great example of how to use one’s platform for the betterment of everyone, not just your own identity group.
Rachel Held Evans was an huge reason that I am the Christian that I am today. We didn’t agree on everything, but we most definitely agreed on how Christianity should look to the outside world. Our Christianity is one that welcomes the oppressed and inflicts those in positions of power with the reality that their positions and policies are those that go against their professed beliefs. We both believed that Christians should support policies that would help the least of us rather than the most of us and that the Church should be inclusive of the LGBT+ community and that women should be equals in church governance and pastoral positions.
Rachel Held Evans sadly passed away on May 4th after a brief illness that occurred during the latter weeks of April and the beginning of May. She left behind not just a great collection of writing about the Bible and Christianity, but a husband and two children. She will be dearly missed by all of us in the Progressive Christian camp and I’m sure by some of those who disagree with us.
If you wish to help the Evans family in their time of need there is a GoFundMe that was set up for them here. https://www.gofundme.com/supporting-rachel-held-evans