Popular and controversial progressive Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans died on Saturday. In mid-April, Evans had a severe reaction to antibiotics while battling the flu. Originally, she took a lighthearted response to the situation, joking on Twitter that she was going to fall behind on Game of Thrones. But a few days later, Evans began experiencing seizures and was put into a medically induced coma. As Evans was in the process of being brought out of the coma, her health took a turn for the worse on Thursday and she died Saturday morning.
Evans was a popular blogger and author. She wrote four books, including New York Times bestseller “A year of Biblical womanhood” where she spent a year trying to live according to a literal interoperation of the Old Testament commands.
Evan’s writing often touched on subjects of faith and struggling with doubts. Born and raised in the south, Evans was the product of a conservative Evangelical upbringing. As a young adult, she began having some doubts regarding her faith. Evans was vulnerable with sharing her struggles. This crisis of faith led her to an interpretation of the Bible that was more liberal than it had previously been. Her progressive views drew criticism from many Evangelical Christians, but she was beloved by those who had similar crises of faith.
A final word
I can’t pretend to be an expert on every aspect of Evans thought life. It’s most certainly a terrible tragedy that this brilliant young woman and mother passes away at just 37. From what I know about Evans, one thing that I sincerely appreciate is that she was willing to engage in difficult discussions. Sadly, I think Christians can sometimes by weary of this. I listened to an interview she did where she talked of the questions she had and how she couldn’t ignore those questions. In discussing faith and struggles, she had an openness that I think we could benefit from displaying in our own lives.
In the final blog post she ever wrote, Evans talked about mortality on Ash Wednesday.
It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called “none” (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) 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.
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.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
-Rachel Held Evans
Evans is survived by a husband and two young children.
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.