NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rachel Held Evans, a popular yet controversial blogger and author who described herself as a “doubt-filled believer,” and who voiced support for homosexuals and transgenders in the Church, has died following complications with treatment for an infection.
Evans had posted to Twitter on April 14 that she had been admitted to the hospital after experiencing a “severe allergic reaction” to antibiotics provided in the midst of a battle with the flu and a urinary tract infection.
Days later, her husband, Dan, wrote in a blog update that doctors had placed Evans in a medically-induced coma as her brain was suffering constant seizures. She was weaned from the coma beginning on Tuesday, but did not regain consciousness and “experienced sudden and extreme changes in her vitals.”
Evans died on Saturday despite emergency efforts to save her life in discovering significant swelling of her brain. She was 37, and leaves behind two young children.
“This entire experience is surreal. I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake,” her husband wrote.
Evans was the author of the books “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church,” “Faith Unraveled” and “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head and Calling Her Husband ‘Master.'”
In “Searching for Sunday,” she acknowledged her doubts, writing, “The truth is, I don’t even bother getting out of bed many Sunday mornings, especially on days when I’m not sure I believe in God or when there’s an interesting guest on ‘Meet the Press.'”
She also stated that she struggled with having to choose between faith and science, and Christianity and feminism, and that having to do so caused her to question religion altogether.
“That recurring choice between faith and science, Christianity and feminism, the Bible and historical criticism, doctrine and compassion kept tripping me up like roots on a forest trail,” Evans wrote. “The more I was asked to choose, the more fragmented and frayed my faith became, the more it stretched the gossamer of belief that held my world view together.”
“And that’s when the real doubt crept in, like an invasive species, like kudzu trellising the brain: What if none of this is true? What if it’s all one big lie?”
The speaker and author also advocated for the inclusion of homosexuals and transgenders in the Church, writing in the same book, “[W]hen our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either …” and “I’ve been convinced that LGBT Christians have a special role to play in teaching the church how to be Christian.”
In 2016, Evans published a blog post in which she featured five faith leaders who identify as “transgender,” opining that they are “beautiful siblings in Christ” who are “helping the Church better understand what it means to be a transgender person of faith.”
She was also critical of what has been termed “patriarchy,” writing in a post last year, “Banning women from the pulpit and silencing their voices in the church doesn’t protect women; it harms them.”
In Evans’ book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” she stated, “In the biblical narrative, hierarchy enters human relationship as part of the curse, and begins with man’s oppression of women … But with Christ, hierarchal relationships are exposed for the sham that they are …”
Evans further told followers that while she identifies as pro-life, she doesn’t believe it is wrong to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate, as “progressive social policies” that seek to address poverty, healthcare and the provision of contraception help to lower the abortion rate.
“You should vote for Hillary Clinton. And I’d like to suggest that voting for a pro-choice candidate in this election, or any election, need not overburden your conscience,” she advised in 2016. “… Clinton is far better positioned to keep the abortion rate at the record low it saw under President Obama while the Republican Party works for the next four years to produce the kind of candidate the people of this country deserve.”
In 2014, Evans left evangelicalism to become Episcopalian, and explained in a blog post entitled “Life After Evangelicalism” that she identified with those who were discontent with the evangelical Church.
“I know because I’ve been there. I’ve stood in a sanctuary singing songs I didn’t feel like singing, pretending to agree with a political ideology I no longer agreed with, praying to a God I wasn’t sure I believed in anymore,” she wrote. “It whittles down your spirit, a little at a time, until one day you realize it’s not you going to church anymore, but some ghost of you, some cardboard cutout you send out to maintain the status quo, to keep up appearances.”
“I eventually left evangelicalism when it became clear that the fight was wearing me down, with little promise of change, especially as it concerned my LGBT friends and neighbors,” she continued. “I found my faith again in the margins — through the Gay Christian Network, for example, and among fellow doubters and dreamers who limp from their wrestling with God …”