A love letter from a grateful escapee
Rachel Held Evans died on Saturday, May 4th, 2019.
My entire community is mourning the loss of her life.
I never met Rachel personally, but I was in awe of her from afar.
It’s difficult for me to put into words what Rachel did for our community, and I couldn’t do her life and work justice even if I tried. I also don’t want to sum up what I know everyone already knows.
Rachel stood up to the evangelical machine and called out their abuses. She sided with the marginalized and she didn’t back down. She provided cover for us to get out of our abusive churches.
While I am no longer a person of faith, Rachel’s work was holy. She protected the vulnerable people that evangelicalism tried to cut down, box in, and silence. While our churches forbid us from being fully ourselves, Rachel stood up for us. She validated our right to exist as fully ourselves and fully loved and accepted by God. At the same time. Our pastors and parents shamed us for our sexuality, stripped us of our autonomy, and offered conditional love. Rachel offered unconditional love and respect.
She validated our needs as human beings. She validated our questions.
So many people were able to leave toxic, abusive churches because of her. She gave us the language to articulate what we were experiencing, and gave us permission to be angry about it. Hell, she helped us realize that the way we were treated was immoral. So many of us didn’t even realize the way we were being treated was wrong.
At some point she followed me on Twitter, which was entirely undeserved, and her writing stirred me on a daily basis.
Even as I realized that faith wasn’t a fit for me, I recognized the deep importance of Rachel’s work. Escaping fundamentalist religion is often a very protracted process that frequently leaves one without any kind of support or familial safety net.
I’m thankful that my friends who are people of faith have found some small comfort in the thought of Rachel again someday. I find comfort in the fact that Rachel will live on, as her work has permanently altered the landscape of evangelicalism in America. She created a community that will exist for decades. She lives on in her children who literally carry her in their tiny bodies.
For so many of us, escaping fundamentalism has been the defining story of our lives. For probably hundreds of thousands of people, Rachel was instrumental in that escape. I will forever be grateful for her work and her life. I cannot wait to introduce my own children to her work.
America needed her voice. Those of us trapped in spiritual abuse needed someone who had the grit and tenacity to affirm our humanity to some of the most powerful men in the country.
Rachel Held Evans is no longer with us, but I am convinced that the work she did to rescue us will change the world.
We love you, Rachel.
Rest in peace and rise in glory. - Father Broderick Greer
If you are at all able, please consider donating to this fundraiser that some of Rachel’s friends have put together for Rachel’s family. She leaves behind a husband and two small children who need to adjust to life without their wife and mama. No amount is too small. Thank you.