Why I’m Grateful to Rachel Held Evans

The Wild Word magazine
4 min readMay 30, 2019

By Reverend Rachel Kessler — SOUL MATTERS

How do you appropriately grieve the loss of someone you’ve never met?

This is a question I have been asking myself since I was casually scrolling through Facebook one Saturday afternoon and saw news that Rachel Held Evans, the 37-year-old “post-Evangelical” progressive Christian author, had died from a rare convergence of medical complications.

I spent the next several days going through what I can only describe as the stages of acute grief. I would randomly burst into tears sitting in my office when I thought about how much she still had to give to the world of religious writing (not to mention any time I thought about her two kids who are even younger than mine!). Or I would feel a kind of intense rage at the injustice of her loss. As I have wrestled with my feelings, I keep coming back to one realization. Whatever else I feel, I know that I feel a profound sense of gratitude for everything that Rachel Held Evans accomplished in her all too short life and career.

I am grateful that Rachel Held Evans made me and so many others feel less alone.

If you have not gone through the process of disentangling from a conservative religious upbringing (particularly in American Evangelical Christianity), it is hard to describe. Friends do not necessarily understand the existential angst inspired by questioning the inerrant authority of the Bible for the first time. It is hard to articulate how much courage it takes to speak out as a woman in certain segments of Christianity. When I discovered Rachel Held Evans’s blog, I suddenly encountered another person (another young woman at that!) who had all the same questions about her religious upbringing. I felt like I had a companion to walk with me through my own struggles from Evangelical Christianity to the home that we both eventually found in The Episcopal Church. And one thing her subsequent rise to great fame in progressive Christian circles shows is that I was far from alone in finding that in her voice.

I am grateful that Rachel Held Evans changed the conversation around religion and politics.

Growing up as I did in the 1990s under the Clinton administration, it was taken as a given in my universe that good Christians were…

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