First published in the Castlegar News (page A14) on June 9, 2022.
Rachel Held Evans is one of my spiritual heroes. An author, speaker, advocate, and drag-em-out twitter warrior during her all-too-brief life, Rachel was one of those people who didn’t back away from a good fight when love was on the line.
In her writing and speaking Rachel expressed an open and relational approach to Christian faith. She emphasized God’s fierce love for all people, a love that embraced one and all—especially folks society (and the church!) chose to push to the margins. This was especially true for members of the LGBTQIA/2S+ community, and for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.
She was a pilgrimage leader for those of us exploring and experiencing an evolving faith. She made home (on the internet, at least!) for folks like me. She opened up conversations for people deconstructing their childhood beliefs, coming to terms with our doubts, and who still found the Christian story to be good news—in spite of it all.
Rachel died just three years ago at the age of 37. And yet for me, her legacy lives on. Rachel’s legacy lives on in a faith that has become all the more vibrant and rich because it makes space for honest questions and doubts.
One of the stories that I love the most about Rachel is how she would begin her sermons.
She would stand up front at a lectern or a rickety music stand, and read the scripture. Before making any comment on what she had just read, she would say these words: “on the days when I believe this…” And then she would preach.
These words resonate so deeply for me. In my own journey, it has taken some time to see that doubt is not the opposite of faith, but rather a vital and important element.
A few months ago I was walking down the street and someone stopped me. They said, “Andrew, I don’t believe any of that God stuff you’re on about, but here’s what I do believe…”
I looked at them and asked them to tell me more.
The stories poured out, and we stood there for a long time. Sharing stories. Sharing life. Sharing questions. Sometimes we even shared a few provisional answers.
What I love most about this conversation was its honesty. Honesty is always a good place to start. Where the conversation goes from there is anyone’s guess.