By Elizabeth Prata
Rachel Held Evans, age 37, has died.
Columnist, author, mother of two, Evans had been in a medically induced coma since April 19, 2019. According to updates provided by her husband of 16 years, Dan, during treatment for an infection Rachel began exhibiting unexpected symptoms. Doctors found that her brain was experiencing constant seizures. The coma was induced in order to calm the seizures. On April 30th Dan wrote that the neurology team at the 3rd hospital they admitted Rachel to were now attempting to wean Rachel off of the coma medication without the seizures restarting, as there were complications that could occur if she was kept in a coma for too long. On May 2, 2019, Rachel experienced a sudden swelling of the brain that was not survivable. Rachel never regained consciousness.
Evans died early Saturday morning, May 4, 2019.
Evans was influential not only in the Christian world but in the secular world, too, for her liberal views of Christianity. Her openness about her personal doubt in the faith, her acceptance of homosexuality, her feminism, her promotion of gender egalitarianism, her waffling stance on abortion, and rage against an evangelical machine resonated with many.
Since her first book, “Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions”, was published in 2010, Rachel had begun accumulating a massive following on her website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram; about a quarter of a million followers as of this month.
Her next book two years later was even more popular, making it to the NY Times’ Best Seller list. Titled, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master”, Rachel had decided to follow every Old Testament command for living as a wife/woman and wrote about it. Two other books followed, in 2015 and in 2018, as well as speaking engagements and broadcast interviews. Her recently established GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses rapidly exceeded the targeted amount of $70,000, raising $111,810 in just 11 days and rose even more after her death was announced. Rachel was popular.
Rachel’s supporters were many but so were her detractors. Espousing a liberalism that many (including me) understood to be beyond the bounds of God’s actual word, many feared for Rachel’s soul as much as we feared her influence.
Open Letters were written, rebukes were proffered, counseling was given. Sadly, as it appears to occur with most people who drift from the Word of God, she only entrenched herself further into aberrant views, drifting away from the Rock.
Her supporters are vociferous about Rachel’s goodness and her necessary and righteous theology. As this tragedy was agonizingly drawn out for her family over these last two weeks it adds to the upheaval as usually occurs when a public figure lingers tantalizingly in the twilight between life and death.
Oftentimes we are not given an opportunity to pray so well and so long for a person’s soul. Death comes suddenly in many cases, unexpectedly. For Rachel, many who were praying, including me, were praying for a physical and a spiritual awakening. Having looked so long into the deepness of the dark abyss, these two weeks were a time to publicly ponder eternity with or without a Holy God, much to many people’s discomfort.
The death of someone who lived the life of an apostate is sobering, never joyful to anyone who knows the truth of judgment for those outside the Lord. Though there are many who teach falsely in the world, some who anger me, some who puzzle me, there are some, like Rachel, that the Lord inexplicably put on my heart as if she was a close family member wandering from the fold. I cried real tears when I wrote my Open Letter to her 6 years ago, I cried real tears in Mid-April when I learned she was in dire medical condition, and I cried sorrowful grief-ridden tears over her death when I learned of it this morning.
I prayed that Rachel Held Evans, at some point, had repented. I know not of her final state, but here is a warning to her followers, as one pastor who wrote (not directly of Rachel’s death but in general):
The world’s favorite Christian is an apostate Christian; but that love is a suicidal love (Matthew 5:13-16).
May these two weeks have been a sobering time for people who cling to a theology that is of Rachel Held Evans and not of God, and had heeded the warnings of myself and many others who took a moment to warn in love. May that be the good that comes out of this tragedy.