An atheist’s tribute to Rachel Held Evans

Earlier today, Rachel Held Evans, a progressive religious author and blogger who served as a member of now-former President Barack Obama’s council for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships, died earlier today. She was only 37 years of age at the time of death. Rachel is survived by her husband, Dan Evans, and her two young children.

Born in Alabama, Rachel called Dayton, Tennessee home, having lived there since she was a teenager, although she was a devout fan of the Crimson Tide to the end. This from The Washington Post obituary about Rachel is as good description as any regarding who Rachel was and what she stood for:

An Episcopalian, Evans drew a large following in the evangelical community in both progressive and conservative circles. She criticized widespread evangelical support for President Trump, encouraged women in church leadership, questioned a literal reading of the Bible, among other issues. From her home in Tennessee, she became a beloved progressive speaker at many conferences around the country.

Her books — including “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” “Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again” and “Searching for Sunday” — pushed theological boundaries for many conservative evangelicals, but they gave voice to many progressive evangelicals who had become frustrated with their churches. In 2012 she was named one of Christianity Today magazine’s “50 Women to Watch.”


Ms. Evans spent a year following the Bible’s instructions for women literally before she published her second book published in 2012, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” The book explored women’s roles, encouraging women in church leadership and an egalitarian approach to marriage. In 2013, she hosted a blog series on abuse in the church.


Normally, I would say that anything else that I could add would be redundant, but I do have something to add.

There were significant differences between me and Rachel Held Evans. I’m an atheist; Rachel was an Episcopalian. I’m a Midwesterner, Rachel was a Southerner. I’m a fan of Northwestern University’s football team, Rachel rooted for the University of Alabama’s football team. However, I, like approximately 163,000 others, followed Rachel on Twitter, because of her willingness to challenge the patriarchy and her staunch opposition to President Donald Trump. Despite her large Twitter following, Rachel was never the kind of person to brag about how many people followed her on Twitter, and her voice will be dearly missed. Rachel’s death marks the first time that I can recall someone who I followed on Twitter passing away, and this is a very difficult time, not just for me, but for others who admired Rachel.

To Rachel’s family, I offer y’all my condolences.