Progressive Christian Writer Rachel Held Evans Dies At 37

May 4, 2019
Originally published on May 4, 2019 3:05 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Progressive Christian author Rachel Held Evans died this morning at the age of 37. She was known for her bestselling books and her progressive activism in the evangelical church. NPR Shannon Van Sant offers this report.

SHANNON VAN SANT, BYLINE: People who met Evans spoke of her searing intellect. In 2011, she spoke with NPR.

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RACHEL HELD EVANS: We're all selective in how we interpret and apply the Bible to our lives, even evangelical Christians, whether they like to admit it or not.

VAN SANT: Evans had spent a year following the Bible's instructions for women, and then wrote a book about it.

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EVANS: What I found is that anytime you think you have found a sort of blueprint or standard for biblical womanhood, a woman in Scripture comes along and is praised for breaking it.

VAN SANT: Evans grew up in an evangelical Christian household. And friends say she spent her life trying to untangle her religious upbringing. Sarah Bessey was Evan's friend and collaborator, and says her writing was meaningful for people walking the same path.

SARAH BESSEY: She championed the voices and experiences of people who often were ignored or marginalized in the church and just kept resetting it.

VAN SANT: Evans waded into theological battles about science, LGBT rights and politics. She also often explored the experiences of women in Christianity. And in doing so, friends say she showed the way for women evangelicals and inspired many to go into the ministry. Friend and writer Nadia Bolz-Weber was at Evan's bedside this week.

NADIA BOLZ-WEBER: Rachel had this enormous capacity to be fierce and heart-filled at the same time. She lifted up other people's voices all the time. She used what she had to help other people.

VAN SANT: In one of her last post on Facebook in March, Evans wrote about the beginning of Lent. Evans said death is a part of life and wrote, quote, "my prayer for you is that you make time to celebrate that reality and to grieve that reality and that you will know you are not alone." Evans leaves her husband and two children - a 3-year-old and one less than a year old. Shannon Van Sant, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.