Going to the Table

Rachel Held Evans passed away on Saturday, May 4. She was a prolific thinker, writer and human.

Rachel Held Evans changed everything for me.

I could say that about a lot of people, events and situations, but Rachel truly changed something in me that was connected to something else that was connected to something else, which by nature is connected to everything. I never knew her, and I never met her, yet her words changed everything for me.

I remember when I started following her on Twitter. She was one of the first people I looked to that was voicing what I was feeling and experiencing as a Christian, but I did not know how to put it into words. She loudly voiced the injustice against queer people in the Christian community, racism, sexism, Islamophobia and most every other marginalized identity. She tore at the hypocrisy of Donald Trump and the people who elected him in the name of Christianity. The presence of her voice eventually gave way to my own and the understanding that complicity and silence are worse than not voicing truth to begin with.

One day as I was listening to a podcast with Rachel as a guest, she said something that continues to form and reinforce my worldview:

“There’s something about coming to the table – it’s such an equalizer in my mind – that at the end of the day we’re all in need of that grace. That doesn’t mean we don’t call out terrible, abusive behavior. It doesn’t mean we don’t condemn it as un-Christ-like. It doesn’t mean we don’t say ‘this is wrong, and I stand against this.’” […]

“Is there anybody you wouldn’t go to the table with?”

“No, there’s not.”

Again, Rachel changed it all for me. As I learned more about injustice in the Christian tradition both historically and today, I wanted to step out. After she gave me permission to condemn injustice, she gave me permission to demonstrate radical love and forgiveness. Let me tell you; it is really difficult to think about going to the table with Donald Trump or Mike Pence. I literally cannot fathom going to the table with someone who committed a mass shooting in a mosque or the white nationalist. Maybe I still am not there, honestly, but Rachel tells me there is something powerful to be said in the Christ-likeness of going to the table with someone who has committed the worst of humanity and recognizing that *I am that person too.* Rachel taught me that going to the table is not an endorsement of the wrongness of a person’s actions, but the recognition that in me, there is both inherent good and the same capacity for evil as the next person.

When it felt like my entire faith was falling apart, I read her book Inspired, and she created something new from the crumbs of my faith. When it felt like the Bible was being used as a weapon against me, she turned it back into something beautiful.

Rachel Held Evans was not a *past-tense* prophet. She IS a prophet. Her words spoke truth for me throughout the past year and will continue to speak truth for generations to come. We can already begin to see how they are bringing new life even in the wake of her death.

Perhaps one of the most telling things in Rachel’s death I have noted was how much she felt the incarnation was undervalued by American Christianity. God appearing as a baby arriving through a woman’s womb as one of the most vulnerable creations in the world? That was radical, and she spoke and wrote about it quite often. Death in Christianity typically reminds us of resurrection, but it is in this passing that I remember the incarnation. I believe Rachel would remind us that there is power in her resurrection as she joins the divine mystery, but there is also something beautiful, divine and mysterious about how she came into the world in the first place.

She was not C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller or John Lewis. She wasn’t some white male theologian, and she wasn’t the Christian evangelical her family told her she should be. She was Rachel Held Evans, a woman of valor, and she stood really damn tall.

Thank you, Rachel, eshet chayil.