Rachel Held Evans Talks Faith In Lyceum

Hannah Long, News Editor • hglong16@ehc.edu

Last semester, Emory & Henry hosted a lyceum showcasing writer and speaker Rachel Held Evans titled “Faith and Doubt.”

Evans is a New York Times best-selling author who served on former-President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She’s written several books, which include Faith Unraveled, Searching for Sunday and A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Evans is from Dayton, Tennessee.

In her talk, Evans covered her evangelical childhood, political beliefs and the experience of being a prominent female thinker in the evangelical world. Her comparatively liberal approach to faith and theology has provoked controversy and pushback from conservative critics. In 2015, the Washington Post described her as “the most controversial woman in evangelicalism.”

She said she came to a crisis of faith during the Iraq War—when she began questioning the more traditional faith of her childhood.

Evans said that “asking one question about your faith will lead to asking another” and while it may “put your sense of safety and security at risk…it’s worth it.” She extolled the virtues of doubt, because without it, she argued, a person is left with “zombie-faith…unwilling to engage deep questions.” She invoked the examples of Jacob and Job, ancient biblical figures whose stories centered on questioning or wrestling with God.

The first thing to challenge her faith, she explained, was religious pluralism, because of her “bleeding heart,” adding that she considers the usually pejorative term “a gift.”

After leaving fundamentalist evangelicalism, Evans became a member of the Episcopalian denomination. She said she likes the denomination because “they’re not known for their theology,” and argues that while “creeds can be helpful for delineating historical Christian faith,” what’s more important is one’s ability to love: “Ultimately, I think everyone who loves, loves Christ.”

She also brought up politics, saying that “the gospel is not partisan but it is political,” attacking nationalism as “incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ” and saying “the empire does not get the last word; Jesus does.”

Senior Joy Edwards said she enjoyed the lyceum. She said, “I appreciated her openness in discussing her faith journey. It was interesting to hear her speak about how doubt has affected her faith. She sees doubt as a part of faith, and doubt has caused her to rely on others for faith at times.”

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