NEW YORK – Christian author Rachel Held Evans left a legion of loyal readers when she died in May 2019, at the age of 37. In June last year, a children’s book she had been working on was published posthumously and soon topped the picture book bestseller lists .
Next week, her latest book for adults will be published, entitled “Wholehearted Faith.” It is addressed to Christians like herself, who sometimes struggle with doubts about their faith but still do not want to give it up.
“Wholeheartedness means we can ask bold questions, knowing that God loves us not just in spite of them but also because of them,” she writes in the new book.
The book opens with a gripping preview of her husband, Daniel Evans, and an introduction by Jeff Chu, an author, editor and close friend of the couple, who was recruited by Daniel to fill out her unfinished manuscript.
That manuscript was about 11,000 words long. Chu expanded it fivefold by searching Held Evans’ blog posts and speeches and through passages clipped from her previous books. Among them was a New York Times bestseller, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”
“So many of us are fixated on what’s wrong with Christianity or the church,” Chu said in an interview. “She did not shy away from mentioning these things, but she always emphasized what is right about our faith and what was good about what Jesus had to say.”
The book’s prologue is a tribute to women – those in the Bible and newer characters from Held Evans’ own family tree.
She talks about her childhood and youth, where she grew up in a deeply religious family, won the award for best Christian attitude at her elementary school in Alabama, and served as president of her high school Bible Club.
Doubts about her faith arose while she was in college. She remembers wondering how many of her evangelical peers could consider them outside of their own faith to be doomed to hell.
“I’m not afraid to say that many in the church have been death agents for many women, for queer and transgender people, for people of color, for immigrants and refugees, for the disabled, for all kinds of minorities,” she writes. . “Many in the church have not preached good news. They have not declared hope and opportunity, justice and welcome. “
Eventually, Held Evans became an Episcopalian – a mainstream Protestant denomination with women, coloreds and LGBTQ people among its leaders.
Her concept of God also evolved.
“The God I have come to believe in is not a strict grandfather in heaven waiting for me to slip away,” she writes. “Instead, I have come to see God through the things that God has done … That God is the architect of creation, the engineer of love, and the master craftsman who came up with the idea of the heart.”
Among the numerous works that left unfinished when Held Evans died was an article that expressed remorse for having had anti-LGBTQ views and lamented that many evangelicals still do. Daniel Evans posted it on his blog in October 2019.
“I affirm LGBTQ people because they are human beings, created in the image of God,” Held Evans wrote. “I affirm their sexual orientations and gender identities because they reflect the diversity of God’s good creation.”
Chu, who lives with her husband in Grand Rapids, Mich., Evoked similar themes in her 2013 book, “Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian Pilgrimage in Search of God in America.”