the day Rachel Held Evans cried

"The Day Rachel Held Evans Cried" by nakedpastor David Hayward

“The Day Rachel Held Evans Cried” by nakedpastor David Hayward

I read Dr. Joel McDurmon post, “Rachel Held Evans Has a Rude Awakening”. It is written for The American Vision blog: a Biblical Worldview Ministry. Their statement of faith begins with their doctrine of scripture. They believe the bible is inspired, inerrant, infallible, the authoritative Word of God written, and that it is to be believed in all that it teaches. McDurmon’s post was in response to Rachel Held Evans‘ poignant, “What Now?”, her response to the recent World Vision debacle.

I would like to use McDurmon’s post to explain why the church is in trouble. I will outline his opinion of Rachel Held Evans, demonstrate why he believes this makes her a liberal and therefore not Christian, and then offer my own thoughts on what this means for the church.

To say McDurmon doesn’t have a very good opinion of Held Evans is an understatement. I will use his own words as much as possible, reminding you that these are all explicitly or implicitly stated and are all negatives from his perspective: He believes she is too emotional; she’s operating from her anima (meaning she’s too feminine); she loves too much; cries; pouts; stomps out of rooms when she doesn’t get her way; shouldn’t talk about World Vision because she really doesn’t know what happened there like he does since he has an inside source; she’s in a crisis of faith; reactionary; needs good therapy; is asleep and needs to wake up; welcomes everyone; promotes gender equality; an LGBT advocate; rebellious; just wants to party; her writing is hackneyed and snarky; more compassionate than God’s law; more welcoming than God; nicer than Jesus; not self-aware; believes in diversity and tolerance; suppresses the voice of conservative values; squashes God’s law; intolerant of people she disagrees with; she needs to take biblical exegesis, biblical ethics, systematic theology and church history; and she needs to stop writing. In a sentence, McDurmon’s seems to think she is an emotional, uneducated and open-minded woman who needs to keep her mouth shut.

For McDurmon, this puts Held Evans in the liberal court. What he thinks the World Vision debacle did was out her as a liberal. She always was but she just didn’t know it. He claims that she’s been trying to hide out in the evangelical camp but has always just been a good old liberal. Anybody who wants gender equality, LGBT respect and recognition, and is interested in being inclusive, is a liberal. Stack on top of this that she is female, emotional and uneducated only condemns her further. He’s thankful for the World Vision scandal because it exposed her and other LGBTQ sympathizers. He suggests this tactic should be intentionally employed more often to separate the sheep from the goats:

“I for one am grateful that at least one organization stood its ground, bucked some liberals, and sent one crypto-liberal into the light to reveal her true colors. I say it’s time we did it across the board.”

To McDurmon, atheists and liberals are cut from the same cloth and insists that they won’t win. He suggests liberals aren’t even Christians when he says that they and atheists will lose because they don’t take the bible as literally as a blueprint, but “Christians win” because they do. He delights in the World Vision fallout because it further purified the true evangelical strain.

“Folks, in the end, the meek will inherit the earth—the earth. And no atheist, not (sic) liberal can say otherwise. The Christians win, and we will win here. And the Bible is your Blueprint for that victory.”

I hope this has been a fair assessment of McDurmon’s opinion of Rachel Held Evans and the kind of people he thinks she represents.

I’d like to talk about why Rachel Held Evans cried, or, what this means for Christianity and the church. McDurmon articulates clearly three main issues that contributes to so many leaving the church. They are that he advocates literalism, sexism, and exclusivity.

McDurmon’s opposes the bible against the body. Insistence that the bible should be taken as literally as a blueprint takes precedence over unity. I claim that we are all already one, united in what is deeply essential, and that it is only thought that seems to separate us. McDurmon would like to make this apparent separation real by emphasizing exactness in evangelical thought birthed from a thoroughly evangelical, biblical exegesis. Because Held Evans does not believe the bible in the same way he does, or is at least willing to consider options, he consigns her to wander in the liberal wilderness. Held Evans seems to be willing to talk in order to try to arrive at a mutual understanding, or at least a mutual settlement where both allow for the position of the other in order to preserve the union. McDurmon is not. He has a divisive view of humanity and he will use his biblical exegetical theology to foster this division.

McDurmon also comes across as a sexist, pitting animus against anima. His obvious hostility (animus) against the anima, his apparent lack of respect for women, his ridicule of emotion, his mockery of openness, inclusion, and tolerance, all betray a breach in his own personality between the masculine and the feminine that demands enforcement in his world. It is typical traditional values to raise cool logic over emotion, male over female, mind over heart, precision over openness, law over grace, and intolerance over tolerance. But mix these together and you concoct severe issues with women, LGBTQ folks, other religions, atheists, and anyone who you think is different than you.

Finally, McDurmon sets homogeneity against diversity. He is an exclusivist. He has a very certain understanding of the bible and everyone else should agree. He takes it literally and so should we. He is highly educated and sees everyone separated by very distinct lines drawn by beliefs, mere thoughts that reside in his mind. There are atheists, liberals, real evangelicals and false ones, and Christians… and there are women, educated people and uneducated people, writers and non-writers, real evangelicals or Christians and the rest are just plain atheist, liberals or closet liberals or crypto-liberals, etcetera. His unfortunate mistake is that he believes we are all separated by our differing beliefs and that if we would only all agree with one another or with him then we would all be united. The truth is we are already united, already one, and that it is our thoughts and beliefs that only seem to separate us. This is only an illusion, an illusion he subscribes to, and he stimulates the appearance of division around him to sustain his divisive beliefs.

McDurmon wants to become even more definite, more discriminatory, more exclusive and more divisive. His concern for biblical accuracy, his elevation of animus over anima, and his inability to find unity in diversity draws a very black and white world that more and more people question and flee from. Biblical literalism, discrimination and exclusivity won’t work. We reject these because we see them as enemies of love, peace and happiness.

Rachel Held Evans expresses legitimate heartfelt concern about what’s happening to the church. On the one hand there is movement to become more open, inclusive and equal. But on the other hand it also seems to be becoming more and more literalist, sexist, discriminatory and divisive. She wants open dialog and mutual respect, and would like to see the tradition in which she was raised and obviously still loves continue to embrace her as she endeavors to re-articulate theology, expand the church’s borders, and open its doors to more and more people who have been marginalized and even excluded. Like her, I’m not sure her vision will be realized within the church’s walls.

But I must admit: I prefer tears of frustrated disappointment to a logic that is cold, discriminatory and exclusive. The truth is, as more people like Rachel Held Evans promote openness, the reaction will be to become more closed, like McDurmon.

I left the ministry four years ago because I found McDurmon’s position too prevalent and I could no longer function freely under it. I chose the wilderness. I don’t care what others call it… liberal or lost. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve come to the conclusion that McDurmon’s attitude, though it holds sway in the world and its institutions such as the church, is not really true even though it sometimes seems to be. I have discovered, as Held Evans has expressed, that it isn’t inside the church where we all can gather, but outside the gates and in the wilderness. I used to try, like her and almost all young theologians and ministers, to reform the church to become more open-minded, less discriminatory and more inclusive, only to be met with stubbornness and even hostility. Instead, I’ve discovered that out here we are already equal, already included, and already one. Even though there are churches that see this and try to live accordingly, there will always be a remnant who refuse to.

Rachel Held Evans cried, and I understand why.

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23 Responses

  1. cm says:

    i too stand outside the gates.
    at one point I realized that my calling is to have faith like John the Baptist or the virgin Mary, to believe in God in a way that would cause every religious person to reject me as a lost cause for the rest of my life, for them to speculate and gossip about my breakdown or my backsliding, and to never defend myself because i am right where I should be and when you are right where you should be, you dont defend yourself…..because you are not wrong. and you dont explain yourself because they wont get it anyways.

  2. Pat Pope says:

    Sorry, I couldn’t read all of this. You know you’re in trouble when people accuse you of being welcoming to everyone. Oh, the horror! And the whole liberal thing? Like there are no liberal evangelicals? Or at least in this author’s mind, it seems he wants to redefine or redraw the lines of evangelicalism to exclude liberals. Thus, if you’re liberal, you can’t possibly be evangelical. Such tripe…Blech!

  3. mirele says:

    The whole World Vision thing stepped on my very last nerve. I saw, really saw, how far people would go to hit back at GLBT people, to the point of taking the food out of a child’s mouth, and I was disgusted. I don’t want any part of that.

  4. Tim says:

    I have been concerned about this kind of “Evangelical” “purification” for a number of years. I’m concerned that the more “grey areas” people try to exclude, the less room they have to move. And, eventually, the constant removal of these “grey areas” threatens the stability of the ground beneath their feet. (And what if they mistakenly remove areas that are actually acceptable, or even beneficial? What if the grey areas they see are actually white, and it is actually their eyes which are clouded?)

    Also, excluding any perceived “grey areas” removes the flexibility that is needed to love others in each other person’s unique situation. Unfortunately, any remaining “safe ground” is tailored to the circumstances and experiences of the people in power, in the center, in the church – and not the marginalised: the foreigner, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed.

    An article which highlights this attitude (and the persecution complex which accompanies it) i: “The Bitter Tears of America’s Christian Supermajority”

    http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/3/christians-persecutioncomplex.html

  5. Barbara says:

    One thing he has correct, is that RHE is NOT an evangelical. Never has this branch been anything but exclusive, sexist, narrow. Time to let go of the abusive relationship. Your husband not only didn’t love you, he doesn’t even SEE you. He’s a jerk, dump him, stop replying to his text or creeping his Facebook. Stop defining yourself within your dead relationship. Like so many of North America’s European settlers, be brave and get a new boyfriend. Quakers, Shakers, etc. We often forget how radical some of this new thinking was, history’s patina.

  6. R Vogel says:

    Although I was initially enraged reading McDermon’s words, by the end I was laughing. Laughing because it has the scent of desperation all dying traditions have when they try to enforce tighter and tighter orthodoxy as a pathetic effort to save themselves from extinction. Even in their own tribe young people are ignoring their ‘authority’ – as they try to demand they conform they will either drive them from the tribe or the faith. He’s the captain on the Titanic pretending there is not gaping holes in the ship and running ahead unperturbed, and with each foot the water rises in the well, more and more people are taking to the lifeboats. The more christians who do not identify with their dying tradition join us and abandon the effort to patch holes down below the water line while they stroll the decks in all their decadent finery, the faster the whole thing will slide beneath the waves.

    BTW, Im not sure if you are familiar with The Irish Atheist blog but he did a brilliant piece the other day, ‘On the Wrong Side of the Walls of Jericho.’ It was as poignant as the imagery was provocative Hope it’s OK I share the link: http://theirishatheist.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/on-the-wrong-side-of-the-walls-of-jericho/

  7. Don Rogers says:

    David- I left the church in 2007 after residing in an SBC environment for 59 years. Why? My youngest son came out to us in 2000, and after studying homosexuality for sometime, then studying inclusivism, I began asking questions which no one wanted to deal with.
    I consider myself (as Spong put it) a believer in exile. Orthodoxy no longer has me in it’s grip. I’m not even sure where fall on the line of belief. I just know it is not anywhere near evangelicalism. And, that is perfectly ok with me. I have been a fan of Rachel’s since her first book, “Evolving…..”. I strongly suspected that she would be a lightning rod for conservative evangelical lightning bolts. With her heart, her move toward the left of evangelicalism was expected. She is a bold, compassionate, loving, young woman who stands for what she believes…. Kind of like Jesus. Imagine that!

  8. buzz says:

    The mainstream churches (and by that I mean any Christian religious organization more than 20 years old) have been hemorrhaging members since the 1960s. It is clear from everyone who has written or spoken of their reason for leaving that intolerance and injustice are neck and neck for the two leading causes of this diaspora: Intolerance for other races, other beliefs, other opinions, and now other orientations; injustice to the powerless, the voiceless, the meek, the poor, and the exploited (be it economically, emotionally, or sexually).

    The old guard does not merely blithely ignore this, they actively encourage it. Oh, they claim to be concerned, and they launch all sorts of studies and programs to recruit new members and lure back old ones (or pirate them from rival denominations), but they will take not one step to counter the trends that are driving people from their fellowship. Indeed, almost all of their programs consists of repackaging old wine in new bottles only the old wine has now turned to vinegar.

    They are determined to destroy their churches rather than change. Who are we to stand in their way? There is a classic short story by Ursula K. LeGuin called “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”. It is about a paradise on earth, but one maintained at an unjust cost. It’s a cost that’s easy to rationalize, and most of the citizens of Omelas do, but for some there can be no beauty, no peace, no justice so long as Omelas excludes anyone, no matter for what utilitarian reason.

    Our modern diaspora consists of the ones who walk away from Omelas.

    http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dunnweb/rprnts.omelas.pdf

  9. D Noelle says:

    I absolutely love and agree with this article! I can certainly relate as well. We stopped trying to change things about 7 years ago too. It’s pointless. We now meet in homes and are part of a network of people that do this. The freedom to live as Christ intends is amazing. I’d like to say I haven’t given up all hope on the institutional church, but I think I have. (In this continent that is, things are very different in this diverse world of ours.) I thought there was a glimmer of hope with the WV thing, but then, as normal, the ugliness and evil rears it’s head and kicks me in the gut, once again. I can’t keep exposing myself to that pain. There is no point in it.

  10. TheGirlWhoWasThursday says:

    “…though it holds sway in the world and its institutions such as the church…”

    The church is an institution of the world. This phrase explains so much of my experience with Christianity.

    I’m crying too. One little tear of joy.

  11. Bart says:

    Whi looks more like Jesus and who looks more like a Pharisee? It woukd appear some in the Pharisee camp today are still kneeling diwn to pray and give God thanks that they were not made a woman. In my book I’ll stick with the image painted in Scripture that reminds me simply that Jesus wept. No need to tell me what’s up Doc. You show people that you’re chosen by God because you have a penis and I’ll watch for those people who have a love for people and can muster some tears when others are wounded and hurt.

  12. Sam Carleton says:

    @ David – I could not agree more that God does operate on the fringes of the church in very new and different ways that scares those in the middle. We see this in the Bible with John the Baptist, he was in the wilderness proclaiming the coming Messiah. Looks to me like your voice in the wilderness has a lot of followers, too. I am loving in!

  13. chad says:

    this is a wonderful post. i myself am leaving the church for the wilderness as of june 1st. it’s been a long time coming, but issues and perspectives like the ones shared here are a big reason why my wife and i have to get out. if this is what it means to be evangelical, i will happily opt out.

  14. Ellen Haroutunian says:

    Once again you encourage my heart deeply. Thank God for you.

  15. David says:

    Oh wow. Thanks :)

  16. Graham says:

    It’s views like McDurmon that make me very scared about finding a new church, about finding any “Christian” community for that matter

  17. Sam Carleton says:

    @Graham Yes, I am looking for a new church home now, too. It is scary! But then when you look at Jesus’ life, you see that he doesn’t call us into an easy path. Remember, his #1 enemy was NOT the gentiles, but the Jewish leaders, like McDurmon in the Christian world. All we can do is stay true to Jesus and look to him for guidance on how to love the enemies he brings our ways. Simple, NOT EASY!!!!!!

  18. Pat says:

    Graham, I can tell you that I’ve found a church I like. Not perfect, by any means. Anywhere that people gather, there’s going to be the usual issues, but by and large, this church is defined by an open approach to theology, inclusivity and diversity. So, good churches are out there. But take your time in looking; don’t rush it or pressure yourself into finding something or allow anyone else to pressure you.

  19. E.G. says:

    I often find that exclusivists remain exclusive until the day that their exclusive community excludes them for some reason. And that inevitably happens because exclusivity always tends toward tighter borders. (The end point of the doctrine of exclusivity is the singular, not community.)

    Suddenly the newly excluded realize what the rest of us have been saying all along.

    I have seen this, on numerous occasions. It is always very painful at first, but it does generally end in joy.

  20. pete zimm says:

    I worked with addicts. there are a lot of charming addicts out there who have wonderful, sweet qualities. they can be smart, etc. and the same person good be a terrible liar and thief. often I saw men/women stay with an abusive addict because they saw the good qualities along with the bad

    the evangelic hurch is a shitty, punk ass, adolescent no good movement. It does not matter that some good people are in it. it does not matter that some of what it believes is good. it does not matter that some aspects are positive. if the man who writes you love songs and is a good financial provider also rapes you…leave him..

    rachel evans and other post evangelicals need to lead the charge to save americans from the evangelical church.

  21. John L says:

    McDurmon has forgotten to love his enemies.

  1. April 5, 2014

    […] their doublethink, and more time illustrating that it is possible for one to be a Christian and yet throw off the constraining shackles of the authoritarian system that threatens them with exclusion from their community here on Earth and exclusion from heaven in […]

  2. April 13, 2014

    […] Following on that, here’s an article from David Hayward discussing one particularly nasty response to Rachel Held Evans’s very […]

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