Rachel Held Evans, Owen Strachan, and the burning of our heretics
"God in Man's Image" (cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward)
Two years ago, Rachel Held Evans
wrote this post on Mary
in which she wrote, "God Herself"
On May 18, 2014, Owen Strachan
, who writes for the evangelical channel on the Patheos network, wrote a post, Is Rachel Held Evans' Use of "God Herself" Biblically Faithful?
, in which he calls this heretical and calls for her repentance: "‚ if she will turn away from falsehood, God will immediately receive her."
Lots of conversation took place on the blogosphere and Twitter
I was talking with Kate Wallace
who writes for The Junia Project
and we agreed to collaborate today on this issue. I drew the above cartoon and she wrote "In the Image of Man They Created God; Male They Created Him"
, a passionate and reasoned response to Strachan.
We used to burn a heretic at the stake for 3 reasons:
- to punish her (for her heresy)
- to purify her (of her heresy, as fire removes the dross)
- to remove her (from the community and end her influence on it)
We will not publicly burn Rachel Held Evans at the stake. But what we do now is intended to have the same effect. For the influential Strachan to publicly label Held Evans a heretic, he accomplishes the same thing:
It punishes her: It is intended to cause Held Evans to suffer. We can detect the pain in Rachel's responses because she has been singled out, publicly shamed, and treated as "other" by the evangelical community. She has been lashed by mean-spirited words.
It purifies her: It is intended to cause her to see the error of her ways and thinking and force her repentance. She is expected to recant and fall back into the popularly held evangelical line. Ostracizing her is meant to make her feel sorry for what she said and cleanse her of her errors.
It removes her: It is intended to point out to Strachan's readers that she is no longer one of the evangelical community. Some might argue that she did this to herself by questioning traditional evangelical thought, thereby separating herself. I suggest that Strachan has effectively marked Held Evans as no longer one of the orthodox, as he is, and that she is now removed, alienated and estranged from her evangelical community. Strachan more than implies that she's now dead to them.
Strachan is upset that Held Evans publicly challenges his thought and those who agree with him. He intimates that he is simply doing the same to her. But I do not see her suggesting that they are heretics or no longer a part of the family. Rather, I see her expressing sorrow that some parts of her community are unwilling to accept other parts of her community. Held Evans is attempting to open the community that Strachan is trying to limit.
Strachan and others like him draw lines deeper in the sand that separate everyone who doesn't think like them from the truly orthodox strain they represent.