Saturday, December 4, 2021

New book on faith from a popular author who died in 2019.

NEW YORK (AP) – Christian writer Rachel Held Evans left behind a legion of loyal readers when she died in May 2019 at the age of 37. Last June, the children’s book she was working on was published posthumously and soon ranked # 1. picture book bestseller lists.

Her latest adult book, Faith from a Pure Heart, is coming out next week. It is addressed to Christians like herself, who sometimes struggle with doubts about their faith, but do not want to give it up.

“Sincerity means we can ask bold questions, knowing that God loves us not only in spite of them, but also for them,” she writes in a new book.

The book opens with a poignant retelling of her husband, Daniel Evans, and introductory remarks by Jeff Chu, the couple’s author, editor and close friend, whom Daniel hired to complete her unfinished manuscript.

The manuscript contained approximately 11,000 words. Chu expanded it fivefold by looking at Held Evans’ blog posts and speeches, as well as excerpts cut from her previous books. Among them was the New York Times bestseller The Year of Biblical Femininity.

“Many of us are fixated on what’s wrong with Christianity or the church,” Chu said in an interview. “She was not shy about naming these things, but she always emphasized what is right in our faith and what is good in what Jesus said.”

The book’s prologue is a tribute to the women featured in the Bible and later figures from Held Evans’ own family tree.

She recalls her childhood and adolescence, grew up in a deeply religious family, won an award for best Christian attitude at her elementary school in Alabama, and was president of the Bible Club at her high school.

Doubts about her faith surfaced during her college years. She recalls wondering how many of her fellow evangelicals would consider those who do not belong to their faith to be sentenced to hell.

“I’m not afraid to say that many in the church have been agents of death for many women, queers and transgender people, for people of color, for immigrants and refugees, for people with disabilities, for all kinds of minorities,” she writes. … “There are many in the church who are not delivering good news. They did not proclaim hope and opportunity, justice and welcome. “

Eventually Held Evans became a member of the Episcopal Church, the main Protestant denomination, whose leaders were women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.

Her concept of God also developed.

“The God I have believed in is not some stern grandfather in the sky who expects me to be wrong,” she writes. “Instead, I came to see God through what God did … 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 many unfinished works when Held Evans died was an article expressing remorse for having once held anti-LGBTQ views, and lamenting the fact that many evangelicals still hold this view. Danial Evans posted this on her blog in October 2019.

“I support LGBTQ people because they are people created in the image of God,” Held Evans wrote. “I affirm their sexual orientation and gender identity because they reflect the diversity of God’s good creation.”

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Chu, who lives with her husband in Grand Rapids, Michigan, raised similar topics in his 2013 book, Does Jesus Really Love Me? Pilgrimage of a Gay Christian in Search of God in America. “

He first heard from Held Evans after she learned that Chu’s book was in development; she asked his publisher, “How can I help?” and soon invited Chu to do a guest post on her popular blog.

Although the two writers shared a common vision of LGBT issues, Chu was grateful that this did not become the basis of their eight-year friendship.

“We were just talking about life,” he said. “She was one of the few people who completely covered all aspects of me and didn’t make the gay part too big.”

The night Held Evans died, Chu was in the hospital with Daniel Evans, a testament to the close friendship that has developed over the years.

“The reason I chose him (to finish the book) is because of his friend and incredible talent,” Evans said. “Jeff really knows where Rachel was.”

Evans, 41, said that these days in his family home in Dayton, Tennessee, he performs multiple tasks at the same time, striving to be a good father to his 5-year-old son Henry and 3-year-old daughter Harper; worked diligently to complete and publish Held Evans’ posthumous books.

“Most of all, I’m learning to deal with many emotions normally – to experience both deep grief and deep joy at the same time,” he said. “I am very glad that this book has appeared in the world.”

One of his favorite chapters develops a phrase that Held Evans adopted as his personal motto: “Thick skin, tender heart.”

He said the phrase reflects her approach to many social media users who criticized her on conservative evangelicalism.

“A lot of people have used it as a symbol for everything they think is wrong,” Evans said. “It was often difficult.”

Evans said Held Evans was working on four children’s books when she died; he hopes all of them will eventually be published.

Book published in June – “What is God?” – has a special status for Evans. This is the first book by Held Evans that he read to his children.

“Henry knows Mom wrote it,” Evans said.

In a book co-written with Matthew Paul Turner, Held Evans encourages children to “think about what makes you feel safe, what makes you feel loved, and what makes you feel brave. This is what God is like. “

After the book was published, Daniel Evans tweeted about it.

“I am agnostic. I think God is unlikely. I don’t believe that prayer heals. If that were the case, sick people who were prayed for would be healed more often than those who are not being treated, ”he wrote. “But if I ever believe again, it will be in the God that Rachel understood. I hope in God “What is God?”

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The Associated Press’s coverage of religion receives support from the Lilly Foundation through The Conversation US. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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