Tag Archives: Rachel Held Evans

This Specific Grief So Far

The braille of my hives reads “nettles,” which
I’ve tackled just in time this spring, instead
of waiting until they’re taller than my head.
I should cook them up but won’t. There is so much
I am not doing with this gift of time
that was stolen just today from a woman younger
than me with children younger than mine. Also, her
good words reached farther and did more work than mine.
In this specific grief so far, what have I learned?
The God we prayed to didn’t grant our prayers.
Some plants protect themselves–beware. Beware–
female stinging nettles produce more stinging hairs.
I see pain and possibility everywhere.
“O death where is thy sting?” Right fucking here.


Rachel Held Evans, a writer I admired and learned from so much, has died. She was one of my favorite thinkers on Twitter and I appreciated her blog posts and books. I never met her. I never said “I think you’re great,” not even in a tweet. So there’s this sadness, in proportion to how much she occupied my brain and engaged my heart, and there are so many others hurting so much more.

What else can I say except–read her if you haven’t already. And we all need to understand what she said in her last blog post:

“It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called ‘none’ (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’

Death is a part of life.

My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”



darkness and light and pain and pleasure

(At some point, I will be more in the mood to celebrate her life. Right now, I am grieved and angry, and I feel confident she would support my feeling of my feelings.)

Keep the Protest in Protestant and/or Get Over It

Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth

First, a re-run: I published an op-ed called “Keep the Protest in Protestant” four years ago in Madison’s Capital Times. You can’t find it in madison.com’s online archive–apparently the Cap Times pieces don’t stick around that long. (Weirdly, an even older 2007 op-ed of mine from the Wisconsin State Journal is still available, in which I talk about merit pay, dilatory legislators, and skid-loaders, which, at the time, my son called “baby scoops.”)

Fortunately (I think), “Keep the Protest in Protestant” is still available online, but at a tea party-ish site that apparently keeps tabs on the Cap Times. You could Google it, but if you did, you’d see the comments, and I don’t want to link it here, because I don’t want to connect to them even by pinging. The comments were pretty tame, though, all in all. At the time I was attending Plymouth Congregational Church in Dodgeville & I did, and still do, appreciate the United Church of Christ as a denomination. Whatever it was I said, there were enough markers for several in the comment thread to assume I was going to hell and to hold me responsible for abortion.

Here are my favorite moments in the piece:

I’ve no doubt there is passion and sincerity on the part of some of those who choose, for example, to shop at a store where the decorations say “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays.” I’m related to some of these people…..

Never mind that “holiday” traces its roots to “holy,” whereas we all know that Christmas is a pagan cake with Jesus icing on top. If you’re hunting for your Lord’s birthday, hunt for the date astronomers estimate there was a great star in the sky or when the census would have been taken or when the shepherds would have been out tending their flocks by night. You can run the numbers six ways from the Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday) and you won’t hit Dec. 25. The Puritans knew this. They didn’t like the maypole in spring, and they didn’t like the pine pole in winter. (But they did like beer. Go figure.)

Four years ago, I wasn’t seeing other people make this argument. Someone’s made it way better, now: “The Puritan War on Christmas” was just published in the New York Times. Lots of people have picked up the “Keep the _____ in ______” idea. My favorite on Facebook is “Keep the Han in Hanukkah,” with a young Harrison Ford brandishing a menorah.

And lots of people are, of late, pointing out that the X in Xmas stands for Christ–even this fellow, R.C. Sproul, in a post from a couple weeks ago, says “There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.” That’s R.C. Sproul, a CALVINIST, (whose name I recognized from my evangelical roots) who publishes with Tyndale (a noted Christian publishing house, well respected in the land of evangelicals, even THOUGH, we talked a lot in my church, in the 70s, about how that the guy who did The Living Bible, which Tyndale published, was struck silent for seven years because the Living Bible was a PARAPHRASE, not a translation.)

So some people are offended by being wished Happy Holidays. I’m offended by their taking offense.

And, if they knew, they’d likely be offended by my being offended at their having taken offense.

Round and round and round, like a train under a Christmas tree.

Would it help if I were Labiche, and blew up the tracks?

Of course not. This isn’t a real war. It’s a peaceful protest against the warriors who see themselves as defending Christmas.

I wish I thought none of this mattered. But when someone blames Jon Stewart for a massacre, it begins to matter, right?

My favorite response to the crazy talk that began almost immediately after the shootings in Newtown is by Rachel Held Evans, ANOTHER EVANGELICAL, called “God can’t be kept out.”

I know I was remembering Rachel’s words as I was snuggling with my son this morning, looking at our Christmas tree, telling him how happy I was he knew the Christmas story, how in a very dark time, God decided to make herself known on earth, starting out as a baby.

She gave Jesus to poor parents, and made him a Jew, which was a very scary thing to be in the Roman Empire. “The Romans were just jerks,” I told him.

And when we’re feeling at our lowest, at our most vulnerable, when things seem the darkest, we can remember that’s what Christmas is about–that God is with us.

However important I think it is for people to be historically accurate in what they complain about, however much I wish we all cared more about substance than surface, however big a gap there is between the right-wing and left-wing members of my family on this and other matters, I do know what’s more important.

So I’m trying, at least trying, to save my biggest protest-mojo for what really matters.

We are in a world of hurt. Whatever love we have access to, we need to share it. Now.

Merry Xmas.

(Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)