On Saturday, progressive Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans died due to complications from a bout of seizures.
Evans, or “RHE,” as her fans called her, had gained a large following for her willingness to challenge the line-drawing fundamentalism of her youth. She was a strong supporter of including the LGBTQ community in the church, among other things. Unlike other female Christian writers, she didn’t shy away from stepping on the toes of prominent Christian men.
Watch her speak in 2015 at Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, California here.
Evans went to the hospital in late April to treat a bout of the flu, then had an allergic reaction to antibiotics. She then started having seizures that forced doctors to put her in a medically-induced coma. While doctors were weaning Evans off the medications in preparation to bring her back, the seizures flared again. On Thursday morning, doctors discovered her brain had swollen, and she was pronounced dead on Saturday morning.
Even before Evans’ death, a number of people with whom she had knock-down, drag-out battles offered prayers for her. Take Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, for instance.
But at least one Christian blogger missed the memo. Namely, Jeff Maples of Reformation Charlotte, a hyper-Calvinist blog based–as its name suggests–in my hometown of Charlotte. Hours after Evans’ death was announced, Maples fired off this below-the-belt shot on Twitter.
Wait a minute. Evans had just died in a way that no one with an iota of decency should wish on anyone. She left a husband and two kids. And Maples was expressing glee at how she could “no longer actively inflict spiritual harm on people”? Gee, since when is making people think and challenging their beliefs harmful? Twitter rendered its verdict on Maples, and brutally.
This writer was among those who called Maples out for this 280-character low blow.
Incredibly, I had to explain to Maples why this tweet was so callous.
But apparently Maples didn’t get the hint. Later that day, when he learned Matt Walsh of The Daily Wire had joined the torrent of outrage against him, he accused Walsh of “virtue signaling,” and harped on the fact that he was a Catholic who was supposedly destined for hell. So calling for basic decency is “virtue signaling” now? Got it.
Maples wasn’t done. Later that night, he uncorked another cheap shot at Evans herself. He claimed that all the tributes flowing to Evans was a sign that evangelicals were trying to “signal their virtue to a Pagan, God-hating world.”
To Maples’ mind, Evans was not deserving of such accolades because she was “an enemy of the cross” and “an idolater and a blasphemer” who was “anything but a Godly, Christian mother and wife.” What were her sins in Maples’ eyes? Well, for one, Maples believed that Evans’ unabashed support for the LGBT community had the effect of “delivering her troops of thousands–if not millions–directly into the hands of the enemy.” In Maples’ view, Evans actually hated LGBT people and women thinking about having an abortion, because she “deceptively hid the truth of God from them.”
Perhaps Maples has spent too much time in his fundamentalist bubble. That’s about the only way you can justify this outrageous attack on a woman who died in such a horrible way. I’ve seen some pretty callous and tone-deaf things from fundies in my time, but this has to stand as one of the worst.
Contrast this to how much of the left handled John McCain’s death from brain cancer. I can count on one hand the number of liberals who thought it even remotely acceptable to take cheap shots at him. The rule against speaking ill of the dead is especially strict when that death comes from a debilitating illness. You would think that a Christian blogger, of all people, would understand this. Apparently Maples doesn’t.
As I write this on Tuesday night, this is the ratio for Maples’ original 280-character low blow on Evans.
Wow. Proportionally, that’s almost as brutal as one of Donald Trump’s rage tweets. But obviously Maples didn’t get the message if he saw fit to continue his outrageous campaign of hate.
It’s time to serve notice on Maples and his buddies at Reformation Charlotte that this is not acceptable. He posted this article to his Facebook page; let him have it here. Be sure to pile it on at his Twitter feed as well.
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