Rachel Held Evans, the Hugely Popular Christian Writer Who Challenged the Evangelical Establishment, Is Dead at 37posted on May 6, 2019
Slate‘s Ruth Graham reports that popular and influential Christian writer Rachel Held Evans died over the weekend. Graham writes, “Evans, 37, entered the hospital in mid-April with the flu, and then had a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics, as she wrote on Twitter several weeks ago. According to her husband, Dan Evans, she then developed sustained seizures. Doctors put her in a medically induced coma, but some seizures returned when her medical team attempted to wean her from the medications that were maintaining her coma. Her condition worsened on Thursday morning, and her medical team discovered severe swelling of her brain. She died early on Saturday morning.” The author of four books, Evans was a progressive Christian voice who left evangelicalism for the Episcopal Church. Graham writes, “Evans’ political and cultural polemics attracted the most attention. But she also wrote passionately about her own evolving faith, her prayer life, her wrestling with doubt, and her love for the church.”
NPR’s Sasha Ingber reports, “The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has released its annual report in the aftermath of attacks on mosques in New Zealand, churches in Sri Lanka and synagogues in the United States.” The report identifies more than a dozen countries that engaged in or tolerated violations of religion freedom, among them China and Myanmar. Ingber writes, “In the midst of trade discussions with the United States, Chinese authorities detained as many as 2 million Uighurs, an ethnic and predominantly Muslim minority, the report says.”
The Washington Post‘s Deanna Paul and Katie Mettler report on the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting at Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego, California, which left one dead and three injured on the last day of Passover. Lori Kaye, 60, was killed, while those injured include Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. Paul and Mettler write that the suspect, who surrendered to police, “referenced the alleged shooters at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue and the New Zealand mosques, Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler as role models.”
The Washington Post‘s Joanna Slater, Amantha Perera, and Shane Harris report, “Sri Lanka on Monday accused a local Islamist extremist group, the National Thowheed Jamaath, of being behind a string of Easter bombings at churches and hotels that killed at least 290 people, and the United States pledged support for the investigation, dispatching FBI agents to help.” Suicide bombers carried out the attacks. Slater, Perera, and Harris add, “A Sri Lankan security official characterized Thowheed Jamaath as a shell for the Islamic State and said it has been active in Kattankudy, an area in the eastern part of the country and home to one of its largest Muslim populations.”
For The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold profiles Shane Claiborne, an evangelical activist whose faith is driving his calls for gun reform. In March, Claiborne and one of his friends published Beating Guns, which highlights white evangelicals’ promotion of gun culture. Griswold writes, “Claiborne believes that conservative culture often conflates Christianity and nationalism, placing, as he puts it, ‘the American flag above the cross.’” Griswold adds, “According to Claiborne, many evangelicals imagine Jesus in their own image, ‘as a white, middle-class Republican’ who shares their interests and fears.”
The Associated Press’s Gemunu Amarasinghe writes that the Sri Lankan fishing town of Negombo is in mourning after a church there was bombed as part of a coordinated attack on a half-dozen churches and hotels across the country. At least 110 people were killed at St. Sebastian’s Church, a Catholic church in a town that has been called “Little Rome” for its many churches and tightly knit Catholic community. Amarasinghe writes, “On Monday, many people came to pray in the garden outside the church, gathering at a statue of St. Sebastian, an early Christian martyr who was riddled with arrows during Roman persecutions.”
POLITICO’s Renuka Rayasam and Dan Goldberg report, “Republican legislators across the country are rallying behind President Donald Trump’s efforts to link Democrats with ‘infanticide,’ daring Democratic governors to veto ‘born alive’ bills animating the party’s base before the 2020 elections.” They write, “Bills approved by GOP-run legislatures in Montana and North Carolina this week would penalize health care providers for failing to care for an infant who survives an abortion attempt.” Many Democratic lawmakers argue that the law already prevents doctors from killing babies, and these bills only work to make political statements or discourage doctors from offering abortions.
The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan, Michael Birnbaum, and James McAuley report on the aftermath of Tuesday’s fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which according to officials probably started accidentally. They write, “The church’s trademark steeple, part of the Parisian skyline since the mid-1800s, had been swallowed in the flames.” They add that, according to Culture Minister Franck Riester, “firefighters had been able to save the church’s two most hallowed relics: the crown of thorns said to have been worn by Jesus and a tunic of Saint Louis, a 13th-century French king.”
For The Nation, Stephanie Russell-Kraft writes that a group of activists who provide water, food, and search-and-rescue missions to migrants on the Mexico–U.S. border is using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to defend themselves in court. Zaachila Orozco, a member of the organization No More Deaths, says that her deeply held religious beliefs drive her to help migrants. Russell-Kraft writes, “RFRA stipulates that the government can’t substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if that burden comes from a general law that has nothing to do with religion.”
The Associated Press’s Melinda Deslatte reports, “The white man charged in the burnings of three Louisiana black churches faces a mountain of evidence tying him to the crimes, documenting the fires on his cellphone and an interest in arson on Facebook, the state fire marshal said Monday at a hearing that offered new insight into how officials tracked their suspect.” Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy who was arrested on Wednesday, faces both arson and hate crime charges for allegedly using a gas can and oil rags to set fire to the churches.