In which I try to capture a few thoughts from the messy middle of complicated legacies and navigating public grief
For those who don't know the backstory of that particular situation, THIS (https://www.vox.com/2019/5/7/18535272/rachel-held-evans-obit) was the original reported obit article that that unnamed publication had ready to go, written by one of its female editors, that was scrapped at the last second by the dudes in charge to shove in their horrible eulogy instead and BOY HOWDY when I tell you you did not want to see what that eulogy looked like in earlier drafts, if you think the published version was bad. One of the defining days of my life, faith, and career. I was on the receiving end of all the hate mail we got for it, and I heartily agreed with every single angry letter and sent them one by one to the men in charge to make sure they saw them. I'm still shaking and sick just thinking about that day. I'd already been applying and interviewing for other jobs for a year, but I got out as fast as I could after that. My only consolation is that the head editor who made that call and forced it through despite all of our objections was eventually investigated for a decade of sexism and harassment, (though, of course, not until he retired.) So not exactly consequences but at least validating that all the women who interacted with him and were treated that way weren't crazy or alone. I know that grief doesn't even begin to compare to the harm done by that bullshit tasteless sexist eulogy for those who knew her at the level Sarah and others here did, but fwiw, there were plenty of us women who were physically sick and horrified there in the office that published it as well, many of us devoted long-time fans of hers, especially knowing what that publication had meant to her, and all of the feedback we got was vindicating. So many times people never knew the pieces or even paragraphs in his articles we fought hard to kill before publication, but it was made clear we were not going to win this battle that day, and I will never forget that feeling when I see their name.
ANYWAY sorry, just had to give the behind the scenes now that I no longer have any reason to hold back. lol Hope that was cathartic for someone else to read as it was for me to write.
Completely unrelated to my other comment: I think when people compare them, we have to remember Rachel spoke out against Tim's theology plenty, and that's something to consider. If there's some king of a theological empire whose work we would want people to acknowledge the harm in after he is gone, don't wait. Speak out for love and justice today, build welcoming spaces for the hurting today, provide alternatives today. Don't wait to say "he was bad" until he is safely gone and can't fire back. And we don't even have to say it directly negatively about them if that's not our jam, just being and showing and speaking in ways that directly contradict patriarchical, exclusionary, queerphobic, unhealthy theology is being the change we want to see in the world. That's part of being "in the arena" and not just the critic in the stands, and it's how our stances actually mean something beyond being "hot takes." I want to live the kind of life Rachel lived, that people can't erase my stances down into some milquetoast "she was such a sweet lady" sainthood and have to wrestle with the fact that I held the door open too wide to be palatable to some, too boldly queer, too intolerant of bullshit, kind and generous and open to learning but never riding the fence to protect my platform. And god forbid, if marginalized people feel relieved when I'm gone or hurt by positive memorials, that's what failure would be to me.
As I said on Twitter over the weekend, this is probably the wrong takeaway from the doctrine of universal salvation, but: Since God has already forgiven Tim Keller for the harm he and his theology caused others, it’s not going to hurt him if I, in my all too human understanding, continue to give him serious side eye for that harm for a while longer… and, happily, God has already forgiven me for failing to forgive Keller in this moment, too.
This hits home in big ways. Somewhat with respect to "heroes" but also with the recent passing of my mother. I'm angry and sad. She was good and she was awful all at the same time. It's been hard to process her death and yet also easy. It's quite the paradox that I am working through.
I am also grieved by the legacy I was passed down of the church as judge, the church as hater, the church as abuser, the church as self-absorbed, the church as misogynist, the church as power hungry, the church as idol worshipper. And I look at myself, and wonder-- how much of my own behavior is from that legacy? It's hard. It's scary. But it's also freeing to understand this and to be removed from it and walking toward a healthy space and Jesus is with me--present and merciful.
Thank you for your major Enneagram-9 energy here! It's so needed.
Sarah - I will resort to some “F” words: you are FIERCELY FABULOUS!! The FELLOWSHIP you FOSTER is FANTASTIC. You are a FRAGRANT FLOWER in the sometimes desert of our hearts and lives. You FILL our spirits. I will always be a Sarah Bessey FANATIC.
Oh thank you, Sarah... for being so very true... for naming things I couldn't quite put my finger on... for "Yes. And..." and for allowing Love to be the energy that guides you. With gratitude and with honor for your ongoing grief.
IMHO, the best of Enneagram 9 is being a peacemaker, which means being a holy disrupter, a love leader, and a grace maker at the same time. You are doing here most beautifully. I was feeling complexity around posts I was seeing about Tim Keller's death- there was a time when his teaching felt important and impactful to me, and those I still know from that version of myself being on a church staff were posting about their sadness. But my current self couldn't decide how I felt about the "complicated legacy. Thank for articulating what was feeling off to me in such thoughtful ways.
I love this essay so much! The level of thought and processing involved, from a peacemaker's heart (ie enneagram 9) is evident and it is such good work. May I be more like you and mine the complexities of my thoughts and feelings as well as you do!
The importance of your message cannot be overstated. May we all take it to heart as we contemplate our own grief and that of others. The layers that are not what they seem, the complications that ensue, the extra heartbreak to navigate healing.
I was not acquainted with Tim Keller or his ministry but have seen a variety of opinions about him on social media, so I appreciate this thoughtful and nuanced reflection on his legacy - this is what we've come to expect of you, and it's why I take the time to read your words.
You're so awesome. What a terrific post. I have a large 'reformed' history and have spent half my adult life deconstructing and disentangling myself from those roots. As a result, I have many family members and friends who express their faith far differently than I now do. When we get together I make sure there's lots of room for wide U-turns when conversations end up in a swirling current. Switching to talking about the weather is an immediate no brainer. And lots of bathroom breaks.
It helps so much to read your words, since there is indeed so much conflict in remembering some of the heroes of complementarianism. Bless you!
Amen and amen. Formerly PCA, so this was helpful and gracious. I have prayed for his family this week while acknowledging that his doctrine was the outside "liberal" edge of the PCA that finally sent me running for the door. If this is liberal, Father help us.
As the mother of 12 adoptive children, I fully understand and accept that I am loved by some of them and hated by others. Thank you so much for this beautiful perspective that reveals it is not always an either/or situation, but it can be both/and.
And level 4 love and gratitude to you, too, Sarah. Thank you.