“I’ve stood in a sanctuary singing songs I didn’t feel like singing, pretending to agree with a political ideology I no longer agreed with, praying to a God I wasn’t sure I believed in anymore. It whittles down your spirit, a little at a time, until one day you realize it’s not you going to church anymore, but some ghost of you, some cardboard cutout you send out to maintain the status quo, to keep up appearances. The sense of isolation is profound, palpable.” —Rachel Held Evans
Last Saturday afternoon my husband and I decided it was time to go out and do something fun. I excitedly bounced up the stairs to shower, absently checking Twitter on my way. What I saw stopped me cold. A tweet that Rachel Held Evans had died. I couldn’t breathe for a second. That can’t be right. I kept scrolling, and tweet after tweet said the same thing. I checked her website, where her husband had been posting updates on her recent illness, to confirm. It was true. I stood around listlessly for a bit, momentarily frozen in that space where you know this really happened but are unable to yet accept it.
I haven’t much profundity to add in the wake of this tragedy. The outpouring of grief, tributes, and love showering down is rich, beautiful, and right, with much of it written by people who interacted with her personally and followed her work more closely than I. I just wanted to say that I read her first book in my own deconversion process – then titled Evolving in Monkeytown, later republished as Faith Unraveled – and found it helpful. I am one of so many.
While she and I (and countless others) endured similar processes of initial doubting and rethinking so-called Absolute Truths from our comparable childhoods raised in evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity, we ended up in very different places. Rachel held on to her faith, whereas I did not. She became a valiant, steadfast force tackling the racist and patriarchal abuses prevalent in evangelicalism, whereas I make dick jokes on a food blog. Since my path diverged from hers, I didn’t follow her blog all that closely or read any of her subsequent books. I did, however, respect the hell out of her. She and her work never left my radar, and while a lot of the specifics didn’t directly apply to my life, I passionately applauded and waved pom-poms from the Nones’ Cheering Section.
Society needed a Rachel Held Evans, a beautiful soul who was strong enough and willing to take on that much-needed fight and give voice to everyone who had been abused, manipulated, and hurt by a corrupt, authoritarian, and very powerful system. To give cover and reassurance to everyone who just couldn’t do the math anymore, who felt their childhood faith slipping away from them, not the other way around. Rachel understood that. More importantly, she wasn’t afraid to talk about it.
I loved her first book. I loved reading it. It charmed my socks off. It was one of the first times I felt heard. She gave that to so many people. And now she is gone. It’s a senseless tragedy, a horrible injustice, and nothing can make it right. I am one of many who owe her a debt of gratitude. Her untimely, shocking death leaves a giant hole that will never be filled. What is left to say, except that it’s just not fair.
- 3 lbs. Boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Warmed tortillas, for serving
- Salsa, lime wedges, and cilantro, for serving
- Place the pork pieces in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt, and enough water to barely cover the meat. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Do not touch the meat.
- After 2 hours, turn the heat up to medium-high, and while occasionally stirring, continue to cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered.
- When the pork has browned on both sides and is starting to break down if you’re not careful with it, it’s ready. Taste and add salt if necessary.
- Serve cubed, or shred if desired, in the warm tortillas and garnish with salsa, cilantro, and squeeze lime over if desired.