An open letter to Rachel Held Evans

An open letter to Rachel Held Evans December 6, 2011

Dear Rachel Held Evans,

I have noted with righteous worry and sanctified dismay your disrespect for one of our cherished Christian institutions.

I refer, of course, to your recent criticisms of the Pious Online Open Letter. I had hoped that you would come to see the error of your ways so that I would not be forced to write this, but I see from this post, and then this one, that you have not repented. And so it grieves me deeply to have to write these words.

Your recent open letter of gratitude to Scot McKnight makes a mockery of the form. Gratitude? Heartfelt appreciation? That’s a perversion of this sacred tradition and it breaks my holy heart to see you stumble in this way.

Such sentiments of admiration, thanks and goodwill are not what Pious Online Open Letters are for. These letters exist so that we can make a show of our own piety, feigning reluctance and dismay while seething with passive-aggressive hostility and indulging in an intoxicating self-righteousness. Just as God intended.

By first criticizing and now undermining this time-honored practice, you degrade the very institution of the Pious Online Open Letter. It’s a slippery slope from there to the horrifying prospect of us Christians having to communicate directly through personal correspondence or even — heaven forfend — conversation.

I have tried such forms of communication and I assure you they are no substitute for a POOL. It’s very difficult to be nearly as tendentious, pretentious and disingenuous when communicating directly. And what would even be the point of such communication when there’s no larger audience? If I write someone a private, personal letter, who then would witness my extravagant exhibition of condescending lamentation?

Why, if more Christians were led astray by your advice and example, such ostentatious performances of self-congratulatory holiness might disappear entirely. And then where would we be?

Again, it saddens me to have been compelled to write this letter, but with deep sadness and a heavy heart, I realized I had no choice. Please remember, as the book of Proverbs reminds us, “the kisses of an enemy are deceitful, but faithful are the wounds of a fellow believer trying to drum up Web-traffic through pompous displays of sanctimony.”

In deepest humility and flamboyantly holy sadness,

Fred Clark


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