“At the very least it would mean something about every day, to the best of my ability, resisting being a fake. Resisting the fake answer, the false front, the superficial conversation in favor of something more deeply human, more deeply connected to what really matters about being alive, whether it sounds religious or spiritual or correct or not. It means worrying less about being perfect and being concerned more with being authentic or real with other people. Much of the religion I was schooled in was about putting myself away, aside, behind me in order to become something holier and closer to God. In other words, to draw nearer to the Really Real I needed to be less me. Perhaps it was a mid-life revelation or just wearing out on that that led me to a different understanding that my humanity was God’s chief gift to me and that if I was going to find the Really Real it was going to be within that and not separating myself from that. It meant that the holiest thing I could be was the flawed human being God had made me to be.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)
Quitting Christianity a la Anne Rice: a Manifesto of sorts
I’ve gotten angry with religion quite often lately. Like being part of a nation or state which also angers you because of their stupid policies and marginalizing of certain groups, finding your religion consistently betraying its preached principles is very disheartening. And although I’ve claimed atheism at various times in my life, I can never willfully give up that part of me that convinces me personally through experience a belief in a Divine Will that operates in/throughout/above/below the Universe. Many times I throw my hands up in despair and say, “No more of this bullshit for me!” Yet, I always come back.
Anne Rice has gotten a lot of flack lately for quitting Christianity. Some say that quitting Christianity is not possible. I would agree with the semantics of that. If you believe Christianity is an institution, you can quit it. There are differing definitions of “church” although I believe the church is made up of Christians no matter where they are. Others are in agreement with her and have come out of their religious institutions as well. We all agree that the polarization Christians (and all religions) cause when they insist on following this or that dogma, tenet, doctrine, or “prophetic” saying are the prime motive for our coming out. On her Facebook page, Rice has posted the various responses and there are so many that I can’t single out just one. However, I can say that I agree with her 100%.
When I became a Christian, I was not evangelized nor did I “come forward” in an alter call at a church. I had my own experience of Jesus and “God” on my own time and in my own way through personal prayer and from reading parts of the new testament. The Divine manifested itself to me in terms I could understand. It just happened to be in Jesus’ form. My first mistake after this experience was searching out a church where I could meet with fellow believers and connect with others and perhaps compare notes about our experiences. That would have been great, had it stopped right there. Unfortunately, becoming part of a community such as that seems to imply that others can become your moral compass and tell you what you can and cannot do and what you can and cannot believe. This got me wondering what the church is for then. Is it primarily a place where others can compare experiences or is it a club where only those who pay the right amount or who follow all the rules others laid down for us by others, away from the secular world and all its contaminates? Is it supposed to welcome all who wish to come to it or is it primarily set up to exclude? You will find as many explanations as there are religious sects, so nothing can be decided either way. What’s left is the kind of individualism that Rice espouses and that church leaders so despise. It is fundamentally a lack of faith in people to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons. I think it’s time we grow up from that.
Church leaders argue that Jesus set up these rules, but of course there is no evidence of this. The bible cannot even be counted on to accurately record the words of Jesus or to set down the history of the church without those, who happened to win the power play of sects back then, redacting those portions that came down to us ahead of time. The one thing that convinces me that religions as practiced in the world are not absolute truth is due to the confusing witness provided by the varied sects, churches, religions, and practices throughout the world. None are in agreement. If such dogmas were ABSOLUTE TRUTH, there would be consensus about these issues and there is not. Individualism is the only answer here. Actions such as peace, simplicity, and love are its evidence. What I think these so-called leaders fear most is being out of a job! Do they not think that a Divine Will can’t accomplish what it wants with or without us?
My individualism imposes no belief on anyone. My individualism does the most good and spends my money where I see fit. I don’t funnel funds through the church and expect it will go where I want it to go. I send it directly. I don’t evangelize nor do I believe every believer called to do that. This thinking is only an institutional tool to garner the most numbers. In this day and age, it isn’t necessary to evangelize. The information is out there. It’s up to the Divine to speak, not me. Much like the Religious Society of Friends, I believe in the Light that is in every person. This is the Light of God and it has to be trusted that whoever or whatever Divine Will is accomplishing in the world, what is accomplished is what is meant to be accomplished. The church as a traditional institution has done irreparable harm in the world by not trusting this concept. They believe “truth” is funneled through authority and hierarchy. Judaism and Islam share in the harm done and in believing in imams, priests, prophets, or “special” people. The “big three” have a lot to answer for and I’m not going to blindly follow the herd and say “They told me to” because they claim authority over me. My only authority is my conscience informed by my spirit, however that comes to me (brain, soul, outside me, whatever), through a community I choose, if I choose, and through information garnered from experts in other fields; scientific, religious, or otherwise. Therefore, I will stand or fall on my own decisions, no one else’s.
- Anne Rice Further Explains Her Break Up with Christianity (beliefnet.com)
- Fallout Following Anne Rice’s Decision To Quit Jesus Fanclub [Christ The Lord] (jezebel.com)
- Anne Rice On Her Decision To Quit Christianity (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Anne Rice Quits… (beliefnet.com)
- Anne Rice Quits Christianity (firstthings.com)
Already and Not Yet
Some time ago I “wrestled” with my own angel. Today, I found Jessica wrestling with hers. Serendipity happens. It’s lighter and more fun than “shit happening” because it makes you stop and think about what you are doing and which direction you are going. As a former fundie and one who know works in a church that follows the lectionary, I’ve often wondered what purpose the lectionary served. To me, my Baptist roots were showing when I screamed, “But it stifles the Spirit to confine biblical passages to ‘talking point memos’ from God!!” But Jessica’s post explains quite nicely why a little stifling of the Spirit might be a very good thing. Providing parameters and aiming for the long view seem very good and very reasonable things in Christianity. We all know that we are given to excess given the room. The problem with Protestant denominationalism is that we give ourselves so much room, we hang ourselves frequently! What started as a burst of freedom from the constraints of institutionalism and corrupt hierarchy turned into the Prodigal son wallowing in pig filth just because he can. Ok, overboard with the similies! But you get the idea.
The point of the lectionary is as Jessica points out; a discipline. She writes:
At any rate, the lectionary apparently disciplines the pastor into following a pattern of thought and understanding regarding hermeneutics within a community, and also tends toward discouraging the abuse of confusing passages on a credulous and vulnerable public.
That right there sums up why we need pastors to begin with. Shepherds to guide the wayward sheep. Unfortunately some shepherds are too busy boinking the sheep to guide us, but my question is, where are the good shepherds and how do we know them? Finding shepherds of integrity seems to be the search of the decades now. But we are so busy being sidetracked by these scandals to pay any attention to the work Christians are supposed to do. I’m included in that lot called the “sidetracked.” I am so put off and scandalized by the shenanigans of the clergy that I want to swear off Christianity altogether. I mean, really, how do good Christian people stay and why? I suppose the answer is in staying with the person of Christ and not the institution. And this brings me to what I discuss with my partner all the time; what does that mean anyway? How do you stay with the person of Christ? How is that made possible? And where does that begin?
Now that’s a whole other series of questions entirely. Discuss.
Can’t Pin Me Down
Pinning me down to some coherent theology/philosophy/ism is like trying to wrestle a cat into a nice bath of warm water. Ever done that? Wrestle a cat, not pin me down! LOL. It’s down right impossible. The cat gets all squirmy and even scratches the hell out of your arms and hands; may even go for your head. So it is when I try to pigeonhole myself about what I believe. Changes daily. Like my undies. OK. TMI for a Thursday.
Came across some interesting arguments against PSA or in the evangelical world: Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Hey, I’m great with the penal part. That just invokes girlish giggling on my part, but a while back I wrote my best attempt at explaining this doctrine from a Baptist/Catholic point of view. Ever since then, I’ve come to realize that it’s the main bone of contention among believers and unbelievers. On this doctrine evangelical rises or falls. On this blog there are other good examinations of PSA. Check it out. I find it fascinating.
Can I Jump Ship Too?
Britishreg pointed me to this post by River that I totally missed on her blog. Most excellent exposition of something that I too have kept in the back of my mind. Hmmm. Bears thinking seriously about. Thanks Reg.
“The Errors of Inerrancy”
In all my searchings and wanderings and Christian/Agnostic days of reading and agonizing over the meaning of doctrines, dogmas, and scriptures I have rarely come across as succinct an explanation of why biblical inerrancy is wrongheaded as this post explains right here:
John Hobbins again rides out to rescue inerrancy. I remain unconvinced that the word is rescuable from the arid rationalism of the creationists and Baconian Enlightenment minded fundamentalists. The type of error they are so keen to declare scripture free of is actually often at the heart of the type of entirely different writing scripture often consists of. In a wooden-minded world where error means much more the sort of thing these writers and speakers mean, and where empirical fact is the only truth, I am inclined to think that we need, at the very least, to put the word into long-term storage, and use other language.
I note that John seeks to speak from his particular take on his Reformation heritage. I continue to think the reification of scripture as a word independent of and set over against the church, rather than a vehicle of God’s activity to, in, and through his church, which John expresses in relatively eirenic ways, is a problematic inheritance. It encourages the kind of mindset that ascribes inerrancy to (non-existent) original autographs, but never explores the living nature of the texts to engage in their own re-interpretation, nor reads the internal dialogue of the canonical collection. (Doug Chaplin)
If I wrote a thousand words a day for a thousand days, I couldn’t come up with something as good as that. Excellent. The doctrine of inerrancy was the chief reason I could no longer have faith in the doctrines and dogmas of Christian fundamentalism. I find the topic endlessly fascinating because it does color your faith in one way or another. In fact, giving up inerrancy helped to cure me of belief in an object (the bible) over and above belief in a person (Jesus/Holy Spirit). For me, this is the test of true religion; do we believe more in the channels of Grace or do we believe in the Grace itself?
Thanks to Kay at her site for the link. There is another good post about this subject here.
Lent. Who Me?
I’ve always avoided giving up something for Lent. For me, it was a time when someone made some silly gesture about food. Lent, however, is merely a 40 day fast from something in sympathy with the 40 days Jesus was in the wilderness before beginning his ministry (Mark 1:12-13). Jesus also didn’t ascend into heaven until 40 days after his resurrection. Why 40 days?
Well, someone wrote somewhere that it takes 40 days to detox properly from anything. So, I’m detoxing from blogging for 40 days. Can I do it? Who knows? But I need to cleanse the soul of something and am not sure what. Perhaps I’m feeling superior in my thoughts? Perhaps I think what I have to say is important? Perhaps I’m less than generous in my comments. Perhaps I need to purge myself of the writing habit. Either way, 40 days isn’t going to kill me and I’ll probably find that not a ripple has been made on the Internet in my absence. Blessings!