Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Brace yourselves; here comes the C-word and the J-word, not to mention the R-word.

Popular author Anne Rice has “quit” Christianity. On her Facebook page last week she wrote:

“Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out…I remain committed to Christ as always, but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

And this morning in my inbox I discovered a stunning response in the form of an article in Salon magazine, from Lily Burana, who has chosen to stay and fight. She wrote:

“Religion can be freighted with heartache, disappointment, uncomfortable adjustment and the dreary slog through the vale of tears. But I believe we can fashion the pieces of a broken heart into a new shape of belief. I’d rather endure the contortions of worship than suffer the bone-dry refuge of refusal or a spiritual life half-lived.”

Here’s the link to the article.

Some time ago, with the blessing of The Center for Progressive Christianity, I created a Facebook page, wanting to spread the word about this group’s work and resources. If you are one of those, like me, hanging in there with Christianity, you may wish to check it out. This month’s articles at www.tcpc.org are about Anne Rice’s decision, people who consider themselves SBNR (spiritual but not religious), the new atheists, interfaith – innerfaith, and more.

As an infant, I was baptized in the Universalist Church (in the 1960s it merged with the Unitarian Church, to form Unitarian Universalism). Although I trained as a UU minister, I am not firmly planted in a UU church, nor am I a free-floating follower of Jesus, but rather someone with more than one spiritual home. This is distasteful (bordering on heretical) to many people calling themselves Christians, but my religious experience is not a “spiritual life half-lived;” it is expansive and broad, as well as deeply rooted. I like to think it’s the way Jesus lived, breaking bread with all kinds of people, while intimately knowing his Source. Community is important to me; if I cannot find it, I gather with others and  help it grow. And I see this happening all around me. Community ministry. Yup. That’s what I do.

Comments on: "To Stay or Go ~ Spiritual Communities & Community Ministry" (12)

  1. Hi Katharine,

    We did hit the same topic at the same time :)

    I think the fibre art looks great!

  2. Tanya Avakian said:

    Thanks for this. I didn’t know about Anne Rice.

    Anne Rice is an interesting case because she’s been as on and off as Sinead O’Connor, hasn’t she? She was almost born again for a while in the last decade. In fact a lot of people took her religious fiction relatively seriously. I’ve a feeling she’ll be on and off for the rest of her life, like Sinead. Though she might not call it that.

    In some ways Christianity will always be the most painful choice, because the tensions it seeks out in us are so great. There are times I think human beings are not up to the tension and should do something easier. But then I think we’re stuck with them and they are the connection with what is of God, and we know life comes out of pain, after all. So that on and off, and giving up and going on, seems almost intrinsic to Christianity.

    • Tanya,
      I really know next to nothing about Anne Rice, having been unaware of her until this flap began.
      You are right about Christianity. It speaks to and of Life in all its messy and painful glory. Your remarks about on and off being intrinsic to Christianity are thought-provoking; I’d never thought of it that way. Historically speaking, it would be interesting to find that trend in the writings of theologians, monks, mystics, etc. I believe! Help my unbelief!
      Thanks for your comment!
      Katharine

  3. Tanya Avakian said:

    Yes, that. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” The things that bring us to believe also tempt us not to, and vice versa. It’s true in all traditions, but that “I can’t go on, I must go on” effect seems particularly intrinsic to Christianity.

    It puts childbirth at the center, after all.

    Anne Rice isn’t one of the writers I follow; I tried a couple of her books when she was more a cult figure than a mega-star, and thought that she has an interesting mind but I find her unreadable. That’s still more or less where I am with her. So I never tried any of her explicitly Christian books when she became somewhat noisily born again ten years ago or so, but I’ve seen people reading them who aren’t stupid. I’m almost more interested in them now–what pulled her in and what the difference is now, if any, in who she is.

    She may have had a rougher time than most because she had a huge line in supernatural fiction, indeed she was one of the founders of the modern vampire fiction genre and probably the most important person to start with in using it as a way to write about gay men. I can imagine that a lot of people got to work on her in a big way to be a full-time penitent.

    But it’s hard for people in the public eye to choose their faith community, in general. Especially now. Such a lot of pressure to be one thing or another.

  4. I love the way you speak out in favor of us who simply want to Love one another without a bunch of labels.

    Thanks for a life time of representating the “human” side of our human race.

  5. Liked this post, I’m a UU Christian, which many people find to be an oxymoron. However, I agree that believing that following Jesus’ teachings and believing in the Unity of God are not mutually exclusive claims.
    I also believe that for faith of any kind to be plumbed in any depth, community is vital, to keep us grounded and to help us soar.

    Perhaps Anne Rice should check out some UU churches that have a Christian orientation?? Never good to throw the baby out with the bath water….

    • Thanks for your comment. It has been my experience that there are relatively few UU churches with a Christian orientation. There is the UUChristian Fellowship, however, and some UU churches have small groups of Christians who meet on a regular basis.

  6. Tanya Avakian said:

    katmon1, I don’t know why Anne Rice didn’t try another denomination but the impression I have of her is that she’s culturally strongly Catholic, so it might be easier for her to say she doesn’t want to practice organized religion than to join a differently defined Christian faith. Catholics have this in common with Jews. If one takes on another religion, it’s likely to be something like Rastafarianism (Sinead O’Connor) or Buddhism or the like, which is easier to do in a “both-and” rather than an “either-or” spirit. At this particular time in history, it would send an extremely strong anti-Catholic message to join another Christian church, and I think she doesn’t want to do that.

    This is only one opinion, but I have hung around the UU church as an observer for most of my life and find that in the past 20 years, it’s been less easy to declare oneself as Christian or interested in Christianity there. There’s been more of an attitude that Christianity is not a positive, unless it’s a denomination like Quakerism that has a lot in common with Unitarianism. I don’t know if it is strictly fair to say that UUs are anti-Christian; I think it’s perhaps more that there’s much more of a perceived political divide now between the kind of people who gravitate toward Unitarianism and some high-profile forms of Christianity. Progressive Christianity has fallen somewhat off the cultural radar screen. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it has less of a public voice.

  7. Thanks Katharine. I also did not know about Ann. As a cradle Catholic I continue to find my conscience drawing me elsewhere. Scary, but gradually freeing.
    I’ve always tried to think of myself as constantly “becoming” a Christian as Jurgen Moltmann spoke of. Saying “I am” a christian is stagnate. The “I believe, help my unbelief” mantra is what helps make the becoming…or not becoming as the case may be, possible. Thanks!
    Chris

  8. natureloversunited said:

    I am so behind in reading this blog and in posting but here is my take. Perhaps I am a little bit of a cynic but I have to question the reality of things when a well-known author suddenly makes a public change in their system of belief’s and then publishes works which fit their new found revalation. Perhaps I question the motivation and wonder if anything really changed or if it is a ploy to sell copy. I obviously can’t know her heart and I hope that her intentions are honorable and sincere. She’s the one who has to live with it. As for me, I do understand how belief’s shift as I have done so many times myself. Obviously however I am not well known nor am I pounding the pavement and screaming from the rooftops about how I have evolved in my path. I see it as a personal thing but one which I will gladly share with anyone who wishes to listen. I have not nor will I ever make a public appeal and shove the details of my life and my faith down anybody’s throat. In my cynicism I have to wonder the necessity of being so bold.

  9. Tanya Avakian said:

    To natureloversunited: I confess to having some sympathy with your viewpoint at least now and then–that when high-profile practitioners of a religion leave in an equally high-profile way, not to mention making statements such as “leaving Christianity for Christ,” they’re being a bit unfair to many of the rest of us because they identify “Christ” with whatever they personally find outside, and those of us who aren’t rich, famous or powerful have no hope of being identified with those things just by being us. I think sometimes it would put less pressure on the many people negotiating compromises “inside,” wherever they find it, if a person who finds she just can’t go to church anymore, act as a public spokesperson, etc., would settle for practicing what they do believe in a more private, nondenominational way and let others make their own decisions likewise. I respect what Anne Rice has done because I think she’s making a point about the absence of a strong progressive voice within Christianity today, and the need to start having conversations about both the sticking points and also about how much does not have to do with the sticking points of today–it IS going to look somewhat different fifty years from now–but the way she has made it tends to marginalize the very people her viewpoint needs. (By which I don’t just sentimentally mean “the good ‘uns,” with the idea that their views wouldn’t be out of place at a folk music concert, but people all across the board who are prepared to recognize others all across the board as human beings.)

    On the plus side, she has responded very graciously on her Facebook site to anyone who’s addressed her decision in even a halfway intelligent way, and has overall shown herself, here as elsewhere, to be a person of real goodwill, if a bit eccentric. I’m glad she hasn’t given up on Christ, if she doesn’t trust human institutions to represent Him anymore.

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