Thursday, August 12, 2010

Embarrassed by Christianity

In the last couple of weeks, there has been much conversation about Anne Rice’s repudiating “Christianity” … “in the name of Christ,” as she put it. [See her comments on July 28 and following.] On July 28, she wrote:

Anne Rice For those who care, and I understand if you don't: 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.
A few minutes later, she wrote:

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
I am quite sympathetic to the disgust that led her to that declaration and to flee the Roman Catholic Church … though I wish she had found the Episcopal Church before she wholly repudiated Christianity.

And we’ve all seen the news stories about the people who define themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”

Of course, many of you will remember those videos, modeled on the Mac vs. PC commercials, that distinguished “Christians” from “Christ-followers.” The “Christians” were the narrow-minded stuffed shirts, of course.

God knows, I can understand those moves. I am mortified by the “Christians” who are often quoted in the media when reporters want to find a “Christian’s” response to some current issue. Almost always, the “Christian” articulates the voice of judgmentalism at best and hatred at worst.

Far too many Americans have been led to believe that people and groups like Westboro Baptist Church or James Dobson articulate the views of Christianity in the U.S.

Very often, I observe this debate in myself: When discussions of religion arise outside a church context, I do not identify myself as a Christian. I identify myself first as an Episcopalian. And why? Because, in my view, the name of “Christian” is hideously identified with narrow-minded bigotry. When pushed further, I will also say I’m a Christian, but I generally hasten to add, “But I’m not that kind of Christian.” I know many of you regular readers have had similar experiences.

It seems to me that – for many people outside the church in this country – “Christian” and “Muslim” mean about the same thing: hate-mongering zealots who would just as soon kill those they perceive as infidels. One of which I am not, of course. Just tonight, I heard a Christian candidate for Congress talk about "taking those people out." Of course, that means "kill them."

Today I did some catch-up blog reading, and MadPriest pointed me to a new website: Tea Party Jesus. Each day, the author posts an historic image of Jesus, with words spoken by a current “Christian,” plucked from today’s headlines. And the irony is profound. When I explored that site today, I cringed at the words that supposed “Christians” speak in the name of Jesus.

Here's a sample from Tea Party Jesus.

Photo Credit

No wonder I want to hasten to say I’m “not that kind of Christian.” The Muslims have their jihadists. Likewise, we have our “Christianists.” Both are full of hate, rage, and condemnation … and perhaps even murderous zealotry. Both seem to want their opponents to die … actively or passively.

But how in the world can “my kind of Christian” invite people into our churches, invite them into the loving embrace of a God who loves them beyond their wildest imagining, invite them into a community that calls our whole selves, our souls and bodies [as the BCP puts it] into engagement with God?


Blogger PseudoPiskie said...

I haven't identified with "Christian" for years. I prefer to try to be a follower of Jesus.

8/12/2010 9:28 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Unfortuntely, we concur in that. It's rather a shame, isn't it?

8/12/2010 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel like religious stereotypes are the last acceptable stereotypes. We know it's not right to have and broadcast negative stereotypes of cultural groups, but thanks to the plethora of loud, hateful wackos we hear in the news or used to know, it's ok to think Christians as a group are hateful wackos. I have an endless supply of potential recipients of reconciliation ministry.

8/12/2010 11:08 PM  
Blogger IT said...

I find Rice rather precious, because she piously says she still believes in Jesus, just not Christiantiy.

WE all know that Christianity is not defined by the right wing, though they have managed to get that meme across. It;s a failure of progressive and moderate Christians not to fight back over that usurpation. But as for Rice, she's being a drama queen.

Aside from that, your points are spot on. The thing is, how do you get that narrative into the mainstream, and stop the media from considering that the right defines "christian"?

8/12/2010 11:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

But 8thSacrament, I don't think it's that the media or culture are perpetuating stereotypes, so much as that those right-wing Christians are louder and more engaged with the media. As IT points out, "we" have failed to get our own narrative into the mainstream.

That's one of the reason I'm so proud of the leadership of Bishop Kirk Smith (and others) in Arizona: They're making clear that Christians stand for justice and stand with the oppressed. And of Bishops Andrus and Bruno who have taken very public stands against the Prop 8 effort in California.

I think the Episcopal Church has been at its best when we've been leaders in justice movements that are rooted in our understanding of and obedience to God and those "two great commandments."

IT, your comment reminds me of the positive community you and BP have found at the cathedral, and the fact that you probably wouldn't have darkened the door of any church but for the "narrative" you heard on some of the Episco-blogs. Insights you want to share about that?

8/13/2010 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it's the media or culture's fault either. I think that the loud, hateful ones find a way to be heard while - for various reasons - our message of love isn't shared to the same degree. We get drowned out and the common stereotype becomes what you see on tv.

8/13/2010 7:35 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I agree. But I wonder why that is.

8/13/2010 10:32 PM  
Blogger Freda said...

I think that the more open and inclusive of us Christians have been too scared of offending others. We need to be prepared to speak out. Not always easy though. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

8/19/2010 1:57 PM  
Blogger IT said...

Actually, Lisa, our presence at the Cathedral has very little to do with the blogs.

in the wake of Prop8, the Cathedral hosted an ecumenical healing service. I was (as I was often doing then) stuck in LA, but BP went ot the Cathedral with a friend of ours, also a lesbian. BP had been deeply, deeply injured by the RCs at our wedding.

She phoned me up that night. "They asked all the married GLBT people to stand," she said. "They recognized me, in the church, as a married gay person."

Nothing to do with blogs. ALL to do with the people there making a difference.

8/21/2010 11:26 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for sharing your real story, IT.

Clearly, it's the real people in the cathedral who made BP feel welcome and supported.

My query was that your & BP's willingness to check out an Episcopal parish had to do with your welcome in the Episco-blogs.

But that's WAY secondary to the welcome and life you've found in BP's parish. I am grateful for that.

8/22/2010 12:12 AM  

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