Religion is broken for many, but not faith
Author Anne Rice said last week that she was 'quitting Christianity:' The once-lapsed Catholic wrote that she was could no longer accept her religion's teachings on homosexuality, feminism, politics and birth control.
"In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian," Rice announced on her Facebook page.
Can you leave Christianity and keep Christ? Can you be spiritual without being religious?
Anne Rice's decision to quit Christianity in the name of Christ hardly represents an exit from Christianity. It would be like a Jew leaving Judaism in the name of God and Torah. In either case, the declaration is against what some, or even most, people identify as expressions of those traditions, but hardly constitute leaving the tradition behind.
If you keep Christ as the benchmark of your actions, I am fairly certain you remain a Christian. And I know that if you maintain God and Torah as your benchmark, you remain a Jew, even if others may not approve of your understanding of such benchmarking.
The truth is that there are lot's of ways of being Christian and at least as many ways of being Jewish. And it's equally true that there are now, as there have always been, people who confuse their way of being either with the only way of being them at all. They are entitled to their opinion, and perhaps they are right, though I don't think so, but it's a matter of historic fact that there are many ways of being part of either the Christian or Jewish traditions.
The real story with Ms. Rice's comments is the breakdown between the inherited definitions of terms like Christian, Jewish, religion and religious, and the lived experiences of people which do not fit into those inherited definitions. One option is to buy into the "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" game, but it may not be the best move to make.
Why surrender the terms Christian, Jewish, religion or religious to other people simply because they currently dominate the conversation? Whether such folks admit it or not, each of those terms has meant different things at different times, so why not now?
I think it would be more interesting for people to claim their "Christian'ness" or "Jewish'ness" or religiosity as they see fit and let those who oppose them deal with the fact that nobody deserves a monopoly on such big, important words.
Of course there are people who are done with Christ, Torah, etc. and they will have no use for such terms. But for people like Ms. Rice and the millions like her - people for whom much of what they call religion is broken, even though faith, passion, practice and commitment are not, I would encourage them to use the language of their traditions and create new understandings of these ancient systems. At the end of the day, that is precisely how these systems came to be.
Every religious tradition was once a novelty. The history of religion is the story of people living their faith in the present, while drawing on traditions from the past. In fact, that's how the future is most successfully created. So why stop now?
Posted by: APaganplace | August 4, 2010 12:36 PM
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Posted by: pmenkin | August 3, 2010 3:32 PM
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