September 12, 2010

What is Christianity?

I have really avoided the Anne Rice story. If you don't know, she came back to her faith after years and then just recently suggested that she was leaving institutional Christianity even as she remains a Christian by belief. She found the anti-gay sentiment among so many Christians finally too much to bear, including a "Christian" punk band that evidently believes that gays should be executed--a band that Michelle Bachmann supports.

Rice's resignation from institutional Christianity has elicited a lot of responses--including, I believe, some like my friend Greg who found her response naive. Did she really not know that the conservative church was this bad?

But others, including me, see her as a fellow traveler who is just simply repulsed by the co-opting of a faith that has some real meaning. How in the hell did an itinerant preacher who reached across racial and class and very importantly, gender, boundaries become the patron saint for the gated community of anti-feminist, anti-Muslim, Republicans connected to power and wealth? How the hell does that happen?

Michael Rowe suggests that Rice is actually exhibiting Christian values and notes that what the right is doing is deadly to the faith of Christ:
"Still, it is possible to murder faith.

You murder faith same way you murder love: one bruise at a time, with small, daily cuts, with grinding contempt, with neglect. You murder faith by exposing it to bullets inscribed with Bible verses that kill Afghan and Iraqi children. You murder it by separating an elderly lesbian couple in a hospital because their union is considered 'unnatural.' You murder it by linking it to greed, to the 'God wants you to be rich' movement which marinates in loathing for the poor and needy, in defiance of Christ's commission to care for them, then call it 'good for America.' You murder it by exposing it to any number of atrocities wrapped up in an inviolate nationalism that claims divine authority as its basis, with no room for dissent, and no mercy for dissenters. You murder it with self-righteous, violent militarism, with intolerance, with lack of compassion, with lack of humility and, most importantly, with lack of humanity.

It dies a little bit more every time a gay or lesbian teenager commits suicide because they've been taught to hate themselves because God 'loves' them but hates what they are."
Our friend, Natalie (where we found this story, btw) agrees and notes sadly:
"Pretty soon there will be so many people who are this disappointed with institutional Christianity that we will outnumber those who consider themselves still in the fold, if not already. I say "we" because I haven't found a church community yet and am still feeling pretty disillusioned with Christianity-with-a- capital-C."

Yeah. That is me too.


Anonymous said...

What about the Church of Christ, or the Unitarians. They still claim to be Christians. Well, maybe only some Unitarians still pretend they are Christians. And what about the Lutherans, and the Episcopals? The point is that there are lots of liberals who say they are Christians, and who welcome homosexuals; are even these liberals too conservative for Anne Rice and Streak?

If you can't find an existing group you want to join, start your own. America has about everything when it comes to religion. You could call yourselves the "Christian Fellow Travelers", or the "Unbelieving Christians"; I doubt if those names are taken.

Streak said...

So for you, Anon, Christianity is only really defined as hating gays?

Or do you perhaps ask yourself WWJD? And then act as if Jesus was an asshole?

Anonymous said...

I was just trying to help. You seem to be having a problem finding some "Christians" that you feel comfortable with, and I was offering suggestions. And you are the one who brought up homosexuality in your post. I just figured that was important to you.

Streak said...

Right. You tell me I am an unbeliever because of my post. Yeah, you are just trying to help. Oh, and the post listed all sorts of issues, like Christians inscribing bullets with verses, ignoring the poor, etc., but all you focused on was gay rights. Yeah, I believe in gay rights. And yeah, I believe that Christians are supposed to love their enemies. And yeah, I believe that Christianity is incompatible with abject wealth and ignoring poverty.

But you claim to be a Christian who clearly hates all of your enemies and loves to mock them--just like most conservatives that I run into (with some exceptions). Somehow you align yourself with Christ even though there is no way he would act like that.

Continue to be an ass here and I will just delete your comments. I am tired of conservative trolls--they tend toward the racist and all of them have been stupid. You have one shot to prove me wrong.

Monk-in-Training said...

While I am a true believer in the Mystical Body of Christ that is the Church, complete with Apostolic Succession et al, I do not think the visible Church on earth can ever be without sin or imperfections.

Ms. Rice can leave the human institution of the Church, but as long as her heart belongs to Jesus, she is my sister, as you are, Streak.

Conservative politics is ripping at the fabric of our culture and the Church has foolishly lead the way.

I really like this statement from a Southern Baptist Dean, know hope!

"Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it."

Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Anonymous said...


Do you claim to be a Christian? Whether you claim to be, or not, isn't it unfair to demand of others what you won't do yourself? It seems to me that the only thing you show your enemies is contempt.

In the New Testament, there are several endorsements of marriage between a man and a woman. There is also condemnation for sex outside of marriage(adultery and fornication). There is also condemnation of homosexuality. And no indication that same-sex marriage is allowed. I'm curious then as to why you believe in "gay rights" when the Bible indicates that God does not?

As far as wealth and poverty go, if you believe that the government should take property from some people and give it to others who the government regards as worthy of it, and you believe they should do that because it is the Christian thing to do, how do you maintain the separation of church and state while advocating government policy based on religion?

Streak said...

Well, Anon, for one thing, I don't go to other people's blog anonymously, and tell them that they are not the believer they claim to be.

I am sorry you think that I only show contempt. I think you would find that those who are genuine people actually wanting to have dialogue are treated with respect. Those who come in anonymously and call me names, or accuse me of converting to Islam because I defend peaceful Muslims? Not so much. Should I respond to them with more grace? Probably.

As for the policy questions you ask, I have addressed many of these before, but here is a short version. I understand that many in the Bible oppose gay relationships, but many of us believe that reflects the same cultural bias that also leads many Christians to put women in a second class. That NT understanding of homosexuality is not one of respect and monogamy.

And you should note, I don't get angry at my fellow believers who still think that homosexuality is wrong. I have many friends and family who believe that way. But I do get angry at the homophobia and outright hostility. This story discussed a "christian" band who wants the death penalty for being gay. That is more than disagreeing with their lifestyle.

As for the poverty, I think that Christians need to do more about poverty--and certainly believe that they need to think about what that same New Testament says about wealth and power, but I don't want better poverty programs and taxation because of the Bible. I want those programs because I think they are the better public policy and that when we addressed poverty and invested in education, infrastructure and health, we had the largest middle class in history. Since we have decided to cut back, we have seen the poor rise and the middle class shrink.

There. I have responded to you thoughtfully. Are you going to join in as a thoughtful commenter here or remain anonymous and hostile?