Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Winners Never Quit...

If you've been living under a rock, you may not have heard about Anne Rice's decision to quit Christianity. While she remains committed to following Jesus Christ, she has, it seems, had enough of the homophobia and rank idiocy which appears to have infected much of what is most visible in the faith.

More power to her, says I...

...except one teensy little problem: Ms. Rice is making the common and understandable mistake of equating the loudest and stupidest segment of Christianity with the whole. And while, yes, all Christians share responsibility for coexisting with what I call the "FundieLoons" (and what John Scalzi so aptly calls "Leviticans"), the fact is that the part does not equal the whole.

Anne Rice said, specifically,
"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."

I refuse to be all of those things to, vehemently. I'm still a Christian, though. In fact, I can introduce you to many Christians who similarly refuse to be all of those things, yet still embrace Christianity.

Anyone who has read or heard "The Sermon I'll Never Preach" knows that I think the organized church is broken, and badly so. I cannot, however, begin to imagine that the most effective way to promote growth and change in an organization is by telling said organization to sod off.

You can leave a church, yes. I have done so.

You can disassociate with a given theological position. I have also done so.

Ultimately, you can decide to quit organized Christianity altogether, and still operate within a framework of change. Many in the Emerging Church movement have done just that, and already the seeds of reconstruction are germinating within that loosely-defined system of association.

Choosing to eschew the whole of Christianity, though, leaves one with no framework, no reference point, no language, no template whatsoever; it becomes an effort much like dancing to architecture. Want to read the Scriptures? Thank Christianity for their existence. Want to pray? Thank Christianity for knowing how. Want to use language to describe your understanding of Christ, and how Christ relates/interacts/exists within creation, and within the Trinity (or, if you're so inclined, doesn't)? Thank Christianity for that language.

Worse, to me, is how, following the attention given to Ms. Rice's proclamation, it's suddenly becoming the "in thing" to "quit Christianity for Christ." I wonder if all of those on the bandwagon understand what they are saying: are you eschewing the organizational structure, or rejecting the whole of the historical and theological faith tradition?

If the former, you're not quitting Christianity, you're becoming Emerging or Emergent or an Outlaw Preacher or, I don't know, maybe a hermit. If the latter, you are doing the equivalent of quitting breathing for oxygen, or quitting eating for food. Does Christ exist independent of Christianity? Of course he does. However, without the current fellowship of believers, and the millenia of people of faith sweating out the details, we cannot - that's right, sports fans, I said cannot - competently or coherently comprehend Christ.

That alliteration was completely accidental, but I'll keep it.

Look, I know, from experience, what it is to be hurt by a church, and to some degree to be hurt by The Church. I won't bore you with details, because I suspect you really aren't interested (and the stories aren't all that compelling anyway). All I am saying - all I am saying - is that words mean things, and I contend that most, if not all, of those claiming to be "quitting Christianity for Christ" are using inaccurate language.

The danger of all of this is simply that for someone of influence (and everyone has influence) to quit the faith may encourage others to reject both Christianity and Christ, and those "quitting" because it's the trendy thing to do are walking dangerously close to James 1:8 territory.

Take care that you mean what you say, friends.

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