Anne Rice Quits Christianity & Wolsey Comes Out.

Via Roger Wolsey
on Jul 30, 2010
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A news splash took place yesterday when popular author author Anne Rice, spinner of sexy vampire dramas, publicly renounced her Christianity.

In her own words: “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian … 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.”

..”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.”

She later stated on her Facebook page:

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

What makes all of this such a news splash is that it was just a few years ago that she announced that she was a Christian – and she’s one of the most popular writers on the planet.  And yet yesterday, she renounced Christianity.

I can totally relate to where Ms. Rice is coming from.  Even though I’m an ordained United Methodist pastor, I’ve found myself feeling wary of telling folks that I’m a Christian for fear of being associated with “those sorts” of Christians.  Tragically, many people under 45 years of age have come to associate the word Christian with “hateful, judging, exclusive, homophobic, and un-loving.” If that were actually what Christianity were about, I would want nothing to do with it either.

I fully support Ms. Rice and I wouldn’t change a hair on her head let alone her way of expressing, or identifying herself.   I just wish more folks knew that not all forms of Christianity are judging, excluding, damning, oppressive, or in any way hateful or unloving.   I wasn’t planning on coming out the Elephant community about this just yet, but Ms. Rice’s announcement forces the issue.  I for one refuse to allow the religious right to co-opt and monopolize the word Christian.  My name is Roger Wolsey and I am a Christian.

Because of my growing awareness of the challenges that people who love Jesus but who have a hard time liking Christians or Christianity, I have been writing a book which is less than one month from being completed – working title: “Kissing Fish: explorations in progressive christianity.”  The following is the Introduction:

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
as they sink into a poisoned pit that’s gonna take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now.

Mary Gauthier


What will be left when I’ve drawn my last breath
Besides the folks I’ve met and the folks who’ve known me
Will I discover a soul-saving love
Or just the dirt above and below me
I’m a doubting Thomas I took a promise
But I do not feel safe   Oh me of little faith
.  Nickel Creek

I believe, help my unbelief! Mark 9:24

I probably shouldn’t be a Christian.  And if you’re an early middle-aged Gen-X-er or a young adult Gen-Y “Millennial[1]” in America, you probably shouldn’t be either.  I say that I probably shouldn’t be a Christian because the odds were against it.  Few friends who went to high school or college with me, and even fewer of my more recent friends and acquaintances, currently identify themselves as being Christian and yet somehow I do.  Many of my peers were either not raised in “Christian homes” or were raised in the church but have since shifted away from Christianity toward other religions – or, mostly, to no religion.

This book is, in part, an attempt to understand and explain how I, a post-modern, politically liberal Gen-Xer, have come to b e an intentional follower of Jesus – who actually calls himself a “Christian.” My larger purpose is to share  the approach to the Christian faith that I’m inspired and fed by to people who may not yet be aware of this perspective and path – the approach of progressive Christianity.  I conducted an informal survey of young adults living in Boulder and without exception the persons surveyed had all heard of conservative Christianity yet only a small number had heard of “progressive Christianity.”  Based upon numerous conversations I’ve had with others in their twenties to early forties around the country (at various conferences, via telephone, email, internet bulletin boards, chat-rooms, as well as social networking sites) it’s clear to me that this is true across the nation.

The intended audience of this book is young adults who don’t currently identify as being Christian – or who do privately, but hesitate to let others know this about them because the word “Christian” has come to be associated with positions, attitudes and behaviors that they don’t want to be associated with.  Another group that this book will speak to are the multitudes who go to church and yet feel a disconnect and a gnawing sense of discomfort or dissatisfaction about it because they don’t agree or resonate with what’s often said from their church’s pulpit or in their Bible studies.  People who are active within the Church and trying to relate and connect with today’s younger generations will also benefit by exploring the ideas discussed within these pages.  Combined, this is a large audience indeed.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a theological education and I’ve thought a lot about God and Christianity.  I’m knowledgeable about what’s going on in various Christian churches, websites, literature, and so on.  I’m aware of what’s working, what isn’t, and what might work better for a growing number of people whose minds simply don’t “tick” the same way as older generations do.

If your only exposure to Christianity has been coming across those strident, fire-breathing, greedy, or overly sunshiney televangelists as you scan through the channels on TV; unwelcome knocks on your door from people who want to “save your soul;” or harsh exclusion and judgment from persons who claim to be Christians, it’s no wonder you’ve not been drawn to Christianity.  If your only experience of Christianity has been hearing about campaigns to support American imperialism or war, or to bring about a return to mandatory prayer in public schools, force public schools to teach “Creationism” in science classes, remove references to Thomas Jefferson from textbooks[2], or legally limit what people may do with their bodies and who they should love, it’s not a surprise that you haven’t entered the doors of a church.   And, if your only experience of Christianity has been with family members or neighbors who smother you with unsolicited religious pamphlets or cheesy forwarded email messages and patronizingly tell you that they’re praying for you for fear of you “going to hell” or being “left behind,” it’s no wonder you’ve not been much interested in Christianity.  Unfortunately, these forms of fundamentalist and conservative evangelical Christianity have so dominated the media and our nation’s attention that they’ve almost hijacked and monopolized Jesus, Christianity, and even the word “Christian” itself.

There are a lot of people who call themselves “Christians” who are judgmental, closed-minded and not the sort of folks most of us want to sit next to on a long plane ride.  There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians who seek to influence our political process with agendas that bolster our nation’s march toward militarily backed corporate imperialism.    There’s a lot of Christians who’ve been promoting repulsively archaic and anxious agendas that are homophobic and oppressive to women.  There are a lot of people who call themselves Christians who seem to turn off their brains as they shun the truth and insights of contemporary science.  There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians who are hypocrites who are just as caught up in our society’s exploitive and addictive materialism, consumerism, and greed as most everyone else is.  There are a lot of folks who claim to be Christians who don’t give a damn about global warming, or taking care of the environment, or addressing issues of war and social injustice because they expect to be “raptured up” into Heaven soon.  Such persons effectively believe that “since Jesus will be coming soon there’s no need for any of us to be concerned about or responsible for what’s going on here and now on the earth.”

I’ve met plenty of Christians who come across as selfish, unloving, and hypocritical and as not seeming to give a rip about the plight and needs of other people[3].  No doubt about it.  There are a lot of those kinds of folks.  I submit that they are by no means the majority, but they are loud and vocal and as far as the media seems to be concerned, Christianity has come to be pretty much equated with those ways and those kinds of people – as if those sorts of Christians speak for all Christians and all of Christianity. If those were the only ways of being Christian, I wouldn’t want any part of Christianity either.

Happily, there are other ways of being Christian – thank God!  This book explores a certain approach to the faith that a surprising number of people aren’t familiar with and don’t know about, but probably would like if they did – the approach of Progressive Christianity.

If you’re someone who likes Jesus and his teachings but you don’t really want to be associated with “Christianity” or “Christians” and so you’ve decided to check “Spiritual but not Religious” on your Facebook, Myspace, or Match.com profiles, or if you’re someone who resonates with, or actually owns, any of the following bumper-sticker slogans:

“Christian – not closed minded”

“I like Jesus, it’s his followers who I can’t stand”

“Lord protect me from your followers”

“One nation, many faiths”    “Prays well with others”    “Coexist”

“My Karma ran over your Dogma”    “Hate is not a family value”

“God bless everyone.  No exceptions.”    “Straight, but not narrow”

“I love my Church but I think we should start seeing other people”

or if you like the idea of seeing both the Darwin fish and the Christian fish emblems kissing each other on the back bumper of the same car, or if you simply think that Christianity ought to be more about love, grace, justice, and acceptance then this book is for you.

[1] Generation X refers to persons born between 1961-1981; Generation Y, 1982-2001

[2] Apparently, some folks don’t care for Jefferson having advocated for the separation of Church and State, see: Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change, James C. McKinley Jr., March 12, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html

[3] I can be selfish, unloving, judgmental, and hypocritical too.  But, with God’s help, I’m striving not to be – and hey, at least I can admit this.
—————

I realize that I may be swimming against the current, and that this may be too little too late.  I feel like the last of a certain tribe of Mochicans, but I am called to do what I can.  Who knows what God might be able to do with our modest efforts of daring to act on faith?

I’ll keep you all posted as things develop.

In Christ, namaste, peace, shalom, salaam, blessed be,

Roger Wolsey

—-

Wolsey is the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity


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About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity

Comments

69 Responses to “Anne Rice Quits Christianity & Wolsey Comes Out.”

  1. Roger Wolsey says:

    john, the book is out now! : )

  2. Godless says:

    Liberal xtians: Just as smug and deluded as their right-wing kin. How about more reason and less of this crap called "faith," which, as Mark Twain pointed out, means believing what you know is a load of bullshit?

  3. Roger Wolsey says:

    I love you Godless — and i'm not shittin' you.
    Peace.

  4. Cynthia says:

    Religious views aside, if there is one thing Roger is *not*, it's smug. Except perhaps when he has defeated his son in a game of chess, but then the smugness is minimal (and only because his son is quickly becoming the master of the game).

    In peace,
    Cynthia

  5. Carole says:

    Curious how you reconcile…. I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father, but thru me? I would like to hear the author's thoughts. Thank you.

  6. ann says:

    Happydog doesn't sound happy.

  7. Pamela says:

    Wow. Happydog is so angry. ugh. So sorry for whatever directed you to this path in life. Truly.

  8. Roger Wolsey says:

    Carole, from the book, "I’m a Christian who believes in God. I believe that God is good, alive, and well, and that following Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” However, I don’t think that everyone needs to be a Christian or that everyone has to think about or experience Jesus in the same way. Nor do I think that there is one right way for people to come to know Jesus and let him become a part of their lives." In short, I'd say that if anyone is living a life of compassion, grace, forgiveness, justice, mercy, and unconditional love they are living Jesus' way, living his life, and embodying his truth (whether or not they happen to claim to be Christians or have even heard of Jesus).

  9. […] with young adults in campus ministry. Increasingly, young people are falling away from Christianity – and in no small part because of the kinds of rhetoric and behavior exhibited by Mr. Driscoll. […]

  10. Dixie says:

    Emma, have you read the book? I am in the middle of it. In the book, but have also read some of Rev. Wolsey's blogs. He says on the webpage for his CU/Boulder worship community:
    Basics of Christianity: by Rev. Roger Wolsey
    Founder: Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth. Referred to as Jesus (the) Christ/Savior. Founded ci. 30-33 A.D. in the Judean province of Palestine under the oppression of the Roman Empire. Jesus didn't likely intend to start a new religion but to introduce certain reforms and emphases within Judaism. Jesus was a prophet, a healer, a holy man, a miracle worker, a counter-cultural radical, a reformer, a teacher, as much of God that can fit into human flesh, and O so much more! The Apostle Paul (formerly Saul) helped present the faith to the Gentile (non-Jewish) peoples and can be said to be a co-founder of the faith. and "The Holy Bible, written over many years, originally in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. 66 Books in the Protestant Bible, 18 more (the Apocrypha) in the Catholic version. Some Christians read it literally and some read it with more nuance (discerning allegories, metaphors, symbolism), but all view it as containing Truth and as inspired by God. Wesley Fellowship takes the Bible seriously, but not always literally." and more I would suggest that you read the book or attend one of the services at CU or read some of the Reverend's blogs before you judge so harshly. http://www.wesleyf.org/page13.html

  11. Dixie says:

    My very good friend (whom I met in college 30+ years ago) sent me Roger Wolsey's book and I am devouring it! It is saying SO much that I have thought over the years. Have had some weird experiences with judgemental so-called Christians (yes, I am spelling judgemental with an "E" because my British mother-in-law insists on that spelling.) Just really mean people. But I am not perfect, either. I have had a temper fit or two in my life!
    At Lent, began going to church after 6 years of enjoying communing with Nature. I was raised by an atheist & a deist. We moved 48 times b4 I turned 13. My father was a geological surveyor for the USGS. He mapped the Rockies, the swamps down south, all the coastlines, valleys, hills, rivers etc. in America. He also mapped Antarctica. He was NOT a kind father. He had fits of rage. I grew up in fear but LOVING nature. Nature was my kind-hearted friend.
    The summer of 1971 when I was 18, a couple of guys came to a coffee house in N. VA where my anti-war friends & I hung out. One guy had been in Rabbinical School when he read the New Testament. He was transformed ("saved") and quit Rabbinical School. Went on the road, preaching. Picked up a hitch-hiker. That guy had been a Hell's Angel. He got saved after hearing Brother Jim speak to him of God's love.
    When those men came into "our" café, I ran up to them and began screaming curses at them. Brother Richard (ex Hell's Angel) took my hand & said "sister, Jesus loves you." That night, my friends, sister & I attended a gathering at the Reston VA Baptist church where these guys spoke. I had a Dramatic conversion—the wildest sort of "Day of Pentecost" type thing where I had been just yelling curses & when Brother Richard put his hand on my head to pray for me, a HUGE shout came out of me & then out of everyone in the church. We all jumped up out of our seats & began dancing, singing, shouting Praises.
    I was not raised in a church at all, so this was out of the blue sky.
    The church was filled with anti-war protesters, hippies, regular Baptist church members and passers-by. The event was in the local paper as being strange. I went home & babbled out to my parents what had happened. Mom thought I was crazy. Dad said "that is exactly what happened to your grandfather."
    My grandfather had been an acrobat in a small Georgia circus. He & his pals decided to bother a tent revivalist & the congregation. The Revival had been going on for weeks. So they went, walked up the slack ropes, did somersaults in the aisles, juggled etc. Nobody stopped listening to the preacher. My grandfather's pals left but he stayed, listened. The pastor came up to him afterwards & said "Son, the Lord could use a boy like you." He offered a meal to my grandfather & they talked about God, Jesus, the life of a pastor. Grandpa became a minister after that conversion at age 18. My father lost his faith during the horrors of WWII but came back to being a believer about ten years after my conversion experience.
    I joined Bible study groups. Met great folks at college (Christian, Jew, Hindus, Muslims). Helped to found a coffee house for open dialogue, singing, discussion. It was a great time, despite working 3 jobs to put myself through college.
    When I moved to Boulder in 1982, I began attending 2nd Baptist Church. Got married, we both attended there. Loved that church. But we moved to Longmont & it's too far to go to 2nd Baptist. My husband works Sundays. I had been going to a church near our house but (LONG STORY) odd happenings there.
    So found a great church (Presbyterian) & am enjoying it a lot. Very happy to get this book (in the mail Yesterday) and to find webpages about it, with discussions. Peace Out!

  12. coNZervative says:

    Personally I find Rice a bit precious. It's easy (and somewhat sanctimonius) to lump most Christians in to a too hard basket, and liberate herself in to the one -all-seeing tolerant non-Church basket. The church -which I love and hate – is massive and diverse. It's full of saints and loonies. You can't sell in to the nay-sayers descriptions, because there is an Enemy who is a mocker and a reviler. I agree with much of what she says, but you can't generalise the Church (like it's anti-science, anti-feminists blah blah). Jesus says he loves the church and it's His. So, warts , loonies, intolerance and all, we have to work with that.

    Life outside the Church has no dibs on tolerance, enlightenment, intelligence and well-dressed lovelies. It's more like Mordor but run by an advertising agency. ~ John (Ex Anglican pastor, New Zealand).

  13. Roger Wolsey says:

    IMO, because Anne's still a believer, in and follower of, Christ, she's still a Christian — yet because she's no longer choosing to identify as a Christian, nor continue to be a part of a fellowship of believers, nor serving with nor communing with a congregation, she's opting to bear a smaller cross.

    Rather than giving up on the Church all together, I choose to participate in a progressive Christian congregation — it's a breath of fresh air.

  14. Elisabeth L. says:

    I am very excited to read your book. I was raised Quaker but it was not the right fit for me – I needed something more structured and "scared" yet still closely aligned with my social values. I joined the Episcopal church in my early 20's and found my "fit". I LOVE my brother and his partner. I adore by best friends who are a lesbian couple. I adopted a bi-racial child. I married (and divorced) a wonderful man who is Jewish. I am pro-choice and pro-family. I thank God every day for the blessings I have but at times I feel anxious to tell people I am a Christian. Thank you for helping to restore humanity and kindness to Christianity. I AM A CHRISTIAN!

  15. Elisabeth L. says:

    that would be sacred… not scared (interesting slip…)

  16. Celest Woo says:

    Thank you for your book, which I read cover to cover. A lot of it speaks to me very deeply, and your perspective is one that badly needs to be heard more, in these times filled with hateful Christians.

  17. Larry Logan says:

    Good Zen Fredric.

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