"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Only because it's a topic I write about....

I have to say to Anne Rice: "Okay. Whatever."

What I'm tempted to say is: Christianity is not about you; and maybe that's the problem. Sure, it's a "quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group." But name me one group of human society that isn't. I understand you aren't "anti-gay...anti-feminist...anti-artifical birth control...anti-Democrat...anti-secular humanism...anti-science...or anti-life." Neither am I. I won't go so far as to say that you can't quit Christianity in the name of Christ, since it isn't at all clear to me that Jesus of Nazareth meant to have anything like modern Christianity follow in his wake. But it is clear to me that the gospels all speak of communities of believers, and so to declare yourself "committed to Christ" but through with "being a Christian" sounds a little solipsistic and not more than a little self-centered and self-interested. After all, it takes a community to confirm a religious experience; when its confirmed only by the person who has it, we call that a delusion.

These two tweets by Ms. Rice make me think of my favorite line from "Angels and Demons"*:

"My church comforts the sick and the dying. My church feeds the hungry. What does your church do? Oh, that's right, you don't have a church!"
Which is not at all an argument for joining a church, but it draws a bright line between the community of believers (disputatious and infamous as they may well be) and the individual who, in essence, declare themself holier than they. Then again, there is no argument for joining a church. Being part of a church is like being in a committed relationship: what argument would ever persuade you to do such a thing? There are plenty of arguments for bailing out of relationships; but who argues themselves into one? If someone does, it's pretty clear they don't really want to go through with it. When someone makes the an argument after getting out of a relationship, though, who are they trying to persuade? And why?

*which is more to the point than might at first seem.


Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Silliness, surely.

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.

She could be Episcopalian. She could be UCC. She could even continue to be Roman Cahtolic. Whatever.

From your linked post:

...absolutely no one of consequence is listening to what I say...

Well! Am I supposed to say thank you? :-)

7:15 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

It is profoundly silly, isn't it?

Thank goodness for the intertubes, or we'd never know such important things!

7:26 PM  
Anonymous DAS said...

From your last link:

a relentless logic matched, so far as I know, only by Zen Buddhist priests, some rabbis

I know it's off topic, but some parts of the Talmud actually sound (if you translate them a bit differently -- perhaps a bit more "literally" -- than the standard translation -- I started with the Soncino edition here) a bit "Zen" (I wonder if anyone has studied the similarities between Jewish writings -- especially Talmudic midrash as well as Hasidic tales -- and Zen koans and the like? they both have that relentless logic you mention):

The Master Exclaimator, son of Grace said: It is revealed and known before Him Who spoke and the world came into existence, that in the generation of the Enlightened Master there was none equal to him; then why was not the
Way of Going Forth fixed in agreement with his views? Because his colleagues could not stand on the end of his words, for he would declare the ritually unclean to be clean, because he saw into the heart of the matter, and the
ritually clean to be unclean, again because he could see into the very heart of the matter.

One taught: His name was not the Enlightened Master but the Master of Illumination. Then why was he called the Enlightened Master?
Because he enlightened the Sages in the Way of Going. His name in fact was not even the Master of Illumination but The Master of Divine Comfort or, as others say: The Master of Divine Help. Then why was he called the Illuminator? Because he enlightened the Sages in the Way of Going.

The Chief Master declared: The only reason why I am keener than my colleagues is that I saw the back of the Enlightened Master, but had I had a front view of him I would have been keener still, for it is written in Scripture: But thine eyes shall see thy teacher.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Rmj said...

DAS--don't know about Judaism and Zen, but Merton certainly joined Christianity and Zen.

So it's not much of a leap, I would think, to Judaism.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it doesn't strike me as silliness, it strikes me as a plea for help. Since a number of polls indicate that "former Church member" is the fastest growing spiritual category, I'd say we have one hell of a mission field there. Perhaps one or more of you with high-profile blogs might want to post an open letter to Ms. Rice and try to offer her some help in finding a small, liberal community that will help her along her path.

Steve in Boston

4:03 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...


The "silliness" to me is the very public pronouncement her "withdrawal," and the reasons for it: because the church she associates with is, in a word, too human. Ecce homo, as Pilate said. That, and I don't see the church, in any form, as a source of salvation (i.e., a necessity). Spiritually it is necessary, yes; but there's the old saying about leading a horse to water.

I don't know of a church, local or institutional, that isn't as Ms. Rice describes the church she is leaving (RC, apparently). Until she reconciles her concerns with her spiritual needs, all I can do is wonder why she must make such a public display about what annoys her. As I said in the post: "When someone makes the an argument after getting out of a relationship, though, who are they trying to persuade? And why?"

Were I her pastor/priest, I might approach her about this. But I'm not.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe she couldn't think of what else to write about that day. Maybe she's hoping to get some publicity. It's kind of late in the day for that kind of thing, I'd have thought. It's gotten really old.

Anthony McCarthy

3:15 PM  

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