>Renouncing Religion

>There’s been a lot of talk lately about renouncing religion. It started about a week ago when author Anne Rice went on Facebook and renounced her association with Christianity.

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 – Anne Rice

I must say that while I applaud Ms Rice for standing up and saying this, I’ve never experienced life in a church that is anything like what she describes. Growing up my church welcomed all comers. We accepted the broken, those struggling with the societal norms of sexuality, were home to several feminists, advocated for the use of condoms and the pill, never asked or suggested who people should vote for, and one year my Sunday-school teacher was a micro-biologist.

I first learned the term “legalism” in high-school. I was stunned! Stunned that someone could take the words of Jesus and twist them into something so rigid and ugly. I was even more stunned that some people could so completely ignore the words of Jesus and base a so called Christian worldview on modern teachers who were clearly manipulating religion for their own gain.

In 1987, televangelist Jim Baker was sentenced to prison for tax evasion and his marriage collapsed as a result of the same kinds of sin that people in my church were completely open about. Baker’s disgrace, and revelations that his wife was addicted to prescription drugs, came only a few years after our own pastor had confessed of a similar sin. My heart went out to the Bakers but I prayed even more for those who so viciously attacked them. I couldn’t help but ask “What kind of God would stand for this?”

I was recently asked if I was a man of precept or a man of principle. There must have a been a blank look on my face because my interrogator went on to clarify that a man of precept follows the rules while a man of principle interprets them and adapts along with the situation. With that clarification in mind I had to say that I definitely like to think of myself as a man of principle and I think Jesus was too. But that doesn’t mean you can throw out the precepts, they are there for a reason, you just need to get at the principle that informed them in the first place so that you can make an intelligent judgement.

Getting at the principle behind the precepts is what Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount and it’s what he meant when he said he had come to fulfill the law. Starting in verse 21 of Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives six clarifications of some very popular precepts. He starts by stating the precept, “you have heard it said” and then giving the principle, “but I say to you”. In every case the principle both frees his audience from a rigid interpretation of a popular precept and guides them deeper and closer to the heart of God; don’t murder becomes guard against anger, don’t commit adultery becomes be careful of lust, etc.

So to Anne Rice and all those who are struggling with legalism let me take a stab at some of the precepts you may find so offensive and point to the heart of God.

– You have heard it said; the church is anti-gay, but I say to you; expressions of sexuality are private and those who may not fit your definition of normal are still your neighbour and deserving of love and respect. (Matthew 22:37-40)
– You have heard it said; the church is anti-feminist, but I say to you; women are a vital part of your community and just as capable as men of leadership. (Judges 4:4-5)
– You have heard it said, the church is anti-artificial birth control, but I say to you; sex is awesome, enjoy! But regardless of your marital status do not risk bringing a child into this world if you are un-prepared to be a parent, it is a far greater sin to abandon or neglect a child than to prevent their conception. (Matthew 18:10)
– You have heard it said, the church is anti-democrat, but I say to you; the Lord can use all governments for His purpose, vote based on principles and know that no matter what, the Lord is in control. (Romans 13:1,2)
– You have heard it said, the church is anti-science, but I say to you; the universe is an amazing place, explore, study, and understand. (Genesis 1:28)

I’m glad Ms Rice started this conversation and I hope that she and others like her are able to find a home in a gay friendly, feminist friendly, birth-control friendly, democrat friendly and science friendly community of believers. If not she can call me, I know a few.

In Jesus’ name – Lauren


  1. >I've always found it very interesting and somewhat disturbing how conservative Christians deal with liberal Christianity. I've known Christians and ex-Christians from conservative backgrounds who don't even know about liberal Christianity; others simply believe liberal Christians aren't really Christians. This exclusion can make it very confusing and difficult to talk about Christianity in the public sphere. Thanks for posting this response to Anne Rice. To me there's something refreshing about seeing people defend a more liberal expression of Christian faith. It's a reminder that our often rigid categories are insufficient for really understanding faith.

  2. >Though I may not agree with the finer details raised by you here I have to applaud the attempt to capture the real Spirit of Christianty. The Christ I know says "Come as you are and I will make you…" It was the love of God expressed through men that liberated me from alcoholism. When we say we are Christians we are humbly admitting that we have/had issues and Christ has taken over. We are not in any way claiming to be better than anyone. Ms Rice is abandoning the faith not because of God (for He says let all men be liars and God remain true) but because hypocrisy which has crept into Christian ranks (and that's sad). We don't abandon the pain killer because someone abused it along the way and is now hooked.

  3. Kurious says:

    >Thanks for a well written article about the true nature of Christianity. It always amazes me when conservative "Christians" beat people over the heads with their skewed understanding of their religion instead of emulating the person who they claim to be their savior. To treat others with an open mind and an open heart, with compassion and forgiveness, seems not to be part of their beliefs. They would do well to follow your lead in living a "Christ-like" life.There are many like you who are shadowed by the antics of the "faithful." Keep up being a good example of what Christians should be.

  4. Baalthazaq says:

    >As a Muslim, I find that a lot of people like to tell me what Islam is. Including those who leave the faith. Oftentimes, I'll look at this bizarre caricature that has been painted, and see it just as that. A caricature. I've seen the same happen time and again to Christianity. I grew up in a Catholic household, in an Anglican school, to Muslim parents, and I recognize none of the slander I see thrown at religion. It bothers me. Who are these "faithful" who have hijacked religion, and have dictated to us what our religions are? That have told tales on our behalf?Why is it that no matter how loudly we shout them down their voices, even when fewer in number, are heard so much more readily than ours?

  5. Lauren Sheil says:

    >Andrew 33 has been having trouble posting from his iPhone so he emailed me directly and I offered to post his comments here, in 2 parts becuase it was too long…You speak here of "liberal" Christians and "Conservative" Christians. I am confused by that. Do you mean liberal or conservative in a political sense? Do you mean socially? To my knowledge, a Christian is a Christian first. Everything else comes later. I am neither liberal nor conservative politically. I lean towards what most Americans calll "libertarian.Socially, I follow the teachings of Christ. I know that in America, the socialists (atheists) left have realized that "if you can't beat em-join em" and are trying to push their thinly veiled agenda through the Churches but this will ultimately fail just as it has every other time in history. Nancy Pelosi recently called for Churches to "set an example" by engaging in trading "carbon credits". I can disprove man made climate change a dozen ways, but instead i will respond with a question. When the vast majority of the Earth and all life on it are carbon, doesn't charging money for it sound criminal, especially when Pelosi sits on the Board of Directors of the company that will be responsible for the regulation, sale and trade of "carbon credits". Then again, the so called "Christian Right" as being just another agenda intended to push America towards statism via prohibition and war. Bush got elected touting his Christianity, then pushed one of the most evil pieces of legislation under his watch in the "Patriot Act" which laid the groundwork for eventual persecution of Christians once Churches stand against government corruptionor on a moral issue. Christianity is neither liberal nor conservative, nor political. If your "liberalism" or "conservatism" leads you to violate your beliefs as a Christian, then I guess you should decide what matters more. I've heard people try to make arguments that Jesus would have been a (insert ideology here). None have merit. The whole "left vs right" debate is just a method of keeping the status quo. As a libertarian, conservatives call us leftists and left wingers call us "rightwingers.

  6. Lauren Sheil says:

    >part 2 from Andrew 33…Looking objectively, i see libertarianism as the closest thing we have to a political center. Take homosexual marriage for instance. I am not against it. Marriage has always been a religious rite. The churches should be deciding marriage issues not the Federal Department of Homeland Security. If marriage was still in the hands of the Churches, they could decide whether or not to marry homosexual couples and the debate would be a non issue as various churches with different views would make their own choices there. Putting churches back in charge of marriage would solve much of the divorce and single parent families as well. Can you see how a right winger would call me a leftist for allowing the possibility of legal homosexual marriage while leftists would call me a far right winger for suggesting a less controlling government. I see Christ went through similar experiences. He was despised by the political and social elites for associations with those of lower social status or moral standings so he was to liberal for the pharisees and yet his message was too conservative for most in need of his message. I figure that followers of Christ should walk a similar path in life. Think about this, when you first started talking to me, you basically thought I was a right winger, and I thought you were a socialist, but we have had far more discussions about religious issues than about politics but in both areas we have more in common than not. You are not a socialist at heart, and now you know about the pro-liberty movement (libertarianism). I see many parallels between Christianity and libertarianism. Both believe in individual choice and responsibility, charity, tolerance, pacifism, and humility and allowing your neighbors to choose their own path. However, I don't go around saying "Christ was a ______" to try to push a political agenda. So, could someone define for me a "liberal" or "conservative" Christian? I thought Christianity was basically like a toggle switch-or binary code; either yes or no, you either are or aren't. Are people claiming that there will be a segregated heaven for the libs and conservatives too?

  7. Andrew33 says:

    >Thank you for posting that. I do have a question about "legalism". There are some who believe you must follow every letter of the Bible without question or consideration for factors such as audience the text was originally written to. Others seem willing to dispose of clear Biblical commands on the basis that those commands are superseded by "precepts" that we often don't know because we weren't witness to the events and are not the original audience scripture was intended for. So, where do you draw the line. Some say the Church is "antihomosexuality" or anti-gay. While Christ taught that homosexuality is wrong, he taught by both words and example that we should not treat gay or any other people with any less decency and respect than a family member. So, is it teaching that adultery or homosexuality is a sin that makes the Church anti-gay?

  8. Lauren Sheil says:

    >I agree that Jesus made some very clear teaching on various sins but in the end everything comes down to how we go about restoring brokenness. You can't start by pushing a rules on people, especially if they are struggling, you first need to build up some trust. I think the church forgets that God wants to have a relationship with all of us and that he is there with open arms no matter what we've done. Once we learn to accept His grace then He will show us were we need to work. When the church front end loads salvation with works it misses the mark and prevents God's grace from really making a difference in people's lives.

  9. Andrew33 says:

    >True, but there is a movement now trying to push Churches into not teaching that such things are sinful. These people are pushing an agenda they call "tolerance" which is intolerant to the teachings of Christ. It's not enough to live and let live. These are the same people that pushed for and got laws that make teaching that homosexuality is a sin designated as a "hate crime". The unhappy person in your post said they are leaving a congregation because it is anti-gay, yet the church has not thrown that person out for those reasons. The Catholic Church (which I have major fundamental differences with) would "excommunicate"' such people for those actions. Churches are there for sinners to find a better way. If we can't teach right from wrong, what is the point of edlexisting? The reason that I suspect this person may be part of that movement is how they mention the Church being "anti-democrat". I have attended many congregations of all sorts and I have yet to hear or see guests being questioned regarding political or sexual orientation. This person seems to want Christians to pretend that their lifestyle is acceptable to God We both know that this is just not true.

  10. Lauren Sheil says:

    >There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? [James4:12]

  11. Joe says:

    >Interesting article. I also refuse to be part of a church that is anti gay. The other 'bits' don't concern me.I don't like prescribed doctrine. I follow Christ from afar and will probably never join a church ever again. I also no longer believe that he died for my personal sin. Yes he died, but his death was unnecessary as far as Salvation is concerned.I think the church has forgotten its real mission

  12. Andrew33 says:

    >While just about every Church/denomination that I know practices an open door policy to all, including homosexuals, that doesn't change the fact that it is a sin. Am I wrong?

  13. Lauren Sheil says:

    >No you're not wrong, that's why I quoted Matthew 22.

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