Religion: Why Anne Rice got it right, and Christians got it wrong.

“My sense of hopelessness was overwhelming. What I wanted to do was pull some massive emergency brake on the universe, like the brakes I’d seen on the subways during our school trip to New York City. I wanted to call a time out, to demand that everybody just STOP until I could understand everything. I suppose this urge to force the entire universe to stop in its tracks until I could get a grip on myself might have been the beginning of my “control issues”….

I should say here that I’m aware not everyone goes through this kind of metaphysical crisis. Some of us are hardwired for anxiety about mortality, while some of us just seem more comfortable with the whole deal. You meet lots of apathetic people in this world, of course, but you also meet some people who seem to be able to gracefully accept the terms upon which the universe operates and who genuinely don’t seem troubled by its paradoxes and injustices…

Letting go, of course, is a scary enterprise for those of us who believe that the world revolves only because it has a handle on the top of it which we personally turn, and that if we were to drop this handle for even a moment, well – that would be the end of the universe…. Sit quietly for now and cease your relentless participation. Watch what happens. The birds do not crash dead out of the sky in mid-flight, after all. The trees do not wither and die, the rivers do not run red with blood. Life continues to go on…. why are you so sure that your micromanagement of every moment in this whole world is so essential? Why don’t you let it be?”

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The above excerpts are from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. She is such a lovable protagonist in the story, and her struggles really resonated with me.

I’ve wanted to write a post about my faith for a long time, but I’ve always been apprehensive. There are those who I used to attend church with who, I’m sure, are wondering why I haven’t been going, and what stopped me. This pretty much sums it up for those people. And then there are those who know me more for who I am now, and I hope you’ll consider the thoughts below. Believe me, it took awhile to come to these conclusions.

I don’t want to offend, hurt, or slander anyone, and I certainly don’t want to cause any issues with my family and friends, but I can’t stand by and watch some of the atrocities that take place in our country in the name of religion with a clean conscience. So…. if you’re prone to anger about your personal brand of religion, you may want to abandon the post here.

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I can’t stand Christianity any longer.

I say that without a shred of guilt.

There are so many things I’d love to say about Jesus, but I don’t even know where to start. He was everything I could ever hope to be. He was loving to all. Patient, kind, caring, and forgiving. He sought out those who had been cast out by society, and made them his family. He instructed those who wanted to follow him to give up all they had, and didn’t give a whip about the rules put in place by his religious predecessors who were in power when he was on earth.

In short? He was a communist, a revolutionary, and hung out with the grunge of society.

But today’s Christians are no longer synonymous with the teachings of Christ.

Christians are concerned with their dogma. They are repeating the follies of the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day, and putting more stock in their rules and pointing out the sin in others than setting aside their judgments in favor of mercy, kindness, and selflessness. They are concerned about everyone infringing on their rights (TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION! TEA PARTY! PRAYER IN SCHOOLS!), but give little thought to the way they infringe upon others.

I know this is true. I was once one of them.

I used to think about the world as it affected ME. As a cashier at Publix when I went to school in Florida, I wanted to know why the people with the coolest new phone and expensive clothes, driving away in an Escalade, were the ones who used food stamps in the checkout line. I wanted to know why those people had the nice things, when I was working, driving a crappy old Saturn, and hadn’t bought new clothes in months. (Oh, and I still drive that “crappy” old Saturn, 6 years later. Not so crappy, perhaps?)

I wanted to know why gay people wanted to get married, like they were REAL couples. They were just people who were into some REALLY sick sexual practices. Why should we, the “normal” ones, validate their illness by calling it “love”?

Seriously. These are the disgusting thoughts that permeated my brain.

I cannot explain the guilt I hold in my heart for the straight up malice I felt towards people who weren’t like me. My world revolved around trying to “convert” people by telling them why they were wrong, and I was right.

Universe, I am so sorry for my thoughts and actions. I was a fool.

The death of one of my high school friends was my breaking point. He was someone who I loved very much, but I pushed away when I became a “Christian” because he was gay, and I didn’t agree with his life choice. It wasn’t a conscious thing at the time…. I just moved in another direction, and he moved in his. But when he died, I faced a startling reality: in the belief system I embraced, this man would be cast into hell for all eternity for something he never chose…. just always *was*.

This simply could not be. He had one of the most joyful hearts out of anyone I ever met, and a beautiful soul.

From then on, I had a serious problem with the “god” that could, by the “rules” of the Bible, cast such a soul into eternal damnation. I couldn’t wrap my mind around a religion that would embrace such an idea, and let it be such a major part of their “worship” and “ministry”.

“Why, God, would you create such a rule book, knowing its contents would cast so many into eternal torment?”

“Why, God, would you create beings who were attracted to the opposite sex from birth, and then cast them away forever because of it?”

“Why, God, would you damn anyone for eternity for something they did in this short life we live on earth in comparison? How does that punishment fit the crime?”

“If we were made in Your image, with your feelings and compassion, what kind of being are you that you could cast any soul into eternal damnation? Why would I worship you, in that case?”

I had questions. I had concerns. And when I took them to an elder at the church I attended, his answer was, “Darlin’, you’re whittlin’ on God’s end of the stick.”

This may be a fair assessment. If there *was* a God, judgement was HIS territory, not mine. What happened to someone’s soul was not up to me! What a relief! But why, then, did I not feel any better?

It was because I was looking for a black and white; an easy judgement. What I’d always been taught is that there was a clear cut right and wrong in every situation. Gays are sinners, and are going to hell. Dancing is evil, because if you dance, you *will* lust. Drinking is bad, because being drunk is bad, and if you drink, you will get drunk and lose your ability to make decisions. Not working for your own money is lazy and sinful. All of these observations are easy teaching tools for those who cannot use their own conscience as their guide, and need someone else to tell them what is good and bad, yes. But for the rest of us, life is simply not black and white. It’s a shade of grey.

Once I came to this conclusion, life changed around me. People on welfare became people in need instead of lazy people who avoid work. Gay people stopped becoming evil sinners with no regard for God, and became friends, family, and loved ones to me. Alcohol became an occasional indulgence in small amounts with meals, and dancing became a source of pure joy. But my questions about the creator remained. Is there one God? Where did the Bible *really* come from? Should I join one specific church, and if I don’t, will I really go to hell for all eternity?

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Where do I stand, after all of this?

I decided to just let go.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know for sure if there’s anything after this life or not. I don’t know if there’s a “master plan”; after all, the world today feels like a series of horrible things happening to good people who don’t deserve it. My amazing mother-in-law had a stroke in her early 50’s. One of my friends just went through her sixth round of cancer at the ripe old age of 21. And people who desperately want children are slapped in the face by those who carelessly mishandle their bodies, and ‘dispose’ of their babies, because they’re inconvenient at the time.

But the beautiful thing about life is that I don’t *have* to have all the answers.

As Anne Rice put so well, “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…. but I remain committed to Christ, as always.” 

Christ was amazing. His mission was clear. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

I don’t believe that is the mission of many churches today. Until I find a church that seems to make Christ’s mission their own, I’ll stick to my guns, and go at it alone. I refuse to be part of a group that drags the name of Christ through the mud with hate, willful misunderstanding, and a complete lack of regard for Christ’s true message.

I will, however, boldly go forward and assist anyone who asks for help. I’ll give to causes that are working hard to help those in need. I’ll joyfully pay my taxes, knowing that, even though some people DO take advantage of the system, those who truly need assistance will get it. And I’ll try to see Jesus in every person I meet, whether they’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Gay, Straight, or otherwise.

If you made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading the ramblings of a doubting Thomas. If you’re a “Christian”, please consider your actions, your words, and even the looks you give others. Love like Jesus commanded you to love, because you claim to worship him. Forgive. Give what you can. Stop worrying about being taken advantage of, about the way the world impacts YOU, and instead, think about how you can impact the world in ways you can be proud of. Maybe, then, the world will be more apt to hear Christ’s message from you. If you’re not a Christian….. think about how you’d want to be treated, and reciprocate.

Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy, right?

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12 thoughts on “Religion: Why Anne Rice got it right, and Christians got it wrong.

  1. This is a great post and I believe you did the right thing. I made a similar decision about 18 months ago and stopped attending church on a regular basis. I still visit from time to time, and I miss the fellowship of it, but much of the doctrine and dogma no longer aligned with my beliefs about God’s true nature. I too hope to find a church that honors Christ’s true message of LOVE. Keep the faith; you’re on the right track.
    Blessings, Pam

    • Thank you so much, Pam, for your thoughts. I certainly miss fellowship, but at the same time, I feel that it produced a group mentality, and didn’t encourage independent analysis of the Bible. What it DID do was discourage anyone for bringing up any potential differences of opinion, and scare them into submission. So sad.

      I hope you find peace, and spread the love!

  2. chrissymm says:

    Oh Aubrey! How I love you for posting this for so many reasons (which I will not clog up your post naming)! Great, great post. I have always believed that God will not judge me for not going to church every Sunday. He will judge me based in the person I was… How I treated other people. I think the one of the greatest things ever said to me was, “be good to each other”. Be kind. Don’t judge. It’s hard for all of us, but THAT is not our job. We should focus on being kind to others and making sure we are doing the right thing.

    You did the right thing.

    • So um, when are we hanging out? We’re only 45 mins from Nashville, and we’re down there all the time for my RE appointments….

      Dave and Buster’s? Movie night? You name it. You’ve become on of my favorite web friends 🙂

  3. Hannah Westphal says:

    This is a very honest post about something you have clearly given a lot of thought. The questions you asked were ones that have crossed my mind many times, and while we have come to different conclusions I can definitely relate. I most agree that there are Christians who have lost what the goal is– to live and love like Christ. You have a beautiful heart, miss Aubrey.

    • Thanks, Hannah.

      It’s scary to post about these things, to be truthful. But I think so many have lost sight of our real goal here, that it’s better to remind them of what that is and be ostracized than the alternative… people forgetting their mission.

      Love you, lady. And thank you for writing your beautifully personal blog as well. I may not have commented, but my family has been touched eating disorders, and I am so proud of you for bravery in speaking up about it. Best of luck with your recovery, which I’ve heard is a constant struggle.

  4. silentjay74 says:

    I really think you’re touching on something really important here. I’ll say this: I am a Christian. I’ll also say: YES you’re quite spot on with your observations. A lot of Christians have lost their way and do not realize it. I used to be a practicing Catholic. I felt something was missing from the dogmatic practices of Catholicism. I did eventually find a place that opened my eyes a whole lot.
    Most Christians forget a few simple rules. Everyone, including the preachers are sinners. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous. Anyone who claims to be righteous has no business stepping foot in a church. Also they forget something else. We cannot prove the existence of God scientifically. We have not as a species been able to measure “Omni”. God very existence in our perception relies totally on our faith.
    Also you mentioned rules. A have an extremely important view on this and one that most Christians have yet to examine and realize.
    In Exodus when God gave Moses the commandments he said this very clear: “I am the Lord your God.” This statement set the tone for these commandments. He knows above all else that we are not going to be able to stick to these rules. He knows who we are and what we are. He wants us to follow them but knows we are not. If God is a God of grace and mercy then he knows we will seek his forgiveness when we mess up. Now this next statement might piss some people off but I am going to say it.
    The atheist Dogma is basically “Don’t be a dick”. Which is a very good dogmatic practice. I sometimes see the ten commandments as Gods “Ten steps to not be a dick”. God knows we as his children are going to break them. It’s like a child with a set of rules. You tell a child not to do something, yet as children we all rebelled against our parents and did it anyway.
    Creationists Vs. Evolutionists. Here’s one that get people all the time. We evolved. We as a species evolved. Here is what I think. Was there a an Adam and Eve God created? Yes. But! I do not believe we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. I believe they were put here, but there were still other people here as well. God created Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden away from other people to see how, in a controlled environment, they might turn out. We know there were other people after Cain murdered Able and left the Garden. He married another woman and formed the land of Cainan. So where did this woman and the other people come from?
    The answers to the Universe’s mysteries cannot be found in the Bible. I have had discussions on this topic many times. Especially the “Are we alone in the universe” argument. “No” I do not think we are alone. Some people have argues “Well there is no evidence in the Bible that there is other intelligent life in the universe.” To which I reply “Do you honestly think that God would chose to tell us everything? A race as young and as naive as we are? NO he would not tell us everything. It is for him to know and him only until he deems us responsible enough to let the day come to reveal the answer to that question.”
    Today’s Christians need to start look at life with an open mind and an open heart. No one is righteous. No one is perfect. Everyone needs to accept people for who they are, not what the expect someone to be. To judge someone is not your place or mine. If some Christians would open their eyes and realize that there is Grace and Mercy in God and that they should not judge, maybe the world would be a better place. As a Christian I have friends that are homosexual. I do not judge them. They are hurting no one. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous. He came for us all, as no one is righteous. Those that claim to be righteous are usually the ones with a lot of skeletons in the closet.

    TL;DR Everyone is a sinner, no one is perfect. Self righteous Christians have lost their way. Humans evolved, we cannot scientifically prove or disprove Gods existence. There are probably aliens. Atheist mantra of “Dont be a dick” is right.

  5. Mrs. Vicki says:

    Hello, sweet Aubrey. I haven’t seen you for quite a while! I am sorry to hear the things you have experienced as a Christian. So many of the things you said are true. We all are sinners in need of salvation and we should never forget it. Jesus should always be our example. We cannot “judge” another mans heart.
    I have been hurt deeply by other “Christians”. So why at age 60 (almost) am I still a Christian? Because I love God above all else. I want the “peace that surpasses all understanding” Phil. 4:7, and the older I get the more of it I have. There are many things that I still do not understand but I will continue to serve the Lord as I search.
    I have seen with my own eyes why God’s way is better. My husband will tell you as the son of an alcoholic why he wishes that his dad had never taken that first drink. I have seen “lust” destroy families and forgiveness restore them. I have seen how the love of money tears apart friendships and family bonds. I have seen homosexuals leave that life, marry, have families and be truly happy. I have battled depression, cancer, and chronic illness and got through by the grace of God. I could say more but I know these are things you have heard before.
    I believe the bible is the word of God. It is logical and non-contradictory. God does not ‘make’ bad things happen. Why he allows them to happen? Do not know. I have studied Job many times. I have a child with Autism, as you know, and I do not believe that God made him Autistic. I do believe that God gave me the ability to raise him and love him for who he is, an awesome young man. Sin and satan cause the evil that is in the world; that is why I choose to follow the Word and not the world. I know that Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Jn.14:15. This is what I will strive to do the rest of my life.
    I hope with all my heart that you do not give up on Christianity. You are an awesome young woman and can be a light to so many. Thanks for listening to an “old lady”. I pray for the best for you.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Vicki.

      You certainly have a beautiful family with it’s own unique challenges, and I’m glad that your faith has seen you through your struggles.

      It’s not Christ himself that I’ve given up on… It’s organized religion. The focal point, I believe, has been lost. Instead of love, the focus has been changed to making sure we don’t make someone “stumble” with our movie choices, make sure girls have at least two inch straps on all of their dresses or tops, making sure to never touch alcohol…. Christ has been lost in all of this, I fear.

  6. Kaley says:

    Aubrey,

    I’ll admit, when I first started reading your post I was a little nervous because I am a very active member of my church and believe that organized religion – the one organized by Christ himself – is important in our lives. I’m glad I kept reading, though. You articulated yourself very well and I think your concerns are very justified and I know you’re not the only one who feels this way. I know it can be scary to blog about your beliefs. You did a good job. 🙂 My only comments are that I agree with everything you said about where Christianity has strayed, and ironically, that’s exactly what keeps me so devout to the Church I belong to. I’ve always learned, and believed, that there is a strict right and wrong, but God is a merciful, loving God who knows us perfectly and judges us based on our understanding of that right and wrong. He knows our hearts and He knows what we struggle with and He will give us more than we deserve because that’s who He is. So even though there is a right and wrong, God judges us based on our efforts to live that way, even if we fall short. And He has provided a Savior who has made it possible for all of us to repent and make ourselves better as our understanding of His will deepens. Only He knows exactly who we are and what we are capable of. I think it is our most important duty to seek to personally understand the truth and live according to that in our lives. It is then our responsibility to reach out in love and service to those around us, not passing judgment because we can’t see the whole picture. Even though Christ never condoned sin, he certainly would never turn someone away or treat them worse for mistakes they had made. Since we are not perfect, sometimes that’s harder for us to do than at other times. But as we do our best, God will bless us for our efforts. Thanks for voicing your concerns and good luck to you on your journey.

    I didn’t know you had been struggling with infertility. I can’t imagine how frustrating and disheartening that must be for you. I know that Heavenly Father knows your heart and your desires and He has a plan for you and your husband. I’ll be thinking of you.

    Love,
    Kaley

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Kaley.

      The LDS group has always been such an inspiration to me, even if I don’t necessarily agree with all the facets. It’s such a tight knit group, and I can honestly say I’ve never met a member of the LDS who wasn’t kind and understanding like no other church I’ve dealt with.

      Thank you for being a shining light. Thank you for your kindness, and your compassion. I think if there were more Christians like you, the world would be a much better place.

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