A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


This was originally going to be a post on why I am leaving christianity. But some calvinist voice in me raises the problem that I didn't choose this religion, it chose me, given my history. It has and continues to provide the grammar of faith, the way I think about the central issues of human life and existence. If there's a crises of faith it's not over some set of beliefs.

I remain a theist, who believes that something of God's character is revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. I suppose what I've lost faith in is the state of the religion itself and the direction it's heading. A sort of conservative reaction has taken hold of it in much of the world and the few places where liberal religious faith can be found is treated as a threat to be expunged.

Thus the recourse to heresy trials and denominational splits. The case of the Anglican Communion is one of the most dramatic examples of this trend. Now we're being told that removing the Canadian and US churches from the consultative council does not equal expulsion and the church could potentially be put together in the future.

But does anyone believe that these two churches will now declare homosexuality evil because of the right's coercive tactics? Can one imagine the conservatives in the communion deciding to accept them back without the adoption of such a stance? The church is split, one is just waiting for the formal institutional events which will verify this situation. What makes this inevitable is not the issue or even the church's profound differences.

Rather it's the tactic of demonization and punishment which has consistently been used in this dispute. It hardens battle lines, it makes communication impossible. But when the right holds victory parties over this recent event, it's hard to see where communication is being sought. Rather victory is sought. And since Rowan Williams seems to determined to stick with the victors, the room for liberals in the Anglican communion will be eliminated soon.

This fight is also playing out in other mainline bodies, such as the call to go after gay and lesbian clergy in the PCUSA as well as those urging liberals to leave the United Methodist church. I raise these items, because while I know this is not the case in evangelical church bodies, I'm not sure that being a liberal is a safe thing to be in much of the mainline today either.

My thoughts on the mainline and the prospects for religious liberals in the church is going to have to be a multi-part series. I'll pick up where I left off next time. I've appreciated the e-mails and the comments on the site. It's good to read about what folks are doing and working out across the country who share similar concerns. I will be fixing my links in the next few days, to reflect a number of new blogs which have come to my attention as of late.

I've written a letter to my school paper in response to one evangelical's attempt at apologetics, and I'd also point out some really thought provoking posts which I've been working on in my head at Progressive Protestant including this and this. And yes I'm in the above photo, second from the left backrow in a 1977 christmas program. I thought a few folks I know back in Montana might go for it.

12 Comments:

At 8:41 AM , Anonymous D. C. said...

Hang in there -- sure, the church is embroiled in messy conflicts, but it's always been thus. Life is a movie, not a snapshot, and in that movie, both conflict and collaboration are key elements of the story; they're engines in our collective journey towards better understanding. Have faith that over the long term (sometimes the VERY long term), things seem to have a way of working out remarkably well.

 
At 11:35 AM , Blogger Alan said...

The amusing thing about these fights is their utter, utter futility. In the PCUSA we've had "definitive guidance" and "authoritative interpretation" and "Amendment B." And the effect has been? Absolutely nothing. LGBT folks are still being ordained and are still getting married in the church, just as they have been for the last 2000 years. Do the conservatives in the Anglican Communion really believe they won't be ordaining any LGBT folk?? They can't be that stupid, can they? You can't hold the ocean back with a broom.

 
At 3:06 AM , Blogger Marcus said...

I know how to give up going to one church in favor of going to another, and I suppose if I stopped going to the methodist church up the hill and went instead to the mosque on the other side of town that would count as "leaving Christianity." But I don't know quite what you meant by that.

I was raised and educated as a Catholic, but was married to a Baptist in a Presbyterian Church by a woman minister, and now attend a Methodist church where one minister provides guidance and support for an intercessory prayer group that asks daily for miracles and another holds seminars on the work of Marcus Borg. Once in a while I go to church with the Episcopalians and even, more rarely, with the local Catholics, because I feel an urge for something a bit more "high church."

I am not saying theology, or in particular moral theology, are not important. But I am saying that if you cannot go to church with an organization whose official views you cannot wholly accept, you will never go to chuch at all.

And you know all that, of course. And perhaps it doesn't help, today.

Sorry.

And sorry if you really drop out, too. I would miss your voice.

 
At 3:06 AM , Blogger Marcus said...

I know how to give up going to one church in favor of going to another, and I suppose if I stopped going to the methodist church up the hill and went instead to the mosque on the other side of town that would count as "leaving Christianity." But I don't know quite what you meant by that.

I was raised and educated as a Catholic, but was married to a Baptist in a Presbyterian Church by a woman minister, and now attend a Methodist church where one minister provides guidance and support for an intercessory prayer group that asks daily for miracles and another holds seminars on the work of Marcus Borg. Once in a while I go to church with the Episcopalians and even, more rarely, with the local Catholics, because I feel an urge for something a bit more "high church."

I am not saying theology, or in particular moral theology, are not important. But I am saying that if you cannot go to church with an organization whose official views you cannot wholly accept, you will never go to chuch at all.

And you know all that, of course. And perhaps it doesn't help, today.

Sorry.

And sorry if you really drop out, too. I would miss your voice.

 
At 9:11 AM , Blogger St.Phransus said...

Dwight,
I like an image Stanley Hauerwas uses. You don't choose who is in your family. We all have that uncle who embarrasses the hell out of us when we get together, and we disagree from time to time (maybe even more than that) but in the end- whether we like it or not- our family is our family. There stories are our stories.

Splitting isn't going to solve anything for the mainliners. If we just look at those we disagree with as those family members we sometimes wish we could brush under the rug but we can't, then we'd listen to them gripe and complain, but we'd still come to the table together for thanksgiving dinner (or communion).

Family is family.
jonathon

 
At 11:46 AM , Blogger isaiah said...

Dwight-

I cannot pretend to know you anymore than by way of what you've written so passionately about in your inspiring site. Coincidence that I should stumble upon your site? I trust that nothing is by coincidence.

I also believe that the more I 'know'- the less I am able to open up and allow creation to work through me...hence the name of my site and what I am inspired to write upon there.

You are not leaving christianity- christianity has left you...as it did me and countless others. Consequently, a new door has opened for me as it will for you...and you will, it is my hope, again come full circle and embrace the Christ presence inside of you and all sentient beings.

Everything is in divine order, or it's not.

Peace and blessings,
isaiah

 
At 12:30 AM , Blogger Nacho said...

Neat site. Thanks for putting it up. I do not consider myself a Christian, although was raised as one. But I spend considerable time studying religious thought. I like the phrase Unitarian Universalists use, "a chosen faith." It marks a moment when we throw the shackles of other (and self) imposed tutelage and blaze our path with a clear ethical vision, yet by walking along what Martin Buber called a narrow ridge. Always open to possibility. The idea that family is family is not helpful for me. We tend to cover up much, disregard other stuff, and become too slow to respond to need, when we take refuge in family is family. I prefer to think about interconnection, interbeing. Thanks again, I've been much inspired by "liberal" religious thought. Nice to find your blog.

 
At 5:18 PM , Blogger gratefulbear said...

I too have been tempted to leave the church over the ridiculous goings-on that seem to be in the newspapers every day. But let me add my voice to your other readers who urge you to "hang in there." If all the folks like you left the church, what a great disservice that would be to the church! This is OUR church, too -- those on the right have no right to drive us away.

 
At 7:42 PM , Blogger ChaliceChiq said...

Would you like to come and hang out with the Unitarian Universalists? I'm sure you'd be more than welcome. If you ant to find a congregation near you, come on over to my blog and look on my sidebar. I have a link to the UUA's website, which has listings.

 
At 9:51 PM , Blogger virusdoc said...

Dwight, I've been lurking for months but never commented. I, too, have left the church. My reasons were mostly scientific: I'm a biologist and got really, really sick of trying to find a church that tried to take evolution seriously and yet still present a vision of God and Christ that were worthy of worship and prayer. I came to believe that there are large segments of the Church universal that just aren't interested in taking an honest look at reality.

I guess my comment is merely one of commisseration. I miss my faith, and I miss being in a community of faith. I too feel that it has chosen me, that I cannot escape it permanently, and that I must one day return.

It is this persistent whisper in some deeply hidden room of my heart that is, to me, one of the most compelling evidences of God's true existence. If he were an illusion, I think he would be easier to dispel. But instead I feel gently but relentlessly pursued.

(My blog is at www.virusdoc.net if you're interested. I've posted a link to yours there.)

 
At 6:48 PM , Anonymous Rick said...

"The Kingdom of God is inside you and all around you, not in mansions of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood and I am there -- lift a stone and you will find me. These are the hidden sayings that the living Jesus spoke. Whoever discovers the meaning of these sayings shall not taste death."
==Gospel of Thomas

Just a little quote I like, that makes me appreciate what Jesus was really about.

Dwight,
As you know, I am not a Christian. In our 14 year friendship, nothing about me would ever give such an indication. However, one thing that I find so enticing about this message is that the message of Jesus is not a message that is meant to forge a relationship with you and your god (as brokered through a political institution), but as a direct relationship between you and your god.

You guys have a tough task ahead of you, no doubt, in reclaiming a moral authority for justice. Clearly you cannot rely on the clergy, but that is why you need to forge your voice. You need to lead the intellectual, spiritual, and street fights to reclaim your stake in the discussion.

It isnt a simple task when religion seems to be more and more a monied commodity, but then Gandhi fought off an entire empire through the use of love. Some have argued the disciples of Jesus brought one down with similar tactics.

 
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