Author Anne Rice said last week that she was ‘quitting Christianity:’ The once-lapsed Catholic wrote that she was could no longer accept her religion’s teachings on homosexuality, feminism, politics and birth control.
“In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian,” Rice announced on her Facebook page.
Can you leave Christianity and keep Christ? Can you be spiritual without being religious?
As a Jewish Unitarian Universalist minister, I’m not the person to comment on whether one can keep Christ and leave Christianity. But as a sexologist minister, I know for sure that you don’t have to choose between your sexuality and your beliefs in sexual justice and belonging to a faith community.
Ms. Rice says that she must walk away from all organized religion because of her support for the rights of LGBT people, feminism, and reproductive justice. What she apparently hasn’t recognized is that there are many faith communities that support these issues. There are denominations such as the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Union for Reform Judaism that are strong proponents of full inclusion for women and LGBT people. There are organized groups in almost every Protestant denomination working for the rights of women and LGBT people. There are Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist worship communities that support these issues.
The Religious Institute, the organization I co-founded in 2001 and now direct, is a network of more than 5000 religious leaders from more than fifty faith traditions who support a vision of sexual health and education in congregations. We are working with more than a dozen religious denominations on becoming sexually healthy and responsible denominations. More than 3500 ordained clergy in the United States have endorsed the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, which in part, calls for “full inclusion of women and LGBT people in congregational life” and a “faith based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights, including access to voluntary contraception, abortion, and HIV/STD prevention and treatment.”
During the past three decades, many faith traditions have made significant progress in addressing the pastoral needs of congregants regarding sexuality, promoting gender equality and LGBT full inclusion, and advocating for sexual justice. Ethicists, clergy, and scholars across a range of faiths have challenged longstanding conventions and championed new religious teachings on sexuality that recognize the scientific insights and social realities of the modern world.
I became an ordained minister after a career of over twenty years as a sexuality educator and advocate because I believe in the power of faith communities to change lives. Despite the erotophobia of many religions, the great promise of most faiths is love, healing, and restored relationships. I knew that religious institutions could become places that helped people integrate rather than bifurcate their faith and their sexuality, and that religious leaders had a special role in being prophetic about the right of all adults to make responsible and ethical sexual decisions.
To Ms. Rice – and all readers who feel like they have to walk away from organized religion – I counsel, “find a new congregation.” The Religious Institute denomination database will help you search how more than thirty denominations address more than twenty sexuality issues. The endorsers’ network can help you find a congregation near you that supports sexual justice.
One can be spiritual, religious, sexual, and justice seeking -at the same time. Ms. Rice, we’d love to welcome you as a visitor to any of our congregations any Sunday. I think you’d find your views were welcome and supported.