Guess who’s a Christian? That greatly depends on what you mean.
I’d heard the rumors years ago that Ted Turner divorced Jane Fonda because she became a Christian, and she does, in fact, call herself a Christian. But what does that mean to her?
“It was very heavy and-you know, it’s hard to get the words out these days because it’s so loaded politically, and it scares me to say it-but I was saved.” From the 2005 Beliefnet Interview.
I respect that. I can remember when, as a teen, I was asked if I was born again. I said something like, “Well, the way the Bible means it.” I thought Born-Again was mostly a political movement! In the world she lives in, I can imagine she was uncomfortable.
Jane Fonda“I never ever would have gone public with this, ever. A person who had been driving me at that time went on a website and said he had brought me to Christ. And it just spread like wildfire and became front page news. I was outed, and it was just a tremendous betrayal. I never would have [gone public with this] because it was too new. And then I discovered that it wasn’t what I was-I thought, this is wrong for me…
“So now I’m on my own [in 2000 and 2001, after separating from Ted Turner] and for about a year, I’m confused. I think I’ve made a mistake.
“And I read Elaine Pagels. I had read “The Gnostic Gospels” years before and it had really impressed me. In fact, I read it when I was first feeling God. And then I read “Beyond Belief,” which is a book she came out with recently, and it had a lot of references to early Christians and Gnostic Gospels, and so I read the originals. In fact, I got the whole Nag Hammadi library and through that reading, I began to realize that I am on the right path. That Christianity is my spiritual home. This is where I’m meant to be. And that I have to discover for myself what that means.”
I hate to pick apart someone’s struggle with faith, but there are problems here. She was a closet Christian. It is arguable that there is no such thing. Jesus said that if you deny me before men, I’ll deny you before the Father. (She also has a problem with defining God as a “Father”.) Still, we can assume she felt much like a Christian convert in Iran. It wasn’t safe to come out. She wasn’t denying Him. She was just keeping silent. When the news broke, she could have actively denied it…and Him. Apparently, she did not do that.
Then she finds her answers in a Gnostic writer, an adherent to one of the first heresies. She’s convinced that she didn’t “make a mistake” but she needs to figure out what this means for herself. She found her answer best aligned with the book ‘Traveling Mercies”.
Unfamiliar with the book, I looked it up on Amazon where the official descriptions begins with this paragraph:
Anne Lamott claims the two best prayers she knows are: “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She has a friend whose morning prayer each day is “Whatever,” and whose evening prayer is “Oh, well.” Anne thinks of Jesus as “Casper the friendly savior” and describes God as “one crafty mother.”
The information here is based on a 2005 interview. That’s nine years old now. She has a “my faith” section her website. But that has a date of 2009.
In it, she echoes some thoughts given in the 2005 interview:
I winced when God was spoken of as a man. God is beyond gender, beyond being, and although gendering God as “Him” may not seem consequential to many, I think it belies the nonbeingness of the Divine. Seeing God as “Him” only serves to reinforce the belief that since God is man, then man is God-like and women are less-than.
Which flows into this:
In no way do I want to offend more traditional Christians, but if the content of the Bible was determined by a group of men (not all of whom agreed), then surely those seeking to know Jesus should not be demonized for looking outside the canons to what others (including women) had to say about Him.
I stopped my Bible study classes but was unwilling to renounce faith. I wanted to see if somewhere there wasn’t a perception of Jesus that reflected my intuition of him. This brought me to Elaine Pagels’s books on the Gnostics, along with various theologians’ and religious scholars’ interpretations of the Bible and the books of the early Christians, all of whom believed that experiencing the divine was more important than mere belief in the divine. I needed to move back into the reverence of metaphor, the language of the soul. That is where I know my faith wants to reside.
From time to time, there have been the awakened ones, conduits of perception, who, by fully embodying Spirit, have shown us the way—Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, Allah, and others. Their messages have invariably been bare-bone-simple, remarkably similar and often embedded in metaphor, stories, and poems—all forms of art. Why? Because the non-linear, non-cerebral forms that are Art speak on a different frequency, they by-pass thinking, penetrate our defenses and jolt us open to consciousness.
So, if you find yourself on a journey similar to Ms. Fonda’s, what would I say to you?
First, I’m a man. The Bible tells me that as part of the church, I am the bride of Christ. If men can deal with being called a bride, I think women can deal with masculine terms used. If Jane Fonda is saved, then she has been adopted as a “son” of God. This had very particular and powerful implications intended by God, through the writers, that “child” or “daughter” wouldn’t have shared. In society, there was a gender distinction. In Christ, we are all the “bride”; we are all “sons”.
Likewise, the term “Father” was chosen by God because it said certain things about who He is in a way that we can understand. There were a few times when He describes Himself in more motherly terms, as in a hen brooding over her chicks, but the vast majority of the time, He used Father. That does not mean God has gender, but God uses the term meaningfully and it is better to try to understand what God means on His terms than to reject His statement on your terms.
Also, Christ commands us to go and make disciples. He wants us to share the good news, and if we understand and believe it, then we will want to share it with others. If you have decided that religion is “personal” and not something you want to talk about, then I suggest you need some time with God talking about your relationship with Him. When we marry our husbands or wives, do we keep that secret? Is she hidden away in a closet somewhere? Is he? We are the bride of Christ. He doesn’t give us room to be ashamed of Him. He can’t be your little secret.
Ultimately, the inability to accept the truth of God’s word about Himself and the unwillingness to share one’s faith comes from a corrupted gospel that is, at best, questionable in its ability to save. Ms. Fonda lumps Jesus in with Buddha and others. Jesus separates Himself from all others. He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
That is the fact of salvation, and without that fact, how can there be salvation? He said the broad is the road to hell and narrow is the path to salvation. In fact, that path flows through only one door, and He is that door. Acts 14:12 says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Ms. Fonda reacted with joy to the good news, but under the glare of being “outed” she withdrew. She distrusts the word of God and has turned to outside sources to define her concept of who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. If this is the path you are on, I council you to turn back to the Word of God and pray with wisdom and faith. Seek council from teachers that believe and teach the Bible.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1