I recently published the first part of my interview with Episcopal priest and New York Times bestselling author Barbara Brown Taylor. In it, we explored her new book Learning to Walk in the Dark and how she wants to help Christians explore what she calls “lunar spirituality.” Below is the second part, in which Taylor and I discuss personal topics such as what she believes makes one Christian, if she believes in a literal devil, and whether she is afraid of dying.
RNS: You’ve talked a lot about your journey out of the church world. What do you consider yourself now? Christian or Episcopalian or something else?
BBT: It’s true that a wrote a book called Leaving Church in which I detail leaving parish ministry, but I’m still very much involved in the church world. I end up speaking and lecturing in church settings at least twice a month. So I haven’t journeyed out of the church at all as far as I can tell. I’d say I consider myself a practicing Christian and in April I’ll celebrate my 30th anniversary as a priest in the Episcopal church. So I’m an active and practicing Christian, though I’m as bad at it as most of us are.
RNS: So if you’re a Christians and other who have very different beliefs and practices than you are too, what makes a person a Christian exactly?
BBT: I can call myself a Christian, and there are bodies of Christians who could disagree with me based on their own criteria about what makes a real Christian. But I think a lot of us are rethinking what it means to be Christian. And a lot of us are rejecting other people’s rejection of us as Christians. At this point in my life, I am pretty willing to let people tell me whether or not they are Christian rather than imposing my own definitions of it on them. My base definition is “here she says, here she is a Christian.”
What I don’t think is working so well–except perhaps for very tightly enclosed communities themselves–is defintions of what makes one truly Christian or not. That may be why we have more than 900 denominations in this country.