I am frequently asked about my faith. At the end of my marriage to Ted Turner I became a Christian. For several years prior, I had begun to feel I was being lead. I felt a presence, a reverence humming within me. It was and is difficult to articulate.

Today I think I know what was happening: I was becoming embodied, whole. I had spent 60 years dis-embodied, trying to be perfect so I could be loved. You can’t be whole if you’re trying to be perfect. Now, as I entered my sixth decade and with much work, I could feel myself becoming whole and I knew: This is what God is. I was stunned when I read in William Bridges’s The Way of Transition, that in Matthew 5:48 when Jesus tells his disciples, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” it was a mistranslation of the Greek adjective teleios which actually means “whole, fully formed, fully developed.” Jesus wasn’t telling his disciples to be perfect like God, he was telling them to be whole, like God.

This is what the third step of Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program means. It says we need to give ourselves over to our higher power, become whole (which addicts aren’t) by welcoming the Holy Spirit into our innermost selves.

I began looking for a container to house this fledgling feeling of reverence. Having grown up an atheist I had almost no experience of church and had never read the Bible but I had dear friends in my home-state of Georgia who found comfort and inspiration in their church community and they offered to open this world to me and “bring me to Christ.” Perhaps this would be the container I was seeking.

Unfortunately, my very private, tentative step into religion became a loud public misconception. A small- minded person, knowing about my quest, did an interview on a national website without my permission and said that, because of him, I had become a Born Again Christian. I had no intention of going public about my spiritual journey and in no way wanted to be tagged with the fundamentalism that Born-Again Christianity has come to be associated with. I found myself having to defend my action before I was entirely sure what it meant. I did feel reborn, I couldn’t deny that, but it had nothing to do with the perceived doctrines of fundamentalist Christianity.

Over the months, I went to Bible study every week, had it interpreted for me by biblical literalists, did my homework faithfully but, as time went on, I felt myself losing the very thing that had called me from within: Spirit. The literalness with which I was expected to read and interpret the Bible seemed to simplify and flatten out what I wanted to experience as metaphor. Christianity was beginning to feel shrunken, freeze-dried. Words like ‘Thou Shalt,’ ‘Salvation,” ‘Lord,’ and ‘Repentance,’ drowned out one of my favorite Sufi poems by Hafiz:

Has known God,
Not the God of names,
Nor the God of don’ts,
Nor the God who never does
Anything weird,
But the God who knows only four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with Me.”

As I diligently slogged away in my weekly bible class, doing the homework and studying the charts, I began to notice that the dance was gone. Try to render it literal, concrete, and it dies. I had started my journey with a powerful sense of the divine presence, but the linear approach seemed too rigid to contain this and I began to get scared: What had I gotten myself into?

I had met some inspiring, extraordinary Christians, but there were others that came at me, fingers pointing in my face, demanding to know my position on this or that and if I could not say certain key words like “died for our sins,” it meant I wasn’t a Christian.

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.

Riffat Hassan, a Pakistan-born professor of religious studies and humanities at the University of Louisville says that in Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions there are three basic (and unwarranted) assumptions upon which the ideas of male superiority over women are founded: “first, that God’s primary creation is man, not woman, since woman is believed to have been created from man’s rib and is, therefore, derivative (As Carol Gilligan has said, “If you make a woman out of a man, you are bound to get into trouble); second, that woman was the primary agent of ‘Man’s Fall,’ and hence all ‘daughters of Eve’ are to be regarded with hatred, suspicion and contempt; and third, that woman was created not only from man but for man, which makes her existence merely instrumental.” From what I can see, none of this was Jesus’ idea. He did not see women as less-than after-thoughts. In fact, his friendships with women were revolutionary for that time. The more I study the teachings of Jesus, the more convinced I become that a foundational aspect of his teaching is the equality of women and men in God’s eyes, deserving of equal treatment. Look at the many women who followed him, sustained him. Look at the women who were shunned by all others but who Jesus touched and kissed and loved. Christian women preached and performed the Eucharist. It was to women that the arisen Christ appeared. After his death, when many Christians fled into the desert to set up Christian communities women outnumbered men 2 to 1.

I find particularly moving and plausible his special relationship with Mary, the apostle that is revealed in the Gospel of Mary. Jesus was love, not just love for some and not for others but…love…for all.

I think two thousand years ago, Jesus’ teachings, including and perhaps especially his respect for women, were so radical and so threatening to the Priesthood (Patriarchy) that they had to try to claim and cage and redefine him as “God in our [read male] image.” The formal church that grew up in the centuries following his death had to diminish the revolutionary content of his teachings in order to create a unified Christian church.

In my studies, I learned that 325 years after Jesus was crucified at the Council of Nicea, a gathering of Christian leaders, all men, decided by a show of hands and amidst bitter theological differences, what would be included as Biblical cannon and what was to be left out and decreed that Jesus was not only the Son of God but God himself.

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.

For a while, I became a student at the Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta, the largest training center for African American ministers in the country. As a college drop-out who still has anxiety-ridden dreams of leaving a job unfinished, I relished being back in school and overwhelmed with homework: Biblical Exegesis, Feminist Interpretation, Systematic Theology. I was one of the few white students and, despite that, managed to come and go in anonymity—until Monster-In-Law came out and stirred up some excitement—the little old white lady in the back row is the one who kicked Jennifer Lopez’s ass!!

Over time, and, I feel, because I stepped outside of established religion, I was able to rekindle the spiritual experience that I’d been seeking. Some will say that because of all this I am not a true Christian. So be it. I feel like a Christian, I believe in the teachings of Jesus and try to practice them in my life. I have found Christians all over this country who feel as I do. They may not have been ‘saved’ yet they hum with divine spirit.

My faith is a work in progress (as am I) but I will plant my flag on the belief that God lives within each of us as Spirit (or soul). I like what Reverend Forrest Church says: “God is not God’s name. God is our name for that which is greater than all and yet present in all.” I believe that Christ was the personal incarnation of the divine wisdom in everything, including every form of spiritual expression.

Lots of folks go to church every Sunday and spend the rest of their time avoiding dealing with the question of consciousness. They try to pass time with pastimes, possessions, prestige. They think about God and talk about their religious beliefs but avoid experiencing Spirit. Thinking and experiencing aren’t the same. One happens in the head. The other is a flash, a rush of intuition that seems to permeate our entire being. That is what Jesus meant when he said that God is within us. That is what I am seeking, and I have found that since I have come to feel God within me, I experience less fear—of anything, including death. Sharon Salzberg, in her book “Faith,” explains it this way: “As our faith deepens, the ‘container’ in which fear arises gets bigger. Like a teaspoon of salt placed in a pond full of fresh water rather than in a narrow glass, if our measure of fear is arising in an open, vast space of heart, we will not shut down around it.”

Another result of my faith is that I have become a deeper, more embodied feminist. Helen LaKelly Hunt is right when she says in her book “Faith & Feminism,” that feminism is about fighting for the core beliefs and values of Christianity. “Religion and feminism are different expressions of the same impulse toward making life more just and whole.”

  William Bridges,  The Way of Transition, Perseus Publishing, p. 196

Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the Woman Apostle” by Karen King of Harvard Divinity School

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  1. Wow. Beautiful Post. You have described my experience perfectly. Peace be with you 🙂

  2. You should ask Arianna Huffington to put this on The Huffington Post. People need to read this. You did more with your words, being so clear about what you have learned and acknowledging that you are yet still humbly searching, that it does transform one to read it, and it makes me (as well as others) feel connected to a spiritual self that others would deny. Thank you, Jane- my mantra has always been from the time I was a young child that “the meaning of life is found in the quest for knowledge” It should never end, that quest. We never know everything, but the willingness to learn is what keeps us alive, present, and able to help ourselves and others. You have certainly put yourself on the line, more than once, to teach and help some to the other side of themselves. You will never be “the little old white lady in the back row” You will always be a beacon of light, to so many. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  3. Thank you for this piece. I’m thrilled that you do know God, the you follow the teachings of Jesus, and that you listen to the Holy Spirit. I feel badly that in your journey, you were given stumbling blocks. No man (or woman) can judge another man (or woman). I do hope you do believe Christ died for you and that Christ is also God. Otherwise, who was God talking to in Genesis 1? 🙂

  4. The spirit within you, and within everyone, knows the truth and is guiding you always. You know when what you are reading and studying is true. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” Keep listening to your inner guidance, and you will always dance with God. Sending you love on your journey!

  5. When I was a kid, my uncle, a pastor, would tell me, “No one is a Christian, they just strive to be one.”

  6. Beautiful…

  7. Thanks a lot for this. I was raised in a Christian Family and have always identified with the Christian Faith but I do not always identify with the people who consider themselves Christian or “preach” it wherever they go. My beliefs have/are helping me soar as a performer.

    I take your words to heart and am sharing the link to this blog on my blog. These are words people should hear. Thank you.

  8. Jane –

    Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful, insightful and well-written essay.

    My mother converted from Catholicism to a Jehovah’s Witness when I was 5 and I have always had difficulty with her extremely literal interpretation of the Bible.

    I also believe that the Bible and Jesus’ teachings are mainly parables. I love how you put it “metaphor, stories, and poems—all forms of art.”

    I would like to have more faith and less fear. Your thoughts make me believe that’s possible.

    Thanks again;)


  9. A thoughtful, truthful, and brave pronunciation of faith and Christianity. The truth is found.

    I’m happy for you. You’re writing will inspire others to think, feel, love, and be whole.

  10. I have always been a hugh a fan & loved you and have defended you in many conversations with friends and colleages. It’s interesting after I read your blog on religion, I couldn’t help but think of your character Chelsea Thayer from “On Golden Pond”. Such parallels to life, especially looking for perfection.
    By the way, you look fabulous. If you ever come back to Montana and need a great facial- look me up.
    Wilona Betzen

  11. Thank you for sharing your faith journey. Continuing conversion is something I learned to embrace as I studied my own Catholic religion. We are all striving to fully embrace and understand what in truth may never be truly understood, just felt and loved and lived.

  12. As an Atlanta native who grew up in fundamentalist Christianity, I remember hearing the rumors about your “salvation experience.” At that time I was just beginning to venture away from the institution of religion myself. It was actually in an MFA actor training program that Alexander work (and other physical and vocal exploration) allowed me to begin opening up physically and mentally. To start letting go of the rigid ideas of fundamentalism that encapsulated most of my thinking. As a result of this letting go, the spiritual awakening I had prayed for so long in church began to show up. I got a glimpse of a god far bigger and more permeating than the one we sang about at church camp back in the day.

    Theatre opened my eyes to what I thought must be hard and cold, and now, I laugh to see how small I must have thought God was before. Aside from being my livelihood, theatre and the creation process has become part of my container for the impulse toward… “more.”

    Funny how you can start as an atheist and I can start as a fundamentalist and we can all end up in a pretty similar place, eh? If you seek truth, you will find it… sooner or later…

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful journey.

  13. Thank you so much for “about my faith”. I’m reading and rereading your remarks. You can describe things that I feel but cannot express. I’m grateful. Roland

  14. Jane, thank you, thank you, thank you. How blessed you are to have entered your 60th year discovering you don’t have to be perfect, but whole. I need to reread and reread your relections on your faith, and your journey to where you are now. Thank you SO much for sharing.

  15. Let me start with man’s consciousness, you see another
    creation God put into man and fail again..it is why Grace
    had to be given and that meant his son Jesus would have to be the word and grace to come for mankind to finally understand just how much God loves all. Jesus, was with his Father billion of years ago..even at the time when God ask Jesus, let us go down and change their languages. Jesus, has been a Great part of God’s creation from the beginning. Our faith is our real belief to overcome our trial Satan puts on us. In the end we maintain ourselves with faith to stay with our lord, we have won and our faith has made us whole. Very much like Jesus. God failed with the creation of mankind so terrible He had to destroy generations..He is looking for
    those who is not afraid to stand up and say I am the biggest sinner of all when we stand and judge our brother’s and sister’s. The spirit is love & nothing except love. We must show God we love Him with our mind, bodies and our soul’s. We show God love when we love one another regardless, IF they are filled with sin.
    We must pray for those who are lost. It is our deeds for Him, and our faith to build stronger and stronger in His
    control over us. God, has already plan our life. We must
    follow Him and not the ways of the world. OK, think I have added something for you. Stay with your faith and read the BIBLE, King James Version..forget what everyone else is reading. This the Torah, translated into
    Greek and then English. Women are just as equal as a man. God, created Eve for Adam, because he was lonely and needed a partner. Also, for marriage in order that the man would not have to commit adultry. Ha! they do anyway. Jesus says, it better to remain single.

  16. I’m with you Jane. If you haven’t found out already, I know you will love Eckhart Tolle — The Power of Now — A New Earth — Stillness Speaks BTW — Your picture at Machu Picchu inspired me to create a design with MP as background, called “The Spirit of Machu Picchu” and can be found in Gallery 1 of my site. (Might be a bit too explicit for some.)

  17. Jane, thank you so much for sharing this insight. I have oftened wondered about you and your journey with Christ. Hope you are enjoying Paris.

  18. thank you Jane for sharing very personal information – you write beautifully.

    May you always walk in peace and beauty…Palestar

    Enjoy Paris – i wonder shall I put it on my bucket list? 😉

  19. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal, intelligent and enlightening blog.

    All I can say is Wow!

    and Thank You.

  20. Wow. What a strong, heart felt and intelligent statement of your faith and ongoing walk with God! I have a lot of respect for the way you have given yourself to your quest.

    I am a similar style of Christian. I have never believed that Christianity was about being “saved” in the fundamentalist sense. You might really enjoy reading Matthew Fox’s Original Blessing (vs. original sin). I think he is on to something.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.
    your sister in Christ

  21. Wow, it’s like reading some of my own travels in faith here. Thank you for sharing this. My own faith is a combination of so many that I cannot give words to it. So on my Facebook page I just simply state that I believe in the commonality of all faiths. I have several of Pagel’s books as well, though have only read in spurts. Have stacks of others, too. My quest continues, and will probably never end, and I truly hope it doesn’t. The human soul is wide and varied and very creative. Who is to say that one is more proper than another. Those who say this usually manage to get my blood pressure up, HA! But your blog entry here is the closest I’ve seen to coming to the point in a long long while. Thank you. Truly!
    Michelle Wood (former Georgian as well)

  22. Congratulations on your spiritual journey whereever it may lead you…I think the spoken word should be left to personal interpretations.If u have questions about a particular verse or chapter then I would seek a bible study…
    One of my favorite chapters is Corinthians.I also enjoy Psams and Proverbs…

    In the new testiment, I like reading about Jesus. He was such a wonderful person and yet showed his side of anger when the taxes were collecting around the church..
    Jesus never said anything against same sex couples. Later when he left the people to go ye and preach to the world… The word became subject to whatwas exceptable 2 the times and also to some degree to please the Romans…These people had 2 compromise in order to be accepted.

    Jesus did not compromise instead he died for what he believed 2 be the right thing for his purpose here on earth…

    If ya haven’t seen the movie JesusChrist Superstar,please do…Also the book ,”The Da Vinci Code,I not so sure their wasn’t some truth in secrets and censorship by the church…

  23. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on faith. It’s always a thrill to hear the story of someone who has recognized Love’s call and granted permission for the transformation to begin. Although I grew up in a church of the Christian faith tradition, I consider that my spiritual journey actually began in the early 1980’s when I realized that my desire to “know” God was now greater than my fear of where that relationship could lead me. The transformation continues. I can truly say that my faith has set me free. The Holy Spirit has moved me from a fundamentalist mind-set to a liberal mind-set. Over the years I have found books (including Elaine Pagels) that have affirmed and influenced my journey. Recently someone asked me to read a book called “The Shack” by William Young. It’s not the typical book I would choose…it is fiction but it has had a profound influence on some aspects of my thoughts about God. If you haven’t read it, you might pick it up sometime. You might like, and even be amused by, some of the “pictures” the author paints of God. I believe that the call of Jesus is the same to everyone….follow me! If we follow Jesus’ example we cannot help but have fulfilled lives and, for me, that’s Christianity. Thanks again for sharing so much of yourself in your blog. Best wishes for a successful surgery and quick recovery on that knee.

  24. What a treasure to read. I have looked forward, since you spoke of it’s developement. I am no scholar, mearly a Grandma of a blended loving 4, that asserts my opinion when someone asks. I even, ask them “are you SURE you want me to answer that?”. Life is to short, I have lived 40 of my 46 with J.R.Arthritis(everywhere but my hair), it’s been interesting to say the least.

    But since some crazy Dr’s told me, as a child I would be dead from this by 40.

    I realized @ 40, THIS, is the bonus round, and I better make the best of it. I stick my nose in, when others wish I wouldnt, demand facts, seek answers and always present the truth.

    I m “new” to GOD also, but the closer I get, the closer I get. I tell my family I have to keep getting my GOD card punched, so when the time comes I hope my fighting for the underdog helps. no big feats, maybe someone is misplaced, or can’t get out of their car without assistance, if I am there, I will try my best. Somedays, when I feel crappy, just a wide smile brightens others day. I think every litttle bit helps. I see no colors or limitations. Spending much of my childhood in hospitals, there were no colors or classes. I’m glad I had those experiences they made me who I am.

    Thank you for allowing us to view your writtings.

    You really are a very special person.
    Take Care, God Bless,

  25. Thank you. You never cease to be an inspiration.

  26. Check out Kabbalah. You can still be a Christian and study Kabbalah. It is intellectual and very spiritual.
    It explains why we are here on earth and what the Divine plan is.
    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts on faith.

  27. Thank you for sharing. I agree with the ideas you so eloquently expressed. I have seen the inside of the Christian church in America and it does not always reflect Jesus’ intentions of love and service. It is frequently self-serving and judgmental. I, too, consider myself a Christ follower and seek to experience the Divine daily. Yet I cannot exclusively align myself as ‘born-again’. I seek to enjoy spiritual renewal daily and find it to be a personal process. I appreciate your thoughts.

  28. Not to be ironic, but Thank God. When I heard you had become a Christian….I was (what is the word…confused?). How could this Icon of feminism, of personal responsibility, of action….suddenly relequish that “freedom” for the shackles of Christianity? I am so glad I stumbled on to your blog…this blog. I too have been struggeling with what is faith and what is spirit. So much so, I found myself suddenly with no faith and little spirit. Over the past few years, the Christian right has frankly scared the pants off me….I was raised a Catholic, but could not reconcile myself to those “Christians” who believe with all passion that the Bible must be taken as “fact..the actual word of God”. Those people who said that you could not interprete, or find metaphor in the Bible. How could I believe in equal rights, how could I believe I was was equal, and also believe in the Bible? How could I even believe in the forgiveness and compassion of Christ? Your Blog has given me some insight that I may be able to find my own faith and spirit and find what God is to me….not what they tell me it is. I am not as far along on my journey as you are…just barely started in fact. Thanks for the references you included, I will reach out to them as well. Good luck on your own continued journey, would love to hear more….will be watching your blog. K

  29. Thank you for sharing your spiritual journey with us! I think our spiritual jouney is just that…an on going process that grows ad changes… not a straight shot to a single destination. My faith practice focuses on how I treat others in the world on a day to day basis…. hoping to leave this place a better place than I found it! I think your actions indicate that is also a part of your spiritual practice!


  30. That was a beautiful and erudite piece. It has given me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing.

  31. I completely agree with your views on Jesus and his attitude toward women & society. Unlike you, I grew up in the institutional, patriarchal church, but fled 2.5 years ago in response to the finger-pointers you describe & the hypocrisy and lack of integrity of the leaders.

    You might find this article of interest: http://www.hopefulspirit.com/2008/06/01/feminism/

    I also appreciate so much that you see “God” as genderless and call the Spirit by the name “Divine,” as do I. Or “Divine Creator.” Love the quote you included, as well.

    Blessings to you on your journey. You are a brave, articulate artist (and always have been), and I am proud to be a long-time fan.

    I do have a question. You said that you grew up an atheist. Was your father an atheist? And if so, how do you feel about/deal with that now that you have gotten in touch with your spirituality. What are your views on life after life & are you fearful about where he might be now? Or do you believe in an all-forgiving, loving Divine that will assure the two of you are reunited one day. (I heard you mention that you wished he was at the Tonys with you which brought back memories of watching you the night he won the Oscar for “On Golden Pond.” My relationship with my father was much like your character’s in that film and people even said that my father looked like yours, which we always considered a wonderful compliment.)

  32. I harken to Buddhism, but love is love as is God, so this is still a relevant and beautiful read!

  33. Thank you so much. I identified with so may of your fears and hesitations — and was deeply inspired by your willingness to persist in exploring your spiritual path anyway. That’s where freedom lies for me, in the “anyway.” Have you considered teaching spiritual classes online? I would LOVE to enroll. Seriously. Peace be with you, serenity sister.

  34. Beautifully written!!! May God’s blessings be upon you.

  35. Very interesting. As one who has always doubted everything, even existence itself, I would conclude, perhaps, that doubt is the way of making intellectual progress, while certainty is the way of intellectual stagnation.

    And so yo have given up fear. This is certainly better than worrying about perfection. Am reminded of some local Buddhists popular among young people and old alike who seek to reform themselves by taking vows, such as renouncing worldly things, addictions, such as alcohol and cigarettes, and even lust, but giving up lust is an advantage actually for genuine love, yet they tell people it is OK to fail a little, as it is more the attitude, the orientation, and they wear robes and say mantras to encourage themselves. They kind of remind me of early Christians and are very accepting of anyone.

    So then it is a question of whether the religious code, the studies, serves to further this acceptance and enlightenment, or whether it becomes a hindrance to further progress, and i suppose it all depends upon your attitude. I think it is important to keep the code, whatever it is, as something less important than the people, and yourself, the inner feelings, as you point to the objective of feeling whole and one with others.

    So that is very simple, and yes, i could see and feel that even the young Jane (30’s) was all about belief in something, about the strength of moral conviction, and she was always open to the truth as expressed in people, especially people who were excluded or oppressed. And it has always been this spirit and quest, and unwillingness to compromise principle, that has inspired people to regard you as a symbol of something larger than what you perhaps fully understood at the time.

    So it is not so surprising to read about your explorations with “Christianity,” particularity living in Atlanta and your interpretation of it and other forms of spirituality.

    While the younger jane was the more emotive, the older jane is the more wise for sure, but i can also see the unity of the two, i think.

  36. Unfortunately there are a lot of persons and establishments that have given Christianity a “black eye” – a stigma. God-Jesus-the Holy Spirit are way too big to put in a box or label. With that said, the Bible is the perfect work and picture of God. It is the soil to wiggle our toes in and take root. It is THE field guide for God’s character.
    The danger with literal interpretation is not knowing the Greek and Hebrew meaning of words used, context, geography, and culture.
    Inductive Bible Study with Kay Arthur changed my life and the way I read God’s word. It came alive! I began to see the beautiful and perfect tapestry that He had given us from beginning to end. I found myself saying “Do others know about this?!”

    Let the Word interpret the Word. So that you know that you know that you know!

  37. Interesting that Jane you have chosen the word FAITH, I was just reading a debated the meaning of Thomas Merton’s words about the subject of faith. Merton wrote also about Zen and Christianity,Merton writes:
    “The beginning of contemplation is faith,” but then adds a puzzling sentence, “First of all, faith is not an emotion, not a feeling,” for if faith is “not an emotion, not a feeling,” then what is it? Are we to believe faith is hope, or belief, and if so, are they not emotions or feelings?Merton struggled to reconcile the Western and Christian impulse to catalog and put into words every experience with the ideas of Christian apophatic theology and the unspeakable nature of the Zen experience.

  38. Hi there, thanks for introducing me to the Sufi poem. It is beautiful.

    And may I add that I kind of identify with what you posted. The language of the soul appealed to me…

  39. Excellent post and, if you don’t mind me saying, a really well-reasoned explanation of faith. It’s refreshing to see someone who has embraced the spirit and love of a holy spirit, without needing to take on the trappings and baggage of “religion”. Too many of the people I meet think that if you go to church then you must be a good Christian but I feel that that view mises the point. Living in the way that Jesus taught is by far the most important thing.

    I am not religious in the normal sense because my “faith” is in science and I find it hard to believe in something that can’t be proven by seeing it or touching it. However, I believe very passionately that we should “love thy neighbour” and that concepts of peace and of basic fairness and equality of all humankind should be the cornerstones on which we should build our lives.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing that with us 🙂

  40. Jane,

    I was really tired this morning. I was hurt inside and felt really bad. I lost my faith for a while. I know how it feels when you think you have to be perfect to be loved. It’s really heavy feeling trying to success all the time.

    Then I noticed your post about your faith. I want to thank you more than million times for posting this! I can’t even describe what it meant to me! I was crying after many years when I read your post. Something moved inside me. I felt much better after that. You saved my day!

    I wish you all the best, Jane.

  41. Jane,

    Thanks for this. It’s very well articulated and clears up misconceptions. I read your autobiography when it was out in hardback a few years ago, so knew from the little you wrote there about it, that your faith was that of a mystic. But my father, who’s liked you for years, and named me in 1967 after your character in “Barefoot In The Park,” had misconceptions and was worried you’d become a rigid, linear born again Christian. Though I’m Jewish, my experiences of g-d are the same as yours. We both seem to believe in the mystical concept of g-d as a spirit-ful, soulful, art-ful breath-filled experience of ourselves and the universe of which we are all a part.

  42. I kept thinking of your thoughts on your faith last night and found this quote from James Finley’s book, “Merton’s Palace of Nowhere”.

    “Spiritual life is a long and arduous journey on which we slowly become detached from our false illusory self – a self that is little more than the collective evaluations and affirmations of our surroundings – and are opened up to receive a new self that is participation in the life of God”

    To me, this so describes your journey. Thanks again for sharing this. I agree this should be published somewhere for all to see.


  43. Hi Jane!

    I so love your honesty about your faith. I am a “saved” Christian & completely identify with your disenchantment with the church. Christians have become so obsessed with being good that they have forgotten the way Christ actually lived & that we are to follow that example & be HUMBLE as well as confident in what we believe.

    If you want an awesome, VERY honest church to visit in Los Angeles you should look up Reality LA. The teaching is the most honest I’ve had in my whole life (I grew up in a Christian conservative family in Charleston, SC) & have been parts of various churches my whole life. None struck a chord with me until I went to Reality. It’s located in Hollywood off of Van Ness.

  44. This is the way I have felt about Christianity all of my life.
    Solid believer as a child. Disappointment and confusion when I grew up and realized how patriarchal and chauvinistic the Bible is. Genesis always was annoying. And turned to Buddhism for spirituality and grace. Then Hafiz turned out to be my best conduit to God. So it was quite gratifying and wonderful to read your post this morning.
    Thank you for writing it down and publishing it for others to read and contemplate.

  45. This needs to be shared with all. It is such a beautifully expressed feeling of faith. You are the best! And, so intellegent! Thank you!

  46. Hi Jane!

    I understand the hunger of your soul, but caution you on looking outside the Word of God for food. The deep food that you crave, and the intimate relationship that can be formed with the Holy Spirit, is within His Word. There are Bible Teachers who are True to His Word, that can lead you to those depths. You don’t need to go the agnostic route to find the mysteries of the LORD God. If God is calling you closer to Him, and wills to reveal some of His deeper things, then look for those Bible Teachers that focus on the Bible in their teachings, and you will not be led astray.

    There are supercharged, deeply wise teachers prepared for mature Christians. They are not famous or worldly, and often difficult to find if looking on your own. But, the Holy Spirit can guide you to a teacher that will bring you to the deep teachings of God, if you are willing to be led. It is not in the agnostics teachings that you will receive the deepness, but in the focus on the study of His Word by a true Bible Teacher guiding your learning, that will finally free your walk and help you learn His deep things.

  47. Jane

    What you have written is a profound testimony to the truth of god’s presence within you – us!
    Blessings for deeper peace , brighter light and the energy to translate your fervor into your manifold gifts as actor, writer, teacher, person

  48. Ms. Fonda, this is the most eloquent explanation and it reverberates strongly with me. I started a Christian and am now an atheist (although I hate that word).

    After reading your autobiography (which moved me immensely!), I am a bigger fan and think you’re also a very wise woman.

    If only more extreme Christians realized the factual origins of The Bible …. As Eckhart Tolle explains, and you reiterated here, one must be careful that the WORDS do not diminish the unexplainable, human FEELING of spiritual connection.

  49. You might find the writings of Karen Armstrong of interest;”Through the Narrow Gate” and “The Spiral Staircase”. She has written other books, all on theology or religion. We are all seeking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  50. Wow…thisis a great post. You have expressed what the majority of Christians are missing – the experience of the indwelling of the Spirit. I would love to see what book you recommend that have been helpful in you study.

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