A Christian Non-Churchgoer

In a two-part remembrance (onetwo) of the late novelist, poet, and translator Reynolds Price, Casey N. Cep focuses on the writer's persistent, idiosyncratic Christian faith. Cep ends her essay with a meditation on Price's fraught relationship with the organized church:

It pains me to know that Price considered himself “a literal outlaw” of Christian churches because of his homosexuality. In one of his final books, A Serious Way of Wondering: The Ethics of Jesus Imagined (2003), Price confessed “though I’m not a churchgoer, for more than sixty years I’ve read widely in the life and teachings of Jesus; and since at least the age of nine, I’ve thought of myself as a Christian.”

Like the mystic Simone Weil, who resigned herself to “the conclusion that my vocation is to be a Christian outside the Church,” Price found his community with Christ beyond the sanctuary.

In his 1991 Paris Review interview, Price talked about his religious life this way:

I don’t see my work as proselytizing, certainly not in any sectarian way. I grew up in a particular American religious tradition, which was Southern Christianity, and in my own immensely unorthodox way, I’ve remained in that tradition with no great problems to my intellect because it reached me so early and deeply. I still have very intense relations with what I can only rather spookily call “the unknown,” which definitely doesn’t mean Ouija boards or table tilting, though it does mean constant meditation and attempts at least to communicate hopes and various other forms of requests to a creator, the Creator, since I assume there’s only one. I think that all my work and its overreaching conviction of the comedy of history comes directly out of an unshaken knowledge that’s been inside me all my life. Again though, I won’t be passing out cards and asking you to step forward and give your life to the Lord here now. That’s your lookout.