I was interviewed by my friend and old touring mate for Faith and Art Zine. He sent this over to me so I thought I’d share it with you guys since the majority of you have never read a zine in your life.
ES: Hey Shane, I guess the first thing I’d like to ask about is your recent “renunciation” of faith, so to speak. Can you share with me where you are in your faith and what prompted this?
SC: Yeah sure… I think anyone who pays any kind of attention to my writing was expecting some sort of implosion or departure. I moved out to Portland with my wife about half a year ago to give this faith thing a shot. I wanted to see if I could find a place within the Christian institution. A lot of that had to do with getting married and trying to bring myself into a consistent sort of like-minded community. I’ve never been a proponent of most institutions, especially faith institutions. They’re all guilty of heinous crimes against humanity. The Christian institution, or church, I guess is still largely guilty of homophobia and militarism and sexist hierarchy. But I wanted to try and reconcile those things and move forward, despite my misgivings and chronic doubt. As it turned out, things got pretty rough for a while. My health took a turn for the worse and I think a lot of that had to do with the stress that I was experiencing because of the place I was at in my life. I was having a hard time spending so much time in a church being preached at and observing the way the church works. That’s not a judgment of the people in that institution or anything. It just simply isn’t for me. I hate that I lost that community with the poor that I had cultivated in St. Louis and I really missed being with those people. Unfortunately, it’s too late to really set down roots at a shelter here in Portland since I’m moving in less than a month. Things just took a toll. Suddenly, I was chastising myself for cursing or craving a drink to relax and take a breather. I remember I was standing in my kitchen with my pal, (bless his heart) and I accidentally said the word “damn”. Now, I don’t think twice when a person curses. It’s a human thing and I don’t think there’s any real shame in it. But when I let that word slip I was mortified and apologetic and ashamed. It wasn’t because of any convictions I hold now or anything, I was just terrified of what people would think. Anyway, that’s actually a small irrelevant incident. (what a boring story)
Right, so… My faith has been slipping and I’ve been less and less inclined to be viewed as some sort of Christian mentor. I have a lot of friends who are cool with that whole Christian leader thing. Actually, almost all of my Christian friends are cool with that. I’ve noticed that Christians really like making videos and writing books and standing on stages, which isn’t bad I guess but it doesn’t make sense for Christians, does it? I think I’m making stupid judgments, sorry about that. Anyway, I don’t want that and even in my rejection of that I was drawing more and more people into this unintentional spiritual guru-ish guise of mine. That was my fault because humility in Christian circles is a virtue and people were mistaking my indifference and disdain for humility. My friend Aaron says that battle goes round and round and on and on.
I just came to a place and a conclusion where I felt comfortable to leave organized religion and that institution behind in my search for spirituality. A large part of that had to do with my disdain for confusing emotion with some kind of spiritual experience. People are really encouraged to do that in church. Who knows? Maybe those fuzzy feelings are God? I don’t know. So I’m quite content now to delve back into community with the poor and focus my energy on growing as a writer. My wife and I returning to STL to spend time with our families for a while. After that we’ll continue our work with the Catholic Worker in NYC.
ES: That’s really cool and I think that’s a great place to be. That also begs the question: what’s the status of Pacifist Army and the Forest Life release?
SC: Pacifist Army will continue, nothing has changed. In fact, there’s some cool projects on the horizon and new nonviolent zines on the way. Forest Life will be released very soon. It was pushed back for revisions and production. Most of that was my fault because being ill really took a toll on me, so revisions took much longer than expected.
ES: Any projects after Forest Life?
SC: Yeah, of course. Forest Life has been a learning experience. Obviously in the past I’ve only done zine stuff and sloppy zine stuff at that. FL is the first actual novel I’ve written and I’ve learned a lot through the process. I’ve learned a lot about writing and the industry in general. I’ll start work on a new novel soon, probably search for a lit agent and try to shop it out to a larger publisher or something. The FL book tour is still in the works as well. I’m also working on a small screenplay with a friend for a small indie studio. Late in the year I’ll be accompanying some friends on tour as well.
ES: Do you think your writing will have spiritual overtones or is that going to fade?
SC: No, I don’t think it will always have obvious overtones. I’d like to do sci-fi stuff in the future or a YA project.
ES: What can you say about the spiritual overtones or themes in FL?
SC: While Forest Life does have religious themes, I think it mostly offers questions and paradoxes that commonly accompany grief. Everyone searches for meaning and purpose in their grief. I think it would be dishonest to write a novel about sustaining the will to live while ignoring the search for God. That being said… a large part of the book focuses on questions rather than answers and it focuses on the struggle that everyone faces after death. How do we let ourselves love again? How do we recover from the loss of purpose? How can we trust our thoughts and experiences? How do we honestly examine life when it’s easier to deceive ourselves?
ES: That sounds brilliant. New topic. What books/movies have you enjoyed lately?
SC: This week I read While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a collection of kickass short stories. I’m working my way through The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abrams. I also read The Graveyard Book and American God’s by Neil Gaiman a few days ago. I finally found the time to knock out some John Green books so I read Looking for Alaska. It was truly excellent. Today I’m going to Powell’s City of Books to read his new book The Fault in Our Stars. Oh! Yesterday I read Fahrenheit 451 for the third time to honor one of my heroes, Ray Bradbury.
ES: One last question: Would you say you’re still at a place of faith in the divine?
SC: I think I’d call myself an aspiring believer. I’d really like to experience the divine in a real tangible way but I’m not going to settle for my emotional rationalizing any longer. I won’t just pick and choose what I attach meaning onto and what I don’t. When People do that they just start throwing meaning around and revoking it when they want to rationalize things that can’t be rationalized. I guess I’m a seeker. That’s a stupid term. I hate when people use that term. Either way, I’m still trying to live out the teachings of Jesus without the rest of the religious garbage and indoctrination.
ES: Thanks Shane!