Wednesday, 3 February 2016

INTERVIEW: Lauren Kinzie

The Flurries Unlimited team was lucky enough to catch up with self-help writer Lauren Kinzie for a brief chat about her work.  This is what we discussed:

FU: You describe yourself as a former religious addict, what inspired you to change?

LK: I could not endure another day of living in the cage. I finally realized in mid-life that, what I thought of as my spiritual bedrock was actually what was harming me. This was not a happy epiphany. It was like I just regained consciousness after decades, only to find I was imprisoned. The cage prevented me from seeing a God that loved me and could be my friend, not just a scary authority figure. The cage prevented me from even understanding gratitude or joy because I feared punishment. It prevented from enjoying my life, because I wasn’t living it perfectly. How could I? God hated me. I realized that I was feeling shame about everything, and the source of that shame was my belief system, and the way others and I applied it to my life. Like any drug, my belief system limited me, stunted me, held me back, and made me a trembling dependent. I faced every day in fear of punishment for not being perfect, not living up to others’ expectations, particularly those I perceived as more “ holy” than I.
I wanted to escape the cage. To do so, I had to really examine every belief I had and why I had it, to locate its source. I embarked on the journey that became this book.
That required years of self-examination, until I found the scriptures and the sources for these addictive and limiting beliefs. I decided to go to the original source of my theology and examine the scriptures for evidence of a different God, different doctrine, and a different way to live, and found it. It is the compelling chronicle of the journey from shame and oppression to joy and freedom. Hence, the title, Undamned, My Escape from the Old Testament.
FU: How did that lead to this book?
LK: I couldn’t let anyone else needlessly go through what I did. Simply put, I wanted to return the gift of joy to so many who had it surgically removed from their spirits by their religion. We all want spiritual wholeness and healing, and seek it in a variety of ways, some effective, some not, but none of us deserve to be judged for this quest. It’s sacred in and of itself. In the book I describe my collision with the phenomenon of McChurch, something that can look more like a fast-food restaurant than a place of sanctuary, and can be more of a harmful addiction than a balm for wounds. So many people to whom I related this experience had the same thing happen to them, or something even more harrowing!
As a person of faith, my heart ached for so many who sought solace and got judgment and more pain, and was outraged that this was happening to so many, simply because they were asking questions every spiritual person has asked and should ask. This journey became the story, which became the basis of this book. It literally took a lifetime to write. My re-examination of the Bible and it’s scriptures gave me the healing tools that led to the transformation of my faith and myself, and the desire to help others. I also needed to ask a few poignant questions, along the way.
I sought to help others and heal myself and actually found answers to the questions that would not fit in this cold doctrine, as well as a whole new, more forgiving and infinite spirituality. I’m very honest about my role in this, and how my own misinterpretations of certain scriptures messed me up.
FU: There are thousands, even millions, of strongly religious people out there.  Have you experienced any backlash for this book?
LK: First of all, I am one of those millions of strongly religious people out there, and that is what motivated me to write this book, and be brutally honest about how my own misinterpretations led to a life of fear and strife, because my faith is the most important thing in the world to me. The book is more about discovering more in one’s religion or spiritual practice, how much fuller, broader, and infinite it can be, rather than throwing it away. It’s about what a faith can truly be, if we fully believe God is omnipotent, instead of just saying it, and quit labeling and limiting Him by projecting ourselves, others, or politics onto Him.
This is a very bold and brave belief, but a host of wonderful and unexpected things flow from it.
I’m happy to report that my biggest fans and most loyal readers are strongly religious people, just like me.
That being said, I did seriously fear backlash for writing something so different and bold, because we all hold our personal faith, whatever it may be, as sacrosanct and immutable. Some would rather ask no questions. All one has to do is take a look at social media to be intimidated about speaking up. In fact, I delayed digging in and writing this work for a year because of that fear. I did experience a few bizarre comments in response to the humorous spoken word video I have on YouTube and my website promoting and explaining why I wrote the book. Not everyone has my sense of humor, and not everyone thinks the subject of religion should ever be approached humorously. I can respect that. More than anything else, the book was intended to start a conversation, and I think it has. So, a reaction is expected and to be desired.
Ultimately, I realized I couldn’t help anyone if I let fear silence me: none of us can.

FU: Non-fiction is difficult to tackle because you have to check facts and information a bit more diligently than with fiction. What kind of research did you do in writing this book?
LK: I ask a lot of serious and perhaps unusual questions about faith in this book, and did my homework to find the answers.
I spent about a year and half simply organizing and researching the book, because in addition to being non- fiction, it blends 4 different genres of book—Non-fiction, Self-help, Memoir and Poetry—no easy feat. I wanted it to be a compelling read as well as a serious and thoughtful work. That required both good research and the flow of a novel.
Fortunately, since the book is about the Bible, its concepts, its scriptures and how they affect our lives, for better or worse, my main sources had to be the scriptures of the Bible itself—the NIV and Message version (The Message Remix: The Bible in Contemporary, Language by Eugene H. Peterson), and my own life. I had to do the inner work, just me alone with God and the scriptures; I had to actually live the journey I was describing.
I also read and researched many, many religious commentators and authors (listed in the book’s bibliography), because I wanted to make sure I was not being heretical, and found that I wasn’t. Finally, I spent a great deal of time poring over Facing Codependence, by Pia Mellody, with Andrea Wells Miller, and Keith Miller, to test and research a theory I posit in the book. But I didn’t want the work to be derivative of something or someone else. I wanted it to look at what we all consider sacred with fresh eyes. I hope I succeeded.
FU: So what is on the horizon?  What are your new projects? When is your next new release?
I am excited to get my poetry book, Ignite, out to the public by spring. Kirkus gave it a “Recommended” review and had some lovely things to say, which I will quote in the book itself and in advance of its release. It is the tangible embodiment of pure joy, and took 14 years of composing hundreds of individual works, then sculpting, cutting, and shaping them into a single, unified work, leaving nothing but the best on the cutting- room floor. I’ve got two more books planned after that, already in the works. That would cover the Christian, Spiritual, Self- Help/ Inspirational, and Poetry genres I think a novel should be next, don’t you?

FU:  Sounds great.  Thank you so much for chatting with us.

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