Barbara Brown Taylor Tells Christians to Embrace Darkness


She's been called a heretic by some and a prophet by others. Baylor University even named her one of the 12 most effective speakers in the English-speaking world.  Her name is Barbara Brown Taylor, and she is on a mission to redeem the darkness. "Christianity has never has anything nice to say about darkness," says the 62-year-old Episcopal priest in her new book, Learning to Walk in The Dark.  Taylor charges churches with propagating a "full solar spirituality" that "focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock." But she says the faithful need to discover a "lunar spirituality," which recognizes that humans need both darkness and the divine light .

It's fitting that Taylor's book should release before Holy Week, a time when Jesus entered what many Christians would call one of the darkest periods in his own life.  Was Christ's dark period a positive thing overall? I imagine most Christians would say "yes." Yet, some of those same Christians resist embracing darkness in their lives.

In the first part of my interview, Taylor and I discuss her message about darkness and why she thinks Christians need it. In part two, which will be posted tomorrow, we explore hot topics such as what she believes makes one Christian, if she believes in a literal devil, and whether she is afraid of dying.

RNS: How do you think modern Christians have misunderstood darkness, both in scripture and in life?

BBT: Once you start listening to how people use the words dark or darkness, it doesn’t take long to realize that the references are 99% negative. I don’t know how that happened in every day speech. Maybe it’s a linguistic fossil leftover from our days in caves or maybe it is a predictable association for people who’ve become addicted to light.

Where scripture is concerned, I don’t think Christians have misunderstood much of anything. From Genesis to Revelation, darkness is used a synonym for ignorance and sin and evil and death. But there are also narrative passages that form an easily missed minority report.

RNS: You also talk about the positive use of darkness Isaiah 45 (“I will give you hidden treasures in the darkness”). You obviously think we have misunderstood something, no?