'Christianity Is My Spiritual Home'
Jane Fonda talks about how she is 'riveted' by faith and why she believes feminism is what Jesus taught.
BY: Interview by Lisa Schneider
From her longtime political activism to her Oscar-winning acting, Jane Fonda has never done anything halfheartedly, and she brings this characteristic intensity to her faith. When she talks about "feeling the presence of the Almighty," her view of Jesus, and the way she prays, her voice wells from deep within her chest. You may know this voice from her films (among dozens of others: "Barbarella," "Klute," "On Golden Pond," and currently in theaters, "Monster-in-Law"), or from her aerobics videos ("feel the burn!"), or from film reels from the sixties, when she spoke out against the Vietnam War. Fonda, now 67, spoke with us recently about her spirituality.
Read Beliefnet's complete interview and listen the audio excerpts below.
Jane Fonda talks about:
Beliefnet: Although you didn't identify with a particular religious path until recently, your book seems to tell the story of someone whose spiritual consciousness has been developing her whole life. You were raised as an agnostic, or an atheist?
Fonda: I always assumed it was as an atheist. Looking back now, I guess it was more an agnostic upbringing. My father's parents were Christian Science practitioners.
Things began to change for me-as I think they do for many people-when I was in crisis. I think that the reason that that happens is because pain can break you open. And you can go several ways with it. You can pretend that it's not happening and you can cover the broken places with busyness or alcohol or whatever-you can numb it.
What happened to me was, and I remember exactly where I was on the day: I mean, I was really in pain, and I said out loud-I was by myself-"If God wants me to suffer like this, there must be a reason." And it took me by surprise; I did a double take. I thought, "Where is that coming from?" And from that time forward, I became aware of, I call them coincidences. I just became very aware that the absolute right person would come into my life at the moment that I needed to know something. The exact right book would come into my hands. Oftentimes by people I didn't know. They were like sign posts! And I thought, "Has this been going on all along and I just didn't notice?"
And along about that time, I heard Bill Moyers say, "Coincidences are God's way of manifesting," and that lodged in me. That just really struck me and about that same time, I met Ted Turner and moved to Georgia-[laughs] Atlanta, Georgia!
|When I need an answer, or I need someone to be helped, it's always the same: my hands in prayer position and my thumbs pressed against my third eye, my forehead...|
Now, I had never lived in an environment where people went to church regularly and had a living faith. And I was, utterly fascinated because they were smart people, President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn and Ambassador Andrew Young and many others who were friends with Ted and people of deep faith. And I was married to Ted, a professed atheist, for ten years and for eight of those years, I spent a lot of time listening and talking and asking questions of these people.
By that time, it had come to feel like I was being led. It was a somatic feeling that I was being beckoned, and I often felt that there was a light drawing me. And I'm not a woo-woo kind of person! I'm not a New Age person. I grew up in the fifties. But it was a very powerful feeling.
What I realized writing my book was that I had been empty since adolescence. Whenever I try to figure out how to describe it, it always manifests for me in terms of emptiness. I feel like when I was an adolescent, and felt so unworthy of love and so empty, I moved outside of myself. Myself emptied out of myself. And what was left was a more perfect me that maybe people could love, and I wasn't going to show them the other part. And when you do that, you fill in the emptiness-well, it fills up with anxiety real fast, and to numb the anxiety you do many things. I suffered from eating disorders, and drinking, and you know, there are many ways of numbing it.
So if you leap almost 50 years later and I'm living in Georgia and I'm having this feeling of being led and I find myself so curious about this faith that these people all around me are practicing. I felt my emptiness being filled up with reverence.
This is the hunger that you talk about in the book-
--and finally that hunger is being satisfied.
With what I was really searching for all along. It was spiritual hunger. I was learning to be satisfied by spirit, [whereas before] I had been trying to satisfy the hunger with other things. And so, you know, like many people, I could have sort of settled with being spiritual.
You mean, settled with being spiritual, as opposed to becoming religious?
Correct. It would have just been meditation, but it became prayer.
I think it's partly that I live in Georgia; it's partly that it's my culture. You know, I wasn't attracted to Buddhism although I really respect it. I wasn't attracted to Islam although I really respect it. Or Judaism. I'm attracted to Jesus.