Monday, August 02, 2010

Anne Rice Says No to Christianity...But Yes to Jesus?

Well-known author Anne Rice, who has penned such popular titles as Interview With the Vampire, has recently renounced the Christianity that she re-embraced a dozen years ago.  Rice, who had abandoned the Catholic faith of her upbringing upon reaching adulthood, returned to that faith and publicly identified herself as a Christian in the late 90's.

But in a well-publicized series of posts on her Facebook page late last week, Rice said that she is longer a Christian.  Here is some of what she had to say:
"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else...

In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."
What is interesting to note here is like many of my generation, Ms. Rice seems to have more of a problem with organized religion than with Jesus himself.  While disassociating herself from the Catholic Church, she doesn't say she's done with Christ.  On the contrary, she claims that her "faith in Christ is central to [her] life."  But as far as the Church goes, it's over.

I wonder, perhaps, if she were to encounter a group of Christians that were more pro-Jesus than anti-other things, if that would change anything for her.  It's disappointing that her encounters with the Church have left her wanting and ready to give up on Christians.  I hope that at some point she would be able to meet some Christians that were not focused on organized religion but were sincere in their desire to live in relationship with Jesus.

Is it possible for a person to be in relationship with Christ apart from being involved in a local church or belonging to a particular denomination? Yes. Is that person going to grow in a way that causes them to be all that God wants them to be when not involved in Christian community? I doubt it. Even so, because Anne Rice has quit the Catholic Church it does not mean she's quit on Jesus. But I do hope that she finds a Christ-honoring community of believers that is different than her limited experiences of the past.

I, too, grow frustrated with how some so-called followers of Christ represent him to others. I believe that we can give the world a picture of Jesus that is not accurate and it causes some to ignore Christ because of how we as Christians behave. But in the end, I don't think God is going to excuse our failure to respond to him because some who identified themselves as Christians lived inconsistent lives.

If we see those who identify with Christ not representing him well, it is for us who care about that sort of thing to give a different picture. When others are hateful, we should love. When they are greedy, we should give. When they are prideful, we should be humble. When they demand their rights, we should give up ours.  As soon as we start living as Jesus lived, then I'm guessing that there will less people wanting to quit the Church and more that will be drawn to it.

1 comment:

Kaye said...

I have to say that I understand Anne's feeling of not belonging as I am also beginning to feel like an outsider for reasons similar to hers.

You're not alone in wishing that she could have encountered groups of Christians that were more like Jesus. However, I don't have the impression that she is speaking out of "limited" experience. It seems that her decision came after having more than one negative encounter with a hateful brand of Christianity.

Thankfully many of us are fortunate enough to find groups of true Jesus-followers, but this is perhaps missing her point. The presence of some positive experiences does not negate the fact that Christianity is becoming known for a sorry list of less-than-noble characteristics. That is indeed sad.

I agree with your challenge, Scott, that we should do what we can to counter those who are "not representing [Christ] well." However, it may take more than individual persons to balance out the damage being done by groups representing the philosophy of the organized church.

Thanks for posting this story. I pray that it will be a catalyst for at least some productive dialog, but I admit that I'm skeptical about that happening.