She writes today:
July 27: 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.
July 27: I quit being a Christian. I'm out. 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.
July 28: 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 C...hristianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
My posts about quitting Christianity have brought in a lot of mail. Most of it is positive; a small amount is negative. But one thing is clear: people care passionately about belief. They care about living lives of meaning and significance. And that is a beautiful and reassuring thing. I'll have more on the subject in... the future.One of the scariest books I've ever read was Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Therefore I was astonished when she became a follower of Christ (much of it influenced by N.T. Wrights writings, by the way) and rejoined the Roman Catholic Church. Now she has stepped away from Catholicism and it appears, organized Christian religion in general, though she continues to post excellent scriptures on her Facebook page. She apparently is a liberal Democrat and cannot reconcile her personal political beliefs with the Christianity she sees in the Roman Catholic Church and other organized Christian faith groups.
As Kerouac might say, she's on the road.
It is clear that Anne Rice has been let down and let down in a big way. Before we dismiss her outright for flipping theologically and morally out, it may be important to pause and consider - and consider seriously - why does she feel let down? Why does she write, "Following Christ does not mean following His followers?"
It is fairly simple to move away from Jesus being Lord to the Church being lord. It can happen in the most organized of ways and it can happen in quite subtle ways. It can happen very quickly. The first two commandments are doozies, no other gods but God - and no substitutes either. To swap the Church (and that means the followers of Jesus) for Jesus Himself spells disaster. It spells not only some of greatest catastrophes in history, but also personal disillusionment and the loss of faith. I think of Christopher Hitchens.
Many more are walking wounded.
What I hear in Anne Rice's lament is her bewilderment at the lack of love in caring for those on the margins of our society. While I disagree with the political methods of progressive innovations, it cannot be said that the Church (Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant) is a stellar witness of radical hospitality for those left smashed one way or the other. The progressive view has been basically to give the world bread and circuses, to give the brokenhearted what they want and, perhaps with the best of intentions, call it all good. However, even Dylan calls that one on the carpet in a recent composition, It's All Good. It seems like the nice thing to do - to give people what they think will make them happy and certainly Anne Rice has embraced that view. If everyone would just be nicer, it wouldn't be so hard to be a Christian.
But on the other hand, she does make a point. "Christians" are suffering from more than just a PR crisis that hiring a flak will cure. There is actually a problem and it's a big one. We can't simply point at someone else and say it's your fault. The fault lies no where else except at our own personal feet.
Jesus summed up the Law of Moses in two commandments - Love God and Love your neighbor. Loving God means making God first in our life and that has a radical impact on our lifestyle - it is a searing of the heart.
And then, just in case we think it's all just about "me and God," Jesus reminds us of the second most important point - to love our neighbor and what does that really mean? Does it mean giving people what they want? Perhaps sometimes. Even God gives us what we want sometimes and calls it free will - but He doesn't leave us there.
I am reminded of Jesus at the well - there in the middle of the day when the woman of less than stellar reputation comes to get water and Jesus asks her to get him a drink. What a moment. What an extraordinary moment. He does tell her the truth - the very hard truth. But how he does it - how she is set free and not condemned completely and radically changes her life that she becomes for all intensive purposed the first Christian evangelist.
Here is a modern interpretation of the woman at the well:
Perhaps we should just pause there for a moment.
Love you, Baby Blue. Thank you for this.
Thanks posting this. One of the most interesting book titles I have come across is "The Church and the Dechurched: Mending a Damaged Faith" and I would, by the evidence of her comments, include Anne Rice among the dechurched. While I have at times been unsuccessful in ministering effectively to folks who have been seriously wounded by church leaders, they have often shown up on Sundays wondering if they will find a community in which they can meet Jesus again and find healing.
Back in the 30's. There was a little, 3rd grade educated black man that said something that started the ball rolling. He said that christinity was and is used to oppress millions of Blacks. that American christianity was an apostate religion and was under the judgment of God.
In the 30's that was laughable, because the notion of white supremacy kept most from seeing the truth of his claim. However, Christianty since the 60's has gradually lost its social capital, and for many is nothing more than a peculiar social club.
I agree with the substance of your post, Baby Blue -- we always need to listen carefully, and prayerfully, to people like Anne Rice. We need to love all of the wounded in our midst. And we should not rush to judgment.
Still, this is *not* the issue (at least not the essential one): "It is fairly simple to move away from Jesus being Lord to the Church being lord."
Since the Jesus movement, many -- arguably even the mainstream of -- American evangelicals have worked overtime to separate Jesus and the Church. We've been saying for four decades now that the Church is the problem, and everyone just needs to rediscover Jesus. We've had catchphrases dating back to the '60s or '70s: "Christianity is a relationship, not a religion." "I believe in Christianity, not Churchianity." We've redefined the Church as either a local gathering of believers or believers themselves. (That is only a partial truth.) More recently, it's become popular to talk about "community" rather than "church." Large segments of evangelicalism have said that the church's purpose is for "fellowship," and if you can get that without going to church, that's great. Home groups have, in some quarters, become semi-popular alternatives to churches.
But after 40 years of making this marked delineation in numerous ways, we've seen, IMHO, a plethora of bitter fruit: the rise of extremely individualistic faith (always a particularly American temptation), a horrendous understanding of the Church as a man-made institution (which it is not) that gets in the way of right relationship with God, and continually declining church attendance. While many factors contribute to these results, we still have to face up to the fact that our own attitudes toward, and understandings of, the Church have been a major contributor.
It seems to me that Rice is not responding to the Church, nor is she embittered by having made the Church lord. Rather, it seems that she is primarily reacting against certain American evangelical trends and tendencies -- perhaps particularly the lamentable tendency by some to define themselves by what they oppose rather than what they are for. I wonder whether she ever read enough evangelical theologians who do not, say, see faith and science in opposition and could point her to a cohesively Christian worldview. (At least she knows N. T. Wright!)
But by all means let us listen to the wounded, and act in love, Baby Blue.
Addendum/correction: I forgot that Rice had rejoined the Roman Catholic Church, and so it certainly could be a reaction against the doctrine and stances taken by that church. I had received the impression over the last few years that she was moving in evangelical circles as well, but that might be because she was referenced fairly often by evangelicals.
A most beautiful post, BB.
And Ralph, thank you for that important and well-thought-out rejoinder. A very stimulating thought indeed. You are so right about this lamentable tendency amongst evangelicals (and others).
So my immediate question was different. Looking at her hands in the picture included, is that some kind of gang related sign she's making? Got some hidden meaning? Inquiring minds want to know.
Daniel, thanks for the way you tend the wounded sheep. It is so difficult and sometimes very unrewarding. Those you help may not find their ultimate church homes in your own pews, but you have helped them along nonetheless.
I am thankful that we have many different types of churches where God can minister to people in different ways. I realize this sounds like it supports sectarianism, which I do not intend, as it is also so important that we remain catholic. But I see many churches that are doing lovely, wonderful, inspired, holy work where God is evidently present, but where I know that I would probably not find effective fellowship and discipleship because of my own quirks and hangups. And I see the churches toward which I gravitate, and know that they would be very ineffective for other sets of needs. And somehow we can all work together with the same Gospel and provide what the Church needs for its sheep.
Anon, I'd love to hear more about that little, 3rd grade educated black man back in the 1930's.
Elijah Muhammad of the Nation Of Islam. His work was a direct response to the unspoken relationship between white supremacy and christianity. He was thwee first to suggest that the public religion and theology of America was in fact apostate and under the judgment of God.
Thanks for that, Anonymous.
I read the autobiography of Malcolm X years ago. Fascinating reading, a great picture of various dynamics in U.S. society around that time, some very sensitive sketches for a man with such a "violent" connotation. And of course Elijah Muhammad is a major figure.
NPR had an interview with Rice yesterday. She said that one of the experiences that caused her to re-think her relationship to the Church was the Catholic Church's political opposition to secular same-sex marriages. She said she fully understood why the church could not support this internally, as a matter of religion, but was startled when the American church weighed in politically against civil unions as a secular matter. To be fair, she mentioned this only as an example, as opposed to the totality of her disaffection.
Her comments about quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, elements are ones that have a degree of resonance with me, having seen the kind of schoolyard taunt mentality that has plagued a lot of the dialogue within the Anglican community in America. This may not be something she was focussing on, or even aware of, but it is a very strong and visible streak in our current ethos, and must look particularly repulsive to outsiders looking in.
I appreciate that at this site, this tendency is far less pronounced than in some other places, but Anne Rice's words should make us reflect a bit.
"Her comments about quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, elements are ones that have a degree of resonance with me, having seen the kind of schoolyard taunt mentality that has plagued a lot of the dialogue within the Anglican community in America."
- much agreed, Scout - I'm afraid I've fallen for that myself every now & then.
Your response to Ann Rice's announcement is refreshing and is a sign of hope that not all orthodox bloggers are harshly judgmental. Bishop Iker once told me it's better to err on the side of mercy and compassion when one is faced with wanting to judge someone.
Ms Rice, like all novelists, is free to create her vision of reality with the stroke of a pen.
Perhaps it is difficult for her to interact with a world where she is not in control.
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