Anne Rice quits Christianity
By now most of us have probably heard of Anne Rice’s Facebook announcement that she has quit Christianity. If you don’t know of her, she is a successful author (see Interview With A Vampire) who had returned to her Catholic roots in 1998, stating that she would no longer write vampire novels but instead write to the glory of God. I have read her subsequent novels about the life of Christ. They are a bit too cheesy for some of my friends, but I liked them. But then I liked Interview With A Vampire too.
But Anne now says:
“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. 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.”
And mayhem ensues. Some have attacked her outright, telling her she’s going to hell for thinking as she does, or for making the statement that she has made. Others nod in sad assent. Most of those are church refugees who felt cornered by the rigid views of what they had been told that devout Christians “should” believe that seemed to have little to do with Jesus and his gospel. Frankly, I sympathize with Anne’s point of view. We have a very syncretized Christianity in the US. So many things, political, cultural and what not, have become attached to Christian beliefs and it feels crazy-making to me.
I imagine she is frustrated and hurt, not to mention appalled by the dark side of us. I can see that it can become necessary to separate oneself from those whose thinking is so binary that no real discussion is possible. I have also had to remove myself from groups of people who preach a gospel of wall building and heartlessness. It felt damaging to be around and to exist within their walls meant either shutting down and conforming (looked upon as submissive and godly) or be attacked for speaking up. Sometimes you can’t love well without really, really good boundaries.
But what it comes down to is, what does this expansive gospel of ours ask us to do in situations like these?
In her memoir of her journey from Judaism to the Christian faith (Girl Meets God) Lauren Winner writes of friends who were concerned about her choice to become a Christian. She believed however, that when her friends asked about her new faith that they were less interested in theology than sociology. They were really wondering if she was becoming one of those “benighted, intolerant people who shun PG-13 movies and own a few polyester pantsuits”. And, “[Would I] vote for Pat Robertson, listen to Amy Grant, and believe that the earth is only 5000 years old?” She goes on to say that what she wanted to tell them is that she claims an evangelical theological orientation but “culturally, intellectually, and politically I am much more sophisticated than his stereotype of evangelism.”
But instead, Lauren concluded with a statement that has truly stayed with me. In answering her friends’ question, “Hey Lauren, are you one of them? A bible thumper?” She would simply say yes because, “I look around All Angels’ [her church] at a motley crew of Christians, some of whom buy clothes at Wal-Mart and some of whom wear Vera Wang, and I know that these people are my people, polyester, Amy Grant, and all.”
It comes down to the difference Jesus makes in us, I think. I do not believe he is all that impressed with our political positions or our moral codes or our beliefs. That may be upsetting to some because we spend quite a long time honing and sharpening these things and they make us feel strong and sure. And of course these can be important, but they are secondary. Nor do I think that we must associate being a Christian of any type (Evangelical, fundy, Catholic, mainstream, Orthodox, whatever) with what has become the Christian culture at large that many think of when they think of us and get irritated, whether it be shopping choices or political positions. Any hatefulness in us is an aberration; it is not truth. It is not us. In that light, I think what Jesus is and always has been most interested in is how we treat each other. He asserted that priority many times. This brings me to a place where I am learning to say, I may not agree with you, but you are my people. That’s really hard because that is rarely my first inclination. And ironically, I don’t believe Jesus ever meant to start a religion or a competing philosophy of life. He meant to bring the Kingdom and we bring the Kingdom forth as we live it out with and amongst each other. Loving our enemies literally begins at home.
I relate to Anne’s frustration and pain. I get it. I grieve over the many who have been confused about the heart of the gospel because of the craziness of some of us. I ache for those who have been deeply wounded by hateful speech and selfish actions. She is right- the things she describes are not Jesus. But I don’t know where Anne’s heart is at right now. She may need a time of drawing a smaller circle and pushing the church out. I needed to be angry at the church for a while too. And as it has been said, this is no great disappointment where there is no great love. Therefore, in the name of Christ may we draw a larger circle and welcome her right back in.