Author Anne Rice, who had “converted” to Christianity before writing her novel Christ the Lord, has announced on Facebook that she is “quitting Christianity.”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…In the name of … Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
Before her conversion several years, Rice was famous for her graphic vampire novels, which she ceased writing. Her new writing was hardly orthodox Christianity, but in our celebrity-fascinated culture, many persons excitedly gravitated towards her new “Christian” writings. In a sense to explain to those persons, she also wrote on Facebook:
“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.”
I’d like to offer several observations. The “Christianity” she describes represents an abberation of the faith, but is also a caricature frequently embraced by the media and a population who has never taken the trouble to meet a regular, everyday, deeply committed to the Word and Christ, follower of Jesus.
She equates Christianity with the Church (in particular that abberant minority). In one sense, that is a correct correlation. The Bible teaches clearly that you cannot be a Christian without being a part of the Church — for the “church” is the Body of Christ. That is an organic definition not an institutional one. The “Church” is a living thing that has been created and called out of the world by Christ, the Lord to be the living embodiment of His values and His work in the world. We (I am part of the church) have some unhealthy parts just as most human bodies have some unhealthy parts, and those of us who love Christ seek to bring healing to those parts by reminding them that they are not some voluntary, secular institution, or “clubs” or “PAC’s” but persons who are to reflect the person of Jesus Christ today. Anne and others like her do the world a disservice by trying to separate themselves from the Body which is accountable to the Christ she claims to still follow instead of intentionally being a healthy (read, biblically faith) part of the Body Christ Himself ordained.
The scriptures also teach that the Church is the “Bride of Christ.” In the model of faithfulness of Groom to Bride that the Bible commands, we cannot expect Christ to chose anyone over His Bride, because His concern is the holiness of His Bride and His love for His Bride is unconditional and unbreakable. You love the Groom, you love the Bride.”
In the Sunday School Class I teach for younger adults called The New Wineskins, we discussed this situation. Anne took a bit of a beating for her lack of sophistication, but later one of the class members sent me this quote from Eugene Cho:
“Anne isn’t the first nor will she be the last. In fact, one can argue that there have always been folks that have quit Christianity in every generation, every denomination, every tribe, and every community. Someone today – albeit, without the fanfare of Anne Rice – has just quit Christianity- and probably on Facebook or Twitter…
Part of me applauds Anne because I can certainly resonate with her feelings. Honestly, we’ve all been there on some level, haven’t we? And we understand – in part – because if you’ve been part of the Church and Christianity, you know exactly how far it is from the portrait of beauty, idealism, and shalom we think the Church should be. Anne – to her credit – has shared in subsequent interviews that her decision wasn’t flippant but processed over several years and especially as she wrestled with numerous critical issues.
We understand her decision or at least, her sentiment…because we understand the failures and inconsistencies of Christianity…and because at one point or dozen points in our lives, we’ve contemplated the same thing.”
Then there were a number of observations on the Christianity Today Live Blog. This one I found most interesting of them:
“I understand why people want to “quit” Christianity, but in the end it just reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin decides he’s sick of his family, how they act, how they treat him, so he’s going to secede from the family and move to the Yukon. Lucky for Calvin, it only takes him an afternoon to realize what a ridiculous idea that is.
“What I don’t understand is how people who claim a faith entirely built on grace can decide to continue accepting that grace, while refusing to continue extending it to their brothers and sisters. It seems to send the message, “I am perfect, you are not, and you’re making me look bad, so I’m outta here!” When did running away from a family problem ever solve it? CAPTCHA: difficulties tour
Probably in the end, my personal observation echoes something Cho said in his blog post.
The overdramatization of the suckiness of the ChurchLet’s be honest. It’s easy to take shots at an institution – especially Christianity and the Church. For Christians, it’s our family and that gives us license and permission to speak constructively or critically at our own family.
We all do it: men, women, children, poets, singers, skeptics, believers, cynics, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Partiers, Coffee Partiers, Presbyterians, Baptists, Covenanters, Calvinists, Arminians, Trekkies, and even you and me. In fact, it’s become the somewhat cool, hip, and edgy thing to do…because you are more [wait for it…wait for it] – – authentic.
Ahhh. Authentic Christianity.
And while I can’t argue that Anne’s descriptions are entirely inaccurate, I really do wonder if we’ve allowed these assumptions, judgments, and descriptives to become the totality of Christianity. Is it possible that we’ve given these descriptives so much press that it has grown bigger than reality? They have grown to be such that many – perhaps including ourselves – have come to believe that Christianity is all about being anti gay, anti-feminist, and anti-artificial birth control (anti-science)?
Are those descriptives realities for some and in some communities? Yes.
Are they the totality of the movement of Christianity? No.
Christ Died for an Imperfect Humanity [and Church]
This isn’t license for Christianity to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, and anti-whatever we think the Church is against. But leaving Christianity or no longer desiring to be known or identified as a Christian isn’t the answer.
The answer is right before us. The good news isn’t institutional religion. It isn’t a denomination, Christianity, or the Church.
The good news is the Gospel and the Gospel is not just merely propositional truth but Truth that has been personified in the person of Jesus the Christ – fully God and fully human – who chose to dwell and live amongst us and ultimately, go to the cross…
for an imperfect, depraved, and fallen world and Church. This is why – as much as I’m tempted to join Anne, I am publicly declaring my imperfect love for an imperfect world (& Church) – for whom Christ demonstrated perfect love. I am a Christian because
a perfect Christ demonstrated perfect love for an utterly imperfect humanity.