Anne Rice and Christ/ianity

I never was an Anne Rice fan and only marginally enjoyed Christ the Lord series of books she wrote after converting.  But she showed up in my feed reader this morning as she has disavowed Christianity but will continue to follow Christ.

Let's break it down point by point. She wrote on her facebook page:
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 sympathize with the perspective that Christianity is quarrelsome and full of disputes. But what group isn't? It is human nature to conflict, dispute, resolve, and move on to the next conflict. Even Christ himself was constantly in conflict with those around him, so if Rice is looking for a consistent state of nirvana, it ain't Christ.

Read on for more updates and the responsibility of seeking redemption for flawed human movements.
As I said below, 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.
Well, honestly, if that's Christianity then I'm not one either, on every single point.  Christianity is not monolithic, and every social issue or theological issue has people across the spectrum on it. It did not begin that way, and it has only gotten more spread out over time. There will always be people to disagree with in your club, but you gotta keep your membership card to get the benefits.

Finally, she writes an hour-ish ago before this post.
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
For more reactions, Michael at wonders if this is a reaction to the culture wars: people leaving Christianity due to the conflict and continuing to be "spiritual" but not part of a "religious" movement.  And Jim at BoxTurtleBulletin dredges up a status update previously that points closer to why she chose to leave Christianity as a movement:
[Anne Rice's] embrace of Catholicism was of a personal and spiritual nature, and as is not unusual among Catholics, didn’t extend to social issues...Rice was ultimately unable to reconcile her belief in Christ on the one hand, with the actions of fellow Christians and how those actions have stained the Christian “brand” on the other. She appears to have hinted at this with this post on her facebook page which appeared on Tuesday:

Gandhi famously said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” When does a word (Christian)become unusable? When does it become so burdened with history and horror that it cannot be evoked without destructive controversy?
Her last point hit me in the gut, not from realization of something but from my long-standing wrestlings with this. The way I see it is that no human movement is without its flaws, even the ones we believe to be divinely driven and sustained. Even the bible is not without its flaws and errors that do not translate 2000 years in the future.  The constitution, heralded as the pinnacle of human freedom and collective sustainability, only considered white men to be people.

Maybe that's why Jesus drew people close to him as a group rather than directing them one-on-one. In our flaws, we find out how to be human together. As a group together, we help those flaws become smoothed out until we are people without wax.  Christianity without Christ is folly, but willingly following Christ in solitary does not heed his example either.

It comes down to if you think Christianity is redeemable.  If you want it to be redeemed, then stay inside and work for change. If your denomination's doctrine and policies rub you the wrong way, stay inside and work for change. If you love something, truly love it, then you have to see it as redeemable, and then it is your responsibility to work to redeem it...even if all you do is plant the seeds that someone in the next generation actually gets to bear fruit.

What do you think?  Thoughts? Post them in the comments and welcome to the conversation!


Carolyn July 29, 2010 at 6:52 PM  

I think that your perspective is most definitely Protestant. Rice could hardly effect much change or redemption as a woman in the Catholic church. As a Protestant taking a class at Boston College, it was clear to me that I felt much more empowered to get up and do something about my church's flaws. Despite post-Vatican II rhetoric about empowering the laity, the hierarchical structuring of the RCC implies that laity are at the bottom of the power structure, and that women and queers will stay there.

Yet as a Methodist, I feel free to email my bishop, go to conference and say something on the record, write resolutions and amendments to church polity... basically, I can expect a free exchange of information among all Methodists, regardless of rank. Change only happens when those on the bottom can critique those on the top- and be heard and taken seriously.

Jules/JAA July 29, 2010 at 7:58 PM  

I agree with Carolyn, we see & think as we do from a Protestant & UM perspective, not as a life long Catholic (even if she (Rice) stepped away from the Church for years). We have a freedom, as clergy or laity, to speak and be heard, in agreement or disagreement, with the views of the UMC, and to individually effect change.

Rev. Jeremy Smith July 29, 2010 at 9:54 PM  

Those are good critiques, I sometimes forget about my protestant filter that I apply to others. Thanks for reminding me!

Stephen Lingwood July 30, 2010 at 3:23 AM  

I suppose I can understand that instinct of wanting to leave. I choose to leave one denomination because I thought it was irredeemable, at least in my lifetime. But Christianity is pretty big. Try a different community, or (and maybe this is a very Protestant, and even a very American thing for a Brit to say) start your own community. But it will still be a flawed human community, whatever you do.

Rob H,  July 30, 2010 at 12:51 PM  

I agree with your perspective. As a gay man interested in ordained ministry, I am frerquently questioned about why I would want to pursue ordiantion in a largely unfriendly organization. My reply is along the lines of wanting to advocate for change from within.
Also, I just wanted to share - not sure what, if anything you can do about this, I was interested in sharing this blog entry on my facebook page but when it comes up - the entry starts with the comments rather than yoru initial entry.

Sean Delmore July 30, 2010 at 8:09 PM  

Yeah, the difference of Roman Catholic vs. Protestant matters... but people jump from one to another all the time - makes me wonder why some do & others... can't.

Actually, what really interests me is that she was a convert to Christianity. Conversion (and discipleship, ideally) requires profound change. I can't help thinking that as Christians we're partly to blame for the kind of prob Rice is experiencing. I don't mean the anti- thing.. I mean we ask people to radically re-orient their lives, but we don't give them any ways of coping when it doesn't "work out." I think Xian compassion requires us to develop (better?) ways to help people who need/want to de-church or de-convert - especially since it's becoming clear to me that the answer to "Is Xity redeemable?" changes repeatedly for some people over the course of their lives.

cspogue August 3, 2010 at 11:46 AM  

Christianity isn't a club. So, we may disagree on the "minors" and stay together. But, Christianity isn't a solitary experience either. While as Protestants we do not believe we need an emissary to Christ, we do need a community of believers. People who believe that contraception leads to Hell are as flawed as those who would try to say that the current iteration of health care reform is Christ's gift to us. Making policy judgements based on your faith is one thing. Failing to understand that others may disagree with your conclusions is something else.

I wish Ms. Rice well on her continuing faith journey.

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