Q & A: Anne Rice on Following Christ Without Christianity
Author Anne Rice made waves across the Internet when she posted a short message 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.
Rice returned to the Roman Catholic Church in 1998, a decision she began openly speaking about in 2005. She spoke with Christianity Today about her recent decision, the enormous response, and how she plans to follow Jesus outside the church.
It's been a few weeks since you made an announcement on Facebook. How have you felt since your decision?
I feel good and relieved about my decision, and I've felt a new spirit of energy creatively for my writing. I was so conflicted and disillusioned about organized religion that I couldn't write.
Do you think your decision will explicitly affect your writing?
I think my writings will go on being the writings of a believer in Christ. I think I'll be less frustrated and freer to write about the full dimension of what that means. But I write metaphysical thrillers, and how this works out in fiction is always mysterious: characters confront dilemmas. The worldview of the novel is certainly optimistic and that of a believer. What character will say what, I don't know until I start writing.
What did you hope to accomplish by announcing this? Were you hoping people would join you?
Not at all. Because I had written Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, I had become a public Christian. I wanted my readers to know that I was stepping aside from organized religion and the names Christian and Christianity because I wanted to exonerate myself from the things organized religion was doing in the name of Jesus. Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love. They have become associated with hatred, persecution, attempting to abolish the separation of church and state, and trying to pressure people to vote certain ways in elections. I wanted to make it clear that I did not in any way remain complicit with those things. I never expected anyone beyond my Facebook page would be interested. I was doing this for my readers to let them know.
Did you consider becoming a mainline Protestant?
No, I didn't. I know that's an option for many people with whom you find compatibility, and I respect that, but I'm going to step away from the whole controversy.
Recently, you told NPR that the last straw was the Catholic Church's attempts to prevent same-sex marriage. You told the Los Angeles Times that the last straw was when a bishop condemned a nun for authorizing an abortion for a woman whose life was in danger. Was there a tipping point?
There were a number of last straws. It was a mounting discomfort with the public face of Christians and Catholics. I have no quarrel with any priest or bishop who doesn't want to marry gay people or doesn't want to have gay clergy. That's fine, that's the church's decision. When you step into the secular culture and attempt to interfere with people's rights, that's something else.
The damning of the secular culture is upsetting and embarrassing. Secularism in America has done great things. It's allowed people to live here whether they're Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim, and it has protected people from the extreme beliefs of their neighbors.