Last Wednesday, Anne Rice 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, author of Interview with a Vampire and other novels, returned to her Catholic upbringing in 1998, a decision she went public with in 2005; CT interviewed her about the decision shortly thereafter. She even went on to write some books reflecting her love of Jesus, including Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.
But upon closer look at her blog posts and comments, has Rice really quit Christianity? Five minutes after that initial Facebook post, Rice then added this:
"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."
Okay. I count myself among many Christians who'd agree with many of those statements, to varying degrees. (Don't we all refuse to be anti-life?). The next day, July 29, Rice seemed to soften her stance just a bit more, writing:
"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."
Well, amen to that. Isn't that what a Christian IS? A Christ-follower, not someone who merely follows Christians? So, did Anne Rice really renounce her faith, or just the ugly things of how Christians sometimes behave?
Rice told NPR today that the final straw was when she realized the lengths that the church would go to prevent same-sex marriage. "I didn't anticipate . . . that the U.S. bishops were going to come out against same-sex marriage, that they were actually going to donate money to defeat the civil rights of homosexuals in the secular society. When that broke in the news, I felt an intense pressure. And I am a person who grew up with the saying that all that is needed for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing, and I believe that statement."
Rice also told NPR that she doesn't consider herself an atheist. "Certainly I will never go back to being that atheist and that pessimist that I was," she says. "I live now in a world that I feel God created, and I feel I live in a world where God witnesses everything that happens. ... That's a huge change from the atheist I was when I wrote the vampire novels."
So, she says she "quit being a Christian," but did so "in the name of Christ," clarifying that she only wants to follow Jesus, and not his followers. And that she's definitely not an atheist, but that her "faith in Christ remains central to my life."
Rice said, on her Facebook page, that she's received many responses to her decision: "Many 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 the future." (Presumably that included her chat with NPR today.)
There have been many public responses to Rice's announcement, but perhaps the most well-thought-out one I've read comes from Justin McRoberts, a Christian musician, in "An Open Letter to Anne Rice." McRoberts writes:
"I feel you, Anne. I really do. I've had similar thoughts and even expressed them publicly. I don't mind at all the desire or even the need to stand at some distance from the label of Christianity. It may well have been worn through. But I take issue with the notion that you must disassociate yourself from ‘Christian' people. I mean sure, we're a motley lot. Belonging to this family can often feel like you've adopted a few thousand drunk uncles. It's incredibly embarrassing at times and frustrating at least as often. I get it. But I also read that you're making your move 'in the name of Christ' and that presents a rather perplexing dilemma for someone who wants to quit on people. You see, Christ hasn't quit on us and if you choose to align yourself with Him, then neither can you."
We'll keep watching for more updates.
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