A thought or two about Anne Rice

This past week, novelist Anne Rice decided to quit Christianity.  Rice, author of the best-selling Interview with a Vampire, along with several recent works which took a decidedly religious tone (Songs of the Seraphim and Christ the Lord), is stepping off.  Not on Jesus, mind you; but on the organized religion that is Christianity (Rice has been a practicing Catholic).  She wrote:

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 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.

I confess that I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I see where she’s coming from – I really do.  I’ve had more than one good friend bail out on Christianity for many of the same reasons: they couldn’t see how the confused and often “disputatious”, anti-everything faith squared with the Jesus they knew and loved in the Gospels.  Classic case of “cognitive dissonance.”  In fact, probably the biggest reason I’m pastoring is because I feel that sense of disconnect and hope in some small way to be able to remedy it.

On the other hand, this makes me sad.  I love the Church.  Even more, I believe in the Church.  I am fully aware of the ways in which our witness is backwards and confused, believe me; nevertheless, against that backdrop of failure I see the multitude of ways in which the Jesus’ friends are living consistently with his Mission and his Story to bring hope and healing to the world.  The push-and-pull of trying to figure out what the heck Jesus means for our lives together, a push-and-pull done in community seems to me to be the force that generates mission…

Which is to say, I think that the Church needs Anne Rice, with all of her criticisms.  And I think Anne Rice needs the Church, which can give her a better Story by making her part of a historic people whose mission is nothing less than joining with the Creator God in the quest to “make all things new.”  I think a critic like Anne needs the discipline that comes from having to confess sin, take the Eucharist, listen to the Scriptures, and submit to things like Tradition, Authority, and Story.  I think that far from diminishing her criticisms, it will make them all the more poignant.  After all, real prophets are not loveless critics of their people; they rather are in a “lover’s quarrel” with their people.  Ezekiel sitting with the exiles…  Jesus hanging on a cross…

Anyway, all of that is to say that I resonate with Anne.  I just wish she would have stayed.  We need her.  She needs us.  And we all need Jesus.  He is still our last, and best, hope.

6 thoughts on “A thought or two about Anne Rice

  1. Thanks for your refreshing
    approach to this. I so feel
    we need to be free to express
    our thoughts and wrestle
    together to get an
    understanding. I feel it
    becomes a huge issue when
    we are told we cannot disagree
    , or are accused of
    dishonouring if we question
    things. I have been involved
    in some form of Church
    leadership for the past 15
    years. I have come to a place
    where first and foremost I
    want to introduce people to
    Jesus. Although I am
    passionate about Church and
    feel called to help build it
    I am so aware of the hurt
    that can be caused by people
    , Good People, Godly Prayerful
    people and people like me! I
    am sure that if peopel fall in
    Love with Jesus they can ride
    out the short comings of the
    Church and hopefully avoid
    precious casualties like Anne.

  2. Great thoughts. It’s sad that Anne would leave the church. We all have experienced at least some of her frustrations. At the same time, the way to change something is by being a part of it. Exactly what you’ve said, Andrew, and thanks!

  3. What a very small view of Christianity! I would have expected that one as worldly (in the positive sophisticated sense) as Anne Rice would be able to transcend the tiny contemporary, political American flavor of Christ followers and see the Church as global, enduring, and necessary. It is a shame that she has problem with being anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-artificial birth control, anti-democrat, anti-secular humanism, anti-science, and anti-life, but no problem being anti-Christian. Her reasons are hers, but in my view they are wildly inconsistent and intellectually dishonest. She wrote “It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.” Does that mean that gays, feminists, pro birth control groups, democrats, secular humanists, scientists, lifers (whatever that means) are less quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous? By her own admission, she has more in common with unrepentant and faithless people than admitted sinners in need of a savior. (not that the groups that she delineated are mutually exclusive. She offers a false choice)

    Another error in her comment is that there is no Christ without his Church. Being committed to Christ involves being committed to his Church. Christ is coming back for his Church, his bride. Salvation is not attained in a vacuum. She has disowned not only the contemporary manifestation of American protestantism, but also rejected the lives of those that have gone before, those that have written the scriptures, that have preserved the tradition, that have passed down THE STORY, that have died proclaiming THE STORY. Her comment comes across as an arrogant person who does not need the nourishing and guidance of the Church. She has preferred her own political ideology to the transformation found in Christ’s body. It is also incredibly offensive to invoke the name of the Son in removing one’s self from the Church.

    Generally I am not this harsh on people searching, but she was quite aggressive using broad strokes to accuse the Church in her comment. It requires a response in kind. We cannot be mamby pamby about the necessity of the Church. Our Western society is already too individualistic. We must remain in the Church.

    I often refer to Saint Augustine’s “The Church is a whore but she is still my mother” in matters discussing the inconsistencies of the Church. For me it helps put things in perspective.

    Thoughts?

  4. Garrett, agreed. In my experience, genuine love for Jesus drives us back to his people, to see them as necessary not just politically or socially or eschatologically, but personally. In other words, “I need these people.” When people hate Jesus, they reject his people. But the reverse is true. When people hate Jesus’ people, they reject Him. (The “Him” being the living presence of Christ; he often gets “hung onto” simply as a symbol of their political or humanist hopes.) Jesus refuses to be Jesus without his people. This move away from Jesus’ people will either drive Anne to what she perceives as being a more genuine expression of his people OR simply away from Jesus altogether.

    And in any case, I’m not altogether sure how Anne can make the claims she makes with any degree of intellectual honesty. How can she read some of what the great popes and bishops of the RCC have written and seriously claim that the Church is anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-science, etc? This feels like blind hatred. I’m wondering what’s causing it.

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