i’ve never read an anne rice book.
i’ve never seen an anne rice-adapted movie.
i’ve never been interested in vampires or books about vampires.
despite these things, though, i’ve been a distant and intrigued observer—over the last 10 years—as anne rice has come back to faith. growing up in the catholic church, at the age of 18, she left her faith in exchange for nearly 4 decades of ardent unbelief. after garnering legions of followers and authoring blockbuster books, she once again chose faith and for the past decade, she’s been publishing books about the her faith and the life of christ.
but anne rice has never reached “christian celebrity” status like other celebrity purveyors of faith such as mel gibson, stephen baldwin or—god help us—chuck norris. despite her marked switch to literary works about the life of christ, she never seemed to fully embrace the prevailing values of white, evangelical culture, which is the key to unlocking full-on christian celebrity status.
well, the possibility of that status is official DOA.
in a series of facebook updates on her fan page beginning tuesday and continuing through yesterday, rice has stated that she is quitting christianity.
not jesus. just christianity. the system. the religion.
it began with an open-ended question, referencing gandhi’s famous quote: i like your christ, i do not like your christians. your christians are so unlike your christ. she posed the following questions:
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 question turned into a surprising, bold statement on wednesday.
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.
but she didn’t stop there. this update revealed the heart of her decision.
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.
what i find most fascinating about her statements is that, at nearly 70 years old, rice is voicing the prevailing sentiment of emerging generations—20-somethings down. more than ever, people are intrigued, engaged with, interested in jesus.
but not the system.
not the american version of christianity.
not the institution. not the rules. not the cultural shackles that come with it.
you see, jesus is beautiful. but the system can be ugly.
jesus is freeing. the system can be confining.
jesus is authentic. the system can be plastic.
jesus is dangerous. the system can be neuteringly safe.
quite frankly, anne rice is one of a relatively small handful of people to take a leap of faith to come into a system in which she was previously an outsider, experience it and have the courage to evaluate it for what it is.
but yet continue to brazenly cling to the core tenet: jesus.
it’s often hard to be shackled with the label christian.
not the label of jesus-like, but christian.
i’m personally not necessarily compelled to ditch the word christian, but it’s certainly been tempting. the baggage is heavy.
the last thing people who genuinely follow jesus need is extra baggage when we have a cross to carry.
i could dig into each point that anne rice made that has driven her away from christianity (anti-gay, anti-democrat, anti-feminist, etc.), but that’s not necessarily the point here. the point is that she’s boldly stated what many of us “christians” have felt somewhere deep within us: we love jesus, but not the abused system. not the pale reflection of a beautiful christ.
i’ll part with rice’s final update regarding the whole matter. beautifully (you’d think she’s an author or something…), she sums up her (and others’) deep-seated drive to follow jesus.
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.