Vampire novelist and best-selling author Anne Rice–who in recent years re-discovered her faith and wrote two beautifully moving books about the early life of Christ Christ, the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: Road to Cana as well as the memoir Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession–said this week that she is through with Christianity…but not Christ.
Rice wrote on her Facebook page that “It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group…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.”
History shows that many Christians have committed (and continue today to commit) terrible acts toward humanity in the name of Christ rather than follow the loving, merciful acts of Christ himself. And there is not doubt that there are more than a few Christians and churches who place their own view of Christianity way above Christ. That is enough reason to become angry at the Church universal or Christianity. I empathize with Rice’s feelings and often shake my head when I hear some Christians go on an angry anti-gay or anti-Muslim tirade.
But is the frustration worth breaking completely from the religion? While I greatly admire Rice’s faith in God and her passion to follow Christ, I don’t believe that one can be for Christ alone, without a community of faith–of folks who also put Jesus above the institution.
And it troubles me that Rice seemingly labels all those practicing Christianity as “anti.” There has, is and will always be Christians who do good, loving, grace-filled things done in Jesus’ name. Not all of us who proclaim Christianity as our faith tradition are “anti-gay, “anti-feminist” and “anti-birth control.”
I’m disappointed that she has chosen to leave Christianity instead of trying to help reshape it for the better. It’s hard for things to change if people don’t stand their ground and fight for the love of God which is written on every heart.
But maybe by simply re-starting the discussion on Christ v. Christianity, in a small way she is making a huge and significant difference on people’s beliefs and faith perspectives. I don’t know but I’ll keep praying, pondering, searching and listening for how God is speaking.
For now, I’d like to pose to you, o loyal blog readers, the following questions that have risen for me since reading Rice’s comments:
“Can the Church ever completely follow the ways of Jesus, putting more emphasis on Christ rather than dogma? “
“Can we ever follow Jesus without being the Church or a community of faith that strives to live life in the holiness of God’s love and grace?”