Loving Christ, Hating Christianity

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?”


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2 thoughts on “Loving Christ, Hating Christianity”

  1. The Church on earth will never be perfect – until Christ returns.

    To be a Christian by oneself (forsaking the gathering) is very difficult. It seems to me to be an oxymoron.

    I agree with what you have written. I have said similar things in conversations with others over Anne’s statements. It is extremely difficult to keep the faith when one is alone in their faith – it tends to die out, like the ember removed from the fire.

    Some think her statements are prophetic – and if the church is indeed stirred and changes, then this is so. But I don’t see deep changes just because Anne wrote these words. Actually, it rather feels like a slap against those seeking reform, as it seems to encourage others to give up on the church – which is the body of Christ.

    I get it that Christianity has problems, and in some areas it really “stinketh”. 1Cor. 12 says, “If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” The “prophets” who have the ability to smell… are needed to help find the soap that will correct the stink. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” We suffer when one who has a sense of smell, as well as a voice, leaves.

    I like what a lady named Christy wrote: “Christians are a diverse group. Anne would have done us all a favor if she would have clarified that not all of Christianity is anti-gay, misogynistic, racist, closed minded paternalistic protectors of pedophiles.”

    I think Anne could have used her creativity and her platform. She could read the Bible and used her writing skills to help us imagine what could be. And lots of people would flock to that vision. To do something like this could certainly be called prophetic.

    I have a few questions as well (and maybe you can tell I just read the lectionary passage of Luke 12:13-21).
    Is this leaving the organized church a kind of “greed”? Is this a failing to be rich toward God? Where is the heart/mind/soul in all this? Why do folks give in to the seduction in our culture that makes us think we can live independent of what God has established?

  2. we will always get in our own way…no doubt about it

    but, as you say, that doesn’t mean we accept defeat and give up…we stay and believe, as best we can, for another day, and live out our beliefs as best we can (sometimes with unbelievable failure and stupidity and sometimes, perhaps only through grace, we hit the nail on the head)

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