On Quitting Christianity
Yesterday on her Facebook page, author Anne Rice announced that she was quitting Christianity. Rice is best known for her series of books on vampires, the best known being Interview with a Vampire. She returned to her Catholic roots and dedicated her writing to Jesus Christ, beginning a wonder series of historical novels on Jesus (Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana). Rice says that she is still committed to following Jesus, but she is done with following His followers. Here two Facebook posts were short and matter-of-fact--
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.
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.
These were posted without much context-- between observations on eBook publishing and the dangers of art being destroyed in times of war. There were thousands of replies (I didn't read all of them) which seemed split between people who agreed with her and many who did not. Her latest post seems to emphasize that she remains committed to Christ, but she seems done with the Catholic Church… and any other church for that matter.
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.
Two thought came to me as I read this. First, I must confess that my first thought was, “Please don’t let this mean that you are quitting the 'Christ the Lord' series." OK, that is a little selfish, but I love those novels. Second, I thought about my post yesterday and how many people want to be spiritual (and Christian) but not really religious (or connected to a church). Anne Rice is a brilliant writer; her appendix to Out of Egypt does a masterful job dismantling Jesus Seminar dismissals of the gospels as reliable literature. The two Christ the Lord novels are obviously written by someone who reveres, respect and loves Jesus Christ. But in seeking Christ, Rice is no longer willing to accept the doctrinal, social, moral baggage of her church. And face it, when you are Catholic, there is a lot of baggage.
What should Anne do (besides finish the Christ the Lord series)? The Christian faith is meant to be lived in relationship with others. Maybe she could find a small group of Christ-followers and truth-seekers who share some of her concerns as well as basic faith in Jesus. Maybe she could meet with this loosely organized group to pray, study and encourage others. What the Bible calls a group like that is “church.” Anne, you didn't quit the church; you quit a church. We have all allowed the church to become a word with organizational, political and social baggage. But those original bands of brothers and sisters who huddled in catacombs to encourage one another to be faithful until Jesus returned had no baggage; they had each other. Anne, you don’t need to leave either Christianity or the church; you need to come back to it in its original form! In fact, maybe we all do!