Yesterday, author Anne Rice caused quite a stir when she publicly announced on her Facebook page that she has decided to “quit” Christianity.
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.
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.
The news saddened me because Anne Rice was one of my favorite authors when I was a teenager, and I had embraced her newfound faith when she first announced her return to Christianity a few years ago (she had been raised a Catholic but left the church while in college).
I am saddened because Rice seems like one of the many people who have turned away from Christianity for the faults of its believers;
For the people who attempt to conform others to become more like them, or at least the “socially acceptable” version of a Christian, rather than to help others become more like the person God created them to be and to become more like Jesus.
For institutions like the Westboro Baptist Church who, in my humble opinion, seek to spread the Gospel through hate rather than love.
For everyone throughout history who have (many times, wrongfully) used the name of Jesus to further their own agendas. For those who stand on the fringe, shouting the loudest and most vociferously, leading the public to believe that all Christians are like this.
I am saddened because many of Rice’s statements about Christianity are false. (Would she have had the same reaction if she attended another church? Another denomination?) I am saddened because being a Christian has become so “uncool” and politically incorrect in our society. But unfortunately, this is the viewpoint that the general public seems to have on Christians as a whole and there isn’t much that I can do about it.
I am saddened because despite what many non-Christians claim, the percentage of Christians continue to decrease as the years go by…just as the Bible predicts. I know that I will continue to be ostracized for my beliefs (and this has certainly been increasing in the past few years), and that one day, I might even need to choose between Christ and everything else in my life.
I am not perfect. Heck, I have broken all Ten Commandments (because Christ says that even having thoughts that go against a commandment is breaking it) over and over in my lifetime. I have done many many things that I am too embarrassed to write on this public blog.
However, I am a Christian.
And I accept that not everyone is perfect, the least of whom are Christians because we are all convicted in faith.
So many people I know are dead-set against Christianity for the wrongdoings of the Church and of its members. They ask how I can align myself with an institution that is so close-minded, so hateful, and have made so many mistakes.
To them I ask: We are all human. God may be the focus of the Church, but He has still given us free will. We can do the best we can, but we are still bound to make mistakes. Is there any religion out there that is perfect? Can you honestly expect any religion, affiliation, group, or institution to be perfect? So why do you demand this from Christianity?
Christians are taught to hate evil, not people. Reading stories like the so-called Christians who advocate for the execution of gays makes me weep for their misinterpretation of the Bible.
The Christian Church is not about a group of like-minded people living in a storybook world. To me, the Church is about imperfect people living in an imperfect world, seeking to be like Jesus. (And still failing! But we continue to try!)
Now I am not one to say that Christianity is all about rainbows and unicorns. It is anything but, as a matter of fact. Christians are constantly in battle — with spiritual forces, with our innate evil, and with the evils of the world. It is quite tiresome and discouraging at times. And as the popularity of Christianity decreases, we are ridiculed and mocked for our faith.
But what keeps me coming back to Christ is grace. Knowing that we are all imperfect, and by God’s grace we are saved.
maybe I just don’t get it, as an atheist. but what is wrong with her not wanting to be ‘religious’? she still believes in god, in Jesus and the bible (from what I read, but if I’m wrong, correct me). isn’t that enough? why do you need a church, an institution? yes, she is separating herself from religion, but not her Christian beliefs. now, I may not believe in god or any religion (and yes, you can pray for me if you feel it’s necessary. unlike many people I don’t have a problem with that just because I don’t believe in god – I consider prays to be like the good wishes and thoughts I send out into the universe), but I believe in being a good person and treating others like you’d like to be treated. am I worse person than any Christian out there because I’ve chosen to be like that but not believe in god or Jesus? I don’t think so. so, so what if she doesn’t go to church or call herself a Christian? she believes the same things you do.
I love your blog. you are funny and strong. you seem to me to be what christians always say they are or should be. I admire that. I hope your not offended by anything I’ve said, just genuinely confused why someone who has not lost their faith in the bible/Jesus/god would be upsetting just because she doesn’t agree with what a lot of Christianity seems to have become.
also, since I don’t think I’ve ever commented on your blog before, I want to say congratulations to you and your husband. you seem like you’re going to be a wonderful mother. good luck!
I have to agree with Laura. I don’t see what’s sad about someone who’s parted with the institution of Christianity while maintaining their faith. Her beliefs haven’t faltered. Is it sad that a few bad apples have spoiled that institution for some? Yes. Are her negative feelings towards Christianity necessarily unwarranted? Probably not. None of us can know everything she’s experienced to reach the conclusion that she has. I personally don’t expect perfection from any faith or denomination but her experiences as a whole appear to have dissuaded her from maintaining one particular affiliation. No one is perfect but everyone should be held accountable. It’s not unreasonable to think that continued negative experiences reinforce negative stigmas. Not everyone forgives and forgets so quickly. Perhaps forgive and forget should be replaced with a more proactive approach by some (not all) when it comes to the Christian faith and others?
I guess I should clarify my position on Christians who refuse to attend church, or choose to just have faith in God and be satisfied with that.
(Now this stance may differ among Christians and different denominations. This is just what I was taught and what I believe to be true…)
I believe that you can’t follow Christ and not participate in the Church and in a church. According to the New Testament, the Church is not only the Bride of Christ, it is also the Body of Christ. To be a follower of Christ is to be a part of its community, and to be committed to it. By being a part of the Church, you reap many benefits such as accountability, the combination of spiritual strength in prayer, fellowship, protection, and encouragement. Nevermind the fact that by attending church on Sundays, Christians are physically expressing our love for God and honoring the Lord’s day.
I too, am critical of some of the things that the Church does, or has done. However, I love the Church the more I learn about it, despite all its shortcomings — just as Christ loves His bride, warts and all. And at the same time, I must also consider that I too, am part of the Bride’s problem.
Of course there are those who cannot attend church or belong to a church due to physical limitations or the laws of their home states/countries, and I believe that God will make appropriate provisions for them.
I cannot speak directly for Anne Rice, but just from what she has written, it does seems to me that her beliefs HAVE faltered due to the reasons stated above. Again I am only basing my conclusion on what she has written on the subject so far. And it’s not that she should receive special treatment, or that I am especially sad that Christianity has lost one of its few celebrity followers…rather, she has a large audience due to her status and I fear that many will be compelled to agree with her false statements regarding the Church.
But I thank you both, Laura and Patrick, for posting and sharing your beliefs on the issue. I was not offended at all by what you have said and I hope I answered your questions, or at least clarified my stance.
I also don’t really understand why it matters whether she chooses to call herself a Christian or align herself with a particular religion. She said in her statement that she will continue to follow Christ. I totally respect her for taking a stand against what she perceives to be the hypocrisy of SOME Christians by choosing to follow her own conscience and not align herself with any particular denomination.
Maybe we fundamentally differ on this issue, but (even though I’m an atheist) I see religion as something deeply, deeply personal. It is about your relationship with your god or gods or whatever. I respect the fact that for you that means going to church and having a community of people who share common beliefs and values. But I think that religion is different for everyone.
It’s sad that you feel persecuted as a Christian. I’m sorry that you feel like that. I don’t know that I would use the word persecuted, but I often feel ostracized or judged for NOT being a Christian. Maybe I am too optimistic, but I just wish that everyone could get along and respect each other, no matter how much their beliefs differ.
For your information, scientists were persecuted for their beliefs by Christians. The very Science you are so fond of. Were you born in a different day, when the Church = Christianity, and people were thrown into jail for their belief in Science, would you have faltered as a Christian?
@Lillian — Not sure what you’re getting at here, since I’ve already stated here that I am fully aware of the many mistakes that the Church has made over the years.
Also, let me point out that I am not Catholic. I am a Calvinist — more specifically, Presbyterian. Many people seem to equate Catholicism with Christianity, and while Catholicism is one of the more popular sects of Christianity, that is just not the case.
As much as I love your blog, and agree with many cool things I usually read on Google Reader before starting to work, I strongly disagree with this post. Personal opinion of course, nothing else. Here’s my thought on that.
As an Italian, raised as Catholic, with churches surrounding every single little bit of my hometown in Tuscany, I was, as a child, tending towards the idea that those places and those people were good. You know, the Good Ones, against the Bad Guys. The old skinny priest I could imagine wearing some sort of Skywalker’s laser sword below his cloths.
Living, working and dealing with all that brought me to realize that that’s all the opposite. The laser sword is red behind those tunics. The church (I know Christianity isn’t all catholics, but Rome is the place were Christianity has its root, its spokespersons, and most importantly its political and economical power) plays a mostly evil, closed minded, ultra conservative role on a daily basis. And I’m talking about Europe where Catholics are somewhat more easy going than in the Americas. I witnessed a daily campaign that is nothing short than political, gaining territories, votes, offers, money, therefore power. Priests saying their opinion as if it was the absolute truth, looking at you, ignorant atheist, as someone who can’t understand, a monkey in a cage. So pretentious, so ignorant. Unfortunately, in Europe it’s cool to BE Christian, and not vice versa, so the church now spokes about laws, parliament’s resolutions, politics, society, heavily influencing for the worse the most miserable people. Those that they are supposed to help. While they get richer then ever, stronger than ever, colluded with the mafia more than ever. As a result, I moved to China a while ago.
Going back to Star Wars, Ratzinger (the Pope) really, really seems like the Dark Lord, 2WW one, and its bishops a huge number of Dart Vaders. or Rommels. Where’s Luke? I’m waiting for him.
@Stefano — I am sorry that this has been your experience. Like I said in my post, unfortunately people tend to view Christianity from its loudest and most vociferous members, and the Catholic Church is no exception. There are many things I disagree with about the RCC, some the most important of them having to do with the basic tenants of faith, so I consciously choose to distance myself from them. However I must admit that the modern Church was founded by the RCC and I accept that I must embrace its history, however marred.
Once again I’m sorry that your negative experience with the RCC has led you to believe that all of Christianity can be compared to "The Empire." Like I posted in my reply to Lillian above, I am not Catholic and I certainly do not consider the Pope to be the head of my church. I believe that Jesus and Jesus alone is the head of the Church and anyone who thinks otherwise (yes, even Catholics) is sadly misinformed.
I just want to say that I am Catholic, and I agree with you, Jenny. I really liked your post. I guess we all have different experiences with our faiths… but, I agree that being Christian [I have lots of non-Catholic Christian friends and have participated in non-denominational bible studies and small groups ~ I like to think that we share many more beliefs than we have differences] is not just about one’s personal beliefs, but about being a part of the Church [as Christians not just the Catholic church]. And I guess the Catholic churches that I go to are more liberal, but I’ve never encountered any stigma against feminism, science, etc. Actually the Catholic church is quite pro-science; the Vatican has funded scientific research for decades (yes – admittedly this was not always the case, but like you said, all institutions have their faults, and their stance as of recent times is quite in favor of scientific investigations). Did you know that a Catholic monk was the one to propose the Big Bang Theory? I’m always amazed how few people know this!
anyway, that was a jumble of thoughts that I’m sure I could have laid out in a better way, but my point is – it is hard to see someone denounce Christianity on the basis of the beliefs of a fundamentalist minority, because it implies that all Christians have those extreme beliefs, and that’s not the case. And as you said, it’s not popular to be Christian these days ~ it’s hard to have your faith linked to ideas that you do not agree with.
Also, I really liked your thoughts on the role of grace in Christianity 🙂
My response to Anne’s news was "good for her." I understand why, from your perspective, you are sad, but ultimately I think choosing to follow a religion is a personal choice.
I see you’re not at a loss for comments on this, but here’s one more. 🙂
Why are you saddened by this?
It doesn’t change her skill as a writer, especially not past books. I feel bad for her, on her behalf, because she clearly went through an emotionally difficult process that she should not have needed to. But as far as having one less Christian in the world, or her becoming just an author and not a Christian author? Seriously; why does it matter?
I agree with your assessment, that it’s probably the people she objected to as much as (or more than) the dogma; that’s very unfortunate. I feel a lot of your same pain, as an involved, educated Jew who identifies much more with the people on the "not religious" side of the line than the reactionary, socially conservative, close minded fundamentalists identifying as "religious". It’s become a major topic on my blog because it is so frustrating to hear, yet again!, that "religious people" are ruining our society when the truth is it’s the nutjobs ruining things, and being a nutjob is just coincidental with being religious.
But that brings me to my main point: I hate "organized" religion. When you start organizing things, you create group-think and abdicate your agency and freewill to someone else’s decisions, and some of these are important decisions! So what I read from Ms Rice’s announcement is that she is no longer part of this organization; she may have dropped the dogma, but there’s no word on how her values have shifted.
In other words, she can still be as good a person as she ever was, even though she’s no longer Christian. And if Christ really is the person he’s described to be, that’s more important than some issue of allegiance.
@Aaron — You asked, "But as far as having one less Christian in the world, or her becoming just an author and not a Christian author? Seriously; why does it matter?" and my response to that is that I am saddened by EVERY person who chooses to turn away from Christianity. Not just because she’s an author, not just because she’s famous, but because to me, she represents every "one less Christian in the world."
I was upset by this as well, because of one simple thing, she is throwing away a whole religion based on the behavior of other people. She could have said, I will no longer go to that church, or hang out with those false Christians, or belong to this denomination – but to denounce the very NAME of the religion (while still supporting the very reason it exists) doesn’t make much sense to me. I have yet to see a Muslim denounce their religion because of extremists – they denounce the extremists. In my opinion, if you can walk away from your faith, you never really had any to begin with. And it’s apparent that her faith didn’t lay in the religion itself, it was in the people in it.
@Layla — Thank you! You put so succinctly in your comment exactly what I wanted to convey!
I agree with you — this saddens me as well. I have an acquaintance who, while she still believes in God and loves Jesus, refuses to go to church or call herself a Christian because of some sort of bad experience in her past (what I don’t know). I have never agreed with that decision, nor Rice’s (or anyone who says "Call me a "believer", not a Christian), because to me, "Christian" is not a label like "Republican" or "white", or even the name of a club you join, but a word which means "follower of Christ". If you’re still following Christ, you’re a Christian, whether you choose to call yourself one or not. Maybe it’s semantics, but it’s bugged me.
And I agree with you about the obligation to be living in fellowship with other Christians through church — I don’t believe in any sort of infallibility of any given church structure, but I do think that two (or more) heads are better than one, and that it is easy when you are just reading your Bible by yourself, praying by yourself, meditating by yourself, etc, to get caught up into navelgazing and screwy ideas, that can be rectified by simply having a conversation with another Christian, reading the Bible and discussing it with them, learning from Christians who have studied more than you or been in the faith longer than you have. I’ve done it myself I don’t know how many times and I always get back on track when I reach out for help. I think we’re too individualistic nowadays, and while our salvation is personal, I don’t think our journey as Christians is supposed to be fully personal and private… if it was, then why would we get upset with Christian leaders who have sex scandals or whatever?
Close minded people are always repugnant. People who are truly thinking (and not sheep) tend to distance themselves from organised religion. You’re a staunch Christian, but you disagree with Catholicism even though these two religions stem from the same roots. Multiply that sentiment by a thousand times, mix in testosterone and politics, and you’ll see that the wars that certain religions have waged against each other have torn apart humanity and damaged our Earth.
Why should you feel proud to be part of a train of thought that thinks that life is all about fighting for allegiance to a "god" ? As a mother, you should support peace and harmony so that humans never have to use nuclear weapons again, and accept that there is no way that humans can all belong to one religion.
@MrsW — You wrote, "…while our salvation is personal, I don’t think our journey as Christians is supposed to be fully personal and private." and I entirely agree! Thank you for that!
@Lillian — As I stated in my reply to Stefano, although I distance myself from the RCC I still acknowledge that all of Christianity came from it and embrace its history (at least until the Reformation), however marred.
Why should I feel proud? Unfortunately, this can never fully be explained to a non-believer. I just know that I am confident in my faith and am proud to be a child of God. Do you feel proud to be an American (I’m assuming you are)? What about its own marred history? Like I said, no organization is perfect and while the Church has certainly made its mistakes I still love it despite its faults and proudly declare myself a Christian.
If anything, your statements contradict your own preachings on tolerance by being so strongly against organized religion and personally attacking me as a mother for choosing to be a Christian. Obviously our differences are different and I know there is nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. All I can do is pray…and in the meantime, just tell myself, "Whatever floats your boat."
I agree with everything you wrote, and I felt the same saddened emotions when I read Anne Rice’s statements.
I really respect your beliefs, convictions, and love for our God of grace. 🙂 Thanks so much for your blog- you encourage a lot of people. 🙂