Article for St Catharines Standard newspaper by Peter Youngren.
Best known for her gothic novels, most notably, “Interview with a Vampire”, Anne Rice renewed her childhood allegiance to Christianity ten years ago. Her memoir, “Called out of Darkness; A Spiritual Confession”, released in 2008, was touted as a testimony of her return to the faith. A couple of weeks ago Ms. Rice wrote on Facebook, “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…In the name of Christ I quit Christianity and being a Christian, Amen.”
News reports by journalists, who contacted Ms. Rice, claim she was troubled by child abuse scandals and the lack of serious reaction in the church. Rice had also been at odds with evangelical Christians, who initially rejoiced at her conversion back to the faith. Ms. Rice is a Democrat, who supported the recent U.S. health care legislation, and this didn’t sit well with American born-again Christians, who often are staunchly Republican and anti-Obama.
You may have noticed the question mark in my headline. What right do I have to question anyone quitting the faith? One must assume by the logic in Ms. Rice’s statement that to qualify as a full-fledged member of the religion of Christianity one must be anti-feminist, anti-gay, and anti-artificial birth control. Still she appeals to Christ in her quitting of Christianity, leaving the subtle notion that maybe even Christ is at odds with the religion that bears His name.
I have no idea if Ms. Rice had an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, or if her conversion a few years ago was a nostalgic return to a set of traditions. I do know that Jesus said, “whoever will, let him come to me and drink of the waters of life freely”. Jesus never suggested a required set of social convictions as a pre-requisite to be received by God. I hear the counter argument, “Yes God accepts us as we are, but he doesn’t leave us as we are”. Not so fast, we are talking about, “What is a Christian?” not the convictions that may result from a life in relationship with Christ. Anne Rice suggests that to qualify as “Christians” we must first be against certain people. I don’t recall Jesus or the apostle Paul ever hinting at such a notion. The Holy Book does say that anyone, who merely calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Where did Ms Rice get the idea that to be a Christian is to be the morality police, catching the offender, and then acting as both judge and jury, condemning those we disagree with? I assume “Christians” tried to disciple Ms Rice into this mistaken assumption.
My ethnicity is Swedish. When did I become a Swede? Once I knew the Swedish language? Swedish traditions? Of course not, I was a Swedish citizen the moment I was born. What makes someone a Christian? Simply put, being born of God, having God’s life inside of us. That’s it; that’s all.
Anne Rice continues: “It’s simply impossible for me to belong to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.” She has a point.
If you feel like Ms Rice, I suggest you leave the word ‘Christianity’ behind. There is no record of Jesus or His apostles ever using that expression. I spend considerable time with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and yes even Christians, and the less focus we have on the “religion” the better. When Jesus is presented as the savior of the world that He is, the attraction is universal.
I’m not Anne Rice’s judge. I don’t know whether her conversion to Christianity ten years ago was a return to childhood roots, or if she did connect with Jesus himself. If the latter happened, he promised to never leave or forsake her. If not, I have high hopes that Ms. Rice will discover him, who never talked about Christianity. Maybe she already has.