Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rice Christian

While I was vacationing in Hawaii, I heard the news that Anne Rice had quit Christianity. I was never a fan of her vampire series, but I came to respect her Christian books. Her historical novels about the life of Jesus bring the Savior alive in a powerful way. As I read the books, I thought that this was a woman who knew and loved Christ. Maybe that is why she could no longer put up with the church that bears his name.

Characteristic of our high tech age, Rice quit Christianity on Facebook. She wrote: "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."

She continued: "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."

I am not surprised. When I read her spiritual autobiography, "Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession," I thought that her return to Catholicism was more about personal nostalgia than spiritual commitment. She seemed to be returning to a childish trust in a human institution, and I knew that was not healthy. So I was not too surprised when she quit the Catholic Church.

I share many of Rice's feelings about organized religion. I too feel like an outsider. But unlike Rice I have not quit Christianity or the church. I quit my particular Baptist denomination, which had become (to use Rice's words) a "quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group."

But I promptly joined another Baptist denomination that has its own infamous history. Furthermore I now regularly attend a church of another mainline Protestant denomination that is embroiled in the same controversies that prompted my departure from my first denomination.

It seems that there is no escaping the sinfulness of churches, denominations or Christians without leaving Christian community altogether. That type of churchless Christianity is too dangerous for a sinner like me. Without a regular community of faith, we are left to wallow in our own individual narcissistic sinfulness, which is much worse!

So I have opted to remain a Christian but focus on the spiritual core of Christianity that transcends the political, social, and moral agendas that churches tend to fight about. I have returned to the center of my faith - my first love - which is Jesus Christ.

I tend toward the mystical - what is loosely called spirituality these days. I spend more time in prayer and meditation than in theology or polity. Furthermore I chose not to judge churches any longer for not living up to my ideals. After all, I don't live up to them either.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for those comments Marshall. I am so glad you got to have some great vacation time, and I am with you in the decision not to pile on the beleagered institution.