On her Facebook page today, author Anne Rice says she has quit Christianity—in the name of Christ.
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 a followup post:
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.
Rice, who has spoken openly of her conversion from lapsed Catholic to Christian, is not saying anything especially new. But she says it eloquently. It sounds raw and exasperated and expresses some of the exhaustion surely all of us have felt at trying to figure out what it means to follow Christ.
First of all, I think it’s wrong to dismiss statements like this by scoffing at the author—saying she doesn’t have enough faith or just wants to take the easy way out, or is too inconvenienced to stand for truth in a relativistic world. Whatever you think of homosexuality or feminism or science or politics, listen to what she is saying when she states, “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.” That’s not a statement about what Christians believe but how they act and how they express what they believe and how they treat people who believe differently–people who still believe the Gospel but differ on the other issues. She is saying that holding different beliefs excludes her. That is fair for her to feel and fair for her to say.
That said, I don’t think she and other label-spurners are being helpful when they separate “Christ” from “Christianity” or when they, like the rest of the world, equate Christianity with being anti-gay, anti-feminism, anti-Democrat, and anti-science. The empirical fact remains that the label-spurners are Christians as long as they follow Christ. They’re pretty much stuck with the label whether they like it or not. So why not help the rest of us reclaim Christianity as Christ–nothing more and nothing less?
I think Rice also goes too far in characterizing Christianity as extreme. Anti-artificial-birth control? She’s actually talking about fundamentalists and the most conservative kind of Catholic. Anti-Democrat? She’s really talking about white evangelicals. Anti-feminist? She’s discounting all the Christian denominations that welcome female pastors and leaders.
And so I think Rice’s outburst is helpful in that it’s a raw and honest exasperated cry from someone who has been convinced–by Christians themselves–that she’s not one of them if she doesn’t embrace every one of their beliefs. But, for the rest of us, let us keep–and redeem–the label!
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