The Christian Blogging Police just pulled me over. They heard that it's been a few weeks since Anne Rice announced that she is no longer and Christian, but is still all about Jesus....and I haven't blogged about it. They bought my excuse of "I didn't know there were rules about these things" and sent me on my way with just a warning. I'm not really sure what the punishment is for such things if I don't comply, so I'm just gonna go ahead and get ta bloggin'.
Here's the dilly yo:
Anne Rice, famous author of books such as Interview with a Vampire, recently said this on her Facebook page:
"Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out," she wrote. "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 10 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."
And then an hour later posts this as her status update:
"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."
And then this:
"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."
Those are some pretty powerful words.
For a little history. Anne Rice was born in New Orleans and was raised in an Irish Catholic home. Anne left the Catholic church when she was 18 and went on to marry, have children, and become famous for her gothic, horror books. In 1998, after some serious health issues, Rice returned to the Catholic church. After returning to the religion of her childhood, she began to realize that the books she had written were all fueled by her need to understand a world without God. She came back to the Catholic church and began writing books dedicated to Jesus. A few days ago she decided to leave Christianity, but still believes in Jesus.
This has lead to many blogs and articles discussing the different opinions on whether or not what she has decided is "right" or "wrong". I don't really know what to say other than give my own account of going from an agnostic/atheistic to a Christian. I can't answer for Anne Rice, so I'll answer for myself.
Her reasons for leaving Christianity were a lot of the same reasons that I was agnostic/atheist most of my life. I grew up in WV, which is technically part of the Bible belt. I grew up assuming that everyone was a Christian. I thought that there was no choice. Everyone knew that Jesus was God and that was that. No questions asked. As I got older I realized that there were other religions in the world. There were people that didn't believe in Jesus at all. I realized that was something that was "allowed". I had lots of questions. I didn't get a lot of answers. I also realized that this Jesus guy and I didn't to seem to have much in common and that his father seemed pretty violent and angry. Any attempts at reading the Bible on my own were thwarted by all the "thees, thous, thys" etc. I thought, well, if Jesus talks like this, then how is he going to understand me. I'll be lucky to stop saying "ain't" and Jesus is throwing out some words that my friends and I aren't saying on the playground while we're singing the lyrics to Parents Just Don't Understand (Fresh Prince...holla!). I didn't want to have anything to do with the hypocrites and miserable people that I saw sitting in church pews. At some point I stopped saying I was a Christian. I knew that I didn't know anything about Jesus or the Bible, so why would I call myself something just because I'm supposed to? I felt that, no matter how miserable I was living life my own way....at least I was having more fun than those grumpy, stuffy, judgmental, bigots that lived life like puppets. I wanted them to take their fake smiles and their "thou shalt nots" and get out of thy face. Going to a liberal college (which most are) didn't help matters much. I was offended and pushed farther away by the Christian propaganda I encountered in high school and in college. If you have to try so hard to sell something...is it really worth it? If you have to use fear to draw someone toward something, will they stay? So many questions.
At some point after college, I began to see that what I thought being a Christian meant was much different than what Jesus meant for it to be. It was my brother, Kirk that was the first person I knew that was able to show me what the love of Christ was meant to be. For years after Kirk became a Christian I watched him like a hawk. I had so many questions about this Jesus that Kirk loved so much. The Jesus that Kirk loved was so different than the Jesus I heard about growing up. Kirk wasn't perfect, but that was the beauty of it. He didn't have to be. There was a calmness he had about his weaknesses, imperfections, and mistakes. He used each hardship or fall in order to draw closer to God. He and I would be up for hours and hours talking about God. I would ask millions of questions and Kirk would patiently answer them if he could. Every idea I had about the Jesus I had constructed in my head began to fall away as I learned more and more what the Bible said and even more than that....the love Kirk had as he talked about Jesus. It took me a lot of years, but at some point I began to fall in love with Jesus as well. I still refused to call myself a Christian, but I found myself seeking information about Jesus more and more. Most of the time I did my research in private. I didn't want anyone to know I was falling in love with Jesus...because then I might be required to change my life or something like that....and I wasn't ready for that. I didn't WANT Jesus to be the answer. I kept fighting it. I kept reading and researching hoping that I would come across something that would allow me to reject Jesus and roll on with my life. But the more I searched, the more I found that Jesus is who he says he is. The thing about the real Jesus is.....He wants you to ask questions. He wants you to wonder and ponder. He wants to be desired and sought out. He doesn't hide from us. As we seek, we find. We find Him. Who He really is. My heart found God, and my head shortly followed. I spent a lot of years in spiritual blindness. I spent a lot of years mocking Christians. I spent a lot of years thinking that to be a Christian would mean that I would have to leave my intellect at the door and become a fundamentalist, right-wing, judgmental, screaming crazy person that wears cheap suits and have a book published with my face on the cover. Luckily, none of that happened when I gave my heart to Jesus. I still want to write a book one day, but I promise I won't put a pic of my face on the cover.....maybe just a small pic of me wearing a tutu and combat boots....on the back inside cover. What I have found in my almost 5 years of being a Christian is that us Christians...well, we've done a great job of giving ourselves a bad name. We are works in progress. We will slip. We will fall. We will do something that gives Jesus a bad name. All of us will at some point. We are humans. We aren't Jesus. Jesus tells us that we are made perfect in our weaknesses. (2Cor 12:9) It is in our weakness that we lean on God. Anything else we lean on will crumble under the pressure. Jesus is strong enough to shine through all of His imperfect children. The church is certainly imperfect, but Jesus loves us anyway. If Jesus started the church (Matt 16:18), then it must be important to him. If Jesus commanded us to love each other, how can we do that if we live separated from each other? It's easy to love someone from a distance, but the selfless love that Jesus commands of us is usually done up close and personal. If I don't allow myself to come into contact with people that disagree with me or challenge me....how will I ever grow or learn? I don't want to surround myself with a bunch of people that are exactly where I am and believe exactly what I believe. I want to challenge my beliefs. I'm so confident in Jesus that I'm not afraid of finding something that will cause me to stop believing in him. God uses people to speak to us and change us. If we push them away because they don't agree with us, then we are going to remain stagnant and fearful. If our faith is so weak that we can't have a discussion with someone that doesn't share our beliefs, lifestyle or opinions then maybe we should do some seeking before we start casting stones of judgment. If Anne Rice felt like she wasn't accepted or loved by Christians no matter what she believed, then I don't blame her for leaving. Feeling like you can't be yourself and that you have to be two different people in your life, that's an awful way to live. I've felt that way before. Sometimes I still feel that way. I struggle with "church" and "church people" as well. I try to talk about my mistakes and weaknesses on my blog and in my conversations with people, because I value transparency. We all struggle through life's difficulties. It pains me to know that there are people sitting in churches every Sunday that are totally in love with Jesus, but that put on a fake face so that they won't risk being labeled as an outsider because of their questions, opinions, or struggles. I believe in the freedom that Jesus offers. I believe in love. God is love. My job is to love and spread God's word and truth. I will do that. But I will not marginalize people in the process. I will not push people away because they are different than me. I will not push people away or keep my love from them just because they don't believe in my God, or live a different lifestyle than I do, or don't share my political views, etc. And I hope the people give the same back to me. I hope that people don't hear I'm a Christian and automatically lump me into all of the negative things they think about Christians as a whole. I love Jesus with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength. He isn't #1 in my life....He IS my life. He died on a cross for me, and for you. I believe that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one gets to the Father but through Him. I believe in His word, the Bible. I lived a lot of years separated from God, and I will never turn my back on him. My fear is that there are so many people in the world that don't know Jesus....simply because of His church. And for that....I am truly sorry.
I think we all need a reminder about what love is:
Love is patient
Love is kind
It does not envy
It does not boast
It is not proud
It is not rude
It is not self-seeking
It is not easily angered
It keeps no record of wrongs
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
-1 Corinthians 13
Check out these blogs for additional views on Anne Rice and on doubt, struggles, and such: