Anne Rice renounces Christianity (again!), this time on Facebook.
That Anne Rice, what a tease! Can’t you imagine her in a meadow, plucking petals from a daisy, chiming: “Christian. Not a Christian. Christian. Not a Christian…” Whatever. Her latest spiritual flip-flop simply means we need never take her seriously again.
I mean, come on, Anne: It was a big deal when you returned to the faith of your childhood, lo those 12 years ago, precisely because your most famous novels–you know, the ones about the bisexual vampires — are, among other things, raging attacks on the Catholic church.
So when she not only turned back to Catholicism in 1998 after a near-fatal health crisis, but actually started writing religious novels, it marked a conversion that was noteworthy and impressive, even if secular readers couldn’t quite understand it.
And her religious fiction has been quite good: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (2005) is an entirely credible imagining of Jesus’s childhood from a Catholic point of view. I especially liked her portrayal of Joseph as a humble man with real backbone and character.
Rice published another novel about Jesus, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana (2008), with a third pending. She also wrote a memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession (2008), as well as a new series of fantasy novels, “Songs of the Seraphim,” centered on angels. While I haven’t read any of these books, I expect they’re worth attention– the lady knows how to tell a story.
But yesterday, via Facebook, Rice said: Just kidding!
Actually, what she said was: “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.”
Doesn’t that take the breath away? Rice is too good for Christianity!
A short while later, she elaborated: “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.”
Love that “amen,” don’t you? So far, 81,816 people “like” this (in the peculiar jargon of Facebook), which of course they would, organized religion being a fat and perennially popular target for discontents of all kinds. As an agnostic (that ugly, ugly word again!), I might be expected to jump on this band wagon, shouting “huzzah!”
But no, the whole thing just makes me tired. Why? Because Rices remarks reveal her to be a deeply confused and intolerant person. What, you demand?! Intolerant? But she’s defending gays, women, science…
Yeah, yeah. She’s also condemning all of organized Christianity on the basis of the actions and beliefs of its most extreme churches. Mmm. The Metropolitan Community Church is, I’m pretty sure, not anti-gay. My cousin’s Lutheran church in Baltimore has a new female pastor (who sports an ankle tattoo!).
A group called Christian Peace Wtiness organizes anti-war activities, including this 2007 Washington protest that drew thousands to the National Cathedral.
Of course, Rice has the right to believe whatever she wants, but let’s recognize this rejection of organized Christianity for what it is: Exactly the kind of broad-stroke, simple-minded intolerance that she is condemning in organized religion. She seems to think “Christianity” is some homogeneous monolith, like Wal-Mart, when it’s really a gigantic flea market where you can find just about any variety of religious experience you’d like.
Indeed, Rice’s rejection of Christianity in total is a stupendous act of hubris, one that says: I know better than any and all of the billion people whose minds and spirits remain enslaved by organized Christian churches.
Even her declared devotion to Christ is sadly suspect — an expression of an utterly selfish faith: Me and J.C. are tight, so the rest of you can just buzz off.
That’s not to suggest that Christians aren’t free to seek personal relationships with their God, unmediated by church or pastor. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” But he also said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
If I were a Christian, no matter how independent-minded, I’d be wary about seeking the promise implied in that first quotation at the risk of missing out on the promise explicitly stated in the second one.
But I’m not a Christian, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. It just raises my dander when a famous person makes some knucklehead comment. And when I say we need not take Anne Rice seriously, I’m talking about her personal pronouncements. I’m not suggesting we deny ourselves the pleasures of reading her books, past, present or future.