Russell Moore: Anne Rice Hasn’t Betrayed You

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My friend Russell Moore (I guess you’re friends with someone once they’ve bought you a Johnny Cash t-shirt) had some great thoughts in response to the furor over Anne Rice’s comments about Christianity. You may remember our own A.S. Peterson wrote a review of her newest books, which aren’t about vampires but about Jesus. Here’s a bit of what Dr. Moore had to say:

“Yesterday the Internet was abuzz with news that Anne Rice has renounced Christianity. The best-selling vampire novelist, who professed faith in Christ several years ago and has since written several books about Jesus and her conversion, publicly quit Christianity on her Facebook page. There’s a real opportunity here that hinges on how we respond to this, or, rather, how we respond to her.

Anne said that she was leaving Christianity bt1larg-riceecause she just couldn’t be “anti-gay, anti-feminist” and so forth. The response was immediate, especially on Christian forums and comments on blogs and on various other forms of media.

Anne Rice is, at best, our sister-in-Christ who is going through a dark night of the soul. She is, at the very least, someone who has encountered something of the light of Christ, is drawn to it, and is now “kicking against the goads.” In either case, she is not our enemy.”

Read the rest here.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


41 Comments

  1. Bernie

    I appreciate Dr. Moore’s perspective on Ms. Rice. It seems like the Church really loves it when someone like Ms. Rice publicly “professes faith” … then perhaps it stands to reason that we would get personally offended if the same person publicly bashes Christianity (“Stuff Christians Love” fodder, indeed).

    However, I also very much connected with this statement: “But the church cannot see rejection of Christ as some kind of personal reproach or, worse yet, an ideological declaration of war. We have to love our prodigal sons and daughters so that if and when the dark night of the soul is over they have a place to come home to.”

    Recently I’ve been reading John of the Cross (where the term “Dark Night of the Soul” comes from), and according to his writing it is in the dark place that we find God Himself. Thus, we pray for Anne Rice and others and ourselves. It’s not personal. We’re all in the Shadowlands.

    Okay … so I am commenting in the RR for the first time as if I’ve been here forever and and know exactly what I am doing. I haven’t and I don’t. I trust protocol has not been broken. I’ve been thoroughly refreshed reading articles and comments here over the past few days. Greetings and blessings to all.

  2. Matt Algren

    The comments section over there goes a long way toward proving Rice’s point. They’re all but tripping over each other to get their licks in.

  3. JJ

    I was talking to a friend at church yesterday about this. My initial feeling was sadness, but mainly because I know how I can tend to do the same thing Anne has done. But thankfully I have people around me that can and will pull me from the brink of despair and into the wonderful Truths about God in Christ Jesus, and my love for God’s people grows as a result. I can only pray God will bring some wonderful godly people into her life.

  4. Laura Peterson

    This story has been catching my interest from a linguistic standpoint. “Today I quit being a Christian” is SUCH a strong statement, I wish she had been more choosy with her words. I don’t think something like “I am fed up with the hypocrisy I see in the Church and some of the things it seems to stand for” would have garnered some of the headlines I have seen, like “Anne Rice quits Christianity” and “Anne Rice renounces faith.” The words we use about Christ and his Bride have so many meanings and varied levels of depth for so many people….I worry that nonbelievers will think that she feels let down by Christ himself, not just by the Church or by other Christians, or by Christians in name only. Maybe she does? Sigh.

  5. Jonathan

    For the church to be seen as “anti-gay” or “anti-feminist” is quite an indictment on the church. We can stand back and say, “it’s not our fault that they think of us like that” but that’s an easy way out and truthfully it is a little bit our fault. I’m reminded of Andrew’s lyrics, “I saw the pictures of the prophets of the picket signs screaming God hates fags.” We can say that there’s always a fringe group of radicals in every religion or that the media only covers the moments that paint Christianity in a bad light, but are we willing to speak out against that with as much vigor as we speak out against abortion? Are we willing to hold a sign that says “God loves fags.” Instead of being seen as anti-sin, the world needs to see His church as pro-mercy.

  6. amy

    praise god. thank you for dr. moore’s words, and blessed by the comments. sadly, i was unaware of this news coverage (i slip behind easily mothering), but i appreciate the heart of the article and the comments. “pro-mercy.”

  7. Matt Algren

    Jonathan, the next few lines of that song are what I consider some of Andrew’s most important lyrics:

    And It feels like the Church isn’t anything more
    Than the second coming of the Pharisees.
    Scrubbing each other til their tombs are white,
    They chisel epitaphs of piety.

  8. Jonathan

    I agree matt. they’re the words that made me fall in love with andrew’s music. Music that challenged me and my view of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

  9. Jud

    Perhaps this further statement by Ms. Rice sheds some further light on her state of mind:

    “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.”

  10. Pracades

    This reminds me of the hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our love,” and in opposing, Gandhi’s famous quote, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” For me this is a reality check. How am I being portrayed in my Chrisitianity? Are people drawn to the light of Christ in me or do they feel closed off to Christianity because I am not portraying God’s love for them?

  11. Matt Algren

    So Thomas, what you’re saying is that she’s a stupid immature fratboy with a big mouth and no understanding of scripture because she has a problem with the anti-social justice actions of the Catholic Church.

    Golly, I can’t imagine why people would have a problem with church people.

    The Pope went to Africa last year and told the faithful that AIDS is spreading because of condom use, which every single credible AIDS researcher knows is the opposite of true.

    The Catholic Church has been actively assisting child molesters for decades, often (not sometimes, *often*) passing them from parish to parish to find new victims while lying to the people in the pews about what was going on.

    The Catholic Church (and others) has spent tens of millions of dollars over the last couple years stripping people of their civil rights instead of, you know, feeding the hungry and helping the poor. Last December they even threatening to throw the homeless out on the street in the middle of winter if they didn’t get their way.

    You can dismiss Anne Rice’s recognition of the Church’s problems or you can take it as an opportunity to learn what might be wrong with the Church and work to fix it before the Church loses whatever credibility it has left.

  12. Shelley

    How quickly can the fickleness of our flesh be exposed on Facebook. I agree with Thomas McKenzie that God alone knows the depth of Rice’s faith, as well as her intial intentions before placing her ‘announcement’ publically to the cloud. (I do not have a Facebook page and therefore cannot read Rice’s full statement.) However, it does seem like a strong statement and the phrasing makes me wonder if Christanity is something you can quit like a bad habit, an unhealthy relationship that you just walk out of to ‘protect’ your rights, etc. or because you don’t like changing.

    Prayer is the best option, even better than the time it’s taking me to write this comment. I can’t image the battle that is going on around this sister, or lost sheep. Either way, I pray that the calm, tender voice of the Good Shepherd will be heard by Rice and all the peanuts gathered around and each will follow His Voice alone out of this spectacle.

  13. Jonathan Andrews

    Matt please re-read Thomas’ post. I don’t think he was using the tone that you might have read it in. Also you mentioned many things about the Catholic church. I think that there are many different religious groups that have responded the opposite of love but if you were mentioning Catholics because of Thomas. He is Anglican.

  14. Matt Algren

    Thanks Jonathan for the double check. I mentioned the Catholic Church because Anne Rice is/was Catholic and that would be much/most of her experience. I edited out the sentence that mentioned it and forgot to bring it back in.

    I don’t mean to be short-fused, but I’ve seen this attitude so often lately, and it does so much harm. Rather than treating Anne Rice like a real live person with intelligence and feelings and a perspective, so many take the dubious route of treating her like a mission project. Removing her personhood (which I’m sure, and I’m not being facetious, is not what most intend) makes it so much easier to brush people aside when they’re saying something that makes us uncomfortable.

    Cheers.

  15. Matt Algren

    You dismissed Ms. Rice and with her any insight she might bring to the fore. To you, anything she says is tainted by the outlet she chose (which is weird to read in a blog comment) and any opinion she has is theologically suspect because it’s different than yours.

    That’s the core of the problem, both in what Ms. Rice has found with the Church and with some responses to her. Any chance for dialogue is immediately diminished because the powerful party dismisses the other.

    I didn’t “target” you, I responded to you. My response was perhaps direct and certainly frustrated, but not angry. You aren’t a symbol and I don’t believe in straw men, so you can rest assured that I’m responding to you.

    Yes, I mentioned the Catholic Church. As I said before, I did so specifically because Ms. Rice is/was Catholic. I didn’t ask you to defend or speak to the atrocities of the Catholic Church. I was hoping, perhaps naïvely, that you and others would be interested to know some of the problems she may have been referencing. You know, to help you understand why she doesn’t want to be associated with them anymore.

    Finally, of course you’re in a position to help fix what’s broken. Aren’t you an Anglican priest or something? Who better than a Church leader (regardless of denomination) to help pull the broken pieces together again? For that matter, aren’t all of us on board for that? Isn’t that one of the rules of the house?

    P.S. I hope your friend’s journey is peaceful and painless.

  16. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    I understand exactly where she’s coming from and I don’t see it as a weakness or a lack of faith. I also don’t know that I’d say her faith is immature based on what I know of her from reading her books (even in her vampire books it’s evident). She’s not a new Christian, she’s been at it for longer than some preachers I know and has put a great deal of thought into what she believes and why and how.

    She’s more vocal about her feelings than most and she’s always been a bit melodramatic but I think the point she makes is an important one. Walk in her shoes for a mile, be the mother of a gay son, be surrounded by people who are constantly pointing their fingers at the worst the church has to offer, and also remember that she’s Catholic. I can’t imagine that’s an easy burden to bear these days. I have a feeling she’s simply tired of hearing that her faith is defined by what she must be against.

    Christianity is not defined by a list of ‘do nots’ but looking from the outside in, that’s a hard case to sell based on the evidence we’ve (collectively) let behind.

    Sad but more true that I want to believe.

    I wish she was a little more tactful, and I wish she hadn’t lumped all the millions of genuinely loving, compassionate Christians in with the misguided ones but I’m kind of glad she’s taking her stand. It’s sort of like the way that I don’t always agree with the way Derek Webb does things but I’m glad he’s out there doing it. Different messages and actions reach different people in different ways. And my way isn’t always the best way. It takes all kinds.

    I think it’s clear, that what she’s renouncing is the baggage associated with a mere word and not her relationship with Christ himself. The church is bigger than a word. She’s still a part of the church by virtue of being a follower of Christ. The church is the body of believers, not an institution, or an organization, or a political movement.

    I’m rambling and am too tired to make a point it seems. Bleh.

  17. Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    Thanks Pete. Okay. Being completely candid here.

    One of the hardest parts of this whole thing for me has been the way Christians have rallied around Ms. Rice (which can be legit, I suppose) but have done it with what seems to me to be a self-righteous tone and stereotypical superiority over what we’re calling “the church,” or “other christians.”

    I believe we need to check ourselves before we dress down the church too much, because the truth is many who might like to distance themselves from the object of Ms. Rice’s frustration (or whatever we may call it) are precisely the sorts of people she’s trying to distance herself from– and in some cases we stand where we do out of biblical conviction. (For example, is it possible for a Christian to be pro-secular humanism?)

    The responses here and otherwise that have a “Yeah, take that, church!” tone hurt my heart a bit, not because the church doesn’t deserve to be called out on some of Ms. Rice’s issues, but because people who belong to “the church” are manifesting a profoundly unloving posture toward folks they are called to love well.

    If we possess great knowledge and wisdom but don’t have love, we’re just making noise.

  18. David H

    I found Russell Moore’s post not only painfully misdirected but offensively condescending. Let’s pray for Anne so she comes back to the fold, yet no mention at all of what she actually said or why she actually said it.

    For most of my life I have been troubled over how the Christian church so often pushes celebrities to the pulpit — as if the testimony of famous people has supreme worth; as if notoriety of some kind coupled with conversion makes them “real” examples of Christ. As a newspaper person in the NYC environs I have seen Daryl Strawberry tumble a number of times only to be shoved back up front as soon as he strings a couple of sober days together.

    And the original blog post puts Anne Rice right with Daryl. Just another abuser who is off the wagon. But hopefully she will regain her senses and become once again the role-model we want to use her as.

    Rice is a Catholic and much of her disgust is directed as that portion of the Christian church. The recent record of the Catholic church has been appalling in many ways (as has been pointed out by other commenters) and the current pope appears to have had a direct hand in covering up many of the terrible things perpetrated by his church (including personally ordering the destruction of records that would have helped authorities identify sexually abusive priests).

    But the Catholic church is not alone in the things that have been done wrong in the name of Christ. And Anne Rice is not the only person who has discarded the term Christian because it has become too much about institutions and too little about Jesus. I say institutions to highlight the various and extreme permutations of the Christian church; some so at odds it’s hard to believe they could both be part of one body.

    For me it has become increasingly difficult to figure out how to talk about Jesus when espousing affiliation to an institution so focused on money and buildings and personal blessings and judgement of others, etc., etc. You find yourself speaking to someone and every statement about the church in general comes with a disclaimer: but Jesus wasn’t about that. You find yourself talking about Christ and every statement about the gospel comes with a rebuttal: where is the grace, where is the selflessness, where is the Kingdom of God in the corporate philosophy embraced and exported by his supposed Church?

    I spend a good deal of my time talking to agnostics and atheists rather than your run-of-the-mill unbelievers. They are not unknowing; they are passively lost — they are actively rejecting Christianity as they see it in the world today. Many of these people know quite a bit about the Bible and a very knowledgable about Christian teachings. Many have rejected Christ because of the hypocritical divergence between what his followers say and what they do. They understand, far more it often seems, that the term Christian means little Christ. And they just don’t see how even a little Christ fits in the ethnocentric, piously patriotic, prosperity-gospeled, morally myopic, hell celebrating, know-it-all belief system that seems to have become so typical of Christianity writ large.

    Anne Rice looked into her heart and the heart of the Church and said these can’t both be the heart of Christ. I may not entirely agree with what she did, but I understand why she did it.

    I would have been less dismayed with Russell Moore’s response had it been more focused on him looking into his own heart and the heart of the Christian church. Instead he presented his view of Anne Rice’s heart and judged her for what he believed he saw there. That is remarkably blind, amazing sad and so completely un-Christ-like it makes me weep to call myself a Christian.

  19. David H

    For example, is it possible for a Christian to be pro-secular humanism?Secular humanism expressly stands against religion, so perhaps it is impossible to be a Christian and pre-secular humanism. But this may provide an example of the binary thinking that drove Ms Rice away. What she said is she refuses to be anti-secular humanism. The Christian church has often held up secular humanism as the whipping boy for everything that is wrong with the world, even though that philosophy only separates dong right (morality, if you will) from religion.

    Some of the tenants of secular humanism don’t seem far removed from those espoused by Christianity, such as the search for truth, testing beliefs and the desire to build a better world. And in practice some secular humanists have demonstrated at least as much zeal to help their fellow humans — regardless of cost to themselves — as the most ardent missionaries. Maybe the issue isn’t that Christians should embrace secular humanism, but that they should stop demonizing secular humanists.

    As for me, I struggle to love fellow believers. I talk to my children and the folks in my Sunday school about not condemning the folks we accuse of being condemners. But often I am simply sick of apologizing for everyone — myself included — who so cavalierly holds themselves up as an example of Christ.

    How does one admonish the fragmented and fractured Christian church for all too often not living up to the stated purposes of its head? And isn’t it more appropriate for family members to chastise each other than to focus all of our righteous attention on the wrong-doings of those not counted as brothers and sisters in the faith?

    Finally, if the Church of Jesus is failing in its mission, if it is not living up to the great commission — and I would argue that when looked at as a monolithic entity that is exactly what is happening — what is the appropriate response?

    It isn’t that I don’t love Christ who those who claim to be his followers. But I can or even should say the same thing for the church really depends on how you define church.

  20. David H

    Too many typos. As an editor, that’s embarrassing. Let me at least try to properly state my conclusion.

    It isn’t that I don’t love Christ OR those who claim to be his followers. But WHETHER I can or even should say the same thing for the Church really depends on how you define church.

  21. Greg Sykes

    I will not offer a long-winded opinion about this on-going argument, but rather a simple question: what does it say about the power of Rice’s post when Thomas MacKenzie and Russ Ramsey, two Godly men who are serving Christ’s church, have become the target of much of the wrath associated with this stream of discussion? I think we’re missing the forest for the trees, and I think we’re cleverly obscuring the fact that some good men, some good churches, and some good ministries have just suffered harm and some “Christians” have enjoyed inflicting the blows. Russ and Thomas, in Christ, I love and respect you guys and appreciate all you do for the the Kingdom — you are not the enemy. You are my brothers, and I, for one, am very thankful to be a part of Christ’s body with you.

  22. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    I’m sorry I’ve been absent from most of this discussion, folks, but I’m on the road and extremely busy. I wanted to chime in and thank everyone for their input. This is an issue that isn’t going to be sorted out in the Rabbit Room forum, I don’t think, but I will say this:

    One of the reasons I appreciated Russell Moore’s initial post was that, whether or not he completely understood Anne Rice’s motives or meaning, whether or not he, to everyone’s satisfaction, researched where she was coming from, his response to her situation wasn’t angry, or reactionary, or condemning. Sure, his take on the situation may be different than yours, but it was level-headed, informed by Scripture, and gentle, given his limited understanding of her situation. No one in this discussion (including me) is sinless here. We’re all broken, fumbling along, trying to let the Holy Spirit lead and failing more often than we care to admit. I’ve seen self-righteousness on both sides of the issue, and anger, and misinformation, and prejudice, and a host of other qualities that weren’t Christ-like. Anne Rice, Russell Moore, you and I are hopeless without Christ. We are more desperately sinful than we realize, and should approach any such discussion with a healthy dose of humility and a constant remembrance of Christ’s great mercy on us.

    On one hand I feel like this is her business, between her and her pastor/priest/Christian community, and on the other hand she’s the one who made this public declaration via Facebook, so no one should be surprised there was an internet furor over it, or that there were people on both sides of the fence shaking fists. The sad thing for me is that this church, warts and all, is God’s church. He came up with this idea. He knew the church would be made up of sinful people who more often than not got it all wrong. But he knew we need community. He knew we needed occasional discipline, the wisdom of elders, the occasional rebuke, the liturgy, sacraments, a weekly meeting where we’d hear again and again the Gospel in its wonder and fulness, because he knows how forgetful we are. The church is Christ’s bride, adorned with his righteousness, and has been a mighty force for good in the world. (Of course, I know there’s been a lot of wickedness done by people claiming to be the church.) But I think of Compassion International, World Vision, my father’s congregation, the many pastors I know, my own church in Nashville, and how they all bear the name CHRISTIAN, and bear it as honorably as anyone could ask–and I confess I get a little defensive when someone writes them all off as bigots and prudes and unworthy of another believer’s fellowship, even in name.

    May we take care not to despise the church, in all its nuance of character and aspect. It is as imperfect as the feeble, bumbling, immortal saints of which it is made, and whether we like it or not it is a part of the story God is telling–indeed, it’s one of the supporting characters: the bride of Christ, the people of God, the citizens of his kingdom.

  23. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Also, I was just talking with Ben (Shive) about this and he remembered this quote about Pharisaism from Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God:

    “In a religious framework, if you feel you are living up to your chosen religious standards, then you feel superior and disdainful toward those who are not following in the true path. This is true whether your religion is of a more liberal variety (in which case you will feel superior to bigots and narrow-minded people) or of a more conservative variety (in which case you will feel superior to the less moral and devout).”

    I’m guilty of this very thing. The Gospel, on the other hand, removes from us any right to feel superior to anyone, ever.

    He has showed you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the LORD require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

    Micah 6:8

  24. Josh

    Sometimes people question their faith and in the process of doing that they need to walk away for a while so they can look back at the whole landscape and get a fresh perspective. Other times people’s faith was never real and they’re really only walking away from a restrictive and warped ideology based on a warped interpretation of the truth. I would bet good money that Anne Rice is in one of these two categories.

  25. Aaron Alford

    The whole thing just feels like a wound in my heart.

    It saddens me that Anne has publicly distanced herself, not just from “the Church”, but, as one who still calls himself a Christian, from me.

    It saddens me to see the Catholic Church, of which I am also a part, not acting honorably or lovingly in certain areas, and it saddens me to see that same Church attacked unfairly.

    It all just kinda hurts.

    Lord, please make us one.

  26. MargaretW

    I read this post with interest and am comtemplating the polarizing nature of the subject. I must note that I do not know Anne Rice personally, nor have I read any of her books, which makes me feel somewhat disqualified to comment on her decision to leave Christianity. However, I feel more than qualified to comment on the nature of Christians in relationship to Christ and the church, having been in a relationship with Jesus since I was a small child and upon being wounded by Christians inside the church and reciprocating that hurt to others. I realize that we can’t solve all of the church’s problem in a blog-type setting, but this whole issue makes me ask the question, “How do we as Christians change the perception the world has of us?” I struggle against this constantly. I honestly want to know what loving gay people, prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts, adulterers, really looks like? If we are to love as Christ loves, truth must always be accompanied by grace, keeping in mind that we are all fallen creatures without any hope other than the redeeming blood of Jesus spilled at the cross. If Christians are the problem, then I am part of the problem. How do I become the solution?

  27. Tony Heringer

    Sorry if this has been posted, but do you think, in all this hubbub, that Rice is just pulling a PR stunt? She’s not a dummy. I’d think that it took 10 seconds to come to the conclusion she is saying it took her 10 years to come to this month. Why now? It all seems a bit contrived and melodramatic to me.

    I’m sure this topic will come up this week-end. So, I’ll look forward to further comments then.

  28. Aaron Alford

    Tony,

    I think it’s a genuine moment of honesty for her, but the instant nature of Facebook/internet culture can create an inflated sense of melodrama. The upside is that, after I posted something on her Facebook page, she took the time to personally respond. That, to me, shows some humility and integrity.

    Margaret W,

    I think loving gays, prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts and adulterers means having friends who are gay, who are prostitutes, who are drug addicts and adulterers. (I think I’ve met one or two who are all of the above!) To do that requires an openness to friendship outside our safe places, and a willingness to go to the forgotten areas in our cities where such people are. Be there and be a friend, and let that friendship change the both of you. It all comes down to friendship, to relationship, and it’s hard to walk away from that.

  29. Bernie

    Margaret, Aaron, et al,

    I agree that friendship is crucial. Non-negitiable. Seminal.

    Is intentional, publically-lived, Christ-centered, Biblically-directed community another missing piece to the puzzle? It seems that many are turned off by the messiness (hypocrisy? inconsistencies? Legalism?) of this thing we call church. But the Church is the Bride of Christ. So what gives? What would it look like if the architecture of the church were about about being available and vulnerable, and if we actually sought to live this Christ-life in a sort of separate-together fashion that caused the scared and addicted and alone (the prostitutes, the alcoholics, the homosexuals … and the unhappy, happily married types, as well) to take notice (‘They will know you are my disciples because of your love for one another).

    Yeah … it’s kind of my own version of “Imagine”. Probably “pie-in-the-sky” (what does “pie-in-the-sky mean anyway?). I’ve been teaching, writing and talking about this for 13 years in the pastorate and 4 years working overseas. I’ve not seen it happen, yet. I’ve tasted it. A few times. But I know I want to live it.

    I’m confident that people like Ms. Rice and Ghandi and those who have been burned, broken and bruised by mis-guided or confused (in some cases, false) Jesus-followers, would find healing in a community like this.

    I know I would, as well.

  30. David H

    When my former wife was 8 she became the parent for her three younger siblings. Her father, an ARVN officer and pilot, had been unable to steal a plane large enough for his entire family at the end of the Vietnam war. Faced with terrible choices, he elected to keep the family together in Vietnam.

    However, he was almost immediately sent to prison (re-education camp) by the new government of the unified country. He spent most of the next 11 years of his life in such institutions for the crime of his position in the former government and for repeated attempts to leave the country.

    Faced with the prospect of raising four children on her own without money, a job or a place to call home, my ex-wife’s mother simply abandoned the children. She spent most of the intervening years with a succession of boyfriends, returning sporadically to her children — wherever they happened to be — only to disrupt whatever fragile situation they were calling home.

    When her daughters got old enough she sent them to Saigon bars in the hopes they would net wealthy foreign businessmen as beaus who would financially support them — and by extension her.

    Anne Rice says she no longer is a Christian, but she remains a follower of Christ. To stretch a metaphor, she doesn’t have a problem with the bridegroom, her problem is with the bride. And there’s the rub, every follower of Jesus is the bride. The bride can’t divorce herself from herself.

    To use a different analogy, you don’t get to pick your relatives when you marry into the family. My former mother-in-law is not someone I would choose to be joined with. It isn’t just about having her come for a week or spend time with the kids. Her actions played a significant role in the mental and emotional problems my wife faced as she grew older. Perhaps our marriage would have gone better, maybe even lasted, without the psychological scars resulting from my wife’s childhood predicament. Of course, without that trauma I would never have met her at all.

    So you can’t change your family. It’s a package deal.

    And what a package is the family of Christ. On one hand we have Westboro Baptist preaching that God hates everyone but the members of their church. We have Pat Robertson preaching that every calamity is God’s judgement. We have fundamentalists insisting that we need idols for the 10 commandments all around the United States. On the other we have Anglicans (or is that Episcopalians, I always get confused) allowing gay bishops, Marcus Borg and his belief that God is in everything but Jesus may be nothing at all, and Rob Bell with other emergents who are decried as heretics attempting to gut The Bible and The True Faith.

    In between, as just one example, lies the Catholic Church, with it’s insistence on being the Church Universal, headed by a man elected by other men to receive the authority of God’s regent on earth. The Pope can provide a free pass straight to heaven or condemn unavoidably to hell. And he can, apparently, dedicate himself to protection of the institution of the church regardless of the cost to the people who are the CHURCH.

    The variety is remarkable and extreme. In the end it takes nothing more than the self-definition “I am a Christian” to become part of the family. And I mean it seriously when I say there is little or no room for another Christian to question that self-decalred faith.

    That likewise allows little or no choice. If you want Jesus then you must accept all these members of your family whether you like them or not.

    I understand Ms Rice’s frustration but also perceive the pointlessness of her statement. She is upset by a number of things — some of which I consider valid — that seem to have become foundational to some Christian sects. She is attempting to voice her unhappiness that some of those things have become inextricably linked to the institutionalized church.

    But you can’t cut off a finger and expect it to live. You can’t divorce your mother-in-law. Even if you do divorce your wife, as I know from painful experience, that does not remove her or her family from you life — past, present or future.

    I apologize for my wordiness, but I want to be clear.

    My problem with the words of Russell Moore begins with this: “Anne Rice is, at best, our sister-in-Christ who is going through a dark night of the soul. She is, at the very least, someone who has encountered something of the light of Christ, is drawn to it, and is now “kicking against the goads.” In either case, she is not our enemy.”

    He goes on to say: “Yes, Anne Rice has renounced Christianity. Maybe it’s a permanent move away from the gospel, showing that she never quite made it all the way into communion with Christ. If so, let’s represent Christ and continue to point her to the Jesus she finds in some way mystifying. It could be that Anne is a Christian who is having a wave of doubt and rejection.”

    There are only two options in this thinking. Either she really is a Christian and has her head screwed on wrong at the moment. Or she never was a Christian at all.

    There is no possibility that Ms Rice is, in some small way, the goad. There is no allowance that she may be attempting to follow the light of Christ but feels the institutional church — or at least some of its offshoots — is blocking her vision of the source. Perhaps it isn’t Jesus she finds mystifying so much as it is the divergent groups and individuals who all claim to be his followers. When I look at the full spectrum — from rabid hate-mongers to love-is-all-there-is new agers — I have to profess some mystification, anger and dismay of my own.

    But my biggest problem with Moore’s position and that of some others who have weighed in on this issue is their failure to begin with a basic family or marriage counseling approach to the position Ms Rice has taken. They appear to start from the position that SHE is simply wrong.

    I went through marriage counseling a number of times during a rocky 17-year marriage I would have done anything to save. Often I went by myself. A few times my wife came along.

    Inevitably, early in the process, the counselor would say something along the lines of: “Let’s look at why your wife is unhappy; let’s consider why your spouse is angry.”

    It wasn’t about establishing who was right or legitimizing one complaint over the other. It was about listening. It was about communication. It was about trying to find common ground. It was about seeking a path back to the deeper aspects of relationship — like love.

    It seems to me, and I could be totally wrong, that the place to begin was not with invalidating Ms Rice’s issues or attempting to preserve the sensibilities of those who remain in the fold. The place to begin was by acknowledging that there is something making her so upset she wants to get out.

    Maybe by talking about what is driving her those who choose to keep the name Christian can learn something (if not about themselves, at least about her). And, in that process, if nothing more, she might find that while she wants to distance herself from certain aspects of the family or speak out against some of the things they seem to represent, that there are also members and houses and beliefs to which she would like to move closer.

    AP is right. We are all hopeless without Christ. Of that I have no doubt. But we, his bride, his body, his family are called to be his arms, his heart, and his ears in addition to his mouth to the best of our abilities as little replicas of Jesus.

    So we speak, and sometimes we say too much. But we must also listen, empathize and even embrace. We must act justly toward everyone — even those who don’t seem to deserve it — and love mercy — not just for ourselves, but even for those who say they don’t want it.

    We have a big, unruly and often ugly family. But there is no way to love the Father and not be one of his children (in a larger sense there is no way to be human and not be one of his children, but that’s another discussion). Bottom line: Christ and Christian, it’s a package deal.

    While that may address the ultimate reality of our familial situation — we can’t disown each other — it doesn’t say much about how we as individual members of the body should or even can live together. Maybe, just maybe, that’s where the discussion should start — with or without Anne Rice.

  31. Calogero

    I agree with the fact that we, as Christians, should always be very careful in the way we treat our “prodigal sons and daughters” and make them feel home when they’re back from a dark journey.

  32. Mike

    During the 1940’s Georgia had a very racist governor named Herman Talmadge. Talmadge made a comment one time that Southerners hated the black race but loved the individuals, while Northerners loved the race but hated the individuals. Maybe Ms. Rice’s perspective is the same. I understand Dr. Moore’s comment that we can’t truly love Jesus without loving His church. But can it be possible to love the individuals and not the institution?

    Just asking?

  33. Jeff Cruz

    I like reading all the different thoughts and opinions here on almost every topic and this one is no exception. I personally am not a big Anne Rice fan or reader, but was aware of the major shift in her life when she became a believer and began to write about God. A dear friend and seminary professor has talked about her books and how amazing and well researched they are. History come to life. He is a fan.

    I am a fan of Donald Miller. He recently wrote a comment about this issue too on his blog (http://donmilleris.com/2010/07/31/commenting-on-anne-rice/) and basically says what I think and that is that following Christ (which she says she continues to do) is the most important thing, and that we ALL have a hard time deal with some of the religous people who we get lumped with in the church.

    I mostly LOVE his line about the words Christian and Christianity. He says, “Christianity is not a sacred term and not a Biblical term so it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.”

    Jesus never said to be a Christian. He never said we should join Christianity. We made up that terminology in large part to create a club and way to group like minded believers, but also sadly to exclude those who do not believe. That is not what Jesus asked us to do.

    Many people have chose to use the phrase Follower of Christ rather than say they are Christians. It makes clear the relationship they have and who they are focused on, rather than falling into someone else’s preconceived notion of what they believe a Christian is.
    (and if you have seen any of those cheesy Christian t-shirts at a local Family Christian book store or Lifeway, then you know what I am talking about).

    ~jeff

  34. David H

    One of the commenters at Donald Millers post wrote this: “Its as if the message of tolerance has more weight than the definition of sin. I certainly hope that this isn’t the ultimate goal since it muddies the waters.”

    This is something I’ve thought about for a long time. I’m not sure “tolerance” is the right word — Jesus didn’t seem to have a permissive attitude, though he did seem somewhat accepting of un-lawful behavior. But the crux of the question seems important, maybe even critical to Christianity.

    Based on what Jesus said and what he did, is it important for his followers to have a clear definition of sin for themselves and for others?

    The effort to define sin sometimes seems to have become the focus of Christianity and I can’t help but wonder whether it helps the purpose of Christ.

  35. Aaron Alford

    By simply creating a new term to be used instead of “Christian”, are we not just setting ourselves up to have to create yet another term when “Christ Follower” gets bogged down by trendiness, pretention, and other human failings?

    Cuz, actually, ‘Christian’ IS a biblical term. It’s in 1 Peter 4:16 “…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” Which seems to be saying, “Don’t be embarrassed when you’re called a Christian.”

    So, no, I suppose we shouldn’t get too hung up on terms. But it seems like we’re in danger of being so “not hung up on terms” that we’re creating new terms to escape the old ones because we’re so hung up on ’em.

    ?

  36. David H

    Χριστιανός is the word translated as Christian in the three places it appears in the New Testament. The root of that word Χριστός means the anointed one. The full word, literally translated, is followers of the anointed one.

    Here is what Wikipedia says of the etymology: “The Greek word Χριστιανός (christianos)—meaning “follower of Christ”—comes from Χριστός (christos)—meaning “anointed one”[4]—with an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership.[5] In the Greek Septuagint, christos was used to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Mašíaḥ, messiah), meaning “[one who is] anointed.”[6] In other European languages, equivalent words to ‘Christian’ are likewise derived from the Greek, such as ‘Chrétien’ in French and ‘Cristiano’ in Spanish.”

    So, technically, the term Christian did not appear in the Bible until the original word was translated as such. But I largely concur that getting hung up on terms doesn’t really help much. And I’m seldom embarrassed by those who call themselves Christians who are acting like Christ.

  37. Jeff Cruz

    Christian / Follower of Christ / Believer / whatever. Semantics to some degree.

    The point I think Donald was trying to make (and that I was trying to make with his quote) was that Jesus did not call us to build big 100 million dollar mansions we call churches that in many cases exclude people more than they include. He did not call us to create alliances with a particular political party. He certainly hate gays, hate feminists, or even hate former vampire fiction writers whether they are believers or not.

    He called us to LOVE the Lord with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength. AND to LOVE our neighbor as ourself. That is it. Like David H says, I too have never been embarrassed by Christians who are acting like Christ, but fart too often there are those who do not.
    ~jeff

  38. Charles

    Great discussion about an important issue haunting the American church in this moment.

    I wouldn’t add anything; yet I recently listened to a nuanced sermon that handled both Ann’s comments–and, much more importantly, the larger problem they illuminate–much better than Dr. Moore (better because the sermon is more firmly rooted in scripture and biblical history). As an historian of American religion, I have to say that, since the emergence of the Southern Baptist Convention in the antebellum period, I’ve noticed a diminishing of scripture-reference in the Southern Baptist liturgy (and this affects sermons) when compared with many Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian liturgies, and this, in my opinion, hinders many from using scripture to self-criticize and self-reflect. I find it interesting that Dr. Moore’s default position when encountering criticism of the church is that the critic must be ‘kicking against the goads.’ Sure, he, for a brief moment, seems to ponder whether Ann’s comments are justified–but then seems to conclude that the church shouldn’t be criticized in such way (or if the church is criticized in such a way, the critic couldn’t possibly be right).

    Historicizing the church, especially the Southern Baptist Convention, makes this presupposition a bit problematic. I don’t mean to be overly critical here, and I know little about Rev. Moore (I derive this just from an analysis of his words). Indeed, I grew up in, and learned many valuable lessons and truths from the Southern Baptist Church.

    This sermon is ~30 min. long, but worth a listen if you’re interested in the matter:

    http://www.vinebase.com/cspc/video_player.php?video_filename=http://www.vinebase.com/cspc/sermons/CSPC20100815.mp3

  39. CapeJim

    From the (extended?) comments Jud mentioned, I would have hope in my praying that Anne Rice is ‘merely’ having problems with inconsistencies between what we Christ-followers say we believe, vs. how we act (as several others have posted here).

    As a person who has attended several different denominations of what we and many others call the Christian church, I find myself less concerned about what label another person attaches to himself/herself, and more concerned on where I fall short of the glory of God (following Christ’s example). I am aware that there can be (and too often are) near-Pharisaical concern for the letter of the Word, to the ignoring of the example Jesus showed us for *how* to love others.

    I remember that when the ‘religious expert’ tried to pin down Jesus about the greatest part of the Scriptures, Jesus summed it up (of course, He said there were *two* parts that were of primary importance). (Matthew 22:34-40) Jesus boiled it down to two simple rules/principles – well, simple to say, but not-so to actually follow…

    Those of us who are trying to follow Jesus, to be Christ-followers, have enough of a task to do that following, without worrying about the speck in another’s eye. Remind me of that when I take my eyes off you, Jesus, and also remind me of how your prophets (and James in his writings) raked even the spiritual (or political) leaders over the coals for how they neglected to watch out for the ‘lesser’ people in God’s family (the poor, widows, orphans and others who did not have power, wealth, or influence in this world).

    “A measure of a man is what he will do for someone who can offer but nothing in return.”

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