Quitting Christianity: What Anne Rice is teaching us all

Greetings bloggers!

A few months ago, Anne Rice stated on her Facebook page that in the name of Jesus Christ, she was quitting Christianity and was no longer a Christian.

It's taken me this long to get around to this post because that sentence is tough to wrap your mind around. How can a person quit Christianity in the name of Jesus? What's really at the heart of Anne Rice's comment here? What does it mean for those of us who are in the Church and in Church leadership?

Rice's comments make sense in a world where we're told it's perfectly ok to be spiritual but not religious. On the plus side, it would appear to this casual observer that there are more people than ever who are interested in the life and teachings of Jesus. People are opening the scriptures and seeing the God of the Universe who cares for and loves their souls. These people fall head over heels for the savior.

But they simply can't stand his followers.

These folks read the scriptures, particularly the teachings of Jesus, and as their eyes glance up from the page they notice that the people in the pews around them are nothing like the savior has asked of them. They see the horrible things we are capable of doing in the name of Jesus, the way we treat each other, and the way we treat people who disagree with us, and they want out.

So the question is, can you be spiritual, but not be religious? Is it possible to lead a life of devotion to Christ but not be a part of the community of faith? Yes and no I think. I understand the heart of this feeling, the desire to distance oneself from "organized religion" (a phrase I find pretty funny, because as someone who works in the church I realize that it's seldom organized). I can even understand feeling like you're capable of accomplishing more on your own than you could with a group of infighting Christians.

But the truth is, you need that connection. You need that community. You need encouragement when things aren't going your way and challenge to see things differently when needed. You need to have your viewpoints challenged by caring and loving people who are willing to invest in you. I personally think everyone should be a part of a small group, a team of people who will listen to your life stories and help you put things in perspective. Sure, the Church can be ugly. To quote Augustine, the Church may be a whore, but she's my mother.

So Anne, I see where you might have felt compelled to quit Christianity. But I also beg you to seek out those of us who are trying to make authentic and purposeful communities, trying to live the life that Jesus has laid out for us.

Perhaps we should spend less time worrying about being Christians and worry more about being disciples.

Godspeed,

J


15 comments:

Anonymous said...

i love that!!!!

Anonymous said...

Brian Mclaren "A New Kind of Christianity" is a good read on this subject.

Carol said...

we need other people to grow,...LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,..IT IS VERY APPARANT THAT ANNE RICE BROKE A COMMANDMENT AND IS LIVING BY HER OWN PHILOSOPHIES...unfortunatly in the name of Jesus....SO SAD!!

Rachel V. Olivier said...

Here's the thing. I already have a group of people who love and support me and help me grow. They're called my friends and family. Some are Jewish, some are Christian. Some are Buddhist and some are Atheist. Some are on the internet and some I know in person. That's my church. I was raised nondenominational/Baptist and asked to sign an agreement saying I wouldn't discuss certain topics with the HS school kids in the youth group (when I was a leader). So, even though a slumber party where jr. hi. girls talk about boys and what's too far might be a perfect time to discuss talking to your parents or using condoms, I couldn't. When I saw a kid who I knew would have been more comfortable at the sexual minorities center than at the youth group, I wasn't allowed to say anything. That went "gag order" went against a lot of what I believe in. On my own, with my friends and family, I don't have that gag order. I am free to express who I am, which is my write both as a Christian and as citizen of the world and the US.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

Ack! Sorry, my "right" not my "write". *sigh*.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I understand where Ms Rice is coming from. After reading some of these comments I have to say a few things.

1. The bible states in Matthew 18:20, Because where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them. (this verse states that it is not mandatory for people to gather in a large congregation to worship GOD)

2. The 1st of the 10 commandments says "You shall have no other gods before me". The bible states that God gave us his son, his son died for our sins. It does not say that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Bible says GOD spoke all these words, saying "I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out if the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage".

So, I have to ask everyone of and on this page, if you are a TRUE Christian as God asked of you. Then why are you casting stones? Why are you ready to judge and cast hatred upon someone who is using her GOD given freewill to do as she pleases? Personally I will say, she is allowed to choose her own path. It is no ones job to save her, myself or you for that matter. No one's job to judge or place on trial except GOD himself.

Please have a blessed day and practice what it is you preach.

Kristi

Schillins said...

Jason, could it be that you are just suicidally devoted to the Church? Augustine was. The Church is not just a whore and a mother. She is a murderer, a rapist, a racist and hundreds of other criminal and amoral things. The United States government is more squeeky clean than the Church. However, I assume she is still your mother.

Jason Freyer said...

Wow! First of all I'm really thankful for everyone reading and your thoughts! I have a few of my own however:

Carol, I'm not sure Anne broke a commandment by walking out on the Church. I think a person is more than capable of loving her neighbor as herself and loving God with all her mind heart and strength without organized religion. I think its much harder, but I think saying shes broken a cimandment is a bit of a stretch. Though I'd be willing to see some scripture to prove me wrong.

Rachel, worry not about typos. This is the J-Blog after all! More importantly though, as a youth pastor I've unfortunately heard of such gag orders. Personally, I agree with you in thinking that they're rubbish. We need open and honest dialoge in the church, and teenagers need to feel the freedom to talk about whatever they need to talk about. I can't really do much other than apologize on behalf of the Church universal, and to tell you that we're not all like that. The few bad apples may be atrocious, but I hope they don't taint the way people see the rest of us.

Kristi, I don't really think anyone is casting stones or hatred on Anne, certainly not me. If I feel anything for Miss Rice, its sadness that the followers of Jesus led her to this place. Like I said before, too many folks have had bad experiences in their local congregations and it makes them jaded toward the church at large. The only thing I can offer again is my apology, and my promise that not all of us are like that.

Schillins,
I am not suicidally devoted to the church by a long shot. I am however suicidally dedicated to Jesus, in the sense that I would gladly give up my life to follow him. It just so happens that in our world, in this day and age, my belief is that the Church is the best vehicle I can use to accomplish that. Perhaps it's not for everyone, and that's fine. But it is for me.

Under no circumstances would I deny the accusations your bringing before the church. We are absolutely guilty as charged. If you take a look back at some of the posts from the last few weeks, you'll find that I try to do my best to challenge and call the church out when I feel like it's gotten off course. Our savior might be perfect, but his followers have a very VERY long way to go.

But today, I would invite you to take a look at the good work the church is trying to do around the world. I have very dear friends who are on the ground in Africa, trying to help with the AIDS epidemic. A brother just gave up his life trying to end genocide and forced slave labor in Africa in the name of Jesus. Several of us do little things, like trying our best to purchase fair trade and organic groceries to protect the environment and the farmers that work on it. And even though I'm only pulling down youth minister money, my wife and I have sponsored a few children on developing nations in an attempt to give them a much better life. I know that that short list will never make up for the crimes you have rightly attributed to us, but I beg you not to paint us all with the very same brush. Some of us are actually trying to live the life that Jesus lived.

She is a whore. She is a murder. She is a rapist. But shes also compassion. She is also love. She is also Mother Terresa. And yes, shes my mother.

I love the dialoge and I love the debate! Let's keep it up, but let's also keep it civil. Thanks gang!

Godspeed,

Jason.

Anonymous said...

As many others who have posted, I consider myself spiritual. I believe I stopped being Christian at the tender age of 7. I am 23 years old and those issues have only expanded.

Ann Rice touched upon some of these serious faults in the church and I applaud her for her strength and fearlessness.

There isn't a rule in the bible that forces people to go to church. The reason behind that unwritten rule is more financial then spiritual. The more people joining churches, the more churches open and the more money coming in for those leaders involved.

As someone said before me, it is possible to have a community, a family who loves you and supports you and your faith outside of the church. It doesn't matter where you pray, God still hears you.

Don't condemn Ann Rice for being a true Christian, for loving her fellow humans and not being OK with the human aspects of the church. Who knows, maybe the church needs people like Ann to walk away for the leaders to realize how broken it is.

Blessings

Schillins said...

Jason:

My comment about the Church being more than a whore and mother was not personal. It was in direct response to your quoting St. Augustine. I would not argue that members of the whole organized religions, catholic, protestant and Eastern, have not done good works and continue to do so. I commend you and your significant other for what good you have done, but I, in no way, take your actions as the work of organized religion. The Church is not special in its good works. Rather it is piously unfair in having tried to take credit for the benevolence of all humanity. Atheists have probably done as well in the good works department.

Remember that the Spanish Inquisition was the work of the Church. As an individual, I would not have sanctioned it. I would not have paid tithes to a Church that tortured and burned human beings, and I will not condone either pedophilia or homophobia. My final commendation is to Anne Rice, who is obviously not going to sanction these things either.

I would also submit that if a majority of Americans can dare to stand in the way of the building of a mosque near “Ground Zero”, because they ignorantly perceive Islam based on the actions of a few terrorists, it is more than fair for us to judge Christianity as the same kind of monster.

Thank you and Godspeed,

Anonymous said...

I totally understand Ms. Rice's position on missing the sacrament of the Eucharist. I have not stepped inside a Roman Catholic church since Ratzinger became pope. This is a man who I heard say that the gays dying of this no name desiese need this cleansing. The desiese would turn out to be AIDS and because of the RC position on this matter it made me question my religion.
I left my religion along time ago and hoped that it would change. I gave up on that totally. I now only have FAITH in God and study the bible, the true word of God. I do think you can have faith in God without a religious institution. Do not get me wrong I have alot of catholic atributes and what I learned as a child growing up in a Roman Catholic family I still practice. I just can not step inside a church that goes against my moral belief.

Betsy Henning said...

Go J! God bless.

Anonymous said...

I don't think she was objecting to "infighting" among Christians so much as hatred filled Christians. Or people who claim to be Christians attending churches and expressing hatred or condemnation of gay people .. etc ...

Media Mover/Deanna Figueroa said...

Carol, that very vitriolic kind of commentary is precisely what Ms. Rice wishes to leave behind.

If you had read everything she's written about this, which is sincerely doubt, you'd know that Ms. Rice is surrounded by other followers of Jesus. She reads the scriptures daily and has done intensive research daily for many years.

She still follows Christ, but wishes to do it outside the church.

As someone else quoted, whenever two or more people gather in My name...

Please do quote scripture to show which commandment Ms. Rice broke. I've never seen any scripture quoted that says that you must be a Catholic or Protestant to be a Christian.

Ms. Rice has a gay son, how must she feel when she hears that a leader of the church says that gays deserve to die from AIDS?

I have a lot of trouble reconciling myself to all the hate spewing out of the mouths of some church members.

I've seen nothing but love coming from Ms. Rice, even in the face of harsh criticism. We'd do well to emulate that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think she is quitting Christianity, I think she is quitting the whole Catholic approach. Not all Christians are haters and to be honest, I'm a Wiccan and I have Christian friends who have said that they actually are applauding her for saying it as it is and how she sees it.

It isn't fair to her that someone would say that her son deserves AIDS, he is a great person and a good writer. So it is the fact that she is starting to dislike the fact there are so many who use Christianity as a fall for how they feel and their own hypocrisy.