Unless you are the Geico Caveman, you have probably heard of the dramatic news of Anne Rice's simple statement of "quitting Christianity." But just in case you haven't or are in need of your daily dose of Anne Rice, I thought I'd chime in and share some thoughts. And if some of you are wondering, "Can't we focus on some more important things like fighting global poverty?" I agree: visit here.
First of all, I am a fan of Anne Rice. In fact, I don't know of many people who dislike her. She's a phenomenal writer and additionally, she's gotta have some Asian genes in her: she's 68 and ages like no other. But in case you don't know much about her:
Anne Rice (born Howard Allen O'Brien on October 4, 1941) is a best-selling American author of gothic, erotic, and religious-themed books from New Orleans, Louisiana. She was married to poet and painter Stan Rice for 41 years until his death from cancer in 2002. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history. [via wikipedia]
She was also known for her identity as a Christian for some time, but last week, she wrote and shared the following via her Facebook page:
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 the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control.
In the name of... Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
If you do care about this sort of stuff, I'm sure you've already formulated some thoughts and opinions. Here are some of my thoughts:
Everyone Is Tempted to Quit Christianity
Anne isn't the first, and she will not be the last.
In fact, one can argue that there have been folks who have quit Christianity in every generation, every denomination, every tribe, and every community. Someone today, albeit without the fanfare of Anne Rice, has just quit Christianity -- and probably on Facebook or Twitter.
Part of me applauds Anne because I can certainly relate to her feelings. Honestly, we've all been there on some level, haven't we? And we understand, in part because if you've been part of the Church and Christianity, you know exactly how far it is from the portrait of beauty, idealism, and shalom we think the Church should be. Anne, to her credit, has shared in subsequent interviews that her decision wasn't flippant but processed over several years as she wrestled with numerous critical issues.
We understand her decision, or at least her sentiment, because we understand the failures and inconsistencies of Christianity, and because at one point or dozens of points in our lives, we've contemplated the same thing.
The Overdramatization of the "Suckiness" of the Church
Let's be honest. It's easy to take shots at an institution -- especially Christianity and the Church. For Christians, it's our family, and that gives us license and permission to speak constructively or critically.
We all do it: men, women, children, poets, singers, skeptics, believers, cynics, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Partiers, Coffee Partiers, Presbyterians, Baptists, Covenanters, Calvinists, Arminians, Trekkies, and even you and me.
In fact, it's become the somewhat cool, hip, and edgy thing to do, because you are more (wait for it ... wait for it) -- authentic when you do.
Ahhh, Authentic Christianity
And while I can't argue that Anne's descriptions are entirely inaccurate, I really do wonder if we've allowed these assumptions, judgments, and descriptions to become the perception of the totality of Christianity. Is it possible that we've given these descriptions so much press that it has grown bigger than reality? Is it possible that they have grown to be so large that many -- perhaps including ourselves -- have come to believe that Christianity is all about being anti-gay, anti-feminist, and anti-artificial birth control (anti-science)?
Are those descriptions realities in some communities? Yes.
Are they the totality of the movement of Christianity? No.
Christ Died for an Imperfect Humanity (and Church)
This isn't license for Christianity to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, and anti-whatever we think the Church is against. But leaving Christianity or no longer desiring to be known or identified as a Christian isn't the answer.
The answer is right before us. The good news isn't institutional religion. It isn't a denomination, Christianity, or the Church.
The good news is the Gospel, and the Gospel is not just merely propositional truth but Truth that has been personified in the person of Jesus the Christ -- fully God and fully human -- who chose to dwell and live amongst us and, ultimately, go to the cross for an imperfect, depraved, and fallen world and Church.
This is why, as much as I'm tempted to join Anne, I am publicly declaring
my imperfect love for an imperfect world (and Church) for which Christ demonstrated perfect love.
I am a Christian because a perfect Christ demonstrated perfect love for an utterly imperfect humanity.