Best selling author Anne Rice has created ripples of discussion across the globe with her July 29 declaration that she is leaving the Roman Catholic Church.
Rice, who is best known for her books like Interview with the Vampire made the announcement via her facebook fan 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.”
A few minutes later she adds:
“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.”
Further clarifying her stance in a later post she writes:
“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.”
Rice has done what hundreds of thousands of others have done and will do; Abandoned the ‘church’ but not her faith. It is her highly public profile, the clarity of her simple statements and the resulting discussion that makes her case interesting.
It’s also significant that she doesn’t mention the Catholic Church to which she belonged but rather uses the terms ‘Christian’ and ‘Christianity’:
“I did not want…in my statements….to attack any one church, or political group, or denomination, or theologian, etc. I wanted to step away from the confusion and misinformation and argument and confusion that are attached to the words, “Christian” and “Christianity” historically, politically, and socially.”
The distinction between the institution called the “church” and the organic “body of Christ” will always be an issue of contention. What’s clear is that ‘Christianity’ faces a crisis of image and relevance in the 21st century public perception. As Rice contends, the term ‘Christianity’ not only carries insuperable historical, political and social baggage but as I discuss briefly here, attempts to define such a broad group, it is rendered essentially meaningless.
Despite ongoing attempts to reinvent itself, the church in the West faces a huge challenge; how can it be seen as relevant to this moment in history?
Follow some of the ongoing discussion on Anne Rice’s Facebook page.