I Wish I Could Quit Christianity

August 4, 2010

Anne Rice beat me to the punch.

First of all, I know that everyone is blogging about Anne Rice.  I promise that I will say something that has not been said by anyone else.  The committee who makes the rules of Christian blogging told us that we had to comment on this story.

Anne Rice is an author who’s sold about a hundred million vampire books, and up until recently, she was known as a Christian.  If you haven’t read what she posted concerning her faith, here it is:

“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.

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.”

Like I said, Anne beat me to the punch, but I’ve got three reactions to Anne…

What a Novel Idea…Quitting!

I don’t blame Anne at all for not wanting to call herself a Christian anymore.  Sometimes, you just get tired of being associated by name with so many whack jobs.  Some days, I’d love to become a reclusive author and just spend the rest of my life on some old farm with no one around.  Incidentally, on our vacation, my wife and I stayed in a B&B adjacent to John Grisham’s property, which looks like a large dilapidated farm where a weird reclusive author would live.  He was nowhere to be seen.

Here’s the thing: I love my faith in God more than anything.  I love being a pastor.  I think the words of God are beautiful.  And some of the people who follow and preach those words, I find annoy and anger me more than almost any other group of people on earth.  Sure, I’ve got beef with gangsters and sweatshop owners, but so does everyone.  But at least once a week, I find myself saddened or sickened by a pastor with a raving ego problem.  I’m a teacher during the week, and I can’t think of a single teacher that bugs me like so many pastors and Christians do.  Can you think of a dentist, or a baker, or a truck driver, or any other professional group that can be as infuriating as pastors?  Not very many…maybe stand up comedians.  There is almost no endeavor besides organized religion that seems so full of people shamefully vying for personal glory and gain in such a public manner…except politics.  I’m tired of charlatans tainting my faith I love so much.

So What’s the Point of Not Quitting?

What is the point of continuing to call myself a Christian?  Why not just bow out?  Some days that’s a tough question to answer.  Maybe when Paul told Timothy to run his race, or fight the fight, this is what it entailed: putting up with people.  Don Miller touched on the fact that “Christian” is just a label, and he’s right.  But it goes even deeper than that.  “Christian” was a derogatory label, put on early Jesus followers because no one knew what to call them.  They couldn’t just tell people to stop calling them “Christians” because it carried a negative connotation.  Guess what?  Christian is still a negative label, and we still don’t get to tell people not to call us that.  Anne telling everyone to not call her a Christian really doesn’t change anything.  You don’t see American Muslims getting to say, “You know the term “Muslim” has been tainted just a little bit by that whole terrorism thing, and I’m not so comfortable with being called that anymore.  I’m not a Muslim anymore.  I’m an Allah-follower.”

Remember Office Space?  The character named Michael Bolton hates being associated with the singer, because he thinks of him as a no-talent clown.  But he refuses to shorten his name and go by “Mike,” saying, “Why should I change?  He’s the one who sucks.”  I admire that character’s refusal to change who he is just because someone else is giving him a bad name.

So as much as I’d like to follow Anne and quit Christianity, while conveniently retaining my faith, I can’t.  (And really, neither can Anne.)  Christ died for people who annoy the living hell out of me, and it does me no good to dwell on how much some people annoy me.  Christ even died for people who would use him for personal gain, and I have nothing to say about it.  I hate saying that.  But I don’t get to say who Jesus has saved, and I don’t get to stop calling myself a Christian.  I’m going to continue to call out Christians when I think they’re being dopes, and I hope you would do the same for me.  But I have never said, nor will I ever say that none of them are not covered by grace.  That includes Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, and every other Christian who I vehemently disagree with.

Maybe the Problem is Smaller Than it Seems

Every day, I feel like Anne.  I feel like an outsider, like I don’t really belong to this group.  But, but…you know what’s funny is I hear about Christians being a bunch of punks a lot more than I see for myself Christians being punks.  Really, almost all of the pastors and Christians who irritate me are the ones getting all the attention.  They are the ones teaching false gospels and protesting funerals, and generally being hateful, and maybe they represent an incredibly small minority of us, and it just gets blown up bigger than it is.  I think I’m annoyed the most at Christians because my faith is the most important thing in my life.  If it takes such a small number to create the problem, maybe there’s enough of us, the other Christians, to be the solution.

What’s your reaction?  Would you like to quit Christianity?  Have you quit?  What keeps you in the game?

43 responses to I Wish I Could Quit Christianity

  1. There are some days I would like to quit Christianity. But then what keeps me going is that the gospel is about relationships – with God and other people, including other Christians. It’s never going to be an easy ride. Yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ can be obnoxious at times (so can I). But they are the people God has put me with. I can disassociate myself from their ideas and actions – but not from them. It’s all about grace.

  2. It is easy to point to other people as the problem with Christianity but maybe we should point the fingers back at ourselves. The problem is all of us sin so all of us are going to do things that fall short of how we should be acting as Christians. Sure, some create problems in ways that get more television coverage than others, but we have so much more in common with the high profile cases of problem causing than we’d like to think.

  3. Great post, just what I feel. The media loves a whacky Christian so it makes us feel like we have a lot of whacky people amongst us. That said, Jesus warned it would be difficult, taking up a cross daily isn’t an easy or fun thing to do. But grace is an awesome reward.

  4. Good post. I think at this point, the Church needs to reclaim the word Christian. My blog the other day was on shocking the world as a Christian.
    http://nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com/2010/08/being-shocked.html

    And great reference to Office Space. Just so you know, I’m addicted to crack, would you like to buy some magazines?

    nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com

  5. In a personally important sense I “escaped” Christianity in 1988, but never left the faith and never stopped being a Christian. What that was for me was to finally leave (break free from) the Baptist church and culture I grew up in and spend several years sorting things out. That sorting out, however, was not a turning from the truth of the Bible. Rather it was a digging deeper into theology & philosophy within a loosely Christian community context of like-minded folks. So I “left Christianity” in a way, but it was because I was already in another Christian community seeking a clearer understanding the truth. After some heavy thinking/studying/sorting I am still in Christian community (thinking/studying/sorting), but I feel like I am on the fringes of any kind of mainstream Christian culture, is it still hard to be called a Christian, and I know that I am one. I can understand Anne Rice. I suppose wrapped up in her statement/actions is a leaving of the Catholic Church, which culturally is a big deal if one is Catholic, and may be a big part of what she means. It does seem to me that if one hates being called a Christian, and if one feels caught in some zone between the world and the “church”, but one cannot really say one is not a Christian (Christ follower, etc.), then that might be a sign you’re where you should be. As far as I can see, Anne Rice is merely going through the typical journey that millions of Christians go through, just more publicly so.

  6. One day, Christ will separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats. But until then, our churches will be full of both–all claiming to be Christians.

  7. “They couldn’t just tell people to stop calling them “Christians” because it carried a negative connotation. Guess what? Christian is still a negative label, and we still don’t get to tell people not to call us that”

    Standing up to the negative takes a boldness and courage only He can provide for us.

    These are some of the best words on the Anne Rice matter that I’ve read.. thank you Matt!

  8. First off, thanks for telling me whom Anne Rice was. I saw all of these people flipping their lids last week and I didn’t bother to see why.

    Having said that, I’m still as nonplussed as I was before. If Anne Rice is bailing on Christianity because of what she says, then she’s a big pansy. Seriously, I and many others have gone through far more indigestion and trouble by “Christians” yet we still hang on to our faith and fellowship with other believers.

    If this is her reaction to people apparently complaining over her politics, I’d hate to see her reaction to someone complaining about her believing, you know, an actual doctrine or something.

  9. Praise Allah! Ann Rice is gone, and I hope that she takes a boat load of like minded folks and starts her own religion like Joseph Smith Jr!

    -1 If you don’t believe that the Bible, and nearly 80% of Americans find their own thoughts and feelings more reliable than the word of God, then take off. If we really believed that Jesus was so loving, we’d work a lot harder at obeying the word, and admitting when we didn’t. Like Bill Hybels of Willow Creek.

    -2 I don’t get why folks who think Jesus was a good man, or one of the many ways to god, want so badly to be called Christians. It makes me just as mad listening to some vegan trying to special order a Big Mac without meat at McDonalds.

    -3 I am with Matt, I can’t stand the Larry King preachers. If your on that show, it appears to be a sign of compromise.

    -4 Organized religion has always had problems, starting with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Wouldn’t it be great if we had some folks that would turn over some tables?

    I have 91 more points to make, but in the end, if we are truly committed Christians, people would much more easily see Jesus, and not the church.

  10. Great call with Michael Bolton. Im pretty sure ‘no-talent clown’ is only an approximation of the quote tho 😛

    I hate whack jobs, and I hate that I am assumed to be one bc I love Christ. But I love Christ more than I hate hypocrisy, so i’ll never quit.

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

  11. If you’re willing to give up “Christianity” because you can’t take the heat of someone being upset that your belief in Christ conflicts with their selfish political view then try hanging on a cross sometime. Someone calling you names because you don’t support gay marriage doesn’t match up with the way Christ was condemned by the world.

    And we’re to follow his example.

  12. Great perspective on Muslims being called Allah-followers. At the end of the day its simply a label that doesn’t really matter.

    and nice edit of Michael Bolton’s quote…

  13. Christ found us wallowing in the gutter, drenched in our sin, but it is everywhere in the Bible how He doesn’t want us to stay in sin. He wants us to change and if we are unwilling to change and grow with Him and put away our sin, why are we calling ourselves a Christian anyway? If we just pick and choose in the Bible what we wish to believe, what’s the point in having the Bible?

    This is my reaction to Anne Rice’s possible publicity stunt. Her new book is coming out. Plus, I don’t admire quitters. I’m sure I’ve made someone mad or unintentionally slighted someone. But you know what? I’ve witnessed alot of good in Christianity.

    – A friend of mine apologized because she thought she insulted me.
    – Someone left for me at church a gift, but never put a name to it. It was just something someone wanted to do and give Glory to God.
    – A stranger apologized to me for something I didn’t remember, but she felt bad about whatever it was.
    – One Sunday School made sure a sick member had food to last a month. Everyone took turns coming over so she didn’t have to cook.
    – In the news, a robber attempted to rob a store and the verizon clerk told him about Jesus. The robber returned the money and didn’t harm anyone.
    – A wide variety of people have been encouraging to me.
    – A friend bought me a generous starbucks card just because.

    If we focus on the negative and take our focus off of Jesus, we’ll be like Peter and sink into the water.

  14. I guess it’s like the co-worker who’s not very good at his job, but is so dramatic they get all the attention. You just keep your head down and do what you know to do. You wish they’d shut up and go away, but it doesn’t change who you are and what you know to do. The same with living as Christians. There are some interesting/unsavory characters pushing all sorts of ego-driven nonsense, but it doesn’t change what I’ve experienced and who I know God to be. We all have moments of doubt and/or panic, but if we put out hope in God we won’t be put to shame.

    Great thoughts, Matt. We ended up talking about similar things today. Great minds and all that… :)

  15. You make a good point. For most of us, it isn’t the Church as a whole who hurts us, but a few members.

  16. I tried to quit…He won’t let me…something about some blood covenant….

  17. We are a reactionary culture. Of course the outrageous will be magnified. It’s what we all secretly have a fascination with (just as in your previous blog post–not to call you out, because I loved it) and the media knows it’s what brings people’s attentions to them. We all react to once incident with such magnitude, however, that it begins to be seen as more common and integral to the big picture than it is and causes people to back away.

  18. I’ve actually enjoyed all the blogging about Anne Rice’s decision. I personally grew up Catholic, and when I got old enough to start making decisions, I stopped calling myself Catholic as quickly as possible. According to the choices on Facebook at the time, I was “Christian – Other”. Now, I kind of wish there was never a distinction in the first place.

    I’m with N.T. Wright on this one. The #1 critically important aspect to the Christian walk is unity. Christ wants us to learn to get along with, and put up with people we don’t agree with.

    • I definitely see both sides of the judgment on Anne Rice – and because I think the church has so reversed the message of Jesus I can understand why Anne wanted to leave. However the N.T. Wright paraphrase makes a lot of sense. Thanks for posting it!

  19. Don’t have much to say after that. I’ll simply give you a “boo-yah,” a wonderful phrase that many have quit on. Why? Can’t say for sure, but I never will.

  20. You shall know them by their fruits. That’s really the bottom line. I can call myself a Buddhist monk, but unless my life (not just my words) proves that, then I’m not really a monk.

    Christianity is not just a label. It identifies you as a follower of Jesus Christ. You can call yourself a disciple, a Jesuist, or whatever you like, but it is not the name that matter, it’s what you do with your life. Is the Holy Spirit in control of your life?

    • I would never give up calling myself a Christian…….and I was invited to leave my church six weeks ago. Yes, you read correctly! I was invited by a female Pastor (not an ordained pastor) who leads a very large church, to not e-mail, call or text anyone on the staff. This action came after I received their “volunteer of the year” award. My family and I are deeply wounded by this action. When I asked “where does it say in the bible that you can kick me out”, I received no reply. During the six weeks following her actions, God has blessed me in so many ways. He has brought people back into my life that I haven’t seen in years. He continues to blanket me with His grace and mercy and love. I follow “Him”, not the human sinners who call themselves Pastors!

    • Unfortunately, many Christians see the label “Christian” as signifying in fact “not a follower of Jesus Christ.” Therefore they want to shy away from it for themselves, sometimes choosing Christ Follower, or some such thing. I figure the unease with the label Christian is a mix of bad of false Christians behaving badly, true Christians, behaving badly, and Christians (whatever they are) being reviled by the world because they are actually behaving righteously. I don’t think there is a way to truly, socially/publicly sort it out.

  21. Melanie O’Keefe August 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I’m glad you made your point. The reason we get so upset with these type “Christians” is that some how we hold them to a higher standard of morality and behavior. That statement in of itself is anti-Christian. All people are a fallen and sinful. Through out scripture our prophets and leaders delt with their sinful nature while pursuing God. The whole point of Christ is to turn to him, in spite of sin, for our salvation and to glorify God. I am quite certain that Ms. Rice, as the rest of us, has a sinful nature. Our nature cannot change because of her and her writings, that is only up to God. With the good and bad, if you have accepted Christ as your savior you are a Christian.

  22. I can’t speak for Anne Rice, but I believe she was Catholic growing up and returned to the Catholic faith a few years ago. I was also raised Catholic, and that faith is still very important to me, but in the past year or so I’ve found myself in a place where I’m not sure I’m comfortable in the Catholic circles I’m used to or the non-Catholic groups I’ve been a part of in the past year.

    It’s hard, because the church is by definition a BODY. It’s community. And when, for whatever reason, you as an individual Christian just can’t find a niche within a larger Christian body, if can be heart-wrenching. You become unsure whether you’ve failed in some way or the church has failed you. It’s unfortunate, but it often comes down to a matter of location. If you don’t live within driving distance of a strong, active church (part of the reason I stopped going to the local Catholic church last year–a very hard decision–) you feel helpless.

    I will be praying for Anne, and I hope others do as well.

  23. I can see how the few mess it up for the many, but I really do think a large number of religious people are damaging the Christian label by consistently and persistent judging (is that a judgment on my part?) and excluding people for whatever reason we deem bad that year. Obviously the super extreme people (a la Westboro Baptist) make an impact, but most people even if they aren’t religious understand they’re pretty nutty and not true representatives of Christianity.

  24. I don’t know if I can say that I have left Christianity. I have felt disillusioned with the Church (and agree with Anne on a few points) and frustrated by the culture of “churchianity” that so many believers, at least in the US, are expected to conform to in order to fit in with other Christians. I am amazed by how many of my Christian friends shun the idea of “tolerance” when others have different political opinions or viewpoints. It makes it very difficult to get along with other believers without pretending we all like the same things and think the same way. And you should know that I am not a new believer…I came to Christ as a teen in 1989 and kept growing and learning for years. Now I am doubting/backsliding/fallen away/lost; but still hanging on to my faith by a thread.

  25. It’s hard to be a Christian and see the world without eyes of love.

  26. Last year I caught the whole “Disillusioned With The Church” virus, so I quit calling myself a Christian. I thought I could be as shrewd as a snake by turning the question on people who would ask if I’m a Christian–by saying “Well, what does ‘Christian’ mean to you?” If they answered favorably, I would say yes, I’m a Christian. But if they thought Christians were judgemental, anti-gay, etc. etc., then I would say no, I’m not a Christian. And to a degree, I think it still makes sense.

    But thinking is not the same as doing. When I started my summer job, I got a chance to try it out, and it failed miserably. Now having worked there two months, I find it much easier to call myself a Christian and live a life differently than other’s perceived notions of the Church at-large. They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our labels.

  27. I think your “Office Space” reference hits the nail on the head. (which amazed me how you were able to tie that in) We can’t quit.

  28. Matt,

    I had so missed reading you lately. Glad I stopped and read this. I have felt so much like at times that I thought that I might post something a whole lot worse than she did.

    But thankfully, God has helped me understand that all of us (including me, sometimes especially me)fall short of the glory of God and that someone, anyone helps to try to right the train.

    Great stuff!
    Frank

  29. Very good comments from everyone. Although Christianity has had negative connotations it is in Book of Acts where it is mentioned Jesus’ followers started to be called Christians. “It thus came about that for a whole year they gathered together with them in the congregation and taught quite a crowd, and it was first in Antioch that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.” (Acts 11:26)

    It was by God’s divine will that those followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Messianists) or Anointed. Those firstfruits were chosen to be rulers with Christ in his kingdom. we continue that name as followers of Christ and as subjects of those anointed kings and priests. It is unlikely the Jews would have labeled Jesus’ followers Christians or acknowledge them as such for that would give legitimacy that Jesus was indeed the true Messiah and he had legitimate followers. Nevertheless, I do not see the logic of this Anne person unless she has just lived blindly failing to make God’s word her own. I grew up Baptist myself and as I got older decided to actually read the entire Bible and study it. I grew to reject teachings that are not strictly based on the Bible. Regarding the other issues mentioned by Ms. Anne, there is nothing wrong with controlling the number of children a family is able to care for as long as consideration is given to methods that do not harm an unborn fetus and the Bible is in harmony with science in many aspects. Jesus himself did not form an alliance with any political process and many sinners he brought to repentance.

    I think this Anne doesn’t know how to explain what she believes and for a certain vampires, blood suckers, ghosts and goblins isn’t something Jesus would care for Christians to spend their leisure time glorifying. Maybe she has gone to far away from the thoughts of God that she wants an excuse not to abide by his righteous laws. For a certain just because others are not setting an example to follow Jesus’ footsteps doesn’t mean we can’t strive to do so everyday and towards that end endure a little suffering and persecutions along the way. If Jesus suffered a torture stake, we are not less than he and always be ready and able to defend what we believe in a ‘mild temper and deep respect.’ 1 Pet 3:15

  30. I “liked this totally by accident and do not know how to “unlike” it. Sorry for the false encouragement.

  31. I don’t know if you care, but i was so impressed with this post i linked it on one of my own, recently. http://4katekattoo.blogspot.com/2010/08/conversation.html

  32. Hi Matt,
    Great blog! I’ll be coming back to read more posts. I still can’t fathom Anne Rice is a believer. I think it’ wonderful and I did read her memoir regarding her returning to her Catholic roots.
    The said Christians you named who annoy the hell out of you, well they also annoy me. I used to be suckered into listening to said Christians, but I’ve come out of that phase and now I can’t really go browse in the religion section of a bookstore. Sad, but true. Gorged myself on commercialized Christianity and it’s made me sick. :( Excited my new friend told me about your blog. :) Your stickers look great! I’m tempted to order some…… :)

  33. I quit once. Well, maybe several times. I finally quit quitting. As a Calvinist, I guess I always knew God’s claim on me would be called in and I would be back. And it happened. Messy but it happened.
    As a former Lutheran child, I guess my baptism took. Even though you called Luther an anti Semite. Somehow he did something right that lasted until 1951.
    People do quit. Even if they don’t always do it openly. I quit after too much time with Southern Baptist’s and snooty Presbyterians. When I found out liberals were not much better than fundamentalist’s it was Katy bar the door and hello sin.
    Your young. You might get disgusted. It could happen. You will wake up one day and wonder where that God you thought you knew went. For some reason He is not so obvious.
    So you too might quit. It could happen. In fact, it might even be likely. Then what?

  34. Office space was such a good movie.

  35. I find myself irritated with the term “Christian” for an entirely different reason…it doesn’t mean much anymore. Somewhere along the way it came to mean social reformer, and as followers of Christ we should be interested in social reform, but this does not limit us to who we are, otherwise most Buddhists could be called Christians. It has come to mean civilized. “That’s just not Christian,” we’ve heard especially old literature and movies say. The infuriating thing is that they are in many cases talking about hygiene, or clothing African tribes to the point where they are so hot that they faint. We have been called a “Christian nation.” Christian used to mean a follower of Christ. A follower of Christ has to do with doing things the way He did; finding out how He thought and emulating His responses.
    Often words become overused and watered down. They become redefined. Maybe we need a new name, not because we’re ashamed of the group we choose to be associated with, but because our name doesn’t mean anything anymore. It no longer defines us.

  36. Rather than “quitting” Christianity, maybe she should have continued the fight to show that not all Christians are created the same. The only way to change people’s perception of Christians is to lead by example. Change their mind. If you can’t, then move on.

  37. I appreciate the post.

    “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. ”

    The problem seems to be that Anne wanted Christianity on her terms; forgetting that the person who gets to pick and choose is the one who died for us, not the other way around. Being a Christian means you have to take a stand on certain issues. You can’t be pro-Christ and pro-anti-Christ (Secular Humanism). You can’t ignore morals that the Bible pounds home time-after-time-after-time. Christianity is about getting over yourself and wanting it your way and wanting it his way.

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