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?