|Anne Rice at home in Palm Springs. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian|
On a YOUTUBE clip, Anne Rice described a journey from religion to faith in Christ that resonated with my own – being raised in the church, and deciding to leave the church because the world beyond the church was powerfully appealing. It is time well-spent listening to her well-expressed experience leaving and coming back to faith in Christ. She gets what it means to be saved – looking at the Cross, you are forgiven, and there are no barriers to Him. Christ is inviting you to come back to God. Once you’ve embraced God, your surrender is total. His love is without measure or qualification. (I am second: Anne Rice)
But a decade later, in an interview on National Public Radio, she said something else:
"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." (NPR Interview)
Well, I know what might have happened – when she uses the adjectives like this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous to describe “the group’” aka the church. Evidently, the doctrine and the activism of the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexual rights – while covering up its own sexual abuses -- convinced her to leave. She said: I found God, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a member of any organized religion.
I can so relate . . . Organized “religion” -- can be a problem – and it may be the reason some who receive the word of God gladly, wither and fall away. (Matthew 13)
The church is a mess . . . has been a mess, and until Christ returns, it will be a place for sick people, saved from their own destruction, to recover, and to make themselves useful to others. Its shepherds are as many and varied as the flocks they tend. Living with sheep – as a sheep – is a picture of church life. None of us are the brightest animal in the realm – we are prone to problems and need tending; the wonder is that Christ bothered with any of us. (John 10:11)
But He did – and Ms Rice surely understands the cost of His care for us – a humiliating death. He gave us a message – and we have a mission. (Matthew 28:19-20) Feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, visiting prisoners, and serving widows is [often] welcomed by the world – until we mention responsibility before a holy God who so loved the world He gave His Son, but hates sin. (Leviticus 19:2; I Peter 1:15-17 KJV) It is good to know nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ – not so great to hear the seriousness of our sins.
Being delivered from sin’s penalty, Christ’s precious promise to us also comes with warning: “Stop it!” (John 8:1-11) He never added, “Unless you were born that way.”
And that’s our reason for not living differently after He saved us.
We don’t want to hear from folks who can’t get their own act together! Talk about hypocrites!
But, if we rightly see what Christ did on the Cross, as Ms. Rice described, we must let go of what we can’t imagine living without – our little peccadilloes that seem to be just how we’re made. And we are supposed to do this together . . .
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
Figuring out how to be in a world that seems to be going crazier and crazier, remaining faithful to Christ, and loving others with the love God showed us, when sometimes we are only barely healed ourselves is tricky. (Mark 5:30-34) Figuring it out in a flock of recovering sinners is trickier. Seeing Ms. Rice’s dislike to what the church does reminds me to take my meds before I point out how the world – and you – needs to shape up. (The Be-attitudes)