On July 28, Anne Rice, the famous author, announced on her Facebook fan page that she “quit being a Christian.”

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.

Still committed to Christ, but no longer a Christian.  I have a little problem with that language.  To me, a Christian is someone who is committed to Christ.  As I read Ms. Rice’s comments, I understand her to be saying that she’s a Christian who doesn’t want to be part of an institutional church.  No doubt she’d disagree with me; for her, being a Christian is about being part of a (the) church.

As I said … 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.

It seems to me that it’s the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that Ms. Rice is objecting to.  I belong to the United Church of Christ, and if Ms. Rice has said this to me directly, I would have said to her, “Hey Anne, I’m part of a Christian denomination that is for gender and sexual orientation equality, that remains pro-choice as a matter of personal conscience, that is pro-humanity, and that is the very basis of the American form of democracy (okay, the Presbyterians helped out, too).”

I wasn’t surprised when, two days after her announcement, staff in the national settings of the UCC started a Facebook page, “You’d like the UCC, Anne Rice.”  Apparently some 3.400 people “Liked” this page within 48 hours.

All of this noise got me thinking, so I posted on my Facebook page this comment:

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car,” the saying goes. But I gotta tell you, I don’t know how to be a Christian [read: being committed to Christ] without being part of a Christian community!

What I was getting at was how being part of a faith community is an important part of my growing in faith and being accountable for my faith journey.   But then faith is much more about a journey than a destination for me.  It seems to me that a commitment to Christ is relational and relationships aren’t static.

My thought generated some comments of its own.  Here are some of them:

  • Very true, Jeff. I appreciate Anne Rice’s wit, wordsmithing, and desire to follow Christ, but I am flummoxed about how one does that without the community of believers. We have to live together, eat together, argue things together, but the point is that we who claim the name have to be together.
  • Yes, to both Jeff & Michael. I am reminded that, in the Catholic monastic tradition, only a nun / monk with the most mature faith, spirituality, discipline, and groundedness in the life of her / his monastic community is given permission to become a hermit and live alone. As fallible people, we need the community in which to grow, learn, be tested, in which to worship, share the Bread & Wine of Eucharist, work, support one another, in which to do the works of mercy, justice, and peace.
  • Ditto. I grieve her decision, and wonder about the public “news conference” approach to it. But there’s no question that the flaws (flagrant and otherwise) of church people do a number on the credibility of the body created by the Spirit.
  • Thanks, Jeff, for making a critical point about this brouhaha that no one else seems to be making!
  • Does this UCC campaign seem a bit exploitative to anyone besides me – if we really wanted to invite her to the UCC wouldn’t it have been nicer over a cup of tea? I’m not talking about the theological dialogue, but using her photo and name …
  • I agree, just a phone call from a local UCC pastor would seem more appropriate … does Ms Rice live anywhere near Northern California?
  • She commits the “Hitchkins” fallacy (named after Hitchens and Dawkins) of confusing the whole of Christianity with a particularly public version of Christianity…. if you haven’t yet, check out Terry Eagleton’s wonderful Reason, Faith and Revolution for how he eviscerates this wrongheaded confusion. But hey, she IS the thinking person’s Stephanie Meyer after all, and worth attending to … ? As far as the church thing, I remain ambivalent. For it on Sundays, mixed feelings by Mondays…

Would you care to add a comment?

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