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Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come

Ephesians 1:20,21
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By Michael Rowe | Huffington Post | Jul. 30, 2010

Author Anne Rice may have been more of a Christian today than she ever has been when she announced, on Facebook, that she was quitting Christianity and renouncing any claim to the title "Christian."

"For those who care,"

she wrote,

"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."

Earlier this week on her public Facebook page, Rice had expressed her horror and revulsion at two different news stories that shared similar themes.

The first was the co-opting of the "Christian" imprimatur by the GOP-linked "Christian punk rock" band supported by Michelle Bachman who believe gays should be executed, and derides America for not being "moral enough" to make homosexuality a capital crime like it is in Iran. The second story was an exposé of a seven-year old boy who had been indoctrinated into Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, whose sole great commission is virulent hatred.

Rice's personal trials have been Jobean in scope: the loss of her young daughter, Michelle, to leukemia in 1972; the death of her beloved Dutton editor, William Whitehead; the AIDS-related death of her best friend, gay writer John Preston. And, in 2002, came the cruelest blow of all, the cancer death of her husband of 41 years, poet Stan Rice. Any of us would be forgiven for collapsing before any of these individual tragedies. Rice took them all on her shoulders and bore them over the course of one of the most public and prolific literary careers of the modern age.

In 1998, Rice returned to her faith after years of describing herself as an atheist, and opened her heart to God. If the fans of her vampire, witchcraft, and erotic fiction rolled their eyes at her announcement that she would consecrate her writing talents to the glory of God in future, there was still a grudging admiration, as well as an intuitive sense that Rice was on a journey and they could either remain with her or step aside. In 2008, she laid out her journey in a searing, beautifully written memoir, Called Out Of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession.

Still, it is possible to murder faith.

You murder faith same way you murder love: one bruise at a time, with small, daily cuts, with grinding contempt, with neglect. You murder faith by exposing it to bullets inscribed with Bible verses that kill Afghan and Iraqi children. You murder it by separating an elderly lesbian couple in a hospital because their union is considered "unnatural." You murder it by linking it to greed, to the "God wants you to be rich" movement that marinates in loathing for the poor and needy in defiance of Christ's commission to care for them. You murder it by exposing it to any number of atrocities wrapped up in an inviolate nationalism that claims divine authority as its basis, with no room for dissent, and no mercy for dissenters. You murder it with self-righteous militarism, with intolerance, with lack of compassion, with lack of humility.

It dies a little bit more every time a gay or lesbian teenager commits suicide because they've been taught to hate themselves because God "loves" them but hates what they are.

While Rice says her faith in God remains intact, her decision to leave Christianity carries weight not only as a believer, but a mother.

Her son, bestselling author Christopher Rice, is an outspoken and articulate gay rights activist and crusader.

What must it have been like for Anne Rice to watch and listen as her community of believers spent tens of millions of dollars in California making sure that her son remained a second-class citizen, denouncing LGBT Americans in the vilest, cruelest, ugliest terms, bookended with hearty "Amenz?" How could she listen to the hours and hours of gleeful cruelty and hatred from the various churches and the politicians they've purchased for forty pieces of silver in adjusted dollars and not wonder who these so-called Christians were, and why she shared a title with them?

At the same time, how many Christian mothers have turned their backs on their LGBT children and cast them out like tragic mistakes, or, worse, embraced them with a toxic, bloody, pitying, non-affirming love that made it clear to their children that they believed they were damned?

"Love" is a quantifiable commodity, much as "faith" is. Neither, if they're true to their nature, can tolerate darkness. Both will eventually surge, gasping, towards the light.

Rice's repudiation of Christianity is a twofold clarion call, and one that is ignored at the Church's own peril.

One the one hand, it's a wakeup call to believers who sit by while unimaginable evils occur in the name of Jesus and say nothing other besides pouting that "all Christians aren't like that," or that the person reacting in grief and outrage is simply "persecuting Christians."

It's also a rallying cry for any of us who have held onto our faith by bloody tendons, only to feel the agony when it finally snaps and breaks on the rack that is contemporary, politicized Christianity. We can't entirely abandon God. Unbelief, like faith, is an eventual destination, not a direction consciously decided upon.

Like Rice, our belief in the purity of Christ's teachings bound us to a body of believers who no longer represent anything of what we believe, or indeed represent the very opposite of what Christ's teachings are. There seems precious little Christ in Christianity, as it's understood in America today.

Long accustomed to making excuses, to ourselves and to others, for the actions of our nominal co-religionists, we come to realize that there is no possibility of identifying ourselves as Christians any longer--not because of what we've become, but because of what Christianity itself has become. When the word "Christian" has been so thoroughly co-opted that, as a descriptive, it means something else entirely from what one believed it meant, from how we had always identified ourselves, it becomes a moral, ethical, and yes, spiritual, choice whether to continue to cling to "Christian" as a title, or leave it.

At the risk of speaking for her--and without knowing her heart--it seems reasonable to say that, in leaving Christianity, Rice paradoxically moved herself closer to the essence of Christ's teachings than perhaps at any other time in her life.

As she has said, she rejects Christianity in Christ's name, and will follow Christ instead. In the words of John 13:35, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." The title, in short, is meaningless in and of itself, especially without love.

Whatever backlash Anne Rice might eventually receive from her Christian readers, or from the Evangelical establishment itself, the undeniable fact is that the decision of this sensitive, passionate, and devout woman to leave Christianity is one that Christ himself would likely applaud, even as He would likely weep at the holocaust of hatred, bigotry, and collateral carnage that has devolved from the grimy, shopworn religion to which His glorious name has been affixed.

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Theology, Ethics, & Religion | Article Views: 1750