A celebrity publicly abandons the faith…

August 9, 2010

Or at least the Church… or Christians.

I discussed this briefly in my sermon yesterday, but last week gothic horror novelist Anne Rice, who made a splash in Christian circles many years ago with a very public re-conversion to the Christian faith of her childhood, now says she’s leaving Christianity. She still believes in and loves Jesus, she says, but she’s finished with Church.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she said,

I’ve come to the conclusion from my experience with organized religion that I have to leave, that I have to, in the name of Christ, step away from this. It’s a matter of rejecting what I’ve discovered about the persecution of gays, the persecution and oppression of women and the actions of the churches on many different levels. I’ve also found that I can’t find a basis in Scripture for a lot of the positions that churches and denominations take today, and I can’t find any basis at all for an anointed, hierarchical priesthood. So all of this finally created a pressure in me, a kind of confusion, a toxic anger at times, and I felt I had to step aside. And that’s what I’ve done…

Some liberal Protestant denominations whose positions on homosexuality and women in ministry, for instance, might be more consistent with Rice’s sympathies have already appealed to her to join their denominations. But the extent to which churches “agree” with Rice misses the larger point, in my mind.

The point is that any church, organized religion, or human institution (and by all means the Church, though founded by Christ, is, on a practical level, a very human institution) will let us down. Human beings in general tend to disappoint. Human beings are often hypocrites who fail to live up to their espoused ideals and principles. It’s not because we’re bad people, it’s because we’re sinners. As I said in my sermon on Isaiah 6 yesterday,

We followers of Jesus are a mess. Church can sometimes be a disaster, let’s face it. The temptation to pick up our marbles and go home—or go find a place where we imagine human sin isn’t such a big problem… I get it. A part of me is very sympathetic with Anne Rice. Except… As much as I may be disappointed by the Church and Christians, I also know that I’m part of the problem! Like Isaiah, I can say, “I’m a man of unclean lips who comes from a people of unclean lips!” If I give up on church, I may as well give up on myself! These Christians… this Church. This is me—a sinner! These people are my people—my fellow sinners. Moreover, if I gave up on church I would be giving on God, because I would be giving up on God’s ability to change me.

I’ve had friends and acquaintances who’ve dropped out of church—or decided against following a call into ministry—for some of the same reasons that Rice left the church.

I’m too well aware of the sin in my own heart to join them.

One Response to “A celebrity publicly abandons the faith…”

  1. […] we are spiritually harming ourselves. This is, in part, what makes Anne Rice’s decision (discussed below) so distressing. Yet Rice, despite her avowed faith in and love for Jesus, is correct to say that […]

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