Dear Anne Rice:
After returning to the faith ten years ago, I am saddened to hear that you are no longer a Christian. You noted on your Facebook page that you refuse to be “anti-gay, “anti-feminist” and “anti-artificial birth control.” You said:
“In the name of… Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen… 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.”
It is that reason and not merely the act itself that saddens me most. First let me apologize. Religion is an institution where human beings seek a spiritual journey and in turn strive to wrap their minds around biblical interpretations and theological thoughts in the forms of prescriptions and doctrines. Because “men” make up the definition itself, the religion has the propensity to be tainted and infected with our own thoughts and actions, and not God’s, and at times can be filled with error. We humans can be wrong and often place our cultural beliefs into the mind of God without realizing it. Remember that it was Christians of an earlier age who used scripture to justify the Crusades and, later, slavery in America.
But I will not believe for a second that what a few Christians believe or preach embodies what true Christianity is all about just like as an African-American woman I will not accept that because a few Christians are anti-black that Christianity itself is anti-black. I know this by looking at the figure in whom Christianity is based: Jesus Christ.
The scriptures — not man-made decrees, hateful Christian protests or talk show sound bites — lay out what it means to be Christian. Jesus was an embodiment of love. He accepted all people. The Gospel of Luke would even have us believe that he was a feminist as he talked to women that no one else wanted to affiliate with. Remember the woman at the well, Mary and Martha, the woman caught in adultery? These were women that Jesus embraced and empowered.
Do not think for a moment that I do not understand your decision. I have felt like an outsider so many times. At the age of eight, I received a calling to become a minister. But the popular thinking at that time was that God did not want women to become preachers. We were supposed to keep quiet in the church. That made me sad. I also know a few of my friends who were victims of sex abuse in the church. One went on to become my assistant pastor, choosing to preach against such an act and protect others, instead of merely giving in to the pain and scars and leaving.
Even today there are a few of my denominational doctrines that I do not agree with, but the heart of what Jesus stood for is still dear to my heart. My experience from 32 years of church, particularly the black church, has led me to believe that the church is largely anti-gay and anti-female, although two of the largest groups that attend and serve in church are gay and female. The part of me that yearns for justice and equality does not accept this ethic at all. But I stay. I stay because I recognize that I am needed. I am needed to preach a different message; one closer to the one Jesus so radically spoke. I stay because the heart of Christianity feeds my spirit and I am able to recognize and discern “the bad” when it appears. I stay because there are others like me who need my company and support. God and the true gospel are so much more awesome than the acts of man.
I am disappointed you have chosen to leave Christianity, Anne, because people like you are needed to help bring change and revolution but also to serve as a light to others that will shine throughout the body of Christ, so that the institution, filled with weak and strong believers, can be awakened and enlightened. Reformer Martin Luther did not leave Christianity; instead he fought for it. A woman with a writing gift like yours can help usher in a type of radical love, acceptance, accountability and revival that would make Jesus proud (not to mention Christian believers better.) I don’t believe this can be done effectively by disowning Christianity totally. Jesus was a Jew (insider), who was considered an outsider. So was Paul. It is the “inside” outsiders that have the power to make great change.
We as Christians should be wise and steadfast. I think Paul says it best in Colossians 1:23, “continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” If I could remix it, it would say, “Continue in the true essence of Christianity no matter what others say or do in the name of it. It would be worth it. It is worth it!” And if that makes you an outsider, then lets both be outsiders together; Outsiders for Christ.