Busted Halo
feature: entertainment & lifestyle
August 3rd, 2010

Outsiders for Christ

An open letter to Anne Rice

 
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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.

–Myisha Cherry

 
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The Author : Myisha Cherry
Myisha Cherry, 30, is a literary artist, freelance writer and AME Minister. She lives in Brooklyn.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Pat

    Myisha…You have said this most eloquently…Thank you…

  • Miriam

    Amen sister!

  • Jerome Bozeman

    times are changing in the church and in some cases the churches are not keeping up. anti-female/anti-gay are gone like the rhythm method of contraception…

  • Nick Swanson

    Everyone has certain teachings of the Church they struggle with. I do not struggle with any of the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics, but I do struggle with Preferrential Option for the Poor.

    We do not follow the Church because we are agree with it; we follow it because it is true. If we know it is true, then we must conform what we believe and even feel to what we know to be the truth.

  • Bobby

    PS, Sorry for mispelling your name. Myisha :-)

  • Bobby Caballero

    My sister Myesha, as always your words inspire folks not just to be better Christians, but to be better human beings. Even though I have always told you this, I just wanted to remind you that “you are my spiritual anchor.” Thank you for your thought provoking piece. Love You, Bobby

  • Kelly Ray

    I think I hear her message as saying “I can’t live as a hypocrite any longer,” to which, as a Christian, I would have replied “may the light of the Divine continue to shine on your path…peace be with you Ann!” Christ would have lovingly honored her journey wherever it took her without nudges.
    Kelly

  • Kendra Smith

    WOW! Myisha!…thank you for the article and your thoughts…you are so on point and so many of us that “profess” Christianity need to hear and understand but also…this is a message that we need to get out to others who are struggling in their faith…needing and wanting something more but questioning Christ and the Church – thank you, sis!!

  • VaNatta

    My–
    This is a wonderful article! I wish more church folks could get this and understand that Jesus is for everyone. This anti-black, anti-gay, anti-female view of Christianity has kept people from the faith and turned those who are faithful away. I am so glad that you stepped up and eloquently wrote your perspective. It is just a reminder that more of us need to get the word out about what Jesus really stood for and why we can’t turn away because “some” have a flawed understanding of the faith. Thank you!

  • Myisha Cherry

    Wow. So many interesting comments, I don’t know where to start.

    @Karen O Let me first say that I am aware that Anne Rice has not left Christ. My plea in the article is for her to simply be a voice from the inside as oppose to forsaking the group as a whole. My denomination was indeed started because they felt like outsiders but one thing that is clear: they did not leave Methodism or Christianity as a whole. They started a movement as Christians.

    @Femi: Perhaps it is the woman in me that like titles. Lol But I think it is a little beyond that. I am not so caught up in what she calls herself. I just know so many what have turned off and turned away from the institution of Christianity that they leave with those scars and critiques and they remain just that (scars and critiques). I think if you chose not to forsake the group but continue to see some good in it, stay apart of it, and challenge it from the inside; the change you create becomes more powerful.

  • Autumn

    I read a book titled “Dear Church: Letters from a disillusioned generation” that spoke to this topic. Your article was so on point. Thanks for sharing.

  • Karen O.

    Myisha,
    I heard Ann Rice on the radio just yesterday, (NPR) and she was saying she hasn’t stopped believing in or having a relationship with God, or even with the Christian message for that matter. In fact, she spoke eloquently about her love for, and experience of the love of God. She is very disappointed, as are many of us, with a lot of what is going on lately, particularly in the name of the Catholic Church, which just came out with a moral statement equating ordaining women like yourself with the sins of pedophilia. Frankly, I sympathize with her stance, and know many, many women who are walking away from church. Your own denomination was formed by “walk aways” as a response to the evils of racism in the institutional religions of the day. I think there’s room for all of us out here who love God, follow Christ and pursue justice, but some of whom don’t necessarily sit in pews. God’s love is big and merciful. Why not try and contact Anne Rice?–she might very well enjoy dialoging with you on your insights and concerns. Blessings on you and all your endeavors!

  • trish

    So perfectly stated. Thank you.

  • divine spark

    What people don’t realize is that Christ was not a christian. Muhammed was not a muslim. They understood the biggest secret of all. the kingdom of heaven is within you. So often we look outside of ourselves to search for God but he/she/it is there every time we look in the mirror.

  • Twanny

    Thank you Sis for this. I have always struggled since young to understand Christians..that was my error! Jesus is all I need to understand. I wish this was posted in the Washington Post to more available to the public!

  • jesse

    Since the church still exists as a dominant voice in our culture, how is it that we continue to find ourselves moving constantly into a more oppressive and lost state of being? This pattern has been the trend for thousands of years. Can it be that our interpretation of the bible has been taking us in the wrong direction for centuries?

    Just ask yourself if our planet and the future of our children is any better. If it isn’t, then what about our beliefs allow us to exist like this?

    I have a few ideas, but I’d like to know what you think.

  • Tia

    Well said Ms. Cherry. There are quite a number of contradictions within the Christian church but you cannot argue with the unwavering love of Jesus. I hope she changes her mind.

  • Femi

    Hye woman, howz R you doing. I just read the article and even though I’m not a Christian I wonder if maybe she (Anne Rice) just wants to no longer be associated to the title “Christian” and just wants to be a person that believes and practices as she finds fit. I don’t know her whole story so I’m speaking out of ignorance but reading this blog just had me thinking about titles we place on ourselves. Is it that she no longer believes in God? Because if thats the case then did she really believe prior or was she just playing a part?

    Religion is very confusing and contradicting making it hard to be human with flaws if you’re following any particular faith. Hopefully she’s just removing the label Christian and just saying she’s a person of God under the Heavens.

    Femi

  • Rich

    Outstanding. I don’t know many people who can say they agree with ALL the tenets of their particular faith, and it makes me suspicious when they say they do (are you thinking for yourself at all?). It’s extra-sad Ms. Rice is leaving because she’d converted to Catholicism — and Dignitatis Humanae from Vatican II had specifically instructed that, in short, well-formed conscience trumps church teaching. Birth control is the most obvious place where this happens. The church is a sinful organization, it always has been, get over it. It moves slow, but it moves in the right direction eventually (400 years to apologize for Galileo!). And it’s actually good that it moves slower than society, because society tends to be blown about by the mood of the minute. At it’s best the church is like Jesus’ own ministry: compassionate, inclusive, and nonviolent. At it’s worst…it’s as bad as the worst of us. It’s a human institution, and Rev. Cherry points out admirably what exactly that means.

  • Ivan

    Thank you for this article. This also reflects the intellectual, philosophical and spiritual hardship I have endure within the church. I am happy to see this article that shows that, even trough hardship and contradiction, the focus on the Christ word is the essential part. Our organized religion is far from being perfect, but I know that Christ’s words bring signs of hope that the Catholic Church will re-focus on Christ words rather then hammer the moral theology. I stay because I hope for better, more tolerant, days.
    Thank you

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