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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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  • David

    Such a refreshing and encouraging article! Thank you!

  • Steve

    Calling something “disordered” does not equate to calling it a choice. I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that the Church does not teach anything regarding whether same-sex attraction is a choice of the individual. Whether homosexuality is the result of a “gay gene,” environmental factors, or just plain choosing so, it is the call to chastity that applies and it is up to science and psychology to figure out the rest.

  • Helen

    William,

    By all means feel free to object to the language of the Church, which many find archaic and hurtful. I can absolutely sympathize with your position, though I more or less understand what the Church means by its language. I just caution you to object to what the Church ACTUALLY says rather than an overstatement thereof. It lends more credit to your argument.

  • Nick Swanson

    I am amazed that Anne Rice was Catholic for many years and never “releazed” the Church’s position on abortion and sodomy or thought they would just change with time. On of the beauties of the Catholic Church is that it doesn’t change with popularity but remains faithful no matter what the culture believes.

  • William

    Helen,
    With the assumption that you are correct in stating that this pope has referred to homosexuality as”gravely disordered” and the church’s stand that homosexuality is not now nor ever has been a choice, then one must assume that a homosexual person was created that way. If that is the intention of God’s design, who is this pope to question it or call homosexuality “gravely disordered?”
    Also, making fine distinctions between homosexual persons and their acts may be the official position of the church but this distinction is often lost in translation amongst many clergy leading to animosity, anger, hatred and violence against homosexual persons and this is, indeed, a tragedy and one that the church must bear some responsibility for. “Intrinsically evil” and “gravely disordered” are extremely offensive phrases to use against people solely for who they happen to love.

  • Helen

    William,

    This pope has not referred to homosexuality as “inherently evil”, but has referred to homosexual ACTS as “intrinsically evil” and to homosexuality as “gravely disordered”. This is an important distinction to make for the sake of precision and accuracy.

  • William

    Steve, both as Cardinal Ratzinger and as Pope Benedict, this pope has referred to homosexuality as inherently evil. Since homosexuality or heterosexuality is at the core of an individual’s personhood, it amounts to the same thing. As if someone “inherently evil” could come from an all knowing and all good God. Actually, how would you feel if the tables were reversed and he referred to heterosexuals as inherently evil? As far as homosexual acts are concerned, to what acts are you referring, those of loving someone? Being intimate with someone? Such a person is merely behaving in the way he was created to behave. Or do you believe that other animals engaging in same sex relations are also “going against the way they were created to behave as well?

  • Steve

    William, can you please let us know when this pope (or any others) has called gay people “inherently evil?” That is not the church’s teaching whatsoever and I am very sorry that you have been given that impression.

    The church has always taught homosexual acts to be wrong but that does not equate to considering homosexuals themselves to be evil. Indeed, the church has great sympathy for those with same-sex attraction and teaches that they should not act out on their attractions, just as heterosexuals should not act on their desires to have sex outside of marriage. Chastity is something we are all called to and, quite frankly, active homosexuals are just as guilty of sin as those cheating on their spouses or having premarital heterosexual sex. Both are often mortal sins and require God’s mercy.

  • William

    Good article. I admire Anne Rice for following her conscience. It is difficult to maintain membership within a particular religion when it has become so judgemental of some citizens, I speak of the Catholic Church here from my own personal experience. I left the church years ago, becoming more spiritual rather than religious, because I could not reconcile the church’s sanctimonious pontificating against gays in particular, but others as well such as pro-choice believers, feminists, etc. How could you expect Anne Rice to remain a member with the church’s incredibly hurtful demonization of gays when her own son is openly gay? Inherently evil is what this pope has claimed gay people to be, as if there is any justification for such a statement coming from the Catholic church. Shame on the pope and kudos to Anne Rice for making a stand.

  • Del

    Like the bumper sticker says: Jesus called, He wants His religion back…

  • Barb

    Very important to understand, in no way do I seek to inspire any negativity or verbal wars over labels. I applaud Anne Rice on her decision which she by free will, a gift from “Creator”, pick your label, but all the same Energy Force when labels are deleted, chose to make public. This is actually quite simple, “Harm none, do as you will”, honesty prevails over hypocricy, double standards, selective timing of remembering or forgetting a rule book (again, many versions to choose from if going there), TY Anne Rice for remaining true to your character and spirit of wanting no parts of conflict or negativity. Enough said, with that,
    Bright Blessings

  • Osa

    Great write-up Myisha! We need more open discussions like this.

  • ali

    Thank you Myisha for your wonderful article and thanks to Ann Rice for openly sharing a struggle that many of us face. While my faith in a Higher Power has never faltered, my faith in humanity has, especially in light of the vitriolic words and actions perpetrated by “Christians”.

    A very wise person once said to me that you know you are closer to victory when the battle intensifies( a lame example would be those stubborn last 10 pounds one tries to lose on a diet)for the forces against you become more desperate. As female preachers are equated with pedophiles, as so many trusted adults are found abusing children, as hatred is heaped upon those seeking to legitimize their love for each other, we must hope that victory is near, just as those officials in the South resorted to desperate acts to maintain segregation.

    Perhaps I am a hopeless optimist, but maybe at last, we can if not end, no longer tolerate, intolerance as acceptable in the name of Christ.

  • Kendrick Staley

    Great Article. Sad thing is there are many,like me, who have left the church for similar reasons. But we grew up in the church and understand its transformitive power and would still like to be a part of such of community.

    I wish you much success in your effort to create change from the inside. Maybe we can get back to the core of Jesus’s teachings which were to love one another and to help protect the poor, the innocent and the weak, most notably the children in our society.

  • isserley

    That’s five mins I will never get back. This letter is stupid and dumb.

    People there is no such thing as Jesus and /or God. This is all made up by man.
    There is no heaven or hell. Jesus did not die and came back to life. Nor did he walk on water or bring back the dead. There is no such thing as a talking snake and no God is not a single parent. The sooner you realize that the richer your life will become.

  • Ian Cathcart

    The rejection of Christianity is simply another part of this one person’s individual spiritual journey. Trying to return her to the faith by telling her what a “good” Christian you are is self-serving. Leave her alone.

  • Sierra McConnell

    Wonderful article~! I like the last paragraph, specifically this line the best: //“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!”//

    It is very uplifting to hear~!

  • Yvonne Hahni

    This article is a keeper. It is a most valuable answer, which deserves to become part of our own comments, when we are encountering others, who are voicing their disillution with the church of any denomination.

  • JS

    I fully agree with Anne Rice. The term “christianity” was invented by men as a means by which a few could create a base of wealth and influence for themselves by co-opting the word of a very wise man. Even among “christian” sects, there are chasms of fundamental differences, based on various interpretations of texts written by men, chosen by men and translated by men… all claiming to be authorized by their diety to proclaim an indisputable truth.
    To allow generations of men to get between oneself and a higher power is to distance oneself even more from that power.

  • Emily Dale

    Ms. Rice never said that she did not believe in Christ or God. She was simply decrying the fact that Christianity has been co-opted by radical fundamentalists who interpret and excerpt sections of the Bible as they wish and condemn all who don’t agree. Their blatant discrimination against people of color and other nationalities and faiths shows ignorance in the teachings of Christ. To one writer, a person of color, Have you seen portrayals of Jesus as a man of color? Probably not, as the Christian leaders in Europe portrayed him as fair-haired and blue-eyed, in their image of perfection. How sad! I am white, female and age 85, a person of faith-I believe in a God of all people and faiths. I acknowledge the truth in the teachings of Jesus, and only wish they were followed by the majority of his community.

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