9/26/2010 – Miguel A. Guanipa –
“I quit being a Christian.” “I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of … Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
In this Tweeter feed read around the world of pubescent vampire novel bookworms, author Anne Rice — who claims to have become a Christian a few years ago — resolved once and for all to forswear the faith. A rather momentous decision, betraying a crass impetuosity on her part, but also a welcomed vindication of G.K. Chesterton’s keen observation that many refuse to seriously engage Christianity not because it has been tried and found wanting, but because “it has been found difficult and left untried.”
This final verdict — judging from Anne Rice’s defense — is clearly based on very scant evidence, cursively gathered after a mere ten-year incursion into Christianity. In her estimation, the group she no longer feels inclined to call herself a member of is the same group towards which the world should extend no tolerance. In other words, it’s OK only to be anti-Christian.
From the standpoint of those who believe that the human soul is a terrible thing to lose, the most regrettable part of Anne Rice’s decision is that such an eternally significant choice was based on copiously adulterated versions of what followers of Christianity presumably stand for — or against, as Ms. Rice’s list of presumed outcasts from the Christian community indicates. Perhaps also the reason for her cautious caveat, stipulating that it is in the name of Christ (the person) that she has chosen to forsake Christianity (the Religion), in case she later recognizes that she may have made too hasty a decision.
In terms of relevance to the enduring dialogue between “the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief” (hat tip to Pope Benedict), Anne Rice’s putative reasons for deserting the flock provide a revealing case study of the biased winnowing of Christianity with the fork of secularism which is practiced by many who claim to have abandoned a once-vibrant faith.
Such winnowing typically retains vague and inoffensive imperatives like “fair distribution of goods and services” or “social justice” but treats non-negotiable essentials of the faith like obedience and holiness as shaft to be thrown into the fire. In the end, for the seeker of truth, it becomes a choice between ignoring religion altogether and, worse, opting for a more palatable yet terribly distorted replica which is far too often peddled as the real thing.
It is more often than not such a God, fashioned from ignorance, that unbelievers repudiate, as well they should. No one should be discouraged from discarding any counterfeit bills before going on a shopping spree.
And yet Ms. Rice raises a very important question. What does it mean to follow Christ as opposed to simply being religious?
It certainly does not mean embracing the faith with a “what’s in it for me” mentality. More than once, Christ warned his followers of the inevitability of trials and suffering. What more can be expected from a creed whose founder was heralded as the suffering servant and “a man of sorrows”? And it does not mean — as Anne Rice suggests — being a purveyor of hatred. In fact, one could argue that the percentage of Christians who practice charity towards homosexuals, feminists, secular humanists, and yes, Democrats, is larger than that of people from these groups who welcome openly professing Christians into their fold.
Essentially Christians recognize that the God they worship is one whose creation conforms to a common order, and that deviations from that order are never met with his indifference, or without their consequences. Yet these consequences are always rooted in God’s passionate love for his creation. This same love — not the animus Anne Rice imputes on their motives — compels Christians to bear witness to life-affirming alternatives and to offer help toward restoring the delicate balance of creation — in other words, to show the way of redemption.
Albeit it is quite possible, but unfortunate, that Ms. Rice’s Christian experience with her peers in the faith has been more one of condemnation than of love and patience. And to be fair, to the extent Christians are the stewards of ultimate truth, there is a measure of accountability that should weigh upon every one of them — imperfect vessels though they are — to ensure that their daily conduct reflects a continual surrender of their will to the one called the savior.
It is through Christians who are faithful to their calling, never forgetting that they too are in need of grace, that one hopes unbelievers would get a glimpse of the true character of God and be sufficiently equipped to make an informed decision. Because nothing in scripture teaches that on the last day, unbelievers will be able to blame the imperfect devotion of Christians for their own failure to trust in the genuine article.
Indeed, if Anne Rice were to truly portray what it means to follow Christ — and dissociate herself from merely going through the motions of an empty spirituality, as she claims her decision entails — it may be a better course of action to practice forgiving those Christians whom she laments as poor examples, rather than parade their shortcomings as excuses for her own crisis of faith or malign them in front of world that already despises them.
HT: American Thinker