Tuesday, July 10, 2018

TTT #18 One Doesn’t Have to be a Fundamentalist to be a Good Christian

This article is mostly from the first page of the 18th chapter of Thirty True Things . . . (TTT) with a bit of updating. So this introductory part of the topic introduced in the title is largely about an interesting person named Anne Rice.
Who Is Anne Rice?
Those who have heard of Anne Rice know that she has been an author for quite a long time, first achieving acclaim as the writer of vampire novels. Between 1976 and 2003 she wrote 18 books about vampires and witches—and I don’t regret not having read any of those books.
Anne Rice in 2010
Rice (b. 1941) was raised, and educated, as a Roman Catholic, but she became an atheist as a young woman and was estranged from the Catholic Church for some 30 years. In 1998 she returned to the Church and to a deep faith in God. 
In 2004 Rice announced in a Newsweek article that from then on she would “write only for the Lord.” Consequently, her next book was Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (2005) and followed by Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana (2008).
Just two years ago “The Young Messiah,” a movie based on Rice’s 2005 book, was released, and June and I enjoyed watching it for the first time this past Friday night.
Rice’s spiritual autobiography was also published in 2008 under the title Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. The one-page first chapter begins, “This book is about faith in God.” Rice goes on to say in that short chapter that her story has a happy ending, for, she says, “I have found the Transcendent God both intellectually and emotionally.”
Anne Rice’s Startling Statements
As one who has read and enjoyed Rice’s stimulating books about the life of Jesus, finding them to be insightful and reverent, I was surprised and somewhat dismayed in July 2010 to learn that she had (on Facebook of all places!) publically renounced Christianity. 
Here is what she posted on Facebook on July 28, 2010: 
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. 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.
Five minutes later, she wrote this on her Facebook wall (as it was called then):
As I said below, 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.
The above quotes are given in their entirety to indicate how one public person has embraced Christ and Christianity and then rejected the latter because of her faith in Christ. But it seems mainly to be the fundamentalist form of the Christian faith, and the traditional form of Catholicism, that she has rejected.
That is why I wrote on my Facebook page back then that I wish Rice had read my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism, for I firmly believe it is not necessary for one to be a fundamentalist, or a traditional Roman Catholic, in order to be a Christian, and a good one at that.
And, certainly, not all Christians are “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious,” although, unfortunately, some (or many) are.
[More than for most of the previous articles based on TTT, I encourage you to click here and read the entire 18th chapter—especially if you haven’t read my book Fed Up . . . .]

9 comments:

  1. The first comments received, early this morning, were from a local Thinking Friend, whom I quote only in part:

    "Without the Church, one is not a follower of Christ. . . . .

    "Sorry, Anne, I’m not buying it."

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    1. I'll respond to the first statement later, but let me first comment only on the last statement.

      As I read her statements, Anne Rice was not trying to sell anything. She was just stating, and acting upon, her own feelings and convictions.

      I don't know what has happened since then, but I doubt that she has actively tried to get other people to make the same decision she made--although she has likely encouraged others to live with integrity and courage as well as with love and acceptance of others, especially those who struggle with rejection and debasement.

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  2. Thinking Friend Marilyn Peot, a lifelong Catholic Sister, sent the following comments in a much longer email:

    "I believe the unabashed sharing of one's road of spirituality/faith is actually gift to all of us. I believe they share from the place on the 'road' where they are at any given point in time. Since the journey never ends but consistently opens through the zillion doors of unfolding, evolving, inspiring--always beckoning to the MORE--I am open to their experience.

    "I accept that we are experiencing a profound paradigm shift, therefore. I am far more interested in another's experience than I am in trying to fit all of this into a rational knowing."

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  3. Thanks, Marilyn, for your comments. My reference to Anne Rice was largely concerning why she decided to give up on Christianity, to which she had returned in her late 50s after being estranged for more than 30 years.

    But, yes, I think listening to her story and trying to understand her journey is of importance. That is why I am now reading her autobiography (which I really should have read before writing the article). I am just now to her high school years, and I have been impressed at what a rich Catholic upbringing and education she had. I am eager to learn why she left all of that and what brought her back to faith.

    She had great appreciation for the nuns who were her teachers--and for nuns in general. This is a book you might enjoy reading, Marilyn--but at this point I have read only about the first 1/4, so I can't recommend it yet.

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  4. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky shares these important comments:

    "I think Anne Rice speaks for a lot of Millennials. The problem I see with this is: What will continue to sustain faith in Christ if not some for of institutional support? I’m impressed with Baron von Hugel’s depiction of the four legs under healthy spirituality: (1) experiential, 2) intellectual, (3) social, and (4) institutional. Take away one leg and your faith will wobble; take away more than one and it will fall. Anne would do best rejecting distorted expressions of Christianity."

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    1. Thanks for your significant comments, Dr. Hinson.

      I think you are right in saying that Ms. Rice speaks for a lot of Millennials--which is interesting since she was nearly 70 when she made those announcements on Facebook.

      Personally, I think that being part of a Christian community of faith is of great importance--but I don't know that that community has to be "organized religion" or part of an institution.

      I don't know what kind of support system Ms. Rice has had, but in a 2016 interview she declared, "Though I've moved away from institutional Christianity and organized religion--and all its theological strife--my devotion to Jesus remains fierce."

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  5. And here is a brief pertinent comment from a Thinking Friend who is a rural Missouri Christian layman:

    "Many of us have experienced these same struggles. Appropriate discussion for this point in history!"

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  6. Yesterday I received the following intriguing comments from a Thinking Friend in Arizona:

    "Interesting blog Leroy, I have heard of Anne Rice and her vampire novels although I as well have not read any of them. I did not realize she had converted to Christianity and then renounced Christianity but sill maintains a relationship with Christ but not as a Christian.

    "Today [my son] was researching whether or not cats were capable of loving their owners. There were arguments both for and against the probability of feline affection towards humans. We came to a holistic conclusion that indeed there were cats who did love and those who did not love their human masters. We also thought that it could also be possible that there were both good cats and bad cats and good dogs and bad or mean dogs. However good or bad they are still cats and dogs.

    "I wonder if the same could apply to Christians in some sense. Or maybe Rice's list of anti gay, anti science, anti democratic... Christians just think they are Christians but in Christ's eyes are not Christians but they only believe themselves to be Christians. Or maybe there are also good, bad and mean Christians regardless and they are still Christians."

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  7. Preach on, Sister! Anne Rice gets my vote! More seriously, her pilgrimage of faith highlights a tension that goes all the way back to Paul. Writing in Romans 14 Paul contrasts the strong in faith and the weak in faith. The strong are called to be patient with the weak, and to avoid disputations on matters of opinion. However, Paul himself illustrates what must happen when key issues are at stake. When the party of circumcision began to pressure his gentile converts, Paul fought back ferociously, as discussed in Galatians 2. So this is our dilemma, to be patient with false opinions, but stern with false principles. Now how do we figure out which is which?

    Far too many thoughtful Christians have thought their way right out Christianity when all they heard were the fundamentalist rantings. The voice of love has been muted and baffled by the barrage of militant weak faith. The soaring numbers of "nones" is the price progressive Christianity (and other progressive faiths) has paid for its paralysis in the face of the fundamentalist onslaught. The "moderate" compromise has failed. Ann Rice stands as a modern prophet pointing out into the wilderness where the church must go to be reborn. As Jesus says in Luke 9:60 "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." (KJV) We live in a time when 2 Thessalonians 2 is painfully relevant. Certainly a "lawless one" resides in the White House, and "every kind of wicked deception" makes even truth appear to be fake news. Only money is loved, only greed is served, and only power is worshipped. In defense of a mindless and heartless assault on abortion, Evangelical Conservatives have endorsed stealing Supreme Court seats, sexual assault, adultery, polluting the environment, oppressing the poor, defying the command in Leviticus 19 to provide justice and love to the alien in our midst, paying hush money, refusing to pay wages due, money laundering for the Russian mafia, and so much more. All in the defense of an abortion policy that has absolutely no clear foundation anywhere in the Bible. Check a concordance, "abort" and "abortion" are words never used in the Bible. Check the word "poor" for comparison.

    After Cyrus, king of the Medes and Persians, made the ancient world resound with the words "Babylon the Great is fallen!" Isaiah 45:1-8 declares Cyrus to be the Lord's Messiah. What will happen when the modern world resounds with the words "America the Great is fallen!"? We seem to be heading there as fast as Trump can lead us. His followers cheer him on. Is the "loud trumpet" in Revelation going to be just a loud Trump? Or will the loud trumpet be named Anne Rice?

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