Los­ing an ally in faith

The Compass - - OPINION -

The name Anne Rice needs no in­tro­duc­tion to devo­tees of vampire fic­tion. “In­ter­view with the Vampire” is her sig­na­ture ti­tle.

In 2005, she wrote the first of her so-called Je­sus nov­els, “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” fol­lowed by “Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana,” in 2008.

Then, in 2008, she pub­lished her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “Called Out of Dark­ness: A Spir­i­tual Con­fes­sion.”

Af­ter years as an athe­ist, she ad­mit­ted she had re­turned to her Ro­man Catholic faith.

“My vo­ca­tion,” she stated, “is to write for Je­sus Christ …

“That means a fidelity to the Je­sus of Scrip­ture, the Je­sus of the Four Gospels, and it means that I must never bend, in my por­trayal of Him or His fol­low­ers to any at­tempt to retro­ject my cur­rent val­ues on the past …

“The Lord Je­sus Christ is where my fo­cus be­longs …

“The more I study the Lord’s words, the more as­sured I am that He is the tran­scen­dent God who com­pelled love and de­vo­tion from me be­fore I even be­gan the in­tense study of the sa­cred texts.”

Many of her readers were thrown for a spin, not only be­cause of her about face, but be­cause she had closed her Vampire Chron­i­cles. From now on, she an­nounced, she would “never write an­other word that is not for (God).” Her fans were dev­as­tated.

In 2010, Rice had yet an­other about face, writ­ing on her web­site: “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 10 years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an out­sider. My con­science will al­low noth­ing else.”

She posted a fol­low-up note on her web­site: “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 an­tiDemo­crat. I refuse to be anti-sec­u­lar hu­man­ism. I refuse to be anti-sci­ence. I refuse to be anti-life.”

Or­ga­nized re­li­gion turned Rice off. As she told a Chris­tian mag­a­zine, “I wanted to ex­on­er­ate my­self from the things or­ga­nized re­li­gion was do­ing in the name of Je­sus.”

As early as 1980, I learned about the stark dif­fer­ence be­tween Chris­ten­dom and Chris­tian­ity. I per­son­ally find the dis­tinc­tion to be lib­er­at­ing.

“Chris­ten­dom” refers to the ad­min­is­tra­tive or power struc­ture of re­li­gion as con­structed by hu­mans. It is char­ac­ter­ized by de­nom­i­na­tions, in­sti­tu­tions and or­ga­ni­za­tions. It is highly rit­u­al­ized, strat­i­fied and for­mal­ized.

The founder of Chris­ten­dom was Em­peror Con­stan­tine the Great. Fol­low­ing his con­ver­sion to Chris­tian­ity, it rose to be­come the dom­i­nant re­li­gion in the Ro­man Em­pire. In the process, he tied it to the sec­u­lar state as closely as pos­si­ble.

Whether or not this was a pos­i­tive step re­mains an open ques­tion. There are pros and cons on both sides.

Mean­while, there is much to dis­like about Chris­ten­dom, both an­cient and mod­ern. Think only, for ex­am­ple, of the Cru­sades and the In­qui­si­tion.

On the other hand, there is such an en­tity as Chris­tian­ity, by which I mean the re­li­gion of Je­sus of Nazareth, which he pro­pounded in the ser­mon on the mount. “For­give us our debts,” he in­structed us to pray, “as we also have for­given our debtors.”

He taught it in the beat­i­tudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he said, “for theirs is the king­dom of heaven.”

He ex­em­pli­fied it in the golden rule. “Do to oth­ers,” he com­manded, “what you would have them do to you.”

The late cur­mud­geon Mal­colm Mug­geridge (1903-90) dis­tin­guished be­tween the two en­ti­ties.

Chris­ten­dom is of this world and tied to ab­so­lute power. Like all other hu­man cre­ations, it is sub­ject to de­cay and even­tual dis­so­lu­tion.

Chris­tian­ity is not of this world and is tied to ab­so­lute love. Un­like hu­man cre­ations, Christ and his king­dom will en­dure.

It seems to me Rice is re­nounc­ing Chris­ten­dom as an out­ward sys­tem.

In the mean­time, she ad­mits all her books have been “re­flec­tive of a life­long spir­i­tual quest. I don’t even re­ally think about that when I’m writ­ing, it just hap­pens. The char­ac­ters start talk­ing … about: ‘ Where do we be­long morally in the scheme of things? Do we have any mean­ing?’ “

Af­ter read­ing Rice’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, I re­garded her as a fel­low pil­grim on the jour­ney of faith. As I told her in an email, “I was de­lighted to read of a fel­low strug­gler along The Way.” Now that she has again re­nounced her faith in Christ and his church, I feel like I’ve lost a faith part­ner.

Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

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