Losing an ally in faith
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 email@example.com