In today's world it may seem a little counter-intuitive for us straggling band of Anglicans to be standing on the threshold of the Catholic Church, eager for her full embrace. Haven't we heard about the clerical abuse? Are we not aware of her flaws? Well, yes, but her glories far outweigh them. And I am so thankful God has given me the grace to see. But it has taken a long time. So it is with some sadness I see that Anne Rice, who ditched her Roman Catholic background once, is ditching her Church again. She has taken the increasingly fashionable position that one can follow Jesus Christ but not be religious, not be a Christian. I beg to differ.
Anne Rice was born and brought up Catholic, then left the faith, only to return in 2005. Her Wikipedia entry says the following:
In 2005, Newsweek reported, "[Rice] came close to death last year, when she had surgery for an intestinal blockage, and also back in 1998, when she went into a sudden diabetic coma; that same year she returned to the Roman Catholic Church, which she'd left at 18." Her return has not come with a full embrace of the Church's stances on social issues; Rice remains a supporter of equality for gay men and lesbians (including marriage rights), as well as abortion rights and birth control. Rice has written extensively on the matter:
Well, it seems that her dissident stance has won out. (My emphases.)
The “Interview With The Vampire” author, who in recent years has spoken publicly about her faith and written a series of novels tracing the life of Jesus, wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday that she was finished with organized Christianity.
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 outside. My conscience will allow nothing else.
She followed that post a few minutes later with more details:
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.
Then she adds this:
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.
Oh, how I remember believing like this. It was just me and Jesus, baby, and since I believed I had a direct pipeline to Him, nobody external, no church, no human being on earth, was going to tell me what to believe. So for years, I wandered as a lonely pilgrim outside the confines of organized Christianity. Consequently, I also picked up a lot of wonky beliefs, heresies that I was even rather proud of since I thought I was smarter than most people. I too, felt like an outsider, partially because I had to be so spiritually disciplined in order to even approximate normality. I thought my disciplines made me more serious as a Christian, but when I finally embraced an orthodox faith, I no longer needed to meditate so long to still the negative chatter in my head. In those days, my life was one of almost constant spiritual defeat, though thankfully, I had a deep sense that Jesus is alive and He loves me, so that kept kept hope alive and prevented me from becoming a bitter person. I have come to see that it is by believing the Truth we are sanctified, not by trying to obey the works of the law or the teachings of Jesus under our own steam. Without right doctrine, one is doomed to fail in one's Christian walk. I know from experience. Trust me and do not try this at home.
Thank God for Pastor Doug Ward at Kanata Baptist Church. I remember my first words to him. "I'm a maverick and a heretic and I've never been able to sign on the dotted line of any church," I announced, though I did tell him that I had asked Jesus to come into my heart and acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior.
"Well, maybe this church is big enough for you," he said.
How wise he was. So I entered in. I was loved and accepted and gently taught by people with a deep evangelical faith but a mission to reach out to seekers like myself. So, for the most part, some of my odd beliefs — Swedeborgianism, Christian Science, Roy Masters (I think in the end, they all kind of cancelled each other out, but that's another story — one friend described me as like someone with several large dogs on leashes all trying to pull me in different directions) were not challenged directly. Instead I was exposed to good teaching, wonderful fellowship and gradually the heresies I clutched began to lose their hold over me. I will be forever thankful for Pastor Doug and the good, good Christian brothers and sisters at Kanata Baptist Church. KBC was like the hyperbaric chamber I needed so that I would not get the spiritual "bends" I would have experienced had I entered the Anglican Catholic Church right off the bat. What? no women priests? What? people standing around repeating prayers in unison?
I feel bad for Anne Rice, because the lonely pilgrim road is a road to nowhere. It is a road of intense vulnerability to the forces of darkness because you have no spiritual covering, no protection through the hierarchy that Christ instituted. (To say nothing of the sacraments.) And now I see that that Church is the Catholic Church and I thank God I have been able to see Her with spiritual eyes and not get distracted by the very real flaws of some of her members.
Rice’s angry frustration with what she (and, let’s face it, many others) perceive to be a sort of Institution of No is interesting. She refuses to be “anti-gay,” but the church teaches that indeed we must not be anti-gay, that homosexual inclinations are not sinful in themselves, but that all are called to chastity, whether gay or straight.
So, what she is refusing is not so much church teaching, which she incorrectly represents, but the worldly distortion of church teaching both as it is misunderstood and too-often practiced. I do not know how anyone could read the USCCB’s pastoral letter, Always Our Children and then make a credible argument that the church is “anti-gay.”
But then, I do not know how anyone can read Humanae Vitae and credibly call the church anti-feminist or anti-humanist.
I do not know how anyone can read Pope John Paul II’s exhaustive teachings on the Theology of the Body and credibly declare the church to be reactionary on issues of sexuality or womanhood.
I do not know how anyone can read Gaudium et Spes and credibly argue that the church is out of touch with the Human Person or Society.
I do not know how anyone can read Fides et ratio and credibly argue that the church does not hold human reason in esteem.
I do not know how anyone can look at the Vatican supporting and funding Stem Cell Research, or the even the briefest list of religiously-inclined scientists and researchers and credibly argue that Christianity is “anti-science.”
Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying “Yes” to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes,”, that being a “yes” toward God–whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time–rather than a “yes” to ourselves.
I think the "yes" to herself is in Rice's "I refuse" which she repeats as if she were chanting a litany.
This is so sad, because, having been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt and bumper sticker, I know how fruitless that kind of trying to be Christian without being "religious" truly is. That's such a popular mantra these days.
But I must remember the approach that Pastor Doug took with me and be gentle with these seekers as he was gentle with me.
Earlier this week, I read one of my favorite passages in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.
If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine . . . —John 7:17
The golden rule to follow to obtain spiritual understanding is not one of intellectual pursuit, but one of obedience. If a person wants scientific knowledge, then intellectual curiosity must be his guide. But if he desires knowledge and insight into the teachings of Jesus Christ, he can only obtain it through obedience. If spiritual things seem dark and hidden to me, then I can be sure that there is a point of disobedience somewhere in my life. Intellectual darkness is the result of ignorance, but spiritual darkness is the result of something that I do not intend to obey.