Catholics Media and Culture

Catholics Media and Culture

Anne Rice and the idea of following Christ but not Christians

posted by John W. Kennedy

Anne Rice, the one-time self-described atheist who rose to fame writing gothic novels (The Vampire Chronicles) but in 1998 returned to the Catholic Church of her youth and went on to devote herself to writing books that expressed her rediscovered faith (i.e. the Christ the Lord books), caused a stir last week by announcing on her Facebook site that she no longer considers herself a Christian.

Later, she made it clear that she is still a follower of and believer in Jesus Christ, it’s just Christians she’s fed up with — saying she can no longer identify with a group she finds to be “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous.” She went to say that she finds too many Christians to be, among other things, anti-gay and and anti-feminist. 

She elaborated yesterday in an interview with NPR’s Michelle Norris stating “This is something that had been going on really almost from the beginning of my
conversion in 1998.” She added “From the beginning, there were signs that the
public face of Catholicism and the public face of Christianity were things that
I found very, very difficult to accept.”

She also told Norris “I didn’t anticipate at the beginning that the U.S. bishops were going to
come out against same-sex marriage,” or “That they were actually going to
donate money to defeat the civil rights of homosexuals in the secular society.”

I believe Anne Rice is a sincere woman who is sincerely troubled by what she sees as a lack of compassion within the Catholic Church and Christianity in general, particularly regarding gays and the gay marriage issue.

There are many reasons why people can be legitimately angered at the Church (not the least of which is its handling of its child sex abuse scandals). And Christians can be all the things she says we can be (quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious) — or we can be just the opposite (peaceful, tolerant, joyous). Certainly the goal is the latter set of characteristics.

But while the media tends to understandably be drawn to the headline-making negativity of the Church scandals or the acts of extremist groups like the Westboro Baptist Church (not to be confused with mainstream Baptists), it’s easy to lose sight of the everyday acts of kindness committed by good Christians in Christ’s name every day, sometimes in an organized way, often as one individual to another.

Ms. Rice’s frustration with some Christians is understandable but there are a lot of sincere, loving Christians in this world who don’t deserve to be lumped together with the worst acts of those who fail to uphold the faith’s true ideals. It’s no more right to do that to Christians than it is to hold all Muslims in disrepute because of the actions of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorists.

While it’s proper for mainstream Muslims to condemn the heinous acts of those committing murderous acts in the name of their religion, we don’t expect them to declare themselves no longer Muslim.  

I think the same principle applies to Christians. It’s just not right to let the worst acts of some define the religion for all.  Christians, in general, are good and kind people who honestly want to love God by serving others.

There’s nothing shameful about being a Christian.          


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posted August 3, 2010 at 9:19 am

Actually there is a lot to be shameful about being a Christian. We can go back to the Vatican’s silent complicity of the persection/holocaust of Jews in the ’30s and ’40s in Europe — or we can look at Ted Haggart (a self loathing homosexual who used his pulpit to undermine the civil rights of gay people) or the 700 Club and its parade of follies. All deeply shameful and embarrassing.
It is true that the media hones in all the worst examples of course, and ignores all the good that Chrstians in the name of Jesus do in the world.
“Legitimately angered at the church” does not come close to how people feel about the scandal of child rape/abuse in the Catholic Church. One is legitimately angered about property taxes or the politics of local community life — but legitimately angered is not what people are about the child abuse scandal — they are horrified. (Deaf boys>?!) This “crisis” (as the church calls it rather than what it is: a crime against God’s people) has taken thousands of people out of the church and turned them away from God and made them lose hope. There is no greater sin than what Catholic priest child abusers and their conmplicit bishops did: destroyed children and lives and turned people awya form God and all in the name of Jesus.
I am a Christian and I am deeply ashamed by Christianity ever day.

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posted August 3, 2010 at 11:08 am

I don’t think Rice is letting the actions of some minority define the whole faith. The problems she speaks of are endemic to the entire Catholic Church leadership and the dominant strains of large swaths of protestant movements in this country. To the extent that individual members support these organizations with their loyalty and money, being Christian is a shameful thing, other good works notwithstanding.

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posted August 3, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I don’t know what people expect when they join a Christian community. Rice is indicative of an attitude that Christ condemned when he said to take the beam out of your own eye before attempting to take the splinter out of your brother’s. I always tell people who seem to always be looking for a perfect church, that as soon you find one and join it, it will no longer be perfect. If we think that the current situation is unique in history, we obviously don’t know history. The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a club for saints, and no one can escape that in this world. Ms. Rice is obviously struggling with that fact, but needs to recognize that there isn’t a better place to be, for Christ is the source of grace, and that grace comes through His Church, and cannot be found anywhere else, despite its human flaws.

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posted August 3, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Shmikey: The Catholic Church is not a perfect institution – everyone knows that, it is afterall a human institution. The problem is, it has strayed too far into a state of disgrace. Many of the leaders and clergy have forgotten their mission to the poor and to Catholic formation. They close down Catholic schools rather than subsidize them, claiming they can’t afford them. Of course they can afford to subsidize Catholic education –look what they have paid out to victims of sex abuse. There is plenty of $. No the poor don’t matter much, talk to priests in impoverished dioceses who feel the church has abandoned them and their flocks. Children don’t matter, only protecting clergy and building retreat centers. What would Jesus think of the Vatican with its riches and excesses?
Grace does not come through the church. It comes from Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that our church is infused and guided by the Holy Spirit. But if our clergy and leaders have caused people to turn away from God (200 deaf boys?!) — is that really the Holy Spirit at work?

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posted August 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Suzanne, if you are Catholic, then you need to learn what the Church teaches about herself, and not what others say. The money is being drawn mostly from insurance policies that could never have been used to pay for education in the first place. Yes, grace does come from God, but it is through the Church that you receive that grace. That is why we are baptized into the family of God. The few priests, and I mean very few, who have committed these crimes should not give anyone the idea that all priests and bishops are not to be trusted. The Vatican has less money than the average archdiocese in the United States, so go to those dioceses and get them to ante up. The idea that those in the Vatican are living some kind of opulent life, have never been there. They live very simply, and most of the money is used to support impoverished dioceses. Stoop getting your information from the liberal media, who have an agenda, and start looking to the faithful.

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posted August 16, 2010 at 11:45 am

:But while the media tends to understandably be drawn to the headline-making negativity of the Church scandals or the acts of extremist groups like the Westboro Baptist Church (not to be confused with mainstream Baptists), it’s easy to lose sight of the everyday acts of kindness committed by good Christians in Christ’s name every day, sometimes in an organized way, often as one individual to another.:
There’s very little difference between Benedict XVI and Fred Phelps. In fact Benedict is far more harmful because he’s a far more influential bigot.

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