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The Christ-Haunted Vampire Novelist 2

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

Anne Rice’s vampire novels have sold 100 million copies. She now
writes, as she tells us so candidly in her memoir of conversion, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession
, solely for God. This is our second post on Anne Rice’s conversion.

One thing that fascinated me in reading this conversion memoir is the significance of place, as in sacred place or sacred space.



Anne Rice’s
sensory, aesthetic faith emerged from and found its anchor in sacred
space
. Without a word of reflection, she tells a story of being
nurtured into the faith in New Orleans, leaving not only New Orleans
but also her faith when she moved to California, and then returning to New Orleans later where she
rediscovered her faith. Faith and New Orleans are connected in the
tapestry of Anne Rice’s journey. As a child, she observes, “I was as
certain that Jesus was there as I was that the streetcars passed our
house” (11). On neighborhood walks in New Orleans she
“talked all the time … to The Little Flower” (St. Therese) and “I
talked to St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. I talked to the
Blessed Mother unendingly, and I talked to Jesus all the time” (13).

Then
in 1957 she moved to Dallas. Then to college and it was there that she
lost her faith and it seemed to have very little connection to her life
in the days of her vampire-writing fame in San Francisco, in the
Haight-Ashbury district in its heydays. It was the return to New
Orleans that she came face-to-face once again with her former faith,
but what she saw was friends and family and familiar religious sites.
Back home she began to support the Redemptorist Fathers and collect
religious artifacts and she bought Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel.
She began to seek God in geography so off to Europe and the Holy Land
she went.

But it was in Rio Brazil that her faith came back to life –
at the foot of the massive Jesus at Corcovado. Her experience there,
described in sensory detail, led to this: “I had come thousands of
miles to stand here. And here was the Lord” (163).  She admits, “I
didn’t acknowledge faith in these moments at the foot of the statue.
But something greater than a creedal formulation took hold of me, a
sense that this Lord of Lords belonged to me in all His beauty and
grandeur. He belonged to me in the grandeur of this symbol if He did
not belong to me in any other way” (163-164). The sensory all converged
upon her in Rio: “But this is such a potent symbol that your whole life
is suddenly pervaded with Him. You belong to Him in the guise of art”
(164).  A providential accident, too, but this time in Salvador da
Bahia: a giant size version of the St. Francis icon she kept at her
side found her eyes in a church. “It was as if someone was whispering
to me. … This is a figure of the love of Jesus Christ that is waiting
for you” (167). “I became convinced that I was being pursued by the
Lord” (167-168).

What makes Anne Rice’s story so delightful is
the rugged sincerity of her story. She has not adorned this memoir to
fit anyone’s theology, not even her own.  Her novels dwelt in the
netherworlds and supernatural worlds of darkness but, she claims, “I
feel no guilt whatsoever for anything I ever wrote. The sincerity of my
writings removes them completely from what I hold to be sin. I also
feel no real contrition for years as an atheist, because my departure
from the church was not only painful, but also completely sincere”
(232). In college, already an atheist, she missed the May Crowning so
much she bought her own flowers, found a grassy slope, sang hymns to
the Virgin and cried and cried. It was the bohemian beat generation
that attracted her affections from the church – “For me, they held
spiritual values. They did great things” (107). In an observation that
retains revelatory value about the significance of prayer: “I think I
lost my intimate conversation with God during this period. I think I
stopped talking to Him and looking to Him to help me – long before I
lost my faith” (116).  And one that reveals what is involved at the
very heart of the Christian faith and one that she could no longer
tolerate: “My religious mind was an authoritarian mind, and once I
found myself at odds with God, I couldn’t speak to Him” (125).

Why
did she leave her faith? “I wanted full existence” (117). She thought
she had found it in San Francisco among the beat generation: “I saw
secular humanism as something beautiful and vigorous and brave” (135).
But her atheistic, secular humanism couldn’t contain what was brewing
inside Anne Rice.

What got her sensory, aesthetic brew going and
what led to her surrender  was the Jewish people, their steadfastness
and the seeming faithfulness of God to them. The brew was strengthened
when, upon returning to New Orleans, she found that her Catholic
friends embraced her and her poet husband, Stan. Next comes her
relentless fascination with Jesus, with whom she was “secretly
obsessed” (161). Her trips, especially the one to Rio and the
providential accidents and she learned that she was “Christ haunted” 
(177). Two miracles led her back into communion with the Church of
Rome. The second was a diabetic attack, but the first one can be summed
up in one word: “surrender” (181). “I let go of all the theological or
social questions which had kept me from Him for countless years” (183).
She could do this because she reasoned that God knew the answers and
she could trust God. She can’t properly describe her surrender: “it is
a transcendent moment when one senses with all one’s faculties that the
love of God is the air we breathe. It was only as I felt this love and
this trust, that I realized I believed in Him” (185).  She wonders how
she was to become a “card-carrying member of a church that condemned my
gay son,” himself a successful novelist,  but she comes to this
conclusion: “It didn’t really matter how wretched it was going to be. I
had to go! I wasn’t going to deny Him any longer. I was going home”
(186).

But for four years, from the year of her
surrender (1998) until 2002, she was a participant again the faith but her life was not
devoted to Christ in the ordinary. She continued to write vampire
novels, but with themes that were deconstructing that world. She began
to be haunted by a Christ-shaped question: How much of her did God
want? The question would not let her go and one Saturday afternoon
promptings overwhelmed her soul and mind: “Write for God. Write for
Him. Write only for Him” (206). First came Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel
(2005) and then came Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana (Christ the Lord) (2007).

She
has come full sensory circle: “My vocation is to write for Jesus
Christ. It is to belong completely to the Man at the Top. That means a
fidelity to the Jesus of Scripture.” And, “The Lord Jesus Christ is
where my focus belongs. And my commitment to Christ must remain
unchanged” (239).



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RJS

posted November 25, 2008 at 6:20 am


For those who are interested. There is a great conversation with NT Wright and Anne Rice at Grace Cathedral in SF from May 2006 available online as mp3 download or stream:
http://www.gracecathedral.org/forum/for_20060514.shtml
Wright is talking about his book “Simply Christian” and Rice about her conversion and her book “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.”



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Keith Schooley

posted November 25, 2008 at 7:12 am


I have to say, this makes me wince:
Her novels dwelt in the netherworlds and supernatural worlds of darkness but, she claims, “I feel no guilt whatsoever for anything I ever wrote. The sincerity of my writings removes them completely from what I hold to be sin. I also feel no real contrition for years as an atheist, because my departure from the church was not only painful, but also completely sincere”
This is similar to, but different than, CS Lewis’s contention that an adolescent’s turn toward athiesm might be his or her first real religious act: it means that that person is at least taking faith seriously enough to reject it. So there can be good, even in that. But Lewis would never have said that years of rejecting God aren’t worthy of contrition.
Rice seems to hold, at least in this quote, that what one believes doesn’t really matter; what matters is one’s sincerity of belief. I would hope that at some point in her journey she would reevaluate that perspective.



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Julie Clawson

posted November 25, 2008 at 10:08 am


I think her comment about wanting a full existence and not finding that in the church is sad (normal, but sad). If as Christians we can’t live life to its fullest we seriously are missing something.
There is a part of me that hopes she does return to writing vampire novels – there are so many religious connections within that world that would be fascinating if a good writer explored them. From ressurrected “new life” of the vampire to even the idea that Christians themselves are the ultimate vampires because we receive life by drinking the blood of Christ (over and over in ritualized form even…)



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Your Name

posted November 25, 2008 at 10:20 am


I have believed for many years that unless you have a “Peter” moment, in which you deny Christ after having known Him, you cannot truly follow Him.
Jesus told Peter that he would be the rock on which His Church would be built. He didn’t tell this to any of His other disciples. Peter was not just the only one to “get out of the boat”, he was also the only one documented to have denied Christ out loud to others.
How can you ever give yourself away unless you have first taken possession of yourself? How can you “think outside of the box” until you’ve thougt inside of the box?
Peter was the one Jesus told to, “Feed my sheep.” Peter was the one that Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” Love cannot occur until someone finds out that he/she is free to not love that person, but will still BE loved. Does any of this make sense to anyone but me?



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Bryon

posted November 25, 2008 at 10:30 am


Scot,
Thanks for sharing this. I was a fan of Anne Rice’s vampire novels and thoroughly enjoyed “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.” I definately have to pick up her memoir as well. I love seeing God work outside my preconceptions. It helps me to love and appreciate him more and challenges me to step out and serve him more fully in my own life.



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Karl

posted November 25, 2008 at 1:44 pm


I was struck by how many similarities there were between the attitudes of “old guard catholicism” of Rice’s youth and the fundamentalist baggage that many evangelicals grew up with.
I found the account of her return to faith moving. Even if she left the church because she wanted a full existence that she couldn’t find there, it’s clear she now realizes she didn’t find a truly full existence outside and apart from the church either. While her return was driven by an aesthetic longing and supra-rational surrender to the source of truth and beauty and meaning, it was also followed by serious research and deep, intelligent reflection. This was no mere irrational return to a know-nothing fundamentalism. Rice seems to have found at least some of that “simplicity on the other side of complexity” that many yearn for.
“I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity; but I’d give my life for simplicity the other side of complexity.”



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Dana Ames

posted November 25, 2008 at 2:22 pm


Your Name #4,
I hear you.
I wonder if it is not so much an outright denial as some sort of a test of love. But I do believe it’s real.
Dana



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Your Name

posted November 25, 2008 at 9:53 pm


I would like to respond to “Your Name”. This is my first visit to this site. I was intriqued by your insightfulness to Peters delima. Please continue to see with angled vision.



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Your Name

posted November 26, 2008 at 12:40 am


Angled vision?



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