You can find the story and Anne Rice’s quote on Scot McKnight’s blog here. I’ll direct you there and not rehash the details, but I do want to address this for a moment if I may.
Anne Rice, author of Christ the Lord – who left the Church at 18 and returned when she almost died in 2005 – has renounced Christianity. But not Christ. She writes:
Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian”.
I’d like to ask Anne what she thinks it means to be a Christian? Heaven knows I’ve had a good mind to drop the label from time to time, be a crusader and come up with a new label. How about this one: “Christ follower”. I like it, except that it’s taken, the word which sums up that phrase is “Christian”. Nuts. Okay, let me think… da, dah. I have it, this one is original: “the Way”. That’s it. “I’m on the way” – I like it, except… [crap again], I just realized that it’s been done and it didn’t catch on. See, it turns out that when non-believers saw the lifestyle of the early believers they observed keenly, “those folks are following that Christ guy really closely with their lives. They are Christ-like. They are Christians”.
So again, what does it mean to “remain committed to Christ”. Does it mean he’s your buddy (see Imaginary Jesus) or your Lord. Anne Rice has written a book called Christ the Lord. I haven’t gotten around to reading it – it’s near the bottom of a long list of other titles on my agenda – but from the title I gather she would say that Jesus is her Lord. News flash – if he’s your Lord, you gotta kinda endeavor to do what he says. If she does that then – and here’s the scary thought – that makes her a Christian [crap times three].
So is he her Lord. On facebook she writes:
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.
Fair enough. I’m not going to go through each point to show how crudely put together that sentence is. I just want to say that if the historical Jesus – whom the scriptures reveal – is anti- any one of those points above, then is he still Rice’s Lord? Can anyone “remain committed to Christ” and yet still be “pro-” the things that Christ is “anti-“?
But when I read Anne Rice’s comments I actually feel sorry for her. Not in a pity sorta way. I mean, I actually relate with her. She writes that she does not want to…
… belong to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.
Neither do I. Paul saw the dangers which the Church was flirting with way back then: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Gal 5:15). But he did not conclude with “so leave the church and stop being Christian“. No, he followed that up with: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (vs. 16).
I think Rice’s assessment of the “church” – i.e. the visible gathering of the people of God – is accurate. I think there are a whole lot of reasons why the church is in the condition it is today (not least because we’re filling them with carnal people who think they’re “Christian”). I think Rice – a high profile author – is using her status as a way of communicating what so many people are feeling and experiencing. But – with all of her good intention – what she’s doing may cause more harm then good.
Christ never envisioned a “people of God” apart from “him” (cf. Matthew 16:18 with 1 Peter 2:5). There are no Lone Rangers “in Christ” (Hebrews 10:25). We cannot say to the Body, “I don’t need you”. We cannot decapitate the head from the body and still think we can “remain committed to Christ”. (Colossians 2:19).