Of the Head but not the Body: Anne Rice Renounces Christianity but not Christ

Derek Ouellette —  July 30, 2010

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).

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Josh

    Can someone renounce “the church” (i.e. institutional and historical forms): and still be a part of the Church? I would venture to say, yes… Is Anne in community with other individuals that are pursuing Christ? Then she is a part of the Church, regardless of whether she renounces the visible “church” or not.

    And if she was part of the Catholic church (particularly with the pedophile priest cover-up/scandal that they’re unable to deal with in a Christ-like way – in order to “save institutional face”), I’d be moving on from/renouncing my “Christianity” as well…

  • http://www.classicalchristianity.com MIke Spreng

    To be a Christian is to be a part of the Church, Christ’s body. The Church has always been filled with both wheat and Tares and will be until the end. There are good parishes all over the place, and as a capable person, she has no excuse. If she is so great a person then why doesn’t she use her greatness to help build the body of Christ. She does not believe in Christ if she truly belives what she is saying.

  • http://travelah.blogspot.com/ A.M. Mallett

    Ms. Rice’ particular problem is that she cannot bring herself to renounce the world that has made her famous and continues to heap accolades upon her. If she is not Christian and is uncomfortable with the orthodoxy of Christ, she is not of Christ yet this should have been apparent already.

  • Steve C

    Sounds like Anne wants to renounce the label of “Christian”. That shouldn’t be a problem because the term (originally used as a derisive term meaning “little Christ”) wasn’t coined until after the Bible was written.

    When a group of us were in Muslim villages in far eastern India, we avoided using the label “Christian” (because of the continuing connotation of the Crusades), but we were welcomed into dialogues with imams as “followers of Isa” or “followers of Jesus.”

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Steve, how could the term “Christian” not have been coined until after the bible was written when it is in the bible (Acts 11:26)? I understand the need to use another label for mission purposes, (that’s cool, by the way, that you went to a Muslim village to mission! :) )but I think we can agree that this is not the case here.

    I also don’t see the issue of “institutional” vs “Emergent/Coffee/House or otherwise” types of church. I used the term “visible” to include all the people of God (even the one’s who gather in coffee houses :) ) The problem is that Anne wants to completely break and disassociate herself with all the people of God. I don’t think this is possible while remaining “committed to Christ”, because to be committed to Christ means to be associated with his Body.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-26772-San-Francisco-Apologetics-Examiner~y2010m8d1-Anne-Rice--Possibly-I-still-belong-to-the-Body-of-Christ Maryann Spikes