Anne Rice uses Facebook to break up with Christianity

Anne Rice - author of massively popular vampire fare who recently turned her pen to the matter of religion - recently broke up with Christianity using Facebook, then clarified that it wasn't so much Christ himself as it is the incidentals; in other words, I love ya, Jesus, but your friends have gotta go.

On Wednesday, she wrote on her Facebook fan page:

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 outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

and, later on,

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.

She then clarified:

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.

Much commentary arising, of course, but the bulk of it only from between the time of her initial statements and the follow-on.

Getting to what he genuinely thought was the heart of the matter, one YouTuber asked whether the devil had stolen her heart, but he was the exception, as most people understood Rice's frustration and offered some interesting points of view.

Author Donald Miller:

I’ve certainly had the desire to disassociate from Christianity, mostly for the hyper-critical, hyper-judgmental persona the religion takes upon itself. More and more, it seems like a worldly religion. That said, though, I don’t know that publicly insulting and disassociating from a faith system as huge as Christianity and as diverse as Christianity is helpful.

USA Today said Rice's move was "a thinly veiled blast at the Catholic Church."

An enterprising person somewhere within the United Church of Christ created a Facebook page called "You'd like the UCC, Anne Rice" - and the basic idea was expounded upon by UCC bloggers like Tim Tutt, a pastor from Austin, TX.

[O]ur congregation is full of losers, maybe not as outlandish as [Flannery] O'Connor's characters, but full of people with questions about their faith, full of people who maybe didn't fit in other places, full of folks with troubles, pains and problems.

On the outside, we may look fairly well put together. But on the inside, I get the sense that some of our souls are as mysterious and shadowy as the characters in your books.

A lot of people in the church I serve would understand your leaving Christianity. What's so impressive about them is that they're always inviting others back in. Not so we can fill up the place (church growth is not always our best thing) and not so we can prove by numbers that we're right (we're no mega-church, and our doctrines may be a little squishy). No, I think the reason is that the best losers, the best quitters, the best failures care about other people in their losing, quitting and failing. Seems to me that's what Jesus was about.

What do you make of this? Or do you? Rice's fiction has made her the star of the niche she dominates, with many acolytes, and her ideas gain quick traction.

Comments (21)

I am becoming more and more impressed with the UCC lately. Not only do they take strong stands for inclusion and tolerance and intelligent faith, but they have become very good at using advertising, the internet and social media to spread this message.

There was a time when the Episcopal Church was the thinking person's church. I suspect that the UCC is going to take that mantle, now. We got a little distracted by the attacks paid for by billionaire Howard Ahmandon Jr and organized by the IRD. (which I am sure was the reason for those attacks)

Perhaps it is time that we rediscover some of the courage and mission that the UCC has been trying lately.

Dennis Roberts

I really don't who Anne Rice is other than from the kerfuffle this week. The UCC has taken the glass half full reaction. Taking my usual glass half full reaction, my view is that through their religious upbringing many Catholics turned off by their church still don't believe that other churches are true churches. Many Catholics do find the UCC and the Episcopalians of course. But there are a heart breaking number who are both sickened by the church of their birth but can't let go of the notion it's The Church Period.

Ms. Rice mistakes the institutional church for the Body of Christ, which is the people who fill the pews week in and week out.
And while I don't see how any intelligent faithful person could acknowledge much that is Godly among the leaders of Roman Catholicism at the moment, I do think that they are many faithful clergy and multitudes of faithful people who could be well served by Ms. Rice's advocacy within the RC community.

@ Michael - Not everyone chooses reform of the institutional church as their mission, nor should they. For some the best way they can communicate the need for reform is to vote with their feet -- even if it means leaving behind the many faithful clergy and laity. If Rice was expecting to be fed by the institution and not by the body of Christ in community (there are too many of those sorts of Christians in every church who don't get it), that's another matter.

@Dennis - There's nothing stopping anyone from taking the initiative and inviting Rice to The Episcopal Church, using words if necessary -- even Facebook. If she likes the Catholic church except for the things she lists, then her home is The Episcopal Church. But God help us if the invitation comes from the institution rather than from us.

I'm issuing a challenge today: We need to follow precisely John's counsel to Dennis in the message above.

Seriously: Can anyone do this by the end of the day and post a link to the new Facebook group back here? Then we could tell our friends. There could be a thousand members by the time the sun sets on Waikiki Beach tonight.

We could do something in the vein of "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You."

C'mon, folks!

Torey Lightcap

Dear Anne,

Yup, you are entirely correct-- if one thinks "Christianity" means "Roman Catholic Church."

Now that you have shed the burden of the hierarchy, maybe you should look around. There are lots of Christians in communities that have moved beyond the Roman boundaries.

FWIW
jimB
[Jim Beyer - added by ed.]

I'm not so interested in whether or not we copy the UCC and invite Ms Rice. (I hope that no one does that because it is starting to look like all we can do online is to try to copy their inventive and thoughtful approaches.)

I AM interested to see if we can recover the spirit of being a voice for intelligent faith. And whether we can make that voice heard in the new media.

We can't just copy the UCC. Episcopal facebook groups that copy UCC facebook groups and Episcopal facebook ads that copy UCC facebook ads aren't what we need.

What we need is to rediscover that mindset in ourselves once again. There was a time when Episcopal churches ran ads advising that "if all you want is hell fire and brimstone, burn this ad." When John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg books were freely discussed in parish hall reading groups and sermons mentioned the Jesus Seminar and we pushed the boundaries. (not saying that is what we have to do now - please note that those are just examples, note the word examples, of the inquisitive and exploratory world that only 15 years ago was found in Episcopal Churches) Now too many on the left of the Episcopal Church are afraid that something will wind up as an "issue" over at "Virtue" Online or Standfirm and someone will call the risk-aversive bishop. Our church is scarred from too many years of debate and is now leery of controversy.

We have become like this current administration: twitchy about taking stands and finding new ways to reach out.

In praising the UCC I don't want to see us copy their recent efforts. I hope that no one actually creates a copycat site on Facebook inviting Anne Rice to become one of us. Let's find our own way to become, once again, known for being the thinking person's church.

Dennis Roberts

As a new seminary student (at GTS, an Episcopal seminary) and UCC member (at Broadway UCC, NYC), I'm just getting acquainted with Episcopal Cafe, and find this most recent exchange prompted by Ann Rice's disaffection with Christianity, quite interesting. Also, working in academia, I understand Ms. Rice's "break" because it's familiar; I have many esteemed colleagues with similarly skeptical views. I appreciated her distinction between Christ and his followers, although I agree with Mr. Miller's concern that it seemed unwise to castigate an entire religion (and by extension ALL of its followers), so complex and diversified. Then came Pastor Tutt's response, which resonated with me entirey as a UCC member (although, I question whether he included himself in that community of "losers"). I undersstand fully that he, ultimately, meant to compliment his congregation with that term, but considering its perjorative weight, I am merely concerned that it could mislead. My UCC congregation, too, is paradoxically unified in its brokenness--but I consider each member of my church, including each minister, to have strength and beauty, because of an honesty we share despite our human failings--something we ALL HUMANS (parishoners and clergy across & outside of denominations) SHARE. It is that honest acceptance of one another that makes us unified despite differences. But "losers" is a hefty term and, for me, it connotes failure and despair. It doesn't sound like your congregation is in despair, Rev. Tutt--anymore than our vibrant community is in NYC. But to return to your point--and I echo it--I see many assets in both the UCC and the Episcopal Church--Christ's work for a more loving and just human community--that Ms.Rice would undoubtedly support. With more coalition building between these Churches--and others with similar ethics, I hope we reach skeptics like Ms. Rice--starting by bringing Christ's love back into the ever-controversial business of Christianity. love, peace, joy -- Susan Cushman

Mr. Roberts, I appreciate your view. However, if we share common goals of wanting to perpetuate a socially just and progressive Christianity, especially with disbelievers or those disenchanted with "the Church" at large, it seems we need more than ONE "thinking person's" church. Believe me, I don't write this with belligerence, but with care and kindness. So, maybe the more challenging question arising from this Anne Rice exchange is: how do we (liberal, socially progressive churches--across denominations) reconcile our shared goals as Christians with our singular goals as separate denominations. It's a big, baggy, challenging question, I realize; but I've often wished that the Religious Left was as united as the Religious Right -- united, not necessarily in our liturgy--for there is beauty and intrigue in our diversity--but unified in the media to curb the swelling tide of atheism. I appreciate your views, and look forward to reading them again. Kind regards,

Susan Cushman

Dear Anne,

I felt the same as you. Then I found the Episcopal Church. I highly recommend it.

Joe Brewer

Dennis, as the Cafe's Social Media Strategist, I'd like to believe that our effort will substantively differ from the UCC one. I had the idea to create this page when the news first broke, but haven't had time. Torey's call for it upped the ante.

I don't think that we're competing with the UCC for Anne Rice's spiritual affection. For one, we're not telling her she'd like us--we don't know that, but we welcome her anyway.

I hope our page will be a place that people can discuss how they came to us from other denominations and traditions. It's not about attracting a big name to our church; it's about underscoring the issues she brings to the table and giving us a place to explore our own journeys as we've faced those issues.

So, Dennis, the Episcopal Church Welcomes Anne Rice Page on Facebook welcomes you. :D

perhaps I'm the only one who thinks that, after years of being pounded by the religious right, the Episcopal Church seems a little less daring, a little less willing to push and to question, and that this is hurting our efforts to reach out with what is distinctive about our church.

Perhaps this thread, focused on the comments of the writer Anne Rice, wasn't the best place to raise the issue, either.

Sorry. My whole point had absolutely -nothing- to do with Ms Rice and was only an observation that I wished to see more creativity and daring in our church once again.

Dennis Roberts

No apologies needed, Dennis. You have a point, although I'm seeing some green shoots lately both in communications realm of the institution, and in pushing social issues regardless of threats.

I recall Bruce Springsteen saying somewhere, in an interview or a live recording, something like, if you have been Catholic there ain't no getting out. A number of his songs have very compelling sustained metaphors drawn from Catholic culture. Listen, for example, to "I'll Work For Your Love" on "Magic". Sensuality drawn from Catholic experience that ironically reconnects passion with passion. Ms. Rice is an accomplished writer. My prayer for her is not that she catch a slogan from another denomination, Episcopal or otherwise, but that she will write stories that help us all deal with the latent or crystallized frustration that most of us have with institutional imperial Christianity in all its varied forms--and the way it can suck the life blood out of us at times. It may be that this is her cross to bear, and we can find some vicarious redemption in her very public willingness to carry it.

Thanks, Torey, and others here at Episcopal Cafe for setting the table for conversation and inviting us all (Anne Rice et al) to sit a spell.

Despite my invitation (which Ms Rice responded to as "generous"), she did not join us for worship at United Christian Church in Austin. Alas. There's always next Sunday.

I'm joking (sort of) about her showing up, because Dennis' comments are spot on: "It's not about attracting a big name to our church; it's about underscoring the issues she brings to the table and giving us a place to explore our own journeys as we've faced those issues."

And to my UCC colleague, Susan Cushman, yes, I certainly would include myself in the company of losers, or perhaps better, would-be losers. I work daily to lose myself through humility, but I'm not very good at it. I thought my use of the words "we" and "our" on my blog made my identification with the losers clear.

And you're right, the term "loser" is weighted. I used it, in part, to describe Jesus and the church because it is provocative, maybe even shocking. In a prosperity-gospel culture, to follow and identify with a "loser" is radical subversive.

I also used the word "loser" because in Ms Rice's original Facebook post, she termed herself a failure. I was trying to say, Yep, that's what the church is about: failures.

And, to bring this full circle (Episcopalians "copying" the UCC, etc.), I actually borrowed the "loser" terminology from the Episcopalians. There is a little ditty attributed to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Western Diocese of Louisiana. It's a tongue-in-cheek list of signs of a healthy church. It talks about worn-out prayer books, a choir full of amateurs, and crowded coffee hour. The list concludes with: "The place is full of losers: people who have lost loved ones, people who know they can't make it on their own; people who are losing, but also finding their lives in receiving and giving a lot of love, for Christ's sake."

No offense to the UCC (which is awesome), but for a former (and cradle) Roman for whom blood drinking is a major theme in her life, sacramentally-emphasizing TEC ("Join us in Drinking Jesus's Blood every Sunday!") would seem a better fit.

[That said, I no more care if Anne Rice joins us, than does any OTHER infinitely-precious Imago Dei. It's all good.]

JC Fisher

I've broken up with Christianity a million times now.

It's completely normal....

Anne Rice was interviewed yesterday by NPR. You can read the interview or listen to it here.

Oops. In my earlier post, I attributed Helen's quote above to Dennis. Sorry, Helen.

It was actually Helen who said, "It's not about attracting a big name to our church; it's about underscoring the issues she brings to the table and giving us a place to explore our own journeys as we've faced those issues."

As I've thought more about this (beyond Ms Rice "leaving" church) and read the posts here and on my own blog and in other places, it seems like there is a subcurrent of competition among churches / denominations / traditions.

No one wants to be a loser. Some of Ms Rice's critics want to point out that she is wrong to leave the church. Her own comments were in opposition to those who are anti certain causes (and therefore want to assume positions of power / winning.) And honestly, maybe there's little bit of that here -- the UCC is this, the Episcopal Church is that, the catholic church is thus, we need to do this to attract that person, etc.

Perhaps I am projecting my own issues of competition onto this discussion. After all, what pastor doesn't worry about attendance numbers, budget numbers, etc.?

So, some questions: Are we competitive? Can we choose the path of loosing / failing? Do others wonder about these things?

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