A number of years ago, Anne Rice, author of Interview with The Vampire and other books, became a Christian. For her it was a rediscovery of a childhood faith. The writer of numerous books of erotica and dark, occult fiction had found a home again in the Catholic church. But, apparently a short-lived home.
She's now renouncing Christianity.
She said on Facebook recently:
"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."
When I read this, I knew that
a. A lot of "anti-institutional", free-range Christians would applaud
b. Anne was missing the same point many of them do.
In one sense, I'm glad Anne can distinguish between Religion and Jesus. Those two things need to be disconnected. But in another sense, I'm saddened that she's trying to disconnect Jesus from His Body, because those two things never are.
I want to have grace for Anne and I certainly wish her well. I hope she does remain committed to Jesus. But, in thinking about this, I can't help but think that yes- It would be wonderful if all of our families, groups, networks never had disagreements or problems- if all the folks in them were just as we wished them... but then how would we grow? Where would be the opportunity to grow in patience, forgiveness, love? To opt out on account of the difficulty in a community is to miss both the point of the difficulty AND the community- especially in a redemptive community.
What is Jesus trying to do in the world? Get individual butts through the goal posts of heaven? Or create a redeemed community to live in a renewed creation in relationship with the One who saved them? The point of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus isn't so much "me" as it is WE. And WE are a people in process.
Of course there are hypocrites and hostile people in the church... because there are people in the church. People on a long journey towards Christlikeness.
In some ways, when I read Anne's statement I think about someone looking at an elementary school and saying "I can't have anything to do with you people because you don't know astrophysics and advanced calculus."
Jesus calls sinners into the community He's creating, and all who hear and answer that call are in varying states of growth and character-change. To expect maturity the moment everyone walks in the door is both unreasonable and lacking in the very grace Anne seems to want the church to show to others.
"Quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious"... Well, what else could anyone expect? Did we not hear Jesus when He said, "I come to call sinners, not the righteous?" Did we think He was kidding?
Our job is to follow Him along side and as a part of the Community He is creating. And being thankful for the grace He daily shows us in our "in-processness" means showing that grace to others as well. Even others "in" the church. Because to love Jesus is to love the people He loves- both the "lost sheep" and the "found Bride" that He is in the process of making beautiful.
Grace on our part looks like trying not to be upset that He's still got a ways to go.