Negatively Defining Christianity: the Apostasy of Anne Rice, Part I

I am not a fan of trumpeting when a famous person has become a Christian; at least, that is, when the famous person does not come to faith through reason. It is quite often the case that a famous person who has recently become Christian has a rather shallow faith -- a faith that is often little more than a whim. Such a person is the Matthew 13: 20-21 type of Christian, i.e., they initially receive the Word with joy, but their faith is shallow and flees when things get rocky. The famous person often reverts to their former life and hammers Christians and Christianity -- especially conservative Christianity.

One such example is Anne Rice. Her conversion to Christianity (specifically, Roman Catholicism) was commented upon on this very blog (here). But now, Ms. Rice has decided that while Jesus may be cool, Christians definitely are not. According to the Los Angeles Times' article entitled Anne Rice leaves Christianity after 'a kind of confusion, a toxic anger':

The author Anne Rice, best known for her vampire novels, made waves last week when she declared on her Facebook page that she had "quit being a Christian." Twelve years after her return to Catholicism, Rice said she still believed in God, but that, "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."

Wow, that's a lot of "anti-"s: anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-artificial birth control, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanism, anti-science, anti-life. The problem here is that she is seeing the positions held by the Roman Catholic church (many of which are held in common with conservative Christian churches) from the negative. From this viewpoint, Christianity is (hence, the Christians who practice these beliefs are) a long list of "anti-"s. But there are positive points for each of these "anti-" positions that she raises.

Are Christians anti-life? I am not even sure what she is referencing. If there is any group that is avidly pro-life it is conservative Christians.

Are Christians anti-science? As a friend of mine once commented in response to that accusation, "Sorry, can't comment right now. I am on my way to a Christian protest against the Law of Gravity. And later, we'll be having a sit-in at the Griffith Observatory in opposition to the General Theory of Relativity." Christians are not anti-science -- they believe strongly in science. Christianity was the basis for scientific inquiry. However, simply because some Christians seeing philosophical and factual problems with Darwinian evolution don't believe its claims with the same religious fervor as many in the scientific community, these Christians (including me) have been tattooed with the "hostile to science" label. Absurd.

Are Christian anti-Democrat? Not as a whole. Many Christians are Democrats. Still, I certainly agree that some conservative Christians are anti-Democrat, but that is driven by the fact that the Democratic party is largely opposed to conservative Christian views. The Democratic party is the main backer of such positions as abortion on demand and gay rights, while at the same time it favors suppressing the ability of Christians to practice their beliefs. This isn't a Biblical position, it is a position driven by the Democratic stands that are harmful to positions valued by conservative Christians.

Are Christians anti-Secular Humanism? I do agree that Christians have to be anti-Secular Humanism, but only as an intellectual position. After all, Secular Humanism's core belief is that there is no God. Thus, even Ms. Rice must be anti-Secular Humanist in this sense if she still, in fact, believes in a god of some type. That being said, being Christian does not mean that you must hate Secular Humanists or desire to cause them harm. It simply means that you cannot hold a Christian world view while holding a world view that agrees with the tenets of Secular Humanism.

Are Christians anti-artificial birth control? Generally, no. That is a doctrine more specific to the Roman Catholic Church than to conservative Christians generally. Thus, I will leave it to the Roman Catholic apologists to explain their position, but I will say I don't view their position as anti-artificial birth control as pro-trust in God.

Are Christians anti-feminist? No, conservative Christians believe in the equality of the sexes before God. Having said that, the Bible does (for conservative Christians) spell out certain roles that men and women should play in life if they are to meet their full potential and live a life most consistent with the way that God planned for happiness in marriage. In other words, men and women are of equal worth before God and deserve equal respect, but they are not the same.

Are Christians anti-gay? No, conservative Christians believe that God created man and woman to be partners and the optimum happiness in life comes from that coupling of man and woman through marriage. Homosexuality is a distortion of that intended relationship that has come through the Fall of man into sin. To that end, conservative Christians love our gay brothers and sisters, but cannot condone their sin by promoting it to an equal position with the man-woman marriage because that would be a lie.

But more importantly, there are a lot of other "anti-"s that Ms. Rice apparently forgot to mention. For example, Christianity is anti-poverty. I don't know why she didn't include that one on her list. Christianity is anti-hate, after all Jesus taught us to love our neighbors and even our enemies. Christianity is anti-hold-a-grudge, teaching Christians to forgive those who wrong them seventy-times-seven times.

Christianity, properly understood, is uplifting and values all humanity. It is positive in its approach always trying to make the world a better place by trying to move the world to being more consistent with the will of God as expressed in the Bible -- the God who is the source of all goodness. Christians believe that the highest good that can be reached on this planet comes from following God's precepts which have been set forth for our good.

With all due respect to Ms. Rice, that is anything but negative.


Metacrock said…
great to see you blogging again BK.
Jason Pratt said…
I suspect the "anti-feminist" thing is aimed at RCC strictures against how much authority a woman may hold in the church; strictures somewhat-to-largely paralleled in other conservative Christian denominations. Though it might (also?) be aimed at using masculine language to talk about God.

"Anti-life"? Almost sounds like parody, since she refuses to be anti-abortion or anti-birth-control. Moreover it's hard to be pro-gay while also being pro-life, insofar as homosexual behavior cannot result in new human life. But I suspect she's aiming at approval of just-war principles and the death penalty (although the Vatican has been stepping back pretty hard from even approving such things in principle, in recent years, if I recall correctly.)

If we go only by her rather ineptly phrased pronouncement, she just sounds confused. Or desperate for attention. It's hard to believe that she wasn't aware of all this before reconverting to Roman Catholicism (which is also the issue the interviewer first brings up, and which I don't think she addresses very well in the article--she acts like she really did discover that the RCC was largely against a lot of things she's in favor of, after she returned to it, although that begs the question of why she left in the first place.) I couldn't help but be suspicious at the time that her re-conversion was a marketing ploy to sell a couple of new books--an admittedly uncharitable suspicion, which I dutifully fought against in her favor.

Someone less lazy than I am will hopefully link to an official Anne Rice page (or fanpage? maybe her Facebook?) where she talks at more length about these things in her own words. The full four-page article from the LA Times can be found here (Bill linked to an excerpt of the first part of the review, reprinted by the Times afterward); it doesn't really address the issues raised by Bill, or by my comment, but it reads a lot better than her rather goofy sloganish rhetoric. In effect, she came to realize over a period of 12 years that she's a liberal Protestant Christian of some variety who doesn't much like denominations. No word there one what she considers to be true theological doctrines, or even what the "core teachings of Jesus" are. (I guess that's why she has a book on that subject. {lopsided g}) But she does at least sound like she's trying to follow Christ personally.

Ron said…
Personally, I feel for Anne Rice in that I've had trouble being a part of Christian groups in the past and it would fit my personality to just "follow Christ personally." However, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this is impossible. Christ founded a Church and that to be truly Christian one cannot shun community even if they tend towards introversion.
Tom said…
Your article contains a lot of 'buts' and 'excepts' after each point proclaiming that misogyny, patriarchy and homophobia aren't the major features of the church.

You also falsely claim that christianity was the basis for scientific inquiry, what rot. And you claim that christians are all for science, creationism, hello!

The Democrats do not favor suppressing the ability of christians to practice their beliefs. They are not in favor of everyone being forced to practice those beliefs, you know, theocracy.
Metacrock said…
Tom said:

Your article contains a lot of 'buts' and 'excepts' after each point proclaiming that misogyny, patriarchy and homophobia aren't the major features of the church.

It's not! get out of the hate group, get yourself deprogrammed and read a history book.

You also falsely claim that christianity was the basis for scientific inquiry, what rot. And you claim that christians are all for science, creationism, hello!

It was! I did my Ph.D. dissertation on that. it was. after you get de-programed and read a history book, take a course in history of ideas and study science.
Tom said…
What 'hate group', what a facile assertion - attack as defense eh? You're the one 'shouting'. It's the church which practices and preaches misogyny and homophobia.

If you really want to claim that christianity is the basis for scientific enquiry, where's your evidence?

How about you take a look at both history and the history of science.
Morrison said…
Tom, the work of Professor Stanley Jaki firmly demonstrated the growth of science as we know it was dependent on the Christian World View. Start with the wikipedia reference for Stanley Jaki for many sources on this if you are interested.

As to Anne Rise, it was most likely a publicity stunt to jump start sagging book sales.

Prediction: she will reoonsider her remarks, for another jump start, in less than a year.
Tom said…
Hm, we don't think he may have had a slightly biased viewpoint? Given his background I mean.

I'm sure the Egyptians, Greeks and others would be a little bit miffed to find christianity making such a claim - doesn't exactly sit with history.

I'll accede that christianity may have supported and indeed driven science for a two or three hundred year period. It certainly hasn't driven it for the past 100 or so. Nor did christianity even exist for the first two or three thousand years of scientific exploration and endeavor.

So all up, the influence of christianity on science is a mere blip on the time-line of history.

I don't care about Anne Rice, she is obviously befuddled to some extent.

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