“Why I am quitting Christianity”

Most of us heard the news, last week, that Author Anne Rice has publicly rejected her association with “Christianity” (the organization) on her facebook fan page.  She remains a dedicated follower of Jesus but says she can no longer be associated with the people and beliefs that have caused her a lot of “toxic confusion and toxic anger”.   Anne is a prolific author and most known for writing the book “Interview With a Vampire”.   Although I have never read any of Anne’s books (just not into the whole vampire thing) I became a fan of Anne last year when I saw her “I am Second” testimony, which I have included for you below.

Listen, as a person who has worked for the Church for over a decade I completely understand WHY she wants to stop being associated with Christianity.  I get it. Really, I get it. If you have time to listen to the interview she does with Joy Behar, which I have also posted for you below, you can hear the pain and frustration in her voice.  The Church, at times, can be a messy and painful place. Even though we, the Church, are called to be “The Bride of Christ” sometimes we act more like the proverbial evil mother in law.  However, for many reasons, I don’t think quitting Christianity is the right answer. But, that’s not what I want to talk about this morning.

Here is what anyone has failed to say in any of the blogs I have read on this subject. This happens all the time! Anne represents just a small fragment of our population that have, for all intents and purposes, quit “Christianity”.   Anne represents, in my opinion, the tip of the iceberg, of the people that “practically” quit Christianity everyday.  Now, I don’t mean that they post it on their facebook walls or even tell a single soul about it, they just stop coming to places where Christians are.  They stop coming to Church, small groups and even Chick-Fil-A (Joke). And, I am not talking right and wrong here either, I am just talking about the reality of the volatile religious culture we live in.  As believers we are called to be “Salt and Light” to the world (not just to the Christians that hold the same view as we do about _________).  We are supposed to be the, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “God flavoring” to the world. How can we possibly be the “God Flavoring” to the world if we don’t even like each other? So, my challenge to you this morning is to handle each other with care, love and respect, irrespective of a person’s belief on ___________ (fill in a hot button topic here).

I really want to know what you think about this whole thing. Seriously, it’s why I am writing about it.  I love our little tribe here, at The Ordained Barista, and I really want to know what you think about this!  Have you ever wanted to disassociate yourself with Christians or Christianity? If you have time to watch these videos I think they are really telling.  As always, if you would like to receive this blog directly to your RSS reader or email please subscribe today!

Be Sociable, Share!
  • http://www.lifeistheologia.blogspot.com David Feiser

    Great post, Barry. And I agree with your thoughts. It speaks to both pastors and people. Pastors are not preaching a vision of God’s Church, nor are they proclaiming the Word of God. People have bought into a consumeristic vision of the local church, and an institutional vision as well. We don’t hear about how our salvation is a tension of individual AND communal, an organic understanding. We don’t unpack what it means to be Christ’s body. We live out of a simplistic concept of love, and we don’t know what it is until we ourselves aren’t experiencing it within the church. We define discipleship by external behavior patterns and/or theological litmus tests than whether or not a person is conforming to Christ, whether their lives are showing forth the fruit of the Spirit of God. Ms. Rice is sincere, but her actions portray the same over-simplificaiton of the Church as what she criticizes. She hurts. But is it God’s love that causes her to hurt, or her own idea of love? If God has not given up on the Church (church), than as painful as it is, we cannot either. Yes, to the person who is hurting, who has been hurt by the unhealthy local church, please, prayerfully consider leaving that place and go find a healthier body to which to belong. But we should not interpret someone’s (anyone’s) public renouncing of the faith as noble. Not that you’re suggesting that at all! It seems that such renouncement makes me wonder whether A) their profession of faith was real to begin with, or B) they have a maturity of faith to truly understand what they are doing. We need to teach people they can’t just love Jesus and hate the Church … it’s a logical contradiction … it’s a form of self-hatred. If we are in Christ, we are in Christ’s body. This is an issue I am working through on a number of levels. I have worked in the Church pretty much my entire adult life, and am saddened at hearing of people who have left churches and sworn never to enter one again. The question is two-fold: how do we correct the problems they speak to in a way that is biblical and God-glorifiying, and how do we correct their poor “theology” while at the same time taking their feelings and thoughts seriously?

    Just some thoughts to start the ball rolling. Thanks again. His Grace and peace to you and your fam!

  • Carl

    @ Barista and David,

    Barista said:
    “The Church, at times, can be a messy and painful place. Even though we, the Church, are called to be “The Bride of Christ” sometimes we act more like the proverbial evil mother in law. However, for many reasons, I don’t think quitting Christianity is the right answer.”

    David said:
    “Pastors are not preaching a vision of God’s Church, nor are they proclaiming the Word of God. People have bought into a consumeristic vision of the local church, and an institutional vision as well. We don’t hear about how our salvation is a tension of individual AND communal, an organic understanding. We don’t unpack what it means to be Christ’s body. . . . . . Yes, to the person who is hurting, who has been hurt by the unhealthy local church, please, prayerfully consider leaving that place and go find a healthier body to which to belong”

    I agree with and appreciate very much of what both of you have said here, but there seems to me to be a subjective “elephant in the room” entrenched within both of your comments which undermines the
    overall point you apparently intend to make, which I take loosley to be that “just because Christians within “the Church” behave badly, a person ought not give up on, or separate from, “the Church”

    Here is the problem: who gets to define “what” or “where” something called “the Church” is or can be found? Barister said “the Church can be messy . . but I don’t think quitting Christianity is the right answer”. Surely, you do not mean that the Church just is Christianity? That definition would be so broad as to entail that Anne Rice is very much still in “the Church” to the degree that she understands herself to still embrace the teaching of Jesus as disctinct from the behavior of His followers. I am sure you do not mean to imply this; but then the question remains “what” and “where” is “the Church” and who gets to make that determination?

    David said “People have bought into a consumeristic vision of the local church, and an institutional vision as well . . . We don’t unpack what it means to be Christ’s body”. Well, some people (say non-denominational evangelicals) think that something like a “consumerist” vision of “the Church” is entirely to be expected and scriptural to boot; others (say Catholics) say that God gave “the Church” a necessarily institutional dimension (though also a spiritual and mystical) in order to lift the problem of identifying “the Church” out of the realm of individual subjectivity. Such persons would, again, make a scriptural defense (and in this case a historical defense) of their view. You seem to be proposing some middle way between these two, but (and I mean this charitably) what puts you or me or Barista or anyone else in an authoritative position from which we can define this illusive middle ground? Yes, perhaps “We don’t unpack what it means to be Christ’s body”; but what gives us the right to be the “unpackers” and why should anyone acknowledge our authority to do such unpacking?

    By leaving “the Church” either “invisible” or “historically vaugue”, the very idea of “the Church” and, how important it is not to abandon her, becomes practically meaningless. Here are an additional set of questions to spur discussion based on the following comment made by Daivd:

    “Yes, to the person who is hurting, who has been hurt by the unhealthy local church, please, prayerfully consider leaving that place and go find a healthier body to which to belong”

    Questions:
    1.) Is “the Church” the same as the aggregation of all “local churches” regardless of confessional committment or level of pastoral integrity or care? If so, what puts a person in a position to define “the Church” established by Christ, in such an amalgamated way – itself a confessional assumption for which one might inquire as to the authority upon which such a declaration is made?

    2.) If not every local church whatever, what confessional commitments (or other factors – say pastoral etc.) are necessary for a local church to be part of “the Church”? Who decides this question and on what authority? Even if there were a universally agreed upon set of “foundationally basic confessional commitments or pastoral attributes” (which there clearly is not); who has the authority to determine whether any local church is being faithfull to such commitments at any given time, so as not to be excluded from “the Church”?

    3.) Question two in many ways amounts to the same thing; but what constitutes a “healthy” local church? Who decides this constitution as well as a given local church’s sufficient approximation to the same?

    4.) Closely related to 3, if it is ok to switch local churches (assuming at least some subset thereof is coextensive with “the Church”) because one local church is less healthy than another, is it okay to leave “the Church” if it should aggregately become “unhealthy”. I mean is “the Church” the sort of thing that we can cling to or reject based on our percieved state of “the Church’s” aggregate health? If yes, then again “what” identifies “the Church” and who has the authority to determine whether her health has deteriorated to a point where one is justified in leaving her? If no, then what was the Reformation all about? Doctrine? (But that begs the question of who and on what authority orthodoxy is distinguished from hetrodoxy – a similar problem for a later day perhaps)

    Without dealing squarely with the identity of something called “the Church”, or with the problem of what widely recognized authority might serve as the basis for making such a determination; I really think the heartfelt call to people like Anne Rice to return to something called “the Church” will simply fall on deaf ears. Anne Rice says she is quitting “Christianity” (by which she presumably means Christians and their various communal manifestations); she rejects the idea that she is quitting Christ (in fact, she says she is serving Him by quitting Christianity). Of course, her wholesale rejection of Christian communities seems to be an act of egotism disguised as fidelity to Christ. But whether that is true or not; so long as she claims to be serving Christ along with other dissaffected people; who is to say that she and other likeminded friends do not constitute yet another “church” – the church of the anti-church? They presumably get together from time to time, they may even pray for each other, they all claim to be “following Christ”? Unless someone can authoritatively point to what a church (or “the Church”) IS, I suspect people like Anne might defend their current position in a way similar to the way I have just suggested – all the while pointing out that the evident conflict concerning the identity of “the Church” among christians is yet another example of just what is wrong with Christianity. I look forward to any insights you might have as to how this problem might be resolved – assuming you think it is a problem.

    Sincerely,

    Carl

  • The Ordained Barista

    Carl,
    Fantastic comments! You are going to need to give me a little time to “thoughtfully” comment back on your insight! Great questions and requests for much needed distinctions!
    The Ordained Barista

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/28199562@N02/ tony babcock

    Another gem of a post Barry!!

    All I can say is my own experience mirrors some of this. I know growing up I had a very strong faith in God and went to church all of the time. As a teenager was exposed to Young Life and a few other very positive experiences. Was rescued during senior week by Barry himself and was shown a great example of living a Godly life. To which I owe you a very humble thank you Barry. This would play out later in life to be one of several shining examples that would bring me back so to speak.
    I had several bad experiences “in the church” and instead of deciding to change churches, I thought that I could do it on my own. This was met with disastrous results. For the next several years began a very subtle slow fade. I will spare the readers of this blog the long nasty details. But the once again my heart was right but my flesh was very weak. I have learned that if I sit in a barbershop long enough I will end up getting a hair cut. When I was with those who were not practicing a godly life it was only a matter of time before I was just like them. I thank God for his grace and forgiveness. My experience has taught me that I can go to another church or seek out those that can help me but by no means can I leave Christianity … or however you want to label it if you can. It is now a part of who I am, and changing all of the time as I learn more

  • Carl

    @Barista,

    Take all the time you need. Also, I did not mean to present my questions as something you personally need to taken on as a burden of formal resolution. These are difficult questions in a post-Reformation world. Still, I think they are crucially important and I would be greatly interested in your thoughts and the thoughts of others in an effort to clarify such a dilemma.

  • John

    I can’t remember which book, but in one of the Phillip Yancey books, he recalls being on an airplane seated next to a woman who had a similiar view about Christians and was vocal about it. She told him that the problem she had with the Church was there were so may hippocrites in it. Yancy told her “You have no idea how bad it is”! I don’t think being associated with other Christians is something we do because it is always pleasant (although my best spiritual moments have been something shared with other believers) but something we do becasue we are following Christ and his teachings. He calls us to be part of the body because we need to pursue him with others as a group, not as the Lone Ranger (even he had Tonto). I respect how Anne Rice feels (and I’m not into Vampires either but she is a tremendous author) and I think th emore you become involved in a Church the more you are tempted to feel that way. I am unintentionally borrowing this without attribution, but the Church isn’t a museum of saints but a hospital full of sinners. When we remember that and the grace the Lord has shown us then we can begin to be pieces of the body. It is hard in the midst of the spiritual battle life is but it is also part of the picking up the cross daily we are called to do. It is always important to remember that being (or claiming to be) a Christian makes us no better of a person as well as it makes our neighbor no better to do the same. My only prayer for Anne and all of us is we find a close group of believers to help us on our faith journey, and also to support us when others with a Christian moniker (or God forbid us) don’t reflect his love in how we live our lives.

  • http://visualperceptions.biz Elaine Babcock

    Wow I really got kinda lost in all the dogma and until this moment and reading some of the above posts I really had no idea what that word meant.

    I listened to Ms. Rice and I think that it might have been missed when she mentioned that she was Catholic. It was in passing and quite quietly spoken when Joy Behar was interviewing her. When I heard those words I could more understand why she might feel the hurt and disallusionment towards “the church”.

    I myself am a “recovering Catholic” :) Does this mean that I feel the Catholic religion is bad, does it mean that I would not ever step foot in another Catholic Church again and does it mean that I won’t defend some of the beliefs of the Catholic Church just because I attend a non-denominational Christian church now? No, not in the least, but it does help me to understand how Ms. Rice might possibly be feeling. I myself never felt like participating in the Catholic religion fit for me. I only ever felt really comfortable in one Catholic Church and that is the one that Tony and I married in, and it was a Ukranian Church. If I am honest with myself there is not one specific glaring thing that had me turning away from what I had been taught and learned from birth, it was a multitude of little things that made me “squirm in my pew”. I think that Ms. Rice is caught up in the fact that in the Catholic religion the Jesus loved the sinner hated the sin was not something that was stressed…it was more of a “ifn you ain’t with us you be agin us” type mentality. So apply that type of thought process to homosexuals, women and anything else that has become a fad or a “movement” within the last 35 years. Those things along with the fact that one is not encouraged to “study” the Bible, but is told with each passing mass what was said/read in each Gospel and that is the final word, would you be comfortable with that?

    I feel for Ms Rice in that she felt she had to take such a drastic step for herself to “leave the church.” But I think if she really listened to what she was saying it is that she does not feel she “fits” with what she has been taught all those years and with getting bombarded with all the, “well come to MY church we do it differently” and possibly meeting other Christians whom have the very bad habit of talking the talk, but not walking the walk and being humbled when in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I don’t think her declaration might have been so broad and made such a splash in the media.

    So many people are just looking for an excuse to not worship God, or to justify bad behavior that when a “celebrity” of sorts gives them that out, they breathe a sigh of relief and say, “See I told you God wasn’t listening.”

  • David Feiser

    Carl, et. al –

    Great questions. Like Barry, I will more thoughtfully respond when I have a chance, … or if I don’t forget ;)

    Short-hand answer(s): I think there’s a real cultural hubris to Americans, where many have taken it on for themselves to define not only what the Church (the Great Church or local church), as well as what constitutes everything from what is Christianity, to what is right, orthodox doctrine for themselves. That being the case, we have to first and foremost consider that the church is not some volunteer organization. There is something of a mystical dynamic to it, whereby, when we profess faith in Christ, we are transformed and being transformed (that is, we are saved and we are being saved). The question is, to what? Are we saved for own individualism, or to something much bigger, much greater? Scripture gives us a strong sense of both an individual and corporate dynamic, from the OT through the NT. How do we define being a Christian, if not as a follower of Christ, a member (in the sense of a living organism) of the body of Christ, the Church, which is both catholic and local, transcending time and space (for the saints, the holy and faithful ones who have gone before us, are worshipping God even as we explore this topic). One cannot be a member of Christ’s body, and quit the Church. At the same time, there is an institutional dynamic to the Church (catholic and local), and it is not the creation of the RCC, in spite of what some conspiracy thinkers would say. We see it early on in Acts, as well as some of the pastoral epistles, where the deacons are created to minister to the needs of the widows so that the apostles can continue the ministry of the Word; also Paul’s comments to Timothy on qualifications on being a deacon or pastor. To act as if institutionalism is some sort of medieval or modern contraption forced on the church so that a few may have authority over the many is nonsensical and not worth any more mention. Authority is not in and of itself wrong or sin. But this goes in a different direction … All this is to say is that much of the questions are not nice, neat, black & white answers. Rather, the answers are found in the tension between here and there. The Church is not some modernist problem awaiting a post-modern solution.

    There are “unhealthy” churches and there are “unhealthy” churches … by one I might suggest a local church, or denomination, that has drifted or purposefully moved away from the biblical, historic faith, while by another I might say a local church whose “theology” is correct, but live out of a disconnect between how they live/act and what they say they believe. By a healthier church, I mean a local church that doesn’t promote either. One of the struggles is that none of us should forget that but for the grace of God go we. This is not, however, a sanction for living in such a way that ends up offending the very God we say we profess faith in (ala Liberalism and some post-modern theologies).

    Definitions are required, as you suggest Carl, for “Church/church”, “Christian”, “Christianity”, as well as how they all relate to one another. We can say something to the effect that Christianity doesn’t save, only Jesus does … and we are absolutely correct. Here we are not equating Christianity with Christ, but perhaps as a label for that set of teachings properly associated with and pointing to Christ. But is there a connection between “Christianity” and “Christian”? or “Christianity” and “Church/church”?

    Let me move beyond these terms and make what I hope is a salient point to the original discussion: it seems Anne Rice, and those people who make similar protests, are perhaps confusing their terms. So a question to Anne, et. al.: are you rejecting Christianity, as the correct set of determinative beliefs and doctrines about God, Church, Faith, Sin, etc., or are you rejecting the Church/church, that catholic and local body of Christ of whom every member is a hypocrite, whether they remember it or not?

    Without a great deal of thought beyond just sitting here and responding, I think choosing to say ‘yes’ to either is problematic. First, to reject Christianity, in this vein, is to reject the historic faith, and to de facto redefine what Jesus really meant. It is to say that there is no such thing as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as well as to suggest that rather than trusting in the God who reveals, one believes that the Church/church has merely been inventing it’s own tripe in some “Da Vinci Code-esque” manner. Second, to reject the Church/church is to reject Christ. I believe it was Cyril who wrote something to the effect, ‘he who has not the Church as mother has not God as Father’. I’m not suggesting the Church as purely an institutional organization, but again, as the body of Christ. Per Paul, how can the hand say to the body, I don’t need you? Anne Rice, along with the rest of us, fails to grasp how wide, how high, how great is the love of God for us in Christ Jesus. This is a love that covers over a multitude of sins. This love is patient, and kind, not gloating. This love is who God is. But it’s not a mushy, stay-as-you-are love, which is no kind of love at all but more like a self-centered love. The danger here is to turn this issue into a philosophical, theoretical issue rather than a biblical one – and Carl, forgive me, I’m not suggesting you are by virtue of your questions – but by placing it on that level, we protect ourselves from having to commit ourselves to Christ and die to self.

    Clearly, first and foremost, as Christians, “quitting” the Church or Christianity, whichever anyone means, is not an option for any who say Jesus is Lord.

    That’s just off the cuff. I’ll try to respond to Carl’s questions at a later point.

    Pax Nabisco (Peace of the Cookie)!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/28199562@N02/ tony babcock

    The point was made a lot more eloquently by others but if I sort through all of the posts here … doesn’t it all come down to fellowship? Without fellowship with other believers or people walking the walk and really living in it, I myself am lost. Sure I can sit with my bible and read and study which I do now. I tend to get stuck on scripture and jammed up sometimes on things. I personally need that fellowship to help guide me to be more like Jesus’ example he set before me. I also need that fellowship to correct me when I am in sin or doing wrong. My current “church” does that for me. The pastor of my church teaches strait from the scriptures and makes it easy for me to understand it. I have no formal education really and need that teaching. For me to turn my back on it as a whole would limit and hinder me greatly! All of the churches I have been to have their hypocrites and people who compartmentalize their lives. They are one person at work and another at church and another at home. I still say if you want the best example of a hypocrite go to ANY church. But I will not let those people effect who I am striving to be more like. I will not let them drive me out either. I feel if Anne Rice spent less time taking other peoples inventory and took her own inventory, she would come to the same conclusion I came too, when I did the same thing. I need, and thankfully have, FELLOWSHIP!

  • Jill Hicks

    Good evening to all,
    I must admit that I agree with much of what Anne is saying in her interview on quitting Christianity. The organized church, especially as represented and demonstrated by the far right, has not shown compassion and inclusivity. Rather, they have been working very hard to make Christianity a “private club.” Ironically, many times they stand in direct contrast to the parables of Jesus. I guess I am not leaving the faith, rather, I am leaving the far right, which by the way, I believe to be a minority… they just attract a lot of media attention.

  • http://visualperceptions.biz Elaine Babcock

    Boy I thought that this might have ended earlier, but I see it still has life.

    @Jill-I suppose we are to assume that you stand on the left side of the fence when it comes to social policy within our lives? Which on face value is fine if that is the way that we were intended to live our lives. There are many ideas and ideals that lie within Christianity that make me a tad uncomfortable, but sometimes following the path that we are supposed to as opposed to the one we WANT is not comfortable. You are lumping many many people into one group for the sake of your argument without really thinking what you are saying first. The “far right” does not have a lock on Christianity, but a majority (meaning not EVERYONE but most) do follow the precepts that were set forth within the Word. If that makes those of us who try to be what God intended and what Jesus died for wrong, then I say let’s see who gets to heaven first.

    Now, as for the rest of what has been discussed…..I still see the point being missed. Ms. Rice is leaving Christianity for some very important reasons, hers. We can all sit here and discuss what dogma fits the situation and impress those who have made their lives a study of the Bible and that precepts of the Church, but we still would be missing what appears to be a neon sign to me…..we need to love and encourage people like Ms. Rice back to the path she was on and to what God originally intended for her life. Honestly, if I were her and had come here and read what has mostly been posted I might be tempted to point a finger and say, “This is exactly why I am denouncing Christianity and leaving the church.” Some of what has been posted would normally be way over the heads of a general conscensus of Christians and many would get lost along the way. It’s almost like starting off reading The Living Bible and having to now read and study the Original KJV…..going from plain old American to the Queen’s English.

    To me if put in it’s most basic terms Ms. Rice is leaving the church because of principles AND personalities.

  • http://TheOrdainedBarista Scott Pollock

    Some come and stay for a long time. Some come and go. Others just visit. Still others figure out how to live without the church and swing by now and then. Some have never stop by the church.
    Miss. Rice will be back. I hope that she makes the same splash when she announces that she is back. She is on a search. I wish everyone would search like Miss. Rice. She is not lukewarm…
    The church is not going anywhere. It is gift from the Father to us. I’m sure we have not used this gift exactly how the Father wanted us too; but He is still in control and the Bride is going nowhere. We/Us will come and go but the Church, big “C”, is going to be around until the Father says so.