Dear Anne Rice

“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.” (From Anne Rice’s Facebook page)

Dear Ms Rice,

One of the qualities I love about you is your transparency. I’ve enjoyed a couple of your novels. Your testimony of conversion to Christ is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. Thank you for leading with your heart, and not hiding your truth.

I understand the temptation to call it quits on the church — the collected people of God. As a Dad with two kids, I understand the feeling of utter exasperation at their squabbles. God’s people have been at each other for two thousand years.

It’s frustrating.

But as your brother in Christ, I’d like to respectfully ask you to reconsider. I’d like to invite you to chalk up your “I quit” remarks to a person having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day… learn from it, and move on.  Much like an alienated daughter returning cautiously to Thanksgiving dinner with the dysfunctional family.

Please consider two central reasons to stay in community with the living, tarnished saints:

1. Jesus hasn’t quit being our Savior.

In your conversion story, you write, “I believe in what we celebrate this week: the scandal of the cross and the miracle of the Resurrection. My belief is total.” That scandalous cross wiped clean the spotty record of every child of God, both of us included. He erased our sins, once for all, and sat down at the right hand of God.

Anne, when you quit on Christians, don’t you a little bit quit on Christ? Don’t you spotlight sins he has forgiven? …sins heaven has forgotten?  Yes, they are all too real to us. But hasn’t God revealed his limitless forgiveness?

  • As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:12, NKJV).
  • Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. (Micah 7:18, NKJV).
  • He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19, NKJV).

When Jesus hung on that cross, he effected humankind’s reconciliation with God. He did this through an atonement so deep, that the Infinite Mind of God has chosen to Forget his children’s sins.  And not through a legal fiction, but through the full payment of the ransom price via the precious blood of Christ. That humankind can fellowship with God is a mystery of love and grace we’ll never fathom.

He saved us. By that salvation, Jesus created something that never existed before: a UNITED FAMILY OF GOD.

  • There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6, NKJV).

The unity is true. Jesus died to create it. It is our core identity. Our truth. Our ontological reality. Our adoption papers in heaven prove it.

  • There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28, NKJV).

Anne, as long as Jesus remains Savior, the church remains one, no matter how much we squabble. The reconciliation he effected is not only vertical, but horizontal. Person to person. Family to family. Tribe to tribe.

As Savior he made us one. That’s the first basis for my invitation to stay in the family. Here’s my second:

2. Because he hasn’t stopped being our Sanctifier, either.

As Savior he made us one. As Sanctifier he makes us united.

Jesus prayed…

  • “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: (John 17:22, NKJV).

He prayed for our oneness to be brought into reality. He prayed for the actualization of our reality. Every Christ-follower who pulls away from that oneness only postpones the answer to Christ’s prayer. Yet one more cat to be herded back to the flock.

Anne, you might follow the steps of countless others who’ve given up on the institutional church. I get it. I’m a pastor, and I’ve been pulled that way a thousand times. I live and breath church people. I see the dark side daily. But I can’t get past this:

The unity of the church is Christ’s own creation. It is his gift to the world. We who have embraced him as Savior share the same last name. We don’t act like it all the time, but it’s true. Jesus loves the church. Please don’t hate what Jesus loves. Please don’t pull away from what Jesus is calling you into.

The church contains the mystery of Christ in us (Col. 1:27). He lives in us to sanctify us — to make us into what he says we are. This is his work, his effort, his grace. He never stops. When Christ moved within, he didn’t come with an off-switch. He always lives to sanctify us — to baby-step us closer and closer to his own radiant image. We display his likeness to the world, not only as individuals, but as a close-knit body, in community. Christ, our sanctifier.

Sanctification is a process. In a sense, we build on our spiritual ancestors, but in a deeper sense, each generation starts over. We grow toward Christ-likeness, and we grow together… and when we die, it’s the next generation’s turn to model this in the world. Let’s hand down the most united church we possibly can.

Anne, doesn’t your decision echo that of the servant who received the cancellation of a debt from his master but wouldn’t cancel fellow debtor’s (much smaller) debt (Matt 18:23-35)?

To pull away from the community of believers — I don’t care what kind of community you prefer, no matter how loosely or tightly organized — is to pull away from the primary means by which Jesus delivers his love, grace, and truth into the world. I hope you stay connected. I hope you find a church, a house church, a fellowship, or a Bible study and prayer group… any group that incarnates the love of Christ, and the truth of Scripture and delivers the gospel of grace to the world.

Anne, I personally apologize to you for my contribution to the disputatiousness of the church. I’m sorry for our “deserved infamy.” I felt bad when I read your Facebook posts. I’m sorry.

Making sausage is ugly, but something delicious happens when it’s done, this I believe.

Anne, please, stay. I’d like to invite you to our imperfect community in Redding. But you really don’t need to come here. God has his outposts in every place… please don’t give up looking.

I miss you.

Your Brother,

Bill Giovannetti

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13 thoughts on “Dear Anne Rice

  1. I wonder how much of her response is the natural inclination of a mother to protect her son? It would be difficult to remain in a body of believers where there is a continual reminder that he (as gay) is not accepted or tolerated and perhaps even hated, if that is the case. Perhaps if this piece were different, she could deal with the rest. Of course, this is just conjecture on my part.

  2. Thank you for a well-written post. I liked it. I believe that Anne is having a Jesus moment – she is throwing the moneychangers out of the temple, in a sense. I believe that she is called to do this, and to do it in public.

    Yeshua was never a “Christian”. Neither must Anne be. I do not think she is alone in this. I have been mostly unchurched for years – I go when I need to feel the ritual worship, but even that isn’t so much ritual as white noise anymore. Political agendas, greed, buildings, misogyny, and judgment (even when called by other names) are always there, masquerading as love. So many Christians are so sure they know what God wants that they have forgotten what He asked us to do.

    Nomenclature and labels do not a follower of Christ make. Anne is following her Lord into the desert, and she has excellent examples for this. Prophets have always spoken, and have always been maligned by those who cannot see the message or don’t wanna hear it. Anne is a true believer in Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior. She is not a true believer in the current state of His church – and I agree with her. It’s not painting with a wide brush – it’s speaking truth. Prophets get angry. Prophets are often frustrated. And Anne never does anything small.

    Peace, and thank you again for sharing your thoughts in a clear, articulate way. When Anne returns from the desert, I think she will find many other believers joining her in fellowship and in love. She will find herself, as I often do, in church – just not in a building.

  3. I think Debbie is onto something. I recently read “This Far by Grace: A Bishop’s Journey Through Questions of Homosexuality,” by J. Neil Alexander. Well-reasoned and enlightening story of his changing beliefs, from exclusion to acceptance. Perhaps if Ms. Rice had worshiped in a church led by someone like him, she would not have left.

  4. Bill, I have really appreciated the letter-writing style of your last few blog entries. I like how it allows you to answer popular cultural sentiment. Clever!

    • Thanks Carrie. Each situation just hit me hard. Each was emotionally sad for me. I figured I try to speak directly and lovingly to each person.

  5. Bill,

    This was so refreshing to me, after reading the comments she received on her post, on a news site, regarding her statement. There were too many to read, and the division, and name-calling and mud slinging all in the name of Christ many times, was so rampant one wouldn’t even know how to respond in a way that the people fighting could even hear the Truth. I almost imagined her reading those comments and saying, “SEE???”

    It always seems to me when Christ-followers come to this point, and I think most do, it’s definitely time to turn outward and simply serve, instead of wrestling inward. There is nothing like allowing God to work through you if you are struggling to let Him work for you (reference to her desire to give up essentially because she is disenchanted with His children) I love how you brought up the kids squabbling because if you change their perspective, it stops; give them a project to do together and they are no longer focused on themselves or each other, but working toward a common purpose, ya know? Maybe it’s too simplistic, but, if Anne simply went and served some people, who have nothing and would relish some love, from imperfect people, she might have a deeper understanding of why there is not only safety in numbers, but strength as well. If terminally ill people could walk away from their sickness for a moment and be someone else for just a time they would do it. We are allowed that opportunity in our spirits everyday because of Jesus’ sacrifice. She’s right to assume we don’t deserve it, because of course we don’t, and how can you truly appreciate what Christ did if you aren’t willing to acknowledge the ugly that we all truly are? Last night we were singing the Revelation Song in church, and I became so overwhelmed, because that is what is being sung right now in Heaven. And I thought, how was I allowed to one day be within that throng of saints, singing the same thing? All those people! All of us! We all failed that day in one way or another, yet there we all were, all 2000 of us, saved by grace, singing His praises, not giving up on ourselves OR each other, because HE never will. It never fails to blow me away.

    On one hand I applaud her for being real, and for once again exposing some hard truths of how Christians tend to be perceived, which often is the exact opposite of what we aim to share with the rest of the world, but, despite that, I hope she continues to be this transparent with the rest of her journey, and doesn’t leave the people who were affected by her statements hanging. We all need to be accountable to each other in one way or another. I am not sure if she was trying to communicate her feelings to her “brothers and sisters in Christ” or just the rest of the world. I pray she is received in love, wherever she ends up in this, and that she expresses the love of Christ she still holds on to, to all of us imperfect Christians, because isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

    Your words are always appreciated, as is your commitment to our Lord and Savior in those words!

    -kim (Insanity&bliss blog)

  6. Wow. Just … wow.

    My first thought when I read the quote from Ms. Rice was, “Right on.” Who among us hasn’t been disgusted at times with the church infighting, the politics, the egos and self-aggrandizing that obscure the larger picture?

    But I’m on her Facebook page now ( http://www.facebook.com/annericefanpage ), and I’m seeing her bask in the glow of the media spectacle she’s created in post after self-congratulatory post. I’m seeing her post links to her interview with NPR and a praising article in the Huffington Post. And I’m seeing her say things like this:

    “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. …”

    So Christians are by definition anti-gay, anti-birth control, anti-Democrat and anti-science? Really? Even the denominations that hold civil ceremonies for gay couples, ordain women, are amply populated with Democrats and have no opinion about birth control? Broad brush, anyone?

    Bill, I haven’t read any of Ms. Rice’s books so I’ll take your word that she’s an inspirational author, and I think you make an excellent appeal for her return to the family. But based at least on her social media presence, I suspect her concerns have less to do with squabbling or individuals’ hostility and more to do with making a very public stand in opposition to some core teachings of the evangelical and Catholic churches. And when one goes quoting Matthew 6:6 on the one hand and touting her NPR interview on the other, to borrow a line from Shakespeare, methinks the lady doth protest too much.

  7. Thanks, Pastor Bill. I don’t wanna be one of those jerks alienating others from the Grace that has been lavished (squandered? it seems sometimes) on me. Anne’s facebook pages are something that I need to read once a quarter — to be a better “fifth” gospel.

  8. “I understand the temptation to call it quits on the church — the collected people of God.” I can completely relate to that quote from personal experience.

  9. Bill.

    Why don’t parents have the guts to to tell there sodomite children, “i love you but you are wrong”? (like the man who should have been our 1st black president, Alan Keyes) If I had children who wanted to behave that way, that is how I would respond. If my child came home as a muslim, I would escort them to door as a trespasser, and would deal with them as many do if they return as allies of satan. Also, why don’t those with disposition toward this behavior do somwthing to stop it? Celibacy is possible, but if not, the Bible is full of Eunichs.
    I am finding myself feeling far more militant recently. I am anti-homosexuality, I am anti-Islam, I am anti-Abortion. I am anti-secular humanist. I am anti-Democrat. I think Obama may be the Anti-Christ. Tolerance is killing the Church and this country. Maybe it is time for some Fire and Brimstone.

    • Robb,

      Reverse the situation for a moment. Let’s say you’re the person who has, for example, decided to pursue Islam. And your parents escorted you to the door as a trespasser. Would this change you? Would you say, “Well, in that case… damn, I made a mistake!” or would you just became angry? I can only answer for myself when I say, “My response would be, screw you then… if you can’t accept me, your own child, then I guess you don’t really love me!”

      Love changes hearts, my friend. Trying to scare people into doing things your way… not so much. Just my opinion.

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