“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.
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.
- “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.