Monday, August 2, 2010

Anne Rice and Hating the Player (not the game)

As you've probably heard, Anne Rice has left Christianity. This was sobering for many, because her conversion was quite famous, and because she was a very well-known vampire author. . . well not a vampire herself, . . but, anyway. . . . :)

Here's a bit of her statement from, apparently, the world's most reliable news source: Facebook

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.

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. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

What I'm about to write may offend some. . . it might come across a bit in-sensitive. . . .if that's you, and I know you. . please take the opportunity to talk to me about this. If you don't know me, then please be confirmed if you think I'm a terrible, judgmental, sinner. Because, I am.
I was born in Alabama. I toured throughout the South as a young man, singing in many smaller, fundamentalist churches. Also, I grew up in Nebraska, that harbinger of political equality, and started in vocational ministry working at a church that could only be described as Right-leaning.

However, never once did I feel as though anyone in any pulpit was conflating the quality of my Christianty or depth of my commitment with which political party I was voting for. Never, even in the midst of many inappropriate youth group "gay" jokes from leadership, did I feel like we, as Christians, were "anti-gay". Never did I feel like the church was "anti-science" even though I was exposed to some things that I would say, looking back, were pretty bad science.

I think that this reaction against the Church by many, to leave because "they're all Republicans" or "they don't leave room for science", "they all hate gay people" or "they won't let me vote for whom I want to vote" are over-reactions. That's right, I think Anne Rice over-reacted.

Are there butthead Christians who do look down on folks for the very reasons stated above (and in Mrs. Rice's post). Yes. Are there people who identify proper Christianity with voting for a certain political party? Yes.

Are those people indicative of the larger church in America? No. Should these people cause one to reject the church as a whole; or to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater? No.

See, I heard it when pastors would clarify, "we're not going to tell you who to vote for". I listened when folks talked about loving all people regardless of their struggles, while still rejecting certain behaviors as sinful. Every time a pastor talked about abortion, or standing up for life, I did not understand that as a political play/ploy. I listened, I asked questions, and I gave folks the freedom to get a bit emotional and take a side on an issue, even if I took a different side.

The worst example was at a church in Nebraska where I served; During a service the pastor recognized a local politician, campaigning, who was in attendance that day. He stood up, some folks clapped. . .the service continued.

Today that kind of behavior could get someone thrown in jail :) But, did I huff off in anger? Did I judge the pastor as a kingdom conflating, right wing nut job, commie hater? Did I leave the church? No. Though inappropriate, it really wasn't that big of a deal. Life, and worship, went on. I guess such is the emotional level that our political discourse is taking place these days.

This all goes for the Left-leaning church as well who would reject folks if they ever supported war, or judged any "private" behavior as sinful.

But, I must say, I've found many of my left-leaning friends to be taking a bit of a martyr's attitude in the evangelical church. Some behaviors have seemed a bit "quick trigger" to me.
Like, once the pastor says "abortion is wrong" the judgment "oh, that means all of these people are voting this way, and if I don't you think I'm a sinner" is what is heard by those who are feeling a bit mis-understood.

So, what I would say is this. . . . let's talk. If you feel as though your church is doing any of the things Mrs. Rice alleges for "Christianity", why don't you set up a meeting with your pastor? Perhaps you are wrong and mis-heard him. Perhaps he needs to be more nuanced and could clarify some things for you. Perhaps you are taking a forwarded email from a church member or off-hand comment as representing the church as a whole. Perhaps we all need to give each other some latitude in our speech, and love each other enough to forgive some over-statements and ill-timed humor.

Christians have made many mistakes, as have churches, (since they, after all, are led by Christians). I have been hurt by churches, I have disagreed with things that have been said.

However, let's all have enough humility to understand that none of us are un-baised observers. We come to these issues and situations with our pain, wrong thinking, and opposite extremes. Know that about yourself. . Know that. Seek to understand others with enough humility to see your own passions and "dogs in the fight".

And, please, on the political party issue. . . .let's become an issue-by-issue, nuanced, skeptical people as the church. And, let's stop believing in a party, man, or any form of government to do what only God can do.


dave johnson said...

I'm not yet sure what I think about all of this, but this "scandal" with Anne Rice vaguely reminds me of the man that started the protestant reformation. At least Martin Luther had some constructive criticism to offer when he quit Christianity.

aaron said...

I know what you mean, Dave. . . But just to clarify, Martin Luther was trying to purify the church and "get back" to true Christianity, as he thought.

This is a bit different. I feel bad because Mrs. Rice must've really been around some dumb Christians. I'm just hearing it so much, and curiously, with the same words, that I think some balance in this argument is needed.

But, I don't want to diminish what she experienced or felt as being bad. . . assuming some of those things happened to her.

Trevor said...

Why do you think we should be skeptical? Is that disposition helpful to finding the truth?

aaron said...

Hey Trev, what's up.

skeptical as it relates to all things political yes. Since, we tend to think ultimate good will come from there too often, we should hold a healthy skepticism of politicians (or at least skepticism of what they may or may not be able to accomplish)


Trevor said...

Hey Aaron,

I can understand not holding a politician to be able to accomplish something they can't. But, I think that would be a reasonable disposition, not necessarily skeptical.

Skepticism in it's pure form is a type of presumption based on doubt. It is basically a prejudice which starts an inquiry into the truth with doubt. The problem is that doubt becomes a factor, a prejudgement, in the investigation. I think today in our culture we take skepticism as the norm, and many times do not even notice its influence on our thinking.

Finding the truth seems to demand a true openness that is seeking to take into account all the factors of reality. If I look at a person running for political office and immediately make a judgement about him based on a skepticism of "politicians". I am operating on a bias. If I have come to understand the nature of a certain governmental office based on an examination of all the factors and draw a reasonable conclusion about what that position can accomplish, I would submit that is not skepticism.

I think what you may actually be advocating is a reasonable investigation of any given politician, which I agree with. But I don't think it is skepticism. I am coming to believe that skepticism is actually an enemy of the truth. But it is very prevalent in our culture, and way of thinking, and I think its modern roots can be found in the Enlightenment and earlier philosophical movements that informed it.

aaron said...

Ok, well maybe we're talking semantics here. I certainly don't want to be a curmudgeon.

However, I would argue that the political skepticism I'm talking about is not prejoritive nor presumptuous, because politicians have proven themselves over the years to not live up to campaign promises (or promise in general) and we as a people continue to make the same mistake of putting too much hope into a politician. . . on both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps there is a better word for that. Hadn't thought through the definition that far. . .

Trevor said...


It may be helpful to look at your principle in a different light. You essentially say:

(People belonging to a certain group) have regularly done (bad act) so my judgement of (person x belonging to same group) is warranted.

It seems to me when looked at this way, the true principle is revealed. A large percentage of the prejudicial attitudes held today would be compatible with that statement including something like this:

"Leaders of religious groups regular have abused power and manipulated followers so I am justified in believing any religious leader is probably that way."

Ironically approaching a person with this type of suspicion becomes a stumbling block to discovering if that person may well have genuine motives and good character for governmental office which is presumably what you are trying to get at. Also, it seems at odds with your desire to be nuanced.

I don't think it is your intention to be prejudiced, only that you are unintentionally advocating an attitude that would result in it. I am all for wisdom and discernment, but I don't think skepticism results in either.

aaron said...


Yes, if I applied this principle "personally" like "person A is a bad politician , or person because they all are", than that would essentially be prejudiced.

However, my skepticism is in the office of senator/president/judge, etc. . and the amount of good, or degree of good that they can do.

The campaigns are always designed us to make us elevate those folks beyond what they can actually accomplish.

So my skepticism is with the accomplishments possible (or lack thereof).

As a Christian people, we should remain guarded and skeptical about what our next favorite flavor of the month can actually pull off, policy-wise, or change-wise;, since it will always and until the end of time be a mixed bag.

If there's a better word for that, I"m all for it.

I"m making no character judgments (save for continual and rampant dishonesty during campaigns) at all. I'm sure many of them are great, salt of the earth people. The character problem is ours that we would place so much hope and so many expectations on folks, and then lash out at them and one another when the desired result does not happen.


Trevor said...


What is an example of how you have applied your skepticism in the office of President, Senator, etc?

Also, where are you getting the principle that Christians should be guarded and skeptical?


aaron said...


I'm trying to apply it in every election as I don't expect there to be the wholesale changes that each candidate promises (which would be impossible). I"m trying to manage my expectations, and I"m trying to not fight and quarrel with other whom I have really important things in common with (faith) but with whom I might disagree on political matters. It's just not important enough to break relationships between Christians.

I got the principle from the last 20 years of politics :) . . but biblically,

Psalm 20:7-8 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,but we rise up and stand firm.

I know we all say that. But, lately I find fewer and fewer in the church who actually act like their ultimate hope is from above. It's such a contentous, defensive atmosphere surrounding these matters.

Trevor said...

Hey Aaron,

I think I understand part what you are getting at. I am not advocating being glib, and I would agree with you that we should look at the details of political issues.

But, I don't think skepticism does that. Think of the very skeptical people that you know. Do they tend to give a fair hearing to the details and nuances or do they tend to judge everything through the lens of doubt with no room for other possibilities. I ask because I have been very skeptical in my life and have been around skepticism. I am not saying you haven't, but in my experience when you encounter it in its more pure forms it quickly shows itself to be at odds with a fair pursuit of the truth.

I don't completely understand how you assimilate the ultimate trust in God into some of your comments.

What does it mean in relationship to this issue for someone to put their ultimate trust in God?

aaron said...

Well, I think we're just defining the word differently.

You think that skepticism is the enemy of truth, . . and I"m saying that the American political system is the enemy of truth, and therefore, I'm skeptical of it :)

I think it has everything to do with trust in God, because if we really do trust Him and view that faith as most important, we won't be so let down when our politicians fall short (and they will).

And, more pertinent to this post, we won't go after other people whom we disagree with, and be so contentous because we have our hopes so tied around a candidate or political party, that we get all tied in knots when things don't go well. I think faith in God is intimately related with this issue.