Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gays, Feminists, Democrats, and Christians

My first reaction wasn't shock or anger. It was a swirled mixture of disappointment and sadness, that sinking hopeless kind of feeling as if someone were standing above me pressing down on my shoulders.

It was just last August that I read New Orleans author Anne Rice's Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession, a compelling memoir tracing the winding path that took her from atheism to faith in Jesus. For those of us who believe Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation, such stories are heartwarming ones of God's grace and mercy.

And here I am, literally almost one year later, wondering what went wrong, wondering if Rice ever really completely repented and submitted her life to Christ or if she simply submitted her life to the church.

If you haven't heard, on July 28, Anne Rice made a big splash on the public scene, this time not for her vampire novels (which were all the rage before the Twilight series was a twinkling), and not for shocking abandonment of atheism for Christianity as she did in 2008. No, this time, Anne Rice ruffled feathers by posting on her Facebook page that she was leaving Christianity:

Rice wrote, "Today I quit being a Christian ... 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." Then, she wrote, "As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. 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."

It's just semantics, an oxymoron in one sense--being a part of Christ but not a Christian. And yet, the words "follower of Christ" and "Christian" aren't synonymous anymore. While the two should have the same definition, the second has become more of a tag, easily stitched to a garment for awhile and then removed after a few washes.

Sadly, I don't have to wonder too hard to understand what's caused Rice to flee Christianity--it's putting one's faith in people. It's putting one's faith in "religion" with all the negative connotations the word summons.

When one sees visions of lying, conniving, cursing girls on the TV screen say, "I'm gonna win because God is on my side," it's easy to see how someone might confuse "follower of Christ" with "Christian." It's equally easy to condemn all of Christianity when one looks at "churches" who purport to bear the label "Christian" but spew from their pulpits lessons of bigotry, hate, and an "I'm right and you're wrong" stance.

But while these images have caused Anne Rice (and likely many others) to rip the scarlet "C" from her breast, they merely leave me clinging to Christ more fiercely.

The reasoning is simple. Putting my faith in Jesus? He can't fail me. Putting faith in humans, in religious organizations? That will only lead to disappointment.

As a follower of Christ, I must look to Him, the "Word made flesh"--and ONLY Him--for instruction in how I should live my life (Jn. 1:14). I must look to the Word of God--not to social issues--to determine if I am following in HIS footsteps or forging a path of my own. To do otherwise would mean I am not a follower of Christ and that Christ is not "central to my life."

Additionally, once I submit myself to Christ, I must agree with Him about what constitutes sin (even if that's not socially or politically correct). But I must leave the judgment of sin to God and, instead, must demonstrate His love to all--even those who live in various sins--and work on getting the plank out of my own eye before trying to remove the "speck from [my] brother's eye" (Matt. 7:5).

In a way, following Christ, claiming the tag of "Christian," should boil down to two things, which Jesus stated very clearly:

"YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF" (Matt. 22:37-39).

Unlike Rice, I will continue to claim the label Christian, defined as it was intended to be--as one who is totally sold out and submitted unto Christ.

Yet my definition doesn't necessarily meet the restrictions she places upon it...

Although I believe God is the creator and sustainer of the entire universe, I am not anti-Science.

Although I believe The Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin, I am not anti-gay any more than I am anti-adultery or anti-lying or anything else The Word teaches will keep me from the eternity of heaven (1 Cor. 6).

Although I believe wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should equally submit to their wives as Christ submitted Himself to the church, I am not anti-feminist.

I choose to look to Christ and not to others who have warped the definition of the term "Christian". And I choose to continue to carry the label "Christian" in hopes that if enough of us look to Christ for our example, then one day, it will actually mean what it's supposed to mean.


  1. So good, Jennifer. I, too, am saddened by those who wear (and don't wear) the label "Christian" and what it does not only to our own reputation, but the reputation of our Lord, who we claim to serve. Great explanation of what we really are!

  2. "Sad" is just the only emotion I have to describe it, and that just doesn't begin to cover how upsetting it is to see that others can be discouraged from following Jesus. It's the biggest "life choice" a person will ever make.

  3. You took the words right out of my mouth. It is a sad day when we - those of us who follow Christ - are labled the same manner as someone who professes to be "Christian". Too many people have been hurt by "Christians" and I'm sad because of that. He is everything I need and want. Thanks for the posting and reminder that we are HIS!

  4. I read about Anne Rice's departure in our local newspaper. Jennifer, I hope this post will make its way into the newspaper as well. This is the perfect answer to the question that we all asked, and pondered...what does it mean to be a Christian?