Much has been made lately of New York Times best-selling author Anne Rice’s supposed abandonment of Christianity in the name of Christ.
To those of us in the post-Charismatic world, this comes as less of a surprise and more of a relief. To mainstream Catholicism and Evangelicalism, however, this announcement has been met with skepticism, anger, understanding, hostility, bewilderment, disdain, surprise, disbelief, and a fair number of other adjectives. To many, you can’t separate the “Christ” from “Christianity.”
I would argue, however, as others have, that Rice did not leave the Church, but rather she left the institutions of man that are mistaken for “The Church” (I’m looking at you, Vatican! Among others, collectively known as “the church” [note the small “c”] ;). Instead, what Rice has done is bring to the forefront of modern thought the schism that exists between “religion” and “relationship.” Over the past 2,000-some odd years man has taken what is meant to be an experiential relationship with Jesus the Christ (no man can come to the Father unless he knows Me) and replaced it with a set of rules and regulations meant to determine the “legitimacy” of your conversion experience (and subsequent lifelong belief system).
Jesus, among the many things he did, was no fan of “religion.” In fact, Scripture is rife with events that paint a picture of a Jesus constantly at odds with the religious powers of His day. The money changers in the temple? Sanctioned by the religious powers. A ban against work on the Sabbath, even to do good deeds? Strict adherence to religious Law. Healings and miracles? Anathema, because “God doesn’t work like that.” In the end, it was even the “religion” whose prophecies Jesus was fulfilling that saw Him executed.
Instead, Jesus taught relationship with the Almighty rather than strict obedience to a set of rules and regulations. He returned what was a crime punishable by death with forgiveness and understanding. He healed the sick, cured the fallen, and supped with the hated and the unclean. He was the opposite of what “religion” wanted him to be, yet man still institutionalized and cast in stone and built an edifice of rules and rites around what He preached as a personal relationship with the Almighty Father.
For my part, I applaud Mrs. Rice’s taking a stance against injustice, bigotry, and Biblically unsupportable positions in favor of a relationship with the Living God.