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Leaving Christianity

Last week, writer Anne Rice—author of The Vampire Chronicles—publicly renounced Christianity, but not Christ, on her Facebook page. In 2004 she had come back to her Roman Catholic roots after a foray in atheism, during which time she wrote her vampire books. She later identified these books as reflecting her quest for meaning in a world without God. Embracing Jesus as her Savior, Anne announced that she would henceforth “write only for the Lord.” Her next two books were Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: Road to Cana, chronicling the life of Jesus.

But now she’s had enough of the church:

“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.”

A few hours later, she followed up her post with this:

“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.”

She reaffirmed her faith in Christ with a lack of faith in Christianity an hour or so later with the following post:

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

This breaks my heart, for several reasons.

First, she has a valid point about what “Christianity” has been shaped to look like in many churches and in many individuals: that it’s more what we’re against than what we’re for. See the book unChristian: What a New Generations Really Thinks About Christianity. . . And Why it Matters. Shallow discipleship has created an ugly characterization of what the Church, and Christians, are supposed to look like.

Second, she doesn’t understand that while Christ is the Head, the Church is His Body. No one can take themselves out of the Body of Christ without harm, just as a physical body is harmed if one hand chops off the other. Christianity is about Jesus, not the unfortunate misunderstandings of what it means to follow Him. But God calls us to do life in community, not on our own. Maybe Anne needs to find a different faith community than the one she’s been in.

Third, in a battle between her cherished beliefs and values and the Bible’s, hers are winning. Spiritual maturity means we submit ourselves to the authority and power of the Scriptures and of the Holy Spirit, resulting in our transformation. And that includes changing the way we think when our thoughts and desires collide with what God has revealed as truth. No one wins, in the end, when we refuse to be informed and formed by what God says, but Anne Rice cherishes her beliefs more than those of the Jesus she wants to follow. That is tragic.

I’m praying for her eyes to be open on several levels. I invite you to pray for her as well.

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Sue Bohlin

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.

9 Comments

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    RansomedSoul07

    re. Leaving Christianity

    Wow, Sue. This IS pathetic and heart wrenching for sure, although actually not shocking. I'm seeing this happen more and more in my community. I have friends who, although they tell me they love the Lord, have made decisions to leave the church for reasons similar to Ms. Rice's.

    While I agree with your statement that 'maybe Anne needs to find a different faith community than the one she’s been in,' sometimes church shopping can simply take you to a building where the names and faces are different, but the issues remain the same. There is no perfect church.

    I must confess from time to time, I've felt like Ms. Rice. I don't "fit in" or "belong." Or, I've "failed." But failed at what..loving Christ? Or believing the lie I've failed at being a Christian because a.) I don't speak 'Christianese' correctly or constantly in every conversation with someone; b.) I don't raise my hands during musical worship; c.) because I don't avoid my gay coworkers like the plague or d.) because I don't sign up for every ministry need, etc.?

    At times, I've thought of leaving the church also, because frankly, there are some folks with some mighty strange ideas about what 'being a Christian' constitutes…yet I can't. I have such a strong, albeit small, support group of prayer warriors, spiritual mentors and loving friends and family in Christ, that I know I'd be lost at sea and become food for sharks if I decided to abandon ship. God didn't create us to follow Christ without some partners for the journey. I hope Ms. Rice comes to realize this. I will join you in praying for her, Sue

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      Sue Bohlin

      Quitting the church

      Some great thoughts here, friend! Praise God that you have a support network that keeps you from being shark bait! Thanks so much for your comments.

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    Margaret Carey

    Quitting the church

    This saddens me because many of the unchurched will now read her comments and their decision to remain apart from the church will be affirmed. I'm certain we all could relate to Ms. Rice's comments in some form or another.

    Personally speaking, we've often found we don't 'belong' because we don't live in the right house or own an appropriate amount of stuff (just how much is appropriate anyway?) or better yet, simply because we dared to disagree with one of them.Sadly, even my children have found that it is our unchurched friends that accept without judgment – how can this be?  Aren't we the ones that are supposed to reflect the grace of Christ?

    Yes, we do need to pray for Ms. Rice. We also need to pray for those who sit in our pews, lead our committees and even teach our Bible studies yet sit in judgment of those whom they deem as unworthy of 'belonging'. Oh the stories I could tell 🙂

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      Sue Bohlin

      “Not belonging” in church

      Thanks, Margaret! Jesus' Bride is a messy, fleshly, and often immature mess of humanity, aren't we? But He loves us, and He bids us to love and accept one another. Especially the ones who don't fit and don't feel like they belong.

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    cmnancymom

    Leaving Christianity

    Thanks, Sue, for saying what I was thinking and saying it so very well. I particularly like your thoughts on the definition of spiritual maturity and our thoughts and desires vs. His thoughts and desires. Blessings 🙂

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    Cynthia Linox

    LEAVING CHRISTIANITY

    Interestingly enough, it's been some time since I stopped calling myself a "Christian", which is a religious term. I enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior. Today's "Church" is viewed as a business, promoting growth and revenue; keeping control of the saints and manipulation through guilt and condemnation.  Now there's an awakening of Grace and a new consciousness of our Freedom in Christ. Hopefully we'll show compassion toward those that are still in bondage under the teaching of the Law.

    Shalom* 

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      Sue Bohlin

      No longer a “Christian”

      Thanks for your comment, Cynthia. I am sorry for your experience of Christ's body that has soured you to the point of not wanting to identify as a Christian. (I would respectfully point out, however, that this word is not only a religious term but a biblical one [Acts 11:26 and 26:28, 1 Pet 4:16].)

      I am glad to report that not all churches conform to your unhappy experience. Some of us are a part of faith communities where transparency and authenticity, grace and acceptance are the bedrock values. I pray someone will introduce you to one, or that you will be able to find one in your area!

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    TL

    While Anne Rice has an

    While Anne Rice has an excellent point about Christians being anti this and anti that to the point of fighting amongst ourselves, it is unfortunate for the body of Christ that she isn't willing yet to stay and help Christians see better more fruitful ways.

    I'm not so sure that she is letting her beliefs 'win'.  I didn't see her lists as necessarily a list of what she is for or against, but rather a list of Christianities pet peeves with non Christians, that we have chosen to battle them over.  And frankly, we've over done it to the point that many Christians think fighting non Christians about their sins is being a good Christian.

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    Sue Bohlin

    Christians fighting

    Thanks for your comments. Good points! As the church grows increasingly biblically illiterate, it isn't surprising that people are making up "Christianity" as they go, depending on personal experience and philosophy rather than God's revealed word as their guide and source of truth.

    Our church (Watermark Community Church in Dallas) has a Monday-Friday Bible reading program that thousands of us are doing together. At JointheJourney.com, we read that day's scripture and then a short devotional written by someone in the church; since it's a blog format, people can comment, which builds community. This year we're reading through all four gospels. That might seem redundant, but the repetition is SO good for us because many people don't know what Jesus really said or did! Going over it four times is really helpful! Concentrating on the Lord Jesus Himself rather than positions on morality (what Anne Rice is objecting to) is soooo good for us.

    And I think it helps defuse some of the hostility that wraps itself around other people's sins.

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