Come Back, Anne

I’m saddened by the news of Anne Rice’s departure from the church.

Perhaps if she had the same view of the church that Graham Ward articulates in his CIties of God or that Rowan Williams describes in his recent work on Dostoevski, she would be slower to take her ball and go home.

Trust me, I know that living with people in the church with whom you disagree is difficult. But the church is an irreducible feature of the Christian life. It is an icon of God, that is, a participation in God, who is a community. It is the Body and Bride of Christ, such that to reject her is to reject him.

What the church is not, much to the chagrin of Anne Rice, is an “organized religious institution.” Not, that is, unless secular reason is our primary vantage point. Of course secular reason and secular culture (founded upon the former) will view the church as an “organized religious institution.”

But this is to view the church through a secular lens. An equally rational approach, however, would be to look at secularity through lens of the church and her scriptures. This is equally rational, but much more beautiful, much more mysterious, much more fruitful.

Christian community, centered on God’s Word and the breaking of bread in fellowship (yes, even with people who might make my skin crawl) is a — some would say thesine qua non of following Jesus and knowing God.

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I was really sad to see this, too. Encouraged, though, by the fact that she still loves Jesus. I agree that to reject the church is to reject him — but maybe she’ll eventually figure that out.

She says “I refuse to hate homosexuals.” But this – hating homosexuals – is not actually Anne Rice is being asked to do. She is being asked – so would argue folks like Rowan Williams, Graham Ward, and even Tim Keller – to remain in (Eucharistic) community with people with whom she disagrees.

Hi Matt. Your comments are on the mark and I am surprised she is not interacting with a more robust argument for connection with the Church. A “Christian” is not being asked to agree with the offensive actions and viewpoints of some leaders. Here’s another interview. http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/showbiz/2010/08/09/nr.anne.rice.christianity.cnn?iref=allsearch

It is very sad to hear this of course. But I don’t disagree with Ms. Rice. And I don’t think that “to reject the ‘church’, is to reject Christ” (how many buildings that gather bodies together promoting the most absurd of beliefs and claims are called “churches”?).

While I agree with nearly everything you said on this post, Matt (as always), I can still empathize with Ms. Rice regarding her concerns with the “Church” (I nearly feel the same way). Even as Graham Ward notes, the “institution” of the Church (its buildings) can not account for all of the church (the Body of Christ). He uses the parable of the seed and the sower to describe the whole world (and not just the building of the church as we are so accustomed to viewing that parable), and speaks of the “displaced body of Christ”. It may be “displaced”–but it is still his body he is redeeming (in fact, Ward uses language as “the expanding” body of Christ–I love that!)

I love the church, and I enjoy a “good, solid, and humble” church, but there is nothing that hurts my feelings more, and stirs within me such disgust than a “bad” church (define “bad” as you like).

It might be easy to say that the church is imperfect and we should ignore or try our best to understand (or be patient with) its imperfections, yet when the church is intolerant and judgmental (to the point of persecuting) the imperfections of others (as they see it) and marshal violence against their sincere hopes for peace and love, I find it a lot harder to bear. In effect, it seems to me as a double-standard.

This is exactly why I agree with Ward’s cry for us to “suspend judgment”. While Rice may have left (I think temporarily) from what is called in our language “the Church”, I hardly believe she has left entirely, God’s Church. And it is a very bold statement to say, because of this decision, she has “rejected” Christ. Christ’s body can not be completely contained within those visible walls we call “church”. The “great multitude” he will draw to himself from all corners of the earth will be more than what we could ever imagine. That expectation is “a matter of infinite hope”.

As always, Collins, good food for thought. You are a hairsbreadth to the “left” of me as usual.

I think that the Incarnation as well as the idea of _totus christus_ (that Christ is inseparable from his body the church) implies that Rice is just confused about what is really going on, about what’s truly real.

However, one thing you are doing in your comments, rightly following Ward, is decontructing or perhaps clarifying what we mean by “church.” For that I thank you.

[…] many other things, posted his response about Rice’s exit from the church. Read his comments here.I also responded to his comment and I have reproduced them here: It is very sad to hear this of […]

Greg,

thanks for your comments, and for the link!

Matt+

Hello, Libby recommended your blog to me. Fantastic. I actually just finished Cities of God this morning too.

I fully agree, I think it’s unfortunate that Rice left. I myself have felt anger and resentment with the church plenty of times, and have questioned whether it’s the best place for me. What keeps me going is the realization that I am a part of the Body, it is a family, and I desire neither to be an amputation or an orphan.

I think every church, religion and society needs to confront this idea that the only options are absolute conformity or absolute privacy. I fear this new creed that each of us have our own personal God takes God to be not real but more or less an invisible friend.

Andrew: thanks for your comment, with which I agree and which I value. Peace.

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