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The church is full of sinners

August 12, 2010 One Comment

by Judith Burns 

Anne Rice, one of the first modern authors to write about vampires, has been in the news of late but for another reason. On August 4 she declared: “In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.” Later she added, “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.” (www.annerice.com) This isn’t the first time she has quit the church. She left the Catholic faith of her childhood, then returned to it about 12 years ago and now left again. 

Author Anne Rice


Many areas of Anne’s “deconversion” require a response—but let’s limit ourselves to one issue—her rejection of Christianity because there are too many sinful people calling themselves Christian, and she cannot “belong” with such a terrible group of humanity. 

By separating herself from “the quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group” she is, in effect, saying she is none of these things; if that’s true, she doesn’t need the Church nor, for that matter, Christ.
In Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus we read: “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Matthew 9). 

That the church is made up of “infamous” people is not news. But it’s those people Jesus came to rescue. And this rescue of the “deservedly infamous group” is known as grace. The ones who have it all together, like Anne Rice, don’t need grace—at least they don’t think they do—and that’s perhaps why they don’t extend grace either.
Since her departure from the Catholic Church and rejection of Christianity in general, the buzz on the Internet has been intense. Perhaps one of the best comment comes from the pen of a popular Christian singer and songwriter, Justin McRoberts, who wrote in an open letter to Anne Rice: “I mean sure, we’re a motley lot. Belonging to this family can often feel like you’ve adopted a few thousand drunk uncles. It’s incredibly embarrassing at times and frustrating at least as often. I get it. But I also read that you’re making your move “in the name of Christ” and that presents a rather perplexing dilemma for someone who wants to quit on people. You see, Christ hasn’t quit on us and if you choose to align yourself with Him, then neither can you.”
That just about sums it up. We can all identify with the frustration Anne Rice expresses about the state of today’s Christian churches; there is much with which to find fault. Sometimes we even despair of the organized church. But Jesus does not despair. In fact, He uses fatally flawed humans to bring His message of Life to those groping in endless darkness. For some unfathomable reason God uses the institutional church, this “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group” to bear witness to Him and proclaim His grace and forgiveness. 

I pray Anne Rice’s concept of Christians will one day include the endless grace Jesus has for all His children—even those of us with whom she can no longer be associated. How wonderful it would be if she could extend the grace she received from God to others, even those who do not agree with her in theology or practice. 

Judith Burns is a member of Bethel Lutheran Church in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

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