The blogosphere has been abuzz since Anne Rice, a novelist known for writing about vampires sent a “shot across the bow” of the Christian Church after declaring that she was quitting Christianity.
In a posting on her Facebook page, she said, “I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or being a part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. 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.”
Miss Rice’s words should not be quickly dismissed. She is not alone in her views and trends show that people have stepped away from established religion in increasing number. Scandals within the church and political agendas that have been placed on par with church doctrine are partially to blame.
Another factor pertains to those within the church who identify more with religion than with the true Jesus. The Pharisees were very religious but they rejected Jesus and his methods.
One’s reaction to the words of Anne Rice is a litmus test as to whether one responds in condemnation or Christian love. Miss Rice is, after all, pointing out the disparity that can be found between Jesus and his followers.
The following are 10 thoughts pertaining to Jesus and the Church:
1. Jesus saved his harshest criticism for the Pharisees who elevated rules and tradition but failed to recognize God when he stood before them.
2. Jesus modeled the proper balance of forgiveness and righteousness when he said to the woman caught in adultery, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
3. Jesus came from a lineage that was dysfunctional and included prostitutes. He loved and identified with those who were judged by others and through loving them redeemed them.
4. Jesus chose women to be in his inner-circle and shocked his disciples by going against the cultural mores of the day and conversing with the woman at the well.
5. Jesus called Judas “friend” at the very moment Judas was betraying him with a kiss exemplifying his love for the most hated man in Christianity.
6. Jesus called Peter to put away his sword and then healed the wounds that Peter caused when Peter attacked a servant of the high priest. With this one act he showed that it is better to heal and win the heart than to harm.
7. Jesus was neither a Democrat nor a Republican and clearly delineated between politics and faith when he said “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Romans 13:1.
8. Jesus would not allow his followers to exclude Peter from being recognized as a disciple even after Peter had betrayed Jesus. He told the first witnesses of his resurrection to go tell his disciples “and Peter also” lest they exclude Peter because of his actions.
9. Jesus placed science and the gathering of knowledge about nature in context with God’s design and authorship. Matthew 6:28-30.
10. Jesus called the church, “my church” showing that it is not an idea of man but of God. Matthew 16:18.
At its core, Anne Rice’s statement is a challenge to the modern church to look and act more like Jesus. Her message is muddled in political tones and her conclusion is regrettable but the church would be amiss in dismissing the essence of her words.
The church has been most Christ like when modeling forgiveness rather than hostility and when elevating love over judgment. Biblical standards of morality should not be compromised but it should be remembered that if one’s salvation is based on achieving righteousness outside of God’s love and forgiveness we are ALL lost.
So is quitting Christianity the answer?
Is it right to embrace Jesus but reject the church?
The scriptures state that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as is the habit of some but to encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:25).
In other words, instead of running away we are to lift the dialogue. We are to emulate the leader of the church – Jesus Christ.
There are believers in churches across the globe that do this with excellence. Hospitals, orphanages and schools are the results of their efforts. When they come on the scene families are healed, children adopted, prisons visited and the elderly loved. They are the true ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I began this article by describing Anne Rice’s words as a “shot across the bow” of the church. In olden days ships would lob a cannon ball over another ship in order to elicit a response that would identify the ship in question as being hostile or friendly.
The Church's response to the Anne Rices of the world will speak volumes about the effectiveness of the Church in fulfilling its mission.
Rev. Bill Shuler is pastor of Capital Life Church in Arlington, Virginia. For more visit, CapitalLife.org.
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