Friday, August 13, 2010
We will miss Anne Rice
"We moderate and polish the world's thinking, and name it Christian. The church embodies the upside-down kingdom. Whatever the world admires is probaby not good, according to kingdom values. The church is always anti-empire.
What the church does is provide a place where pain can be touched and where the vision for a new world can be lifted up and held before people."
Anne Rice, writer of many books came back to her Catholic Church after many years of estrangement. That was ten years ago. On her Facebook page this week she writes: “Today I quit being a Christian, I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but no 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 10 years I’ve tried. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else…In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay…anti-feminist…anti-birth control…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.”
After more than 50 years as Pastor of churches all over the South—I could tell Anne Rice some stories that would curl her hair. If she had stood on the other side of the altar as we ministers have—she could add a whole lot more to that list of complaints. There have been days—I should say—more than days—when I have been tempted to throw in the towel. I have seen the anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-science side of the faith. I have also wanted to run into hiding by the hypocrisy of some mega Church pastors caught with male prostitutes, anti-gay proclaimers secretly running off (they think) with some RentBoy. I have been amazed by those who proclaim every word of the Bible is literally true when they know better. I have wept at the churches that have hounded their ministers out of their pulpits on the most minor of changes. I have been heartsick at all those gays and straights that wouldn‘t enter a church again for anything—they’ve been stamped “Not OK” much too long. And yes, I have been ashamed of the many times we have wrapped the American flag around the Bible and taken it into foreign lands as if they were the same. So, Anne—I concur with you on most of your complaints.
And yet—I have stayed in this business. Not just for a paycheck—for it never was enough. Not even for the accolades—even though they did help. From earliest days my mother dragged me off to a little predictable deep-South Church. We were racist, I would imagine. We ran off preachers that didn’t suit. We had terrible business meetings. We thought our Catholic neighbors were unsaved. And yet—I felt affirmation from that little cadre of Christ’s followers. I found acceptance there during my growing-up years. And when I went away to school they passed the hat—these cotton-mill workers with so little—and helped me though school. They gathered around when I came home and wanted to know how I was. They cared and this is one of the reasons I have stayed. Because I have seen that caring extended out to others a zillion times in these years. As Lyndon Johnson once explained why he was moving back to Johnson, Texas after leaving the White House. “Because,” he said, “they ask about you when you’re sick and they come and cry when you die.”
The relational quality has been one of the main reasons I have stayed in church. I don’t want to romanticize this—because there is that other quality of mean-spiritedness and cruelty but these have been in the minority.