There has been an awful lot of fuss about Anne Rice leaving Christianity. After all, thousands of people do this every day (and another thousand might be going in the opposite direction). But why should we care so much? What’s so important about Rice’s decision?
Jessica Reed, over on the Guardian, has presented us with her very thoughtful take on the story, one that points out why Rice’s decision is so news worthy. An atheist herself, she never-the-less questions her rationale for automatically lamenting the religious conversions of people she admires. But, she contends, there are some good reasons behind her feelings:
It does, however, change my perception of them as people. Christians have to live with (and defend themselves from) stereotypes that contain grains of truth: a lot of Christian denominations are closely associated with anti-choice, anti-science and anti-gay mindsets, which is why it breaks my heart to see my heroes joining their ranks. By evangelizing while also not voicing their disapproval of some traits associated with Christianity, they add their tacit approval to groups perpetuating systems of oppression. The same goes for communists who are uncritical of their movement’s past, for gender activists who don’t acknowledge how feminism has historically failed working-class and minority women, or for libertarians unwilling to analyse the limitations of free speech.
In other words, I find myself put off when believers of any kind broadcast their faith without any critical appendix. But Rice’s pronouncement has also made me take a look at my own response to religion: when news of her statement came through, I assumed she’d come back to atheism and let out a small whoop of joy. In fact, she’s still into Christ, but has made it clear she hates some of the baggage. That’s a stance I can actually admire …. It’s a rare thing when famous people get to explain their thinking in detail (and when they do, it can be painful), but I’m glad Rice has chosen to do so.
This is the very issue that I’ve been concerned about for some time. Commenting on Reed’s article, I said that it seems that most of the charity of the Christian church is reserved for those “Christians” who consistently act in an un-Christlike manner. Often you will hear Christian apologists say that, after all, we are all sinners. But forgiving someone does not mean excusing them. As Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It’s time more of us stood up like Rice and spoke out publicly against certain elements of our own religions, wherever and whenever necessary. It’s time we admitted our mistakes, questioned our orthodoxies and squashed any ideas of scriptural or papal infallibility. As Reed so eloquently put it, if we don’t do so we will lose any credibility will may still have with those we strive to convert.
Or is the faith not strong enough to stand up to this?