Anne Rice has shocked the world yet again.
The first time this renown author did, it was for a good reason. This time, unfortunately, it was not.
For those who may not know, Anne Rice is the author of the wildly popular book series, “The Vampire Chronicles.” Having sold over 100 million copies, she has earned the reputation as one of the “most widely read living authors in the world.”
As a little girl, on her first day of school, Rice, whose real name is ‘Howard Allen’, changed it out of embarrassment. She’s been unofficially known as “Anne” ever since. But, this is not the only part of her identity that Rice has changed.
Despite her reputation as a gothic novelist, a few years ago, Anne Rice became…
…one of the most high profile celebrities to publicly embrace Christianity. In 2004, Rice suffered a near fatal illness which forced her to consider issues of life and death. She chose life.
In a Newsweek article, not long after the incident, she shared about her conversion. To show how serious she was, Rice said that from then on she would “only write for the Lord.” Setting aside her “cash cow” vampire books, she began writing works about Jesus. It seemed that she had found her way.
On Thursday of this last week, however, Rice made another shocking choice: to leave Christianity for good. Posted on her Facebook Fan page, Rice stated “Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out.” She went on to explain that “I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. etc.” Rice, then, paradoxically stated, “I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity.”
Time will tell what, exactly, Anne Rice means by this. It may be that she’s just rejecting the Catholic establishment and not the actual gospel. Or, it may mean that she is rejecting orthodoxy in favor of her own, solo brand of faith. Either way, her situation raises some interesting questions. What should we think about those who do this? Can a true believer reject Christianity like this? You probably know someone who has done this before. In fact, you may have even done it yourself.
Before I address this, I want to be clear about something up front: a person cannot embrace Christ and reject his Bride. To want Jesus without the church is like wanting a decapitated head without the body. It’s unnatural. If you are a true child of God, you will accept the fact that you are a part of a larger family. In fact, this is one of the biblical tests of true faith. 1 John 3:14 says,
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.”
In other words, one way that we love Christ, is by loving His church. True, a person can falsely be “in the church” apart from Christ, but you cannot truly be “in Christ” apart from the church.
With that groundwork in place, what else can we learn.
1. Some, who leave the faith, do so momentarily, like Peter.
This is the best case scenario for Anne Rice and anyone who turns their back on Christianity. Moments like these are what Russell Moore (Southern Seminary) calls a “dark night of the soul.” A person can become overwhelmed with doubt, grief, temptation or fear and hide from the Light of Christ.
In other words, some do precisely what Peter did. Peter became so disillusioned by the arrest of Jesus and fearful for his own life and reputation that he publicly renounced Christianity and, personally, rejected Jesus. He even did so with profanity. Rice hasn’t even gone that far. Nevertheless, Peter was a true believer. Just a few days later, sitting around the morning fire eating breakfast, Jesus restores him. In fact, Jesus didn’t even bring up the incident by name. Peter denied him three times. Soon, he vowed his love for Him three times.
In other words, Peter may have veered off for a season, but he inevitably persevered in the faith. Some leave only to come back for good. Let’s pray that this is what Anne Rice has done.
2. Others, who leave the faith, do some permanently, like Judas.
Jesus told us, in the Parable of the Soils, that some people will embrace the gospel only to fall away in time. In fact, Jesus wants us to expect it. The “rocky soil” are those who
“immediately receive the word with joy; yet has not firm root in himself, but is only temporary…and he falls away.” (Matt 13:20-21).
These people do not lose their salvation. No one can. They did not have it to begin with, like Judas Iscariot.
Though Judas walked closely with Jesus, his true heart betrayed his false profession. He followed Christ on the surface, but not where it counted. As 1 John 2:19 says,
“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”
Judas turned away, never to return. How sad, and sobering is it, to think that a person can walk and talk (face to face) with Jesus and, yet, reject Him. Let’s pray that this is not what Anne Rice has done.
3. All, who leave the faith, need compassion from the rest of us.
The tendency, sometimes, when we hear of people like Anne Rice, our knee-jerk reaction is to reject them because they have rejected something that we, ourselves, love so dearly. This is a natural response. But it’s not the right one.
Again, as Russell Moore points out, ” A lot of us are a lot like James and John in the Christ-rejecting Samaritan village. We want to call down fire from heaven on the opponents of Christianity (Lk. 9:51-54)” What did Jesus think about this? “He turned and rebuked them” for it (vs. 55-56). Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” This is the attitude we all need to have.
When you hear of a loved one who has rejected Christ, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. What such people need to see is the compassion and love that brought them to Christ in the first place.
Think of it this way. What if the prodigal son’s father had responded differently. What if he had hung a sign on the door, ‘PRODIGALS NOT WELCOME.’ The son, then, would have had no hope. We wouldn’t either.
Whether he does or not, the prodigal at least needs to know that he can come home if he so chooses. May Anne Rice, and others know, that, by the grace of Christ, they are always welcome to return.