Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Quit Being A Christian! (Part 1 of 3)

I'm somewhat late to the game because I've found it more beneficial to my learning process to listen and observe more than to talk. I'm also patently aware that people a lot more intellectually and spiritually astute than I, have registered their comments, and so one might wonder what I have to add to contribute to an already exhaustive discourse. Having said all that though, I do have a thing or two to contribute so bear with me a while. Recently, popular author and social commentator Anne Rice, made a startling declaration on her Facebook page! Anne boldly declared, “…I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, 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.”

Her Facebook page literally garnered thousands of comments (yes you heard right… thousands!) in response to Anne’s honest yet somewhat jarring declaration. Not surprisingly the comments ran the gamut of opinions, from “closet-Christianity-quitters” who were emboldened to take a more public stand following Anne’s bold declaration, to the self-appointed “religious police” whose self-appointed-duty is to monitor and screen every professing Christian who so much as breathes differently from them, in order to determine whether they qualify to use the term Christian.

Anne further explained to her pot-pourri of Facebook followers that: “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

Sadly, the instantaneous yet predictable reaction of many Christians (as evidenced by some of the responses on her FB page) is to do exactly what Anne has come to expect, and that is to raise their hackles, bare their fangs, and devour her for being such a heretic. Such people make no allowance in their world view for even attempting to find out what the root cause of her decision is, nor do they care to understand her position so that they are better able to consider her paradigm. Instead, this self-righteous brigade of brigands unloads their vitriol “in the name of Jesus,” in an attempt to show Anne how sinfully misguided she is. The fact is, even if their contention were true, such an approach would serve only to steel her resolve rather than open a channel for honest, helpful dialog.

Interestingly enough, in part, Anne’s contention about the importance of “Christianity” is somewhat true. I’ve written extensively about this subject here, in which I contended that when people are saved, they are not saved into Christianity but into Christ. To suggest that you cannot be a Christ-follower without being a Christian is a dire misconception. For instance, a Moslem who lives in a country that’s hostile to the Gospel so that there is no access to church or Christians, but who encounters Christ (such as Paul did on the road to Damascus), is not saved into Christianity but into Christ. He becomes a Christ-follower. Someone who is brought to Christ supernaturally by the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who continues to build a relationship with Jesus in an environment that is completely heathen and devoid of any “Christian” influence (such as Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road from Jerusalem) does not become a Christian but a Christ-follower.

Or take Cornelius, whom the Scriptures declare was a God-fearing, prayerful, Roman soldier who sought God and heard God clearly enough to be able to discern God’s voice giving him specific directions to find Simon Peter at the home of one Simon the Tanner, where he was staying. At his conversion through Peter’s breaking of traditional Jewish taboos, Cornelius neither became a Jew nor a Christian (especially since the word “Christian” hadn’t even been coined yet), but a gentile Christ-follower. This is more than just a semantic difference because, in supposing that the only proof of being saved is in being a Christian, we are liable to exclude the work of God amongst the Cornelius’ of the world in and through whom God is doing a powerful work. I'll pick up this thought tomorrow, in the meantime, join the conversation!


patrick voo said...

joseph - whether this discourse has been carried on by others or not, your comments and insights are always valuable and provocative.

it interests me that anne rice's reflection includes "following Christ does not mean following His followers". overall, i lay my vote down on the same side - i concur with the idea that many Christians subscribe to "a religion of rumour", choosing to follow their church leader of choice instead of doing the hard/rewarding work of intimately knowing Christ. at the same time, i pay close attention to what the Scriptures share when Paul wrote "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" [1 Cor. 11.1]. there are people that i would choose to pay close attention to, and aspire to be like - yourself included - all the while holding their teachings and character up to the blueprint of Jesus.

Zonoma said...

This is why I love you, Joseph.

Ash said...

i wondered if you would write on this, friend. wink.
i'm glad you did. i commented to someone recently (perhaps in discussion or their blog, i don't recall) that i honestly believe her words to have a sense of brilliance. to me, it seems she has identified that "american culture christianity" has become something of an "anti-movement" rather than the life of christ. she is not interested in societal christianity, or catholism. she is interesting in living the life that her savior lived- instead of it's media or political picture. and i can't say i disagree. she believes in love over condemnation - and i'm glad she was bold enough to say so.
there is a generation that is moving forward in the same way: and i do see it as a good thing. it is not to say that traditionalists are bad people, they are not (something i also recently blogged about) but it is to say, that there are those that are discovering Christ in a new light, and one that will draw them closer to his heart- and so if rejecting the societal politics of christianity is what it takes, then i say- what's wrong w/ that?

Joseph said...

Patrick, you pay me an undue honor by even intimating that I'm worthy of emulatiing. Having said that, I thank you sincerely for your confidence in me and iterate that the sentiments are mutual.

I love this statement that you made, "i concur with the idea that many Christians subscribe to "a religion of rumour", choosing to follow their church leader of choice instead of doing the hard/rewarding work of intimately knowing Christ."

Following Christ requires hard work and commitment, and the sooner we give ourselves over to accepting that fact, the sooner we're less likely to gripe and moan at every difficulty we encounter. That would be like complaining every second you're working out in the gym because it's hard, even though you're well aware of the benefits.

Joseph said...

Zonoma, you're too kind! :)

Ash: ""american culture christianity" has become something of an "anti-movement" rather than the life of christ."

incredibly well put. Nothing more to add!

Joey said...

You've said it before, we need to stand up for what we are for not what we are against...

Joseph said...

Joey, if we could only live out that message daily, the world would be more receptive to the message of Christ and Christianity!