On July 29, 2010, legendary author Anne Rice announced that she is leaving Christianity. (See Anne Rice Leaves Christianity – CNN)
Anne was raised in the Roman Catholic Church but at the age of 18, she became an atheist when she realized that she was not and could not be a traditional Roman Catholic.
Eventually, over time, she sensed a pull towards Jesus Christ, a pull which became a desire which evolved into a passion which was fulfilled on December 6, 1998. In Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession, she describes the life-changing event:
When I go back to the very moment–that Sunday afternoon–what I recall most vividly is surrender–a determination to give in to something deeply believed and deeply felt. I loved God. I loved Him with my whole heart. I loved Him in the Person of Jesus Christ, and I wanted to go back to Him.
While I do not know Anne’s heart, it seems to me that nothing has changed with respect to her faith in Jesus Christ. In one of her recent Facebook posts, she wrote, “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.”
In earlier Facebook posts on July 27, Anne refers to the Westboro Baptist Church (this is the group that was said in 2008 it was going to come to Canada to picket the funeral of Tim McLean; for further info, click here), You Can Run But You Can’t Hide (a punk rock ministry who has says that executing gays is moral; for further info, click here) and Sr. Margaret McBride, a nun in Arizona who was excommunicated by her bishop for helping a woman obtain an abortion when the mother’s life was in danger.
While my views on several issues don’t line up with Anne’s, I empathize with her desire to distance herself from certain individuals or groups who identify as Christian. Sometimes, I don’t understand how others can possibly be following the same person as I am. I don’t know how one can reconcile hatred or even unloving actions with being a disciple of Jesus.
I am a long ways from perfect. To be frank, the person I most frequently want to distance myself from because of my relationship with Jesus Christ is me. I am even reluctant to put a fish symbol on my car because of concerns that I will discredit Christ the next time I do something stupid while driving.
In short, the Christian Church is full of screwed up people (like me) who fall short of the standard God sets before us. And some people’s actions in the name of Christ are beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour for one of Jesus’ followers. But there is a difference between the visible, institutional Church (all the various denominations and church bodies in the world) and the una sancta, (the one holy universal Church) which is invisible. The former is made up of all people who are affiliated with a Christian faith community. The latter consists of all who truly believe in Jesus Christ.
Because church affiliation is not the basis of our salvation (nor is it any indicator of salvation), not everyone in the visible Church is going to heaven. I believe that Jesus is referring to this kind of situation when he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) But because faith in Jesus Christ is how God saves us, everyone in the invisible Church will go to heaven, even if they are not affiliated with any church on earth.
Anne is rejecting the visible Church, but because she continues to cling to Christ, she remains part of the visible Church. And that’s the one that counts in the end. But I wish that she would have remained in the visible Church and continued to be a voice to the world for the Christ whom she loves so much and a voice to the Church for those segments of society that are dismissed and denigrated by some in the Christian milieu. On the one hand, we will miss her dearly. On the other, we are still part of the same family. God’s peace, Anne.
 Anne Rice, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession (Knopf: New York, 2008), 181. For her account of how she became an atheist, see p. 123 of the same book.
 “Anne Rice Leaves Christianity,” CNN Entertainment: The Marquee Blog; Internet; available at: http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/30/anne-rice-leaves-christianity/?iref=obinsite; downloaded on 3 August 2010.