Eugene Cho

why i am not quitting christianity

Unless you are the Geico Caveman, you have probably heard of the dramatic news of Anne Rice’s simple statement of “quitting Christianity.” But just in case you haven’t or are in need of your daily dose of Anne Rice, I thought I’d chime in and share some thoughts. And if some of you are wondering, “Can’t we focus on some more important things like fighting global poverty?” I agree: visit here.

First of all, I am a fan of Anne Rice. In fact, I don’t know of many people that dislike her. She’s a phenomenal writer and additionally, she’s gotta have some Asian genes in her. She’s 68 and ages like no other. But in case you don’t know much about her:

Anne Rice (born Howard Allen O’Brien on October 4, 1941) is a best-selling American author of gothic, erotic, and religious-themed books from New Orleans, Louisiana. She was married to poet and painter Stan Rice for 41 years until his death from cancer in 2002. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history. [via wikipedia]

She is also known as a Christian for some time but last week, she wrote & shared the following via her Facebook page:

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not 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 ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

“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.

“In the name of… Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

Here are some of my vomitaceous thoughts:

Everyone is tempted to quit Christianity

Anne isn’t the first nor will she be the last.

In fact, one can argue that there have always been folks that have quit Christianity in every generation, every denomination, every tribe, and every community. Someone today – albeit, without the fanfare of Anne Rice – has just quit Christianity- and probably on Facebook or Twitter…

Part of me applauds Anne because I can certainly resonate with her feelings. Honestly, we’ve all been there on some level, haven’t we?  And we understand – in part – because if you’ve been part of the Church and Christianity, you know exactly how far it is from the portrait of beauty, idealism, and shalom we think the Church should be. Anne – to her credit – has shared in subsequent interviews that her decision wasn’t flippant but processed over several years and especially as she wrestled with numerous critical issues.

We understand her decision or at least, her sentiment…because we understand the failures and inconsistencies of Christianity…and because at one point or dozen points in our lives, we’ve contemplated the same thing.

The overdramatization of the suckiness of the Church

Let’s be honest. It’s easy to take shots at an institution – especially Christianity and the Church. For Christians, it’s our family and that gives us license and permission to speak constructively or critically at our own family.

We all do it: men, women, children, poets, singers, skeptics, believers, cynics, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Partiers, Coffee Partiers, Presbyterians, Baptists, Covenanters, Calvinists, Arminians, Trekkies, and even you and me.

In fact, it’s become the somewhat cool, hip, and edgy thing to do…because you are more [wait for it…wait for it] – – authentic.

Ahhh. Authentic Christianity.

And while I can’t argue that Anne’s descriptions are entirely inaccurate, I really do wonder if we’ve allowed these assumptions, judgments, and descriptives to become the totality of Christianity. Is it possible that we’ve given these descriptives so much press that it has grown bigger than reality? They have grown  to be such that many – perhaps including ourselves – have come to believe that Christianity is all about being anti gay, anti-feminist, and anti-artificial birth control (anti-science)?

  • Are those descriptives realities for some and in some communities? Yes.
  • Are they the totality of the movement of Christianity? No.

Christ Died for an Imperfect Humanity [and Church]

This isn’t license for Christianity to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, and anti-whatever we think the Church is against. But leaving Christianity or no longer desiring to be known or identified as a Christian isn’t the answer.

The answer is right before us. The good news isn’t institutional religion. It isn’t a denomination, Christianity, or the Church.

The good news is the Gospel and the Gospel is not just merely propositional truth but Truth that has been personified in the person of Jesus the Christ – fully God and fully human – who chose to dwell and live amongst us and ultimately, go to the cross…

for an imperfect, depraved, and fallen world and Church.

This is why – as much as I’m tempted to join Anne, I am publicly declaring

my imperfect love for an imperfect world (& Church) – for whom Christ demonstrated perfect love.

I am a Christian because

a perfect Christ demonstrated perfect love for an utterly imperfect humanity.

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39 Responses

  1. Anthony says:

    Thank you, Eugene. This is gracious, honest, and beautiful.

  2. mo says:

    Yeah the whole thing is a bummwr. I’m a fan of her books, especially when I was younger.

    That’s a good point about is feeding the stereotypes. I’ve felt all the things she said at one point or another. But leaving the church is leaving God’s will.

    You can’t love Christ without loving his bride. Unfortunately, she’s describing the drunk uncle at the bar, not the bride.

  3. Ben from TIC says:

    Amen to your last statement.

    Let’s not give up on Anne. I believe God has begun a good work in her and will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Let’s love her with the love of God, who is for her.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brian Kanowsky, Christian Ray Flores. Christian Ray Flores said: check this out By now, most of you have heard of the dramatic news of Anne Rice “quitting Christianit… http://bit.ly/9wzNDm by Eugene Cho […]

  5. Tracey says:

    As a Christian, the only part of her statement that I can see to be true is the ‘anti-gay’ sentiment. God’s word speaks against the sex ACT in homosexuality, just as he speaks against the sex ACT (fornication and adultery) in unmarried heterosexual couples. It is the ACT, not the actors that the Lord condemns. Hate the sin, LOVE the sinner.

    I vaguely recall that Anne Rice was a believer through the Catholic faith. I love Catholics, but do not agree with some of their tenets. And before anyone hates on me for saying that, understand that I grew up in the Catholic Church and saw/felt the errors first hand. And not all parishes are the same.

  6. A.Y. Siu says:

    As a pro-choice, pro-gay, feminist Christian, I think she’s putting forth a false dichotomy. It’s unfortunate.

  7. Regina says:

    Perhaps it is just as simple as being a part of her journey. Faith and doubt tend to live closely together. God loves abounds, it hugs, it cares. And He is GRACE.

  8. MK says:

    It sounds like what she’s really quitting is “church” meaning, the people, not Christ. I did this once. I understand totally, and I have a lot of respect for her honesty

  9. Steven Kim says:

    I’m with you Eugene! I pray for Anne Rice, and those who have similar sentiments.

  10. joy says:

    I totally resonate with her…and in fact I’ve left the church myself. I am wrestling with what it means to be a Christian…and how or if the traditional form of ‘doing’ church will ever be part of my journey again.

  11. Robin says:

    But what she said is that she is still a Christian, follower of Christ, but leaving the Church. I don’t know if I agree with her because it is something I really struggle with. All the same I think the public statement should shake up a few church leaders who I think focus more on money and building than their flocks and the poor. Just saying. Comparing the original church to what we have today is like apples and oranges. The church needs to focus one what we “should” be doing to help the widow and the orphan and loving our neighbor. Instead, the rhetoric is often about who can be included and can’t because of behavior. Stop just believing in Christ and start following!

  12. pam says:

    Robin, I tend to agree with you – in fact if you dig deeper than to just read that she “Quit Christianity” you can find this comment posted July 29th at 2:06 pm the day after she “quit”?

    From Facebook

    Anne Rice 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.

    Her decision has nothing to do with her faith in Christ; it’s all about institutionalized religion, which I think Eugene said pretty clearly in his Blog. The fact is you do not have to be a part of an INSTITUTION to claim the gift of Christ’s love.

    To Eugene, I have to respectfully disagree with your word usage in one point in your blog post, although you correct yourself later. You state that “Christ died for an Imperfect Church”

    However, from what I read in the Bible Christ died for an imperfect WORLD, John 3:16 for God so loved the WORLD that he sent his only son that WHOEVER believes in him will have eternal life. (Paraphrased) (which you say later in your post when you encompass all of humanity). Note the verse doesn’t say he died for the church and that members of the church who believed in him would have eternal life. No matter if the individual is part of the church at any given moment or not. If a person loves Christ they are always part of the body of Christ and therefore part of the upper case C church even if they are not attending an institution of worship one day a week.

  13. Jacqueline says:

    You can be a christian without going to church but you’re only living half a christian life. You’re not really growing spiritually or in community. And it’s easier to drift into other things and away from God. That’s been my experience anyway.
    When you’re in the church (this is what I struggle with) you come face to face with your own issues because your brothers and sisters call you on them. It’s not pleasant. You’re forced to love people you’re not naturally drawn to. That’s life in community. There are also benefits to life in ‘community done right’. Love and growth and friendship. Healing and sharing your gifts.
    We in the church can experience all of this if we love the church and pray for our church homes. Protect her as the bride of Christ.
    I am sharing this as a person who has been hurt many times by people in the church but I’ve come to be thankful for my community and not expect perfection. They don’t seem to expect perfection from me.
    Jacqueline

  14. Esther says:

    In the name of working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), I offer the following quote as food for thought to all those who would read. Speaking of Christianity, CS Lewis writes: “Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: everyone is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity.”

    I think it’s a question of what you revere and worship. Do you really revere and worship Christ when you say that you’re rejecting the very Body that He died for? Anne Rice professes faith in Christ, but seems to me has yet to know Him. May He draw you closer to Himself and carry on to completion the good work He began in you (Phil 1:6).

  15. Steve S. says:

    Or as my friend Phil Harold puts it, “What happens when the spiritual journey ends in little more than a prolonged rant against existing forms of religion. Its all about dissociation. There seems to be a stunning capacity to persist in that mode indefinitely today, and an equally stunning incapacity to find a spiritual home.”

    Taken from Jason Clark’s blog

  16. JimC says:

    Everyone is different. I’m not sure, everyone can be as involved in a local church. Some not at all it seems. But, it’s a free word, I mean world and it’s her life. For me, I like being ‘in community’ or part of a group, but when I thought about it – I already am part of groups before the local church. There is 1) GOD and me, 2) me and my wife (bad engrish), 3) my wife, son, and I, 4) My parents and I, 5) My real Christian friends (by this I mean those I really have something going on with) who go to other churches, etc.. You all get the idea. I still cultivate and enjoy going to church to see my family/friends there and worship in a beautiful setting. But, I am already a part of many wonderful relationships in which GOD is in the midst.

  17. When I read this all I hear is the pain and frustration in her voice. So, we lift her up!

  18. Jim Black says:

    Thanks Eugene for the post – a good word, as always!

    What I’m most concerned with are the Christians who have responded to Anne Rice with vitriol and judgerment, thereby helping her to prove her point.

    I don’t believe that Jesus is that worried with those who struggle trying to have a faith with integrity and thoughtfulness…even though that often means a winding journey that often doesn’t look to others like a picture of a “Christian.” I don’t know Anne Rice, or even that much about her, but I get the feeling that she is making an honest attempt to know Jesus.

    I DO believe that Jesus has some things to say about those who are so confident of their faith that they quickly, freely and publically critisize (read: “judge”) another person’s faith journey, as if they are somehow defending or protecting Jesus. Not only does Jesus not need this kind of defense/protection, but He has freed us from that responsibility so that we can show love and grace to those who are struggling to live a life of faith, even if we don’t agree with them on every point, even if they are our enemy and we disagree on every point.

    One thing I can certainly understand in Ms Rice’s decision is that I too have a problem lining up Jesus words and life with what we have come to call “christianity”, with it’s pursuit of power, prosperity, politics, etc…
    I have a suspicion that Jesus would also disassociate himself from that if he were here in person (as I believe he did when he was here!)

    I also wonder if we wouldn’t find Jesus at the house of Anne Rice having some tea…

  19. Jim Black says:

    mispelled my website address in the last post…oops!

  20. Mick says:

    I think she decided to quit or be separated a specfic religious cultural doctrine that is identified with the religious right . I think the comments would have reached a wider audience if she had included some stereotypical beliefs that some in the mainstream or left ward denominations have also . But the meaning to me is Christ is not a religion , its a relationship. We were commanded to love , which is not easy when you consider some of the people on this earth behave like we all do at times. But if you start choosing who receives mercy and grace based on political /cultrual beliefs , you see entire communities missing out on the Love of Christ or ever seeing it .

  21. Susan Munson says:

    Great comments all. I LOVE that we are having the conversation. I especially like Mick’s comments that it is not about religion, but a relationship. I don’t want to be associated with the religious right either, but instead of quitting, I vote for change from within. First step is for each of us to really FOLLOW Christ ourselves, not just say we do. The Triune God will do the rest🙂

  22. Kacie says:

    I’d say part of it is that she was Catholic. It’s different when you’re Catholic. You either follow the institution and their theology as a whole, or you don’t. She didn’t. There’s no halfway in the RCC, either you submit to it or you don’t.

    As an evangelical I might highly dislike the church and evangelicals sometimes, but because of my beliefs I remain a Christian even when I am uncomfortable with the actions and beliefs of other evangelicals. It’s a different view of the Church.

  23. Dan Imburgia says:

    this whole affair smacks a bit springeresque to me. I think Rice might like my reply in narrative form:

    Oh no, Baby no, baby don’t leave me, I can change babe, give me a chance, I’ll do whachever ya want baby doll, but just please don’t leave me; hurt me baby, beat me, make me write bad checks, just don’t leave me babe, talk to me, I’m a beggen ya baby I can’t make it wichoutya, I’ll just shrink up and die, ahhh baby doll I love ya, LOVE ya, ahhhnooooo babydoll…… Alright, then…get out, go on, get the f%#&k out, who the hell needs ya, I don’t need ya, ya never did love me dijya, DIJA!! well I never loved you neether and I never needed you so get out, GET OUT, I don’t need you, I dont need anybody, I can get all the (celebrities, or, whatever) I need, that’s right, Ya think I can’t? dooya? Yeah, well i been talking to Stephenie, yeah that’s right , from ‘Twilight’ THE Stephanie Meyer, from the ‘Twilight’ series, oh yeah were gunna hook up, who needs a blood sucking bitch like you when I can have Stephanie!? Now whose begging huh? now whose crying (sound of door slamming) ahhnooo baby I didn’t mean it baby,theres never been any one but you, come back baby doll………sobbing.

  24. […] Truthfully, I felt good about my convergence of thoughts that came together for a post entitled, “Why I’m Not Quitting Christianity” – in response to Anne Rice’s announcement to leave Christianity (not […]

  25. JimC says:

    Last night’s CNN – Anne Rice revealed it all came about when a notable clergy berated her for some link on her website. A case of hurt feelings perhaps? Mrs. Anne Rice, come back!

  26. […] Russell Mooreon the comments that Anne Rice left on Facebook the other week. I also enjoyed to read what Eugene Cho had to say as well. In fact, there were a lot of people who chimed in. – Don Miller on conditional love. Enjoyed this. […]

  27. Chandra Moore says:

    Good post, I do agree with everything Eugene said. I think all the comments have been interesting. But Anne left all the answers of why she walked away in her post and it’s gone all but ignored in this entire conversation. And yet, that’s exactly why she did…..

    I’m an outsider.

    To be honest, I’m right there with her. Unfortunately churches everywhere in every city and every denomination have become cliques whether they admit it or not. The looks, opinions, services, pastors, everything is a little different about each one and I don’t think any of them set out to exclude but unfortunately this happens in every single church I’ve ever gone to. Period. (and trust me I’ve gone to A LOT and only ever called 3, ‘home’ churches). It’s human and natural to want to belong, unfortunately the ‘church’ whether it admits it or not has become the most exclusive group on the face of the planet. Even those churches which set out to seek “sinners” and claim “no perfect people here” exclude those who are not the same “type” of sinners as them. I believe this is what she meant when she said-

    It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.

    I for one, completely agree. I’m committed to Christ, and because of THAT I am a Christian. But I have to admit, like Anne I find myself closer and closer everyday to making the leap of walking away from the American church and never looking back.

  28. Chandra Moore says:

    Good post, I do agree with everything Eugene said. I think all the comments have been interesting. But Anne left all the answers of why she walked away in her post and it’s gone all but ignored in this entire conversation. And yet, that’s exactly why she did…..

    “I’m an outsider.”

    To be honest, I’m right there with her. Unfortunately churches everywhere in every city and every denomination have become cliques whether they admit it or not. The looks, opinions, services, pastors, everything is a little different about each one and I don’t think any of them set out to exclude but unfortunately this happens in every single church I’ve ever gone to. Period. (and trust me I’ve gone to A LOT and only ever called 3, ‘home’ churches). It’s human and natural to want to belong, unfortunately the ‘church’ whether it admits it or not has become the most exclusive group on the face of the planet. Even those churches which set out to seek “sinners” and claim “no perfect people here” exclude those who are not the same “type” of sinners as them. I believe this is what she meant when she said-

    “It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.”

    I for one, completely agree. I’m committed to Christ, and because of THAT I am a Christian. But I have to admit, like Anne I find myself closer and closer everyday to making the leap of walking away from the American church and never looking back.

  29. Mick says:

    I have never been concerned about finding the perfect church or denomination.I have always realized the moment I attended it that the perfection would be gone . Through Christ my fellow believers have tolerated me , Praise God.

  30. […] sexism? stereotypes? i’m guilty as charged. As most of my readers know, I wrote as post regarding Ann Rice’s simple but dramatic departure from organized Christianity entitled, “Why I’m Not Quitting Christianity.” […]

  31. Sounds to me like she’s saved.

    Looking back now, I see it sure wasn’t non-Christians that drove me away from the belief-system.

    And it is seriously amazing what good you can do without a denomination, a creed, or trumped up hierarchical authorities drawing lines between people. The focus can actually turn to ‘the other’, doing something in loving-kindness so that someone else benefits. No in-group psychological approval mumbo-jumbo.

    Sure, community is important. But the party is a lot cooler when everyone’s invited.

  32. brick house says:

    the catholic church was highly involved in the editing and possible re-writing of major sections of the new testamant – and lets not get into the questions of which god of the old testament we are talking about, or even if its the same god as the new testament.

    almost every church will say it’s all about the bible, but there are some issues with that – do you follow every commandment in the bible? is it written in a prescient way or a dated way?

    what works about the bible is the wisdom it contains. what doesnt work is the fact that it is inconsistent, obviously written by different authors, and contains lots of supernatural feats similar to the feats of other religions – Krishna healing the sick, Muhammad flying on a magic carpet.

    the bible is the basis for church as an institution. if you agree in bible study that not everything in the bible was “written BY God” and pick and choose the excerpt, but dont follow the other rules supposedly also said by god such as not wearing mixed fabric and stoning people for this or that, then you admit its not the completely perfect manifestation of the perfect god – because besides the church and the bible, thats all we have left. no VHS tapes folks. if its not thaaat much better than all the other compilations of human wisdom out there, what you have left is human spirituality, which I am not about to rip on.

    but when you connect the bible with the catholic church (who had strict control of the orthodoxy for many centuries) which is well known to be a flawed institution makes me wonder what is all the fuss about. can’t a person still follow christ without all the orthodoxy of Paul, and the obviously dated superstition of the old testament? Not to mention 2 thousand years that have been arguably WORSE than the 2 thousand years before that in terms of how man has treated man, or at least the volume of suffering.

    i think trying to defend the institution of the church is a losing battle that takes away from time well spent learning the intangible things god is trying to teach us every day, just like He taught the people who wrote the Old Testament. Or else, why didnt god just hand a copy of the bible to Moses?

    And if the bible was so great, how come its like 3 short paragraphs lifted from it, and then 20 mins talking about it. wouldnt the all perfect have been able to write something people could just understand?

    sorry had to say something. but if youre going to fund missionaries going to interesting places only to tell people what to do, then i think i have the right to say it how i see it myself. im not saying your religion is bunk, but its bunk to stick with an orthodoxy as manmade as the pyramids.

    and look up the egyptian horus myth, verrrry similar to Jesus – who has some other elements from hinduism and mithraism thrown in as well…

    oh and instead of handing out food in places where our foreign policy has ghettoized countries – Central America, Middle East, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Iraq, Afghanistan – how about some Christian protest against this selfish empire that we are a part of. handing out food is a band-aid on the injustices of the (very christian) past, when this very decade we let two horrible wars happen. why didnt God mobilize us against what we know now as being very wrong minded.

    best wishes, i think you seem to have a good attitude and all, but sticking to and hoping to spread a set of badly written orthodoxies is insulting to the people who know their history and can read critically, and know that in no way is the bible the flawless work of one author and the church anything less than the softened, modern continuation of THE MOST POWERFUL NON GOVERNMENTAL OPPRESSOR IN THE LAST 2000 YEARS.

    http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/ATHEISM/inquisition.html

    i know post-Billy Graham, lets have a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ is different, but thats what I would call spirituality. the orthodoxies of many centuries before ours were very different and filled with much more church induced fear. I personally would be embarrassed to be a part of that tradition… chained to a cross and a bible, needing to convert, and needing to be right

  33. […] Why I am Not Quitting Christianity […]

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