Anne Rice quits Christianity


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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104 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’ve always said: If Eternal Truths are not Hip, they are neither Eternal nor True.Report

  2. The initial quote that you kicked this post off with has gotten the most attention, however, she went on to clarify in a facebook post on July 29:

    “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.”

    I can sympathize with her struggle for it is a struggle that all thinking Christians must go through. I still think she needs to be part of a Christian community in order to sustain her faith but that is up to her.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    After reading some of her ten layered plots I think this is all just divine retribution for some of the unforgivably convoluted things she wrote. One of her vampire books had a part where you’re reading about a dude telling a story about going to find a dude who tells a story about going to find a girl who tells a story about going to find a dude who tells a story about going to find the vampire queen who tells a story about a tree. Seriously. Divine retribution seems plausible.Report

    • Avatar Aaron in reply to North says:

      @North, if you think that’s complicated, you should read Conrad’s Lord Jim. There’s an incredible number of nested narratives in that one, all coming to the point where it’s been told to the narrator by Marlowe from Heart of Darkness. Now that I think about it, I should really reread that.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Aaron says:

        @Aaron, Reeeaallly? *tents fingers* How interesting. Perhaps I shall avail myself. Many thanks for the reccomendation. You’re a gentleman and a scholar (unless you’re a dame in which case you’re a gentlelady and a scholar).Report

        • Avatar Aaron in reply to North says:

          @North, it really is a great book — a sea captain is telling a story to a group of listeners on a boat (one of whom is the ostensible narrator, so almost the entire book consists of quoted dialogue or letters) about a man he once knew, that for the most part consists of the sea captain relating stories he heard after the fact from people who knew the guy he once knew. It gets pretty elaborate.

          To say nothing of the fact that the central conflict (small English crew of a leaking transport ship abandon hundreds of Muslims on hajj to death when they think the boat is about to sink) is an incredibly interesting one, at least to my opinion.

          Of course, I’ve never read Anne Rice, so maybe she makes Conrad look like a Dick and Jane book, but still worth checking out.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Aaron says:

            @Aaron, Lord Jim is one of my favorite books, but if you want nested narratives, you have to read Melmoth the Wanderer (which, strangely enough, I just mentioned on Jason K’s other blog, in a completely different context). In that book, there are narratives within narratives within narratives within narratives, and often the same narrative within a narrative within a narrative will have, over time, several nested narratives. At times, you have to stop and think to yourself, “OK, who’s telling which of these stories right now?”Report

  4. Avatar Paul B says:

    I’m amazed that I haven’t seen anybody (including Rice, although I’ve only read excerpts of her post) bring up Kierkegaard in any of this, but it was pretty clear to me that she’s complaining about/abandoning what he called “Christendom,” not Christianity itself.

    Although I suppose that even if she’d been more precise in her terminology, the distinction between institutional church and the individual believer makes somewhat less sense in a specifically Catholic context.Report

  5. Avatar Leah says:

    I think it’s likely to less superficial than you think. It looks like Rice certainly still reveres Jesus as a moral teacher, and nothing she’s posted has suggested she’s stopped recognizing him as Christ. It feels more like she’s between denominations. She thinks Catholicism isn’t in line with the Jesus of the Gospels, but she doesn’t know of a different group she ought to join instead. Nothing anti-christian about that.

    –Leah @ Unequally YokedReport

  6. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    I don’t have a clue what’s going on inside her soul, but surely she knew that Christianity had these issues even before she converted. So why this narrative of betrayal? It’s rather like saying I stepped out of my office window and was disappointed that gravity didn’t make an exception, just this once.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, Perhaps she overlooked it or considered it a feature exaggerated by outside groups, then from within found it either as prevalent as she had feared or worse and then quit again?

      Certainly the gap between the nice stuff that the moderate Christian religions publicly preach and what they and their laity actually practice is a yawning one.Report

      • Avatar Rufus in reply to North says:

        @North, You know, I went through a searching phase (actually always have been) and sat down and reread the Scriptures, and then went to church for a few months. I liked the people there and thought the sermons were interesting. But they really weren’t talking about the Scriptures at all, so I stopped going.Report

  7. Avatar silentbeep says:

    Through all of this I just don’t know why she doesn’t just go to a Quaker silent meeting – it sounds like that would be more to her liking.Report

  8. Avatar Ben JB says:

    This seems a little obtuse on your part, E. D. It’s not hard to understand that “Christian” can refer simultaneously to a particular institutional apparatus (a particular set of church, spiritual advisers, exegetes, etc.) and to a less formally bound (but still bound) set of principles (redemption, love, etc.).

    For a similar case, I once asked a friend if he was a Democrat or a Republican, meaning party affiliation, and he answered that he was a believer in the principles of both democracy and republicanism. Now, that might be considered a jerky answer (as it might be considered a jerky question); but it’s an understandable answer. Any attempt to paint that answer as a conundrum would be weak tea–and seen, rightly, as an attempt to avoid the real part of the answer.

    So, would you again like to take a shot at understanding how Rice can quit Christianity (a set of institutions, of which there are many, but which are represented more in the public sphere by illiberal tendencies) in the name of Christ?Report

  9. Avatar Gorgias says:

    This makes at least a little bit more sense in a specifically Catholic context. I can’t speak for Rice in particular, but I do know that every time I think I might be able to have rapprochement with the church, the hierarchy does something that makes it abundantly clear that people like me aren’t welcome, such as shutting down their charitable services in DC because they might have to pay out benefits to gay couples. If one’s faith is such that it makes little sense outside the institutional structure of the church, and that institutional structure goes against your moral principles, disengagement with the faith is the best of many bad alternatives.

    Rice is really in no different straits than many gay Catholics.Report

  10. Avatar Bob says:

    What’s the minimum necessary to be a Christian? Belief in Jesus Christ as God and redeemer of man?

    Is that what is Anne rejecting as she quits being a Christian?Report

  11. Avatar Lyle says:

    Yes one can say that since the Christian church ignores that inconvenient fellow Jesus Christ and his sayings that don’t fit with their world view that Christianity as defined in the form handed down from Constantine is not what you believe in. In many respects I think the worst thing to happen to christianity was Constantine adopting it as the state religion as it forced the beautiful diversity of the early Christians into one set of ideas. (Going against Arianism for example). Since Constantine decided that clergy needed a tax exemption, then he had to decide who was a legitimate clergyman, thus the closing of the western mind.
    Perhaps today we need to let the 1000 flowers of the 100s and 200s of christianity bloom.Report

    • Avatar David Schaengold in reply to Lyle says:

      @Lyle, This gets the history exactly backwards. Constantine’s position at Nicaea was that the difference between Arianism and trinitarianism was unimportant. It was the bishops, many of whom were survivors of state persecution under Decius, who insisted that Arianism wasn’t true Christianity.Report

  12. Avatar dexter45 says:

    I haven’t any faith in the veracity of Judeo-Christian thought and a great deal of disdain for the average American who says that he or she is a Christian and calls for the annihilation of innocent Arabs. I think most of the people who call themselves Christian are followers of the harshest of the old testament prophets. Where exactly did Jesus say that homosexuality is evil? I think Jesus is one of the great moral philosophers but that is all and I agree with Gandhi when he said something like ” I have no problem with that Jesus fellow, it is his followers that cause me problems.”Report

    • Avatar frisbez in reply to dexter45 says:


      While I understand your position, I think you are somewhat off base in your idea that Jesus can be considered a moral philosopher if he is not also considered the Son of God. For one thing he argued in Luke 12:51-53 that he came to earth to divide father from son and mother and daughter. It is apparent that his message was a radical one, regardless of how easily we might try to couch it as nothing but love and peace and happiness. His confrontation with the moneychangers in the temple in Matthew 21:12 is another example of just how passionate and radical his message was. He literally attacked people selling sacrifices in the temple and drove them out, damaging both the economy of the time and the prevailing religious attitude. It is no wonder that the religious leaders of the day wanted so badly to kill him. It is thus difficult to mesh the ideas of Jesus as a loving moral philosopher with many of his teachings and actions.

      If we were to just focus on the moral teachings that he offered then we would have to conclude that he was either a madman or Divine. His actions resulted in the execution of 10 of his 12 disciples, as well as countless deaths from the Crusades and the list goes on. If he was only a good man and a moral teacher, how could he instruct his followers by using those very same old testament prophets whom you decry for being harsh?

      This is not meant to be a disagreement with your sentiment that Christians today are very hypocritical in their approach to issues such as homosexuality. I agree completely that too often we (identification of my bias) tend to blindly follow those harshest of prophets without recognizing our own follies. But God did say that homosexuality was evil in both the Old and New Testaments. He also mentioned plenty of other things that were evil too, including hate, adultery, and filthy communication. It’s too bad that Christians of today tend to focus on the sins of others while completely ignoring their own.Report

      • Avatar dexter45 in reply to frisbez says:

        @frisbez,I must admit that I have not read the bible since I was set free from that nonsense, so it is entirely possible that I missed the part where Jesus said homosexuality is bad. Could please tell me where to find that statement. The crusades were not caused by Jesus. He had been dead for about one thousand years when the first crusade hit the fan. I do think that Jesus had some funny ideas, but I still think that taking care of the less fortunate is something that one should do and I still think that his miracle of the mount where he made two fish and a loaf of bread feed the multitude was not so much creating fish, but convincing people to share was the real miracle. Most of the time and most of the places Galt rules.Report

  13. Avatar Anne Rice says:

    It is entirely possible for a well informed, well educated, and well intentioned person to walk away from the labels Christian and Christianity, while still dedicating her life to Christ. I just did it.
    I thank you for your discussion of this.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Anne Rice says:

      @Anne Rice,

      I remain curious. There are liberal branches of Christianity. The Society of Friends (Quakers) is among the very best of these, in my opinion, and if I were to have a conversion experience toward Christianity, I am fairly certain that I’d settle among them. I judge that they have, in every era, been on the right side of the big questions of the time: Women’s status in the church and in the polity, slavery, and the affirming of gay and lesbian relationships all stand out, as does — overwhelmingly — their dedication to peace and simplicity. I cannot imagine Christ returning to earth and not recognizing the Quakers as being among His own.

      As a non-Christian, I too admire this variety of Christianity above all others. Why not consider joining them?Report

      • Avatar silentbeep in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki,

        Well yeah, if you see above, I am wondering the exact some thing regarding the Quakers. As an aside, I grew up Roman Catholic, went to a Quaker college, and was incredibly impressed with the Society of Friends, particularly, the silent meeting structure. So completely and totally different than a mass.Report

    • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Anne Rice says:

      @Anne Rice, Walking away from the church is all well and good. Walking away from your Beauty books is quite a different matter.Report

    • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Anne Rice says:

      @Anne Rice, Actually, yes…at least in a Voegelinian sense where he rejects the “doctrine” Christian and concentrates on the “experiential” Christ.
      “The area of existential consciousness, though eminent of rank, is only one area of reality.”
      Check out Voegelin’s CW, Vol. 12, Pubished Essays, “The Gospel and Culture.” (Missouri Univ. Press).
      And, let us know how it works out for you.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Holy cow! Anne Rice!

    Anyway, I’ve been reading the comments at the Anchoress’s site and am, once again, flabbergasted.

    It seems to me that if there are fruits of the spirit, they are stuff like Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.

    In all of my interactions with Christianity, I have not really had much reason to believe that those fruits are in any way tied to Christianity at all. The homosexuality thing is a great example insofar as it is a sin that makes people *TOTALLY* freak out, but sins like Pride or Wrath are “hey, we’re all sinners” kinda sins.

    When I do meet someone who evidences the Fruits, there’s about a 50-50 shot at them being Christian and, then, a 50-50 shot of them being something approaching “devout”.

    It seems to me that this gives the game away. Christianity is exceptionally socially useful… but it isn’t representative of special knowledge of the universe.

    Seeing the storms brewing in the comments at the Anchoress makes this downright explicit.Report

    • Avatar Rufus in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, At the risk of sounding lazy (although, I doubt this counts as intellectual laziness), I have no intention of reading 240+ comments over there right now, so what’s the gist?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus says:

        @Rufus, the gist seems to be that Anne Rice totally doesn’t understand Christianity if she doesn’t see how, seriously, they are totally hating the sin but loving the sinner.

        There are a handful of interesting posts in there that talk about how understanding comes through obedience and so on… but the sheer number of openly hostile posts resulted in a sheer number of openly hostile posts from the other direction.

        And, yes, there is precious little love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control to be seen.Report

        • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, Love is obedience to God’s Will.
          And, replying to AR is much like replying to JB.Report

          • Avatar Frank in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

            @Bob Cheeks,
            “Love is obedience to God’s will.”

            “The Jews are a nervous people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have taken a toll.” Benjamin Disraeli

            50 centuries of Judaeo-Christian love have taken there toll on gays as well.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

            @Bob Cheeks, Sure, fine.

            But to know God’s Will is to know a great many things.

            It seems to me that, if there is a God (a big if), that he wants me to be kind to folks who need me to be kind to them, kick the asses of folks who need me to kick their asses, to love the folks who need me to love them, and to tend my garden.

            None of this includes having so much as an opinion on gay marriage, let alone one so strong that I am moved to oppose two people doing so. Two people trying to find their way together in this vale of tears need me to be kind to them, not kick their asses.

            And your knowledge of the mind of God seems to require that you point out to gay folks that their asses need kicking.

            We can’t both be right… and I have no, absolutely no, reason to believe that I am deceived.

            And so we are, once again, at an impasse.Report

            • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, Yes, well there’s nothing wrong with an impasse. In the face of the current condition.
              Re: the homosexual thing, I should think it is ‘sin’ in the same sense of my participation in adultery.
              For me to be able to come, spiritually before God, I would have to seek forgiveness and choose to not ‘sin’ again… E.g. the ‘sin’ is the act, not the condition of being. Intrinsically, it’s all about choice..ironic isn’t it?
              Re: ”knowing’ God’s will, all I can say is that I am a miserable sinner with any number of flaws, some of which you’ve been able to identify for me, and for which I shall be eternally grateful…but the fact is man has been turning toward God with varying degrees of success since the Axial Age…I choose to be guided in my search for the divine ground by the myth of three millennia rather than by the perversions of modernity’s current cultural ‘norms.’
              Like brother Voegelin wrote: “In the In-Between of existence, man is faced with the choice of denying his self and the devil or denying Jesus and the Unknown God.”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, here is my understanding of adultery:

              Two people, together, in a union. They have made a promise… to each other, to God.

              One of them breaks it.

              When I see two guys who want to get married, I see two guys who want to make a promise to each other. To get me to compare it to adultery, you’d have to introduce a third person.

              When it’s just the two dudes… I can’t compare it to adultery because no promises (to each other, to God) have been broken.

              Re: ”knowing’ God’s will, all I can say is that I am a miserable sinner with any number of flaws, some of which you’ve been able to identify for me, and for which I shall be eternally grateful…but the fact is man has been turning toward God with varying degrees of success since the Axial Age…I choose to be guided in my search for the divine ground by the myth of three millennia rather than by the perversions of modernity’s current cultural ‘norms.’

              Dude. I can very much appreciate that. Heck, my first comment (the “Hip” one) was my caustic take on such attitudes.

              But if I am stuck trying to do God’s Will, I am stuck with the facet of God’s Thoughts that I have access to.

              To act in opposition to God’s Thoughts would be, for lack of a better word, Sin.

              And the fact that there is a group of people over there yelling at me that, no, God really thinks *THIS* is reason to wonder… but, if after the wondering is over, I still have the same thoughts? I *MUST* assume that that group of folks yonder is deceived.

              I can do no other.Report

    • Avatar Richard M in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, you claim “It seems to me that this gives the game away. Christianity is exceptionally socially useful… but it isn’t representative of special knowledge of the universe.”

      Of course not. If there were such special knowledge, that would be Gnosticism, which the Church rejected right out of the gate in the first and second centuries. There is no “special knowledge” or secret knowledge which one needs for salvation in Christian belief.

      You are right that there are bad people within the fold, and “good” ones without. St. Augustine once made that observation himself.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Richard M says:

        @Richard M, so would the Christians who argue that it’s okay to eat shellfish and/or wear mixed fabrics because “we live under a new covenant now” qualify as Gnostics?Report

        • Avatar Richard M in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, No. Not unless you wish to call St. Paul a Gnostic.

          The Jewish Law as laid out in Deuteronomy and Leviticus consists of the moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws. The New Testament is pretty clear that Christians are not bound by the ceremonial and judicial laws – only the moral. And mere adherence to even the moral law is not a ticket to salvation. Grace is an entirely gratuitous gift by God, undeserved by any of us, myself especially.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Richard M says:

            @Richard M, Dude, I’m not the guy who brought Gnosticism into this.

            Though, honestly, I think the Road to Damascus contained more than a little special knowledge.

            The New Testament is pretty clear that Christians are not bound by the ceremonial and judicial laws – only the moral.

            So is lobster an abomination or is it not an abomination?

            Can we reach the conclusion about homosexuality being an abomination or is that a totally different abomination than the abomination that is lobster?Report

            • Avatar Richard M in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, No, you did bring in Gnosticism the second you began speaking of a “special knowledge” needed for salvation. That’s what Gnosticism *is*. That is what St. Paul rejected, and what the Apostles rejected in Acts. What St. Irenaeus rejected in Adversus Haereses.

              St. Paul’s blinding on the road to Damascus had nothing to do with special knowledge. It was a direct divine intervention, brought face to face with God. God did not pass St. Paul a special secret scroll.

              But to answer your question, no, lobsters are not an abomination. I enjoy them with lemon sauce.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Richard M, funny. I would swear that the Road to Damascus provided Paul with some really kick’n knowledge about the Reality of Christ that, dude, I *TOTALLY* lack.

              And as for the abomination of lobsters, I am pretty sure that I can find a couple of guys on this very website could could explain that they enjoy their own life partners (with or without butter) and, of course, it’s obviously not an abomination either.

              Which is, I presume, where you’d disagree and point out how that particular law is one of the ones that you know for a fact that we need to keep around (not the killing people part though!) while the stuff that you enjoy isn’t even a sin because we, of course, live under a new covenant.

              Why shouldn’t I see that as you giving the game away, again?Report

            • Avatar Richard M in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, “Why shouldn’t I see that as you giving the game away, again?”

              All right. :sigh: Let’s step back a moment.

              Christ was making the point to the Pharisees in Mark 2:27 that too many of the Jews had come to misunderstand – that following special laws is not a road to salvation. “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” Grace is a gift; it’s unmerited – though we can cooperate with it (so the Catholic Church teaches).

              For those of us who call ourselves Catholic, we believe that God became incarnate, in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ; and that Christ founded a visible Church on earth as an instrument of salvation. Not all Protestants agree; there we think Protestants are simply wrong (with charity, I hope). But if you accept these premises, then you must accept that the Church has teaching authority. It isn’t necessary that you understand all of it – what did the Good Thief understand, after all? (I would argue he understood an awful lot, just not in a way that he could have expressed to a doctoral dissertation defense committee) – but that you assent your will to Christ and His Church. If you fail, you screw up, you fall down – and you will, we all do, even the saints – that can be forgiven. The Church, as the old saying goes, is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. So yes, it does require a kind of receptivity, an assent, a self-denial. “Take up your cross and follow me.” That applies not just to gays, but to heterosexuals as well.

              Of course, modernity isn’t very much into self-denial, is it? And I’m not just talking about sex.

              Likewise, if you reject any belief in God – though it does not sound like Anne Rice has gone this far – then self-denial may not make much sense, since this life is all you “get.”

              Then again, I have known ascetics who appear happier than any other people I have ever met. Maybe happiness isn’t what we immediately think it is.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Richard M, So yes, it does require a kind of receptivity, an assent, a self-denial. “Take up your cross and follow me.” That applies not just to gays, but to heterosexuals as well.

              What about the people who see homosexuality as on par, morally, with enjoying lobster?

              I don’t mean the promiscuous ones. Just the ones who are living in a chaste life-partnership.

              Why wouldn’t a chaste relationship between two folks be as trivial in the eyes of God as, say, a meal at Red Lobster every Sunday after Church?Report

            • Avatar Dave Wyman in reply to Jaybird says:

              “Of course, modernity isn’t very much into self-denial, is it? And I’m not just talking about sex.”

              As per other utterances by Richard M, this is nothing more than an unfounded opinion.

              It would be easy to argue that modernity – whatever that means – is all about self denial. Part of the problem is that self-denial isn’t defined.

              It’s just as easily to argue, then, that many “modern” humans deny themselves in many ways. Many of us don’t work from an early age, as our ancestors did; instead, we spend years in study, rather than in work, by choosing to go to college, and/or to become specialists in their field (e.g. in the fields of law and medicine); the financial pay-off we want comes later.

              Women deny themselves children to create enough wealth to maintain a family when they choose to make one.

              While the number of obese people, at least is the U.S. is growing – no self-denial of food there – ever growing numbers of professional and amateur athletes demonstrate their ability at self-denial: they don’t eat desserts and they exercise in the rain and when it’s hot. That is, modern athletes, in ever growing numbers, deny themselves personal comfort to achieve certain deferred goals, whether it’s knocking out an opponent in the ring, scoring a touchdown, riding a bike 100 miles, etc.

              Denying ourselves desserts can lead to a lower incidence of heart disease. Denying ourselves who the sexual partners are that we want does not lead anywhere but to frustration, and certainly not to a mythical kingdom after death.Report

            • Avatar Richard M in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, That’s a fair question.

              The Catholic Catechism says this – apologies for the long excerpt: ”

              #2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
              #2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

              Reading this, I don’t see anything that would bar a chaste fellowship, even sharing living arrangements, between two people of same-sex orientation.

              There is the risk that doing so is a potential occasion of sin (and scandal); but I think that’s something they would have to address with their spiritual director, assuming they have a good one. For some, it’s probably not an advisable arrangement.

              I know of a concrete example of this situation in David Morrison, the Catholic apologist. He is gay, and has a chaste fellowship with another man. He’s received some criticisms/concern about the possible temptation involved in that arrangement; but as I said, I figure that’s between him and his confessor and God.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Richard M, I did not say “celibate”. I deliberately did not say “celibate”.

              I said “chaste”.

              My wife and I have a chaste relationship with each other. It is *FAR* from celibate.Report

            • Avatar Richard M in reply to Jaybird says:

              Dave Wyman,

              Sorry I can’t seem to link your reply – in case you are relying on subscription alerts. I can only hope you refresh the combox every now and then.

              This entire discussion is full of unfounded opinions – some you might even agree with – but I appreciate the special attention you’ve given me.

              Your point that I didn’t define “self-denial” is a fair one, however. I can only only plead combox brevity. I’m not writing a Summa article each time I post.

              So what are we denying ourselves? What should we be denying ourselves? To what end? The man or woman who spends years in study for a profession no doubt do so for material gain – and yes, I would reckon career success as “material gain”. That might be both good or bad, depending on what that material gain manifests itself as. A doctor who simply wants to master oncology well enough to save as many lives ans suffering as possible – that is clearly not a self-interested gain. Some women deny themselves children until they are in a position to care for them properly; some women just don’t want them – or just don’t want them on any terms but their own.

              Catholic Christianity is not anti-creation or anti-material (this was true of the Cathars, but not orthodox Christianity). However, it does recognize the the temptations of the material to fallen human nature. We end up worshiping created things – our own desires, consumption, wealth and the pleasures it can bring, sex, etc. – rather than God.

              So I would concede that self-denial still features in modern life, but most often for more immediate, material ends. What is lost is not only the effect on the soul but any sense of the virtues, except in the sense the virtues – let us say temperance here – can pay off in the short term for longer term material gains. Any larger effect on us or others is not often considered. And that distinguishes the modern (or this aspect of the modern) not only from Classical Christianity but also most of the ancients as well.Report

          • Avatar Frank in reply to Richard M says:

            @Richard M, I see where you’re coming from. You’re a condescending, disingenuous “defensor fidei”
            (“Low-life dirtbag” in Latin)

            You’re holding up David Morrison as an example. David’s a professional ex-gay who lives with his boyfriend and made his living for years promoting anti-gay propaganda.

            The Church endorses discrimination in employment, military service, education etc. even against celibate gays. (See section II Applications) . The line in the Catechism about avoiding the “appearance of unjust discrimination” really means “be sure not to leave marks when you beat them.”

            David Morrison had no problem with this because he was employed by a Catholic
            organization to generate propaganda.

            David was valuable not only because he could generate it but he could BE it.

            When I pointed out to David that I was gay and celibate and subject to Church – endorsed discrimination while he was still swapping body fluids with his boyfriend, he became offended.Report

            • Avatar Richard M in reply to Frank says:

              @Frank, Well Frank, if we’re just going to swap ad hominems here, I am not sure I see the point in continuing the discussion.

              Low life dirt bag? I am a pretty low sinner, which makes me not any one’s moral (or at least salvific) superior. I don’t feel any assurance in my salvation over you or Morrison or anyone else; all I know is that the way is, well, narrow. But it’s obvious you consider anyone who assents to Church teachings as a low-life dirtbag, so it seems we’re at an impasse here. Maybe it’s best we stop now before someone starts invoking Godwin’s Law.

              If Morrison is “swapping fluids” with his friend, that’s wrong, period, and he’ll have to answer for it either by contrition in this life or something worse in the next. I’m not his judge or anyone else’s. I can only judge actions, not souls.

              But I’m sure he was put off when you confronted him – especially if you used the kind of colorful language you’ve just used with me.Report

          • Avatar Richard M in reply to Richard M says:

            @Richard M, unfortunately, there’s some overlap between “chaste” and “celibate” depending on who is doing the talking, and which definition they are using. So I will dispense with the terms.

            In Catholic teaching, sex is is considered sinful outside of sacramental marriage. This means not only that lots of heterosexual sex that goes on today (and in past ages) is wrong, but – let’s be candid – any and all homosexual sex. If two same-sex attracted men, such as David Morrison and his friend, live with each other and have a non-sexual relationship – which is what I thought you meant – that does not seem sinful per se. If they are sexual active with each other but only each other, that would be sinful, I’m afraid,and always has been considered so by the Church, East and West. No getting around that.

            And I think this is what really sticks in Anne Rice’s craw. The decision by some bishops and Catholic groups to openly campaign against same-sex civil marriage no doubt bothered her a lot; but at the end of the day, she simply does not accept that the Church teaches that same-sex attraction is disordered in the Christian understanding (Romans 1:26-27) and that marriage was intended only between men and women (Matthew 19:4-6). Because her son – and a large chunk of her fanbase – is gay, this has always been a very hard teaching for her. I get that. Gentle admonitions to “love the sinner, hate the sin,” seem to cut no ice with her given that, well, Christopher Rice largely defines himself, his life and his work by that orientation, as do many other gay men in the West today.

            Some Catholic critics suggest that Rice was badly catechized, and I don’t doubt that’s true. But at the end of the day, even fully understood, this teaching cuts hard and sharp against the current self-understanding of sexuality in some quarters. At some level, I think Rice gets that, and that to be a Catholic has been and is going to be (if she returns) a difficult struggle for her.

            Of course, I would insert “Christian,” given some of the hard sayings of Christ himself (such as that passage in Matthew 19 I mentioned), to say nothing of Paul. But many Episcopalians, among others, seem skilled at selective reading of Scripture, and I still wonder why she hasn’t tried simply swimming to that side of the Tiber if she’s really still committed to “Christ.”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Richard M says:

              @Richard M, the terms you’re using strike me as arbitrary.

              Indeed, they strike me as about as arbitrary as your decision that, sure, you can totally eat lobster.

              Hey, don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying “change”.

              You be you.

              I do hope you understand how someone from the outside looking in sees this, however.Report

            • Avatar Frank in reply to Richard M says:

              @Richard M,
              Richard M., the fact is that the Church, the current Pope in particular, endorsed discrimination in employment, housing, and military service against gays, even the celibate ones.

              The Bishops then acted on this by opposing ENDA, a federal law which would have given gays some of the civil protections you enjoy as a Catholic under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and NO MORE.

              You can’t support this kind of supremacism agains even celibate gays and expect to be treated with respect because you don’t deserve it.

              As for your speculation about Anne Rice being upset over gay marriage in particular, that’s your fabrication. Furthermore, the very CDF document I cited opposes gay couples being given any of the rights that could possible be associated with marriage. Catholic lawmakers have taken this to include everything from the right to make wills including a same sex partner to the right to make burial arrangements.

              As someone who has had cancer twice, I find both of these DAMNABLY offensive. So I respect no one who gives carte blanche obedience to the Church on its teachings on homosexuality.Report

            • Avatar Richard M in reply to Richard M says:

              Hello Jaybird,

              Wasn’t my “decision” that I could eat lobster, save in that I “decided” to be a Catholic.”

              In this way I do respect Rice. She decided she couldn’t agree with the Church on these things. So she left. Publicly. That puts her well ahead of some Catholic dissenters.

              Hello Frank,

              “Richard M., the fact is that the Church, the current Pope in particular, endorsed discrimination in employment, housing, and military service against gays, even the celibate ones.”

              That’s right. They did. So do I. But then I favor a Catholic confessional state, so you’re not going to get my goat on that. I’m reactionary that way. I don’t mind admitting it. (Let’s be clear that I’m not speaking for the Church or even most Catholics when I say that, obviously.)

              But set aside the dark side of myself I’ve revealed to you for a moment. The reality is that even under Catholic doctrine some of these positions are prudential (meaning open to alteration based on circumstances), at least insofar as they do not directly impact the Church’s ability to fulfill its mission. Some bishops, priests and lay Catholics don’t agree with such laws, and short of measures which would impinge on religious liberty, Catholic doctrine (at least post-Vatican II) allows for that. And likewise, it is also true that pretty much every social institution, group, and person in the West favored these same positions until a generation or two ago, Frank. In other words, Frank, I think your argument is with more than just the Catholic Church. It’s with just about all of Western (and for that matter, non-Western) history.

              I think you are also kidding yourself if you think it was just the campaign of some bishops against civil same-sex marriage that bothered (bothers) Rice.

              But be that as it may, I’m sorry you don’t think I’m deserving of respect. Despite the fact that we clearly disagree, viscerally, on this issue (and likely a lot others), I still think you are, or I otherwise I would not have bothered spending the time today commenting on this thread.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Obviously being Christian doesn’t make you any better or more moral or any of that garbage.

    As obvious as this is to some, it is not obvious to others.

    There is very much an undercurrent of “Eureka! I have found it!” in much of Christian (and especially Evangelical) tradition. There’s a lot of stuff packed into the belief system.

    1) God exists.
    2) God cares about me on a personal level.
    3) I have accepted the gift(s) that God has offered.
    4) I have a personal relationship with God.

    So, at the very least, there is a *HUGE* difference between Christians and atheists.

    I don’t believe in a God, let alone have any sort of relationship with Him.

    On a very fundamental level, Christianity implies the existence of a “more something” than atheists have achieved.Report

  16. Avatar Ben JB says:

    Once again, I’m confounded, E.D. You say that the particular political positions associated with the most populous institutional forms of Christianity are merely “a historical accident.” But that doesn’t mean these positions are any less real: It may be merely a historical accident that we live in a time where the forces against gay marriage in America are primarily religious (and primarily Christian)–but that’s the time we live in! Whatever sort of eternal time or non-time we might look forward to, we live in historical time.Report

  17. Avatar Rufus says:

    Lenny Bruce once said that what was great about the 60s was people left the church and went back to God. Anne Rice is probably the 100,000th person I’ve heard in my life say that they love Christ and follow his teachings, and believe in the resurrection of the dead, the forgiveness of sins, and the incarnation of the word- but have no use for organized religion or the Church. Actually, I think I’ve met more Christians who feel than way than the church-going sort. I can’t say which position makes more sense or works better, being a total outsider, but it seems strange that you’ve never heard anyone say this before.Report

  18. Avatar Rufus says:

    I’d also say that most people, when they talk about “the Church” mean the one down the street that they go to. So you might be going to very different masses than Anne Rice has been to.Report

  19. Avatar Splendid One says:

    Nice. It obviously makes your faith insecure that she has done this, so you call her superficial. Get a grip. Was Thomas Paine superficial? Was George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? Benjamin Franklin? Maybe so, if their faith – which is not yours – makes you insecure?

    How can it seem to you that she has given up on “him” altogether? She says she hasn’t. She is a very good writer and it would kinda make sense that she means what she says. I heard a radio interview with her about this yesterday and her remarks are consonant with what she wrote.

    Much like we have right-wingers in the US saying that “good” Muslims need to isolate the “bad” Muslimists, we also need “good” Christians to isolate the “good” Christians.Report

  20. Avatar Bill says:

    Spin it any way you like. But Anne Rice was quite clear about her reasons for leaving ‘christianity.’

    ‘christians’ just seem unable to take to heart what she said, because most of them are not capable of true self-examination. From the outside of ‘christianity’ looking in, ‘christians’ appear to very many of us as crazed, judgmental, uneducated rednecks who hide behind the bible to mask their very own bigotry and ignorance.

    Who moral among us wants to affiliate with a group of people responsible for so much pain and destruction in the world?

    Not me. And apparently not Anne Rice.

    Something tells me that Jesus loves Anne Rice a little more today. For sticking up for his good name that has been hijacked by a bunch of american religious terrorists.

    Those secure in their own faith will not care about her decision. Those who are not will continue their reign of religious terror across the once great United States.Report

  21. Avatar Frank says:

    The Anchoress (Elizabeth SCALIA) really should keep her hypocritical, gay-hating mouth shut about this one. The most well-known member of her family is Antonin Scalia who’s famous for endorsing Colorado Amendment 2, which would deny gay citizens access to the legislative and judicial system to redress any claim of discrimination forever. The majority opinion in that case noted that it would allow no redress of grievances even if the state of Colorado would ban gays from everything from libraries to hospitals. It was the ultimate, Carte Blanche Jim Crow law for gays.

    If the Church weren’t a gay hating institution and if it live by its Catechism’s requirement to avoid unjust discrimination against gays, the Church would have excommunicated Antonin Scalia for endorsing the legalization of every form of unjust discrimination just as surely as the Church once excommunicated another corrupt judge, Leander Perez for trying to prevent the operation of integrated schools in Louisiana.

    Anne Rice lost her daughter at 6 to leukemia and her husband to cancer within the past decade. The one remaining child and remnant of her husband she has is Christopher Rice, who is gay.

    Given that Anne’s church denies all civil protections that specifically mention gays, she was faced with the same choice that Abraham was when God ordered him to murder his own son Isaac as a demonstration of loyalty. Faith or family. No one who trivializes that choice deserves to be a parent or to be called a follower of Christ.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Frank says:

      @Frank, what choice did Abraham make, again?Report

      • Avatar Frank in reply to Jaybird says:

        Abraham made the choice to follow God’s command to bind his only son Isaac, to attempt to c ut his throat as a human sacrifice to God.Report

        • Avatar Frank in reply to Frank says:

          An angel stopped the hand of Abraham before the money shot. Jewish legend has it that Isaac never spoke to his father Abraham again.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Frank says:

            @Frank, so is the lesson that we need to listen to God to the exclusion of what we think might be in our kids’ immediate best interest?Report

            • Avatar Frank in reply to Jaybird says:

              “so is the lesson that we need to listen to God to the exclusion of what we think might be in our kids’ immediate best interest?”

              Strike the word “immediate” and you have the right idea. That’s the lesson my father taught me when I was 4 and then carried out, at least figuratively, when he found out I was gay.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Frank, if there is a God (a big if), it might very well make sense that He would want some stuff that makes absolutely zero sense.

              “You must wear socks that are not purple! Purple socks are an abomination!”

              There isn’t any asking why in response to this. God is God and we are not.

              If we want to start arguing that, well, The Bible has a lot of rules in it and most of them are crap, but, seriously, these rules over here make a lot of sense and we live under a new covenant now, we’re pretty much giving the game away.

              It seems to me that Christians have given the game away.Report

  22. Avatar Dave Wyman says:

    “then I go to mass and everything is different. There are no politics. There is no divisive language, no hell and brimstone, none of this. There is the message of love and redemption and community and charity that drew me back to Christianity in the first place.”

    That’s all well and good, except that it also entails belief in mental telepathy with a 2000 year-old zombie, a talking snake, magic fruit, burning in hell, etc.

    Messages of love and redemption and community and charity can take place in other venues than the various flavors of Christian churches, without the need to base those messages on orders flowing from a supernatural being.Report

  23. Avatar Nuada says:

    I think that this discounts the powerfully pervasive role Christianism plays in America religion today.

    You can be a perfectly happy Christian with a left-leaning orientation, (be it political, theological or liturgical), in the abstract. But when you want to put your faith into practice in the most common, most basic way…..joining a Christian denomination… can get more difficult.

    I can speak to Ms. Rice’s experiences somewhat as we both were, up until just recently, practicing Roman Catholic Christians. (I still am, she apparently, is not.)

    Today, if you are a left-leaning or even a non-right wing Christian, you can be made to feel deficient, feel like a sinner, feel like an outright apostate. It’s never about the big things, that’s not where Ms. Rice was after all. You can believe in the Trinity. You can believe in Christ as the Son of God, the Redeemer of the World. You can believe in the one “true” Church. You can believe in the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Nicene Creed. You can go to Mass every week, go to Confession regularly and it all still won’t be enough. Your priest, your bishop and plenty of self-avowed yet hopelessly smug “devout Catholics” on television and the internet will wag their metaphorical fingers at you. To them, politics and religion are fused together completely. And you better believe that there is a morally “right” and “wrong” choice to make when voting. It always goes one way and it’s almost always about something stemming from a sexual matter.

    To understand that is to begin to understand Christianism; fundamentalism but without the corresponding isolationism from the greater society that they condemn. In reality and ironically enough, Rod Dreher gives us a look at a gentler version of Christianism in action. Instead of accusing liberal Christians of not being orthodox, he simply advises them to stay in their liberal Christian ghettos.Report

    • Avatar silentbeep in reply to Nuada says:

      @Nuada, I hate to do keep tweeting the Quaker horn, but I hate to see various non-fundamentalist Christian practices such as the Quaker one (the silent meeting kind) be labeled as a “left wing ghetto.” And for what it’s worth, there are relatively progressive Roman Catholic parishes too. I say this as someone who has left the Catholic church.Report

  24. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Dude, the mainstream Protestant churches are all commie-dems…much of the RCC is commie-Dem…what the hell are you talking about?Report

    • Avatar Frank in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      @Bob Cheeks,
      Duuude, have you been high since the Reagan years? The Catholic Hierarchy have frequently stated its a mortal sin to vote for a Democratic candidate.Report

      • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Frank says:

        @Frank, The Catholic Hierarchy have frequently stated its a mortal sin to vote for a Democratic candidate.
        So what’s the problem? Why isn’t it a ‘mortal’ sin to vote commie-dem?Report

    • Avatar Nuada in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      @Bob Cheeks,

      I can only assume that you are speaking at me. If so, let me remind you that I am addressing the topic through the lens of a Roman Catholic Christian. The RCC, while still Christian as most any other denomination, has a flavor all its own that can make it difficult to put aside the theological lens or filter that we are all have built into us. So I can not and do not try to speculate what the worldview of a “mainline Protestant” might be in anything other than the broadest sense.

      As far as the Roman Catholic Church being largely “Commie-Dem”? I understand humor, although the use of the word “hell” in my direction is probably not the most prudent of word choices. One could misread it as a hint of intentional impoliteness. Now I suspect this might be an attempt at humor. I suppose that is your right, until the blogger host takes it away from you. But if you really want a clarification of my views, I would kindly ask you to try again in a more sober manner.Report

      • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Nuada says:

        @Nuada, “But if you really want a clarification of my views, I would kindly ask you to try again in a more sober manner.”

        Whatever, dude!
        Re: my lack of a ‘sober manner’ file a grievance with the blogmaster and if you think that’s something wait until later tonight when I’ve got two fingers of Maker’s Mark in me…heh Northie?Report

  25. Avatar Dave Wyman says:

    Frank wrote:

    “Abraham made the choice to follow God’s command to bind his only son Isaac, to attempt to cut his throat as a human sacrifice to God.”

    Did he? Not according to the bible

    22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, AND COME AGAIN TO YOU.

    Unless old Abe wasn’t being honest, he believed he and his son would return to his his posse, so in his heart, he knew his god wouldn’t let him make sacrifice.

    Which means, of course, Abraham never intended to make a sacrifice, and never believed he would have to make a sacrifice. That means the usual understanding of the story is wrong. It is about Abraham putting his faith in his god, but in fact he put his faith in the belief that god wouldn’t let him sacrifice his son.Report

  26. Avatar John says:

    RE: “… But then I go to mass and everything is different.”

    You know, E. D., I have the same feelings when I attend my state party convention.Report

  27. Avatar Michael says:

    What’s so difficult about this? She’s a follower of Jesus. She quickly found that the movement called Christianity is controlled by corrupt, power-seeking pharisees. To remain faithful to the call, she must separate from the movement of the pharisees.

    I’ve done the same thing. I’m connected with fellow believers, not with the movement called Christianity run by corrupt, power-seekers.Report

  28. Avatar deadrody says:

    I suggest a little more accuracy. All of Christianity is not afflicted by sex abuse scandals, the Catholic Church is. So far as I know there greater part of Christianity is doing just fine without diddling alter boys. In the US, only 25% of Christians are Catholic.

    Try not to tar such a wide swath next time.Report

  29. Avatar Niall says:

    Wait? Sully thinks Christianism is to blame?

    Surely not.

    And yes, Sully apologists, I accept that the term has some useful conceptual content. But the problem is that Sully throws it around so promsicuously that it has become just another tedious boo word like “bigot” or “sexist”. He can define it in theory until he’s blue in the face, but the way he uses it in practice, it simply means to nothing more or less than a Christian who disagrees with him about an issue of public policy.Report

  30. Avatar Paul A'Barge says:

    Ah, you Catholics. Really, y’all are your own worst enemies. You can’t seem to run off pedophile priests for molesting their altar boys and you can’t seem to find your way to G-d without a humongous infrastructure of unmarried bureaucrats between you and G-d.

    Memo to Anne … don’t leave Christ. Just walk away from the Catholic Church. Find a real Church. Read some Martin Luther and join the rest of us in again nailing those principles to the church doors.Report

    • Avatar Richard M in reply to Paul A'Barge says:

      @Paul A’Barge, mote, meet speck: – a *married woman* Lutheran bishop there, no less.

      Believe it or not, lots of us Catholics are appalled by the sex abuse scandals – not just the lives and souls destroyed, but the parishes and schools – built up over the years immigrant families giving much of what little they had – forced to close to pay off the lawsuits. A lot of us are dismayed that more of these bishops haven’t been forced out (why does Cardinal Mahoney still have a job?).

      But if we were to bail out because of bad leaders, or leaders doing bad things at any rate, we would all have packed it in after the Garden of Gethsemane.Report

      • Avatar Frank in reply to Richard M says:

        @Richard M, Aren’t the straight, Catholic laity every bit as appalling? After all, you’re going along with your Church’s opposition to every civil rights law drafted to protect the rights of gays and lesbians. You are protected by Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964; so, there is no possibility of legal retaliation. OTOH, you’re bound and determined to see that it’s always open season on even celibate gays. Your bishops even oppose anti-bullying regulations if they include sexual orientation. Why do you have gay kids so much?Report

      • Avatar Paul A'Barge in reply to Richard M says:

        @Richard M,

        “if we were to bail out because of bad leaders, or leaders doing bad things at any rate, we would all have packed it in after the Garden of Gethsemane.”

        Not at all. You’d just be on the front church steps in the august company of Martin Luther and the rest of us who will not tolerate bureaucrats who claim the authority to put themselves between us and our G-d.Report

  31. Avatar Frank says:

    So Richard M acknowledges supporting a state which would make me an untouchable regardless of how I behave. Richard, I abhor you with every fiber of my being and I will do my utmost to expose you and Catholics like you who exploit the language of civil rights and the principles of our Republic only to destroy it. You’re goose-stepping filth.Report

    • Avatar Richard M in reply to Frank says:

      @Frank, No, Frank, I favor a state which would treat you as a child of God, which is what you are. It would also set rules of behavior, which is what every state in human history has done.

      You like due process? That comes from Church canon law. So does much of our common law structure of law and rights. Am I going to agree that such rights include the right to same-sex marriage? No, Frank, absolutely not. Hospital visitation, power of attorney rights? I have no problem with that. More people than just gay couples can benefit from that, after all. But you and I both know that’s not what the argument is really over.

      But you needn’t fret. To have a confessional Catholic state requires having a Catholic society, and we don’t have that around here, last I checked. And people with views like mine are in a rather small minority.

      Likewise, as things are trending you are going to get pretty much the entire panoply of rights you’re advocating for before long. For the time being, right here and right now, you’ve won your battle for shaping the society around us. Folks like me are the ones who will have to figure out how to survive in it.Report