If you've been living in a cave for the past twenty years, Anne Rice is the author of many fine novels, including the Mayfair witches books, and most notably, her vampire chronicles. (Oh, and the Sleeping Beauty novels under a pen name, but that's a story for another day.) Rice's vampires are no sparkly, wimpy vampires; they are complex killers who will tear your throat out as they profess their love of your beauty. They appreciate art and music and are driven to tears by such beauty...but make no mistake, they are as likely to kill you as they are to admire you. They love humanity even as they want to kill it, they treasure it as they destroy it.
The epitome of the Rice vampire is Lestat de Lioncourt, a young Frenchman born to a noble yet destitute family. Lestat is truly a beautiful killer, and as Anne Rice's own story unfolded, it became obvious that Lestat's struggles with good and evil, God and the devil, mirrored her own doubts and struggles about religion.
Rice was born into a Catholic family, but her social views led her away from the church. After several devastating losses (including the death of her husband of several decades), she returned to the church. I followed her on Facebook for a while, but I eventually had to stop. I found her constant contorted efforts to excuse the Catholic church for its centuries of molestation and abuse very unpleasant and hard to stomach. You see, I admire Anne Rice very much. I find her intelligent, interesting, daring, fierce, an incredible writer, and just generally fascinating. (I got my copy of Servant of the Bones signed by her back in 1996!) I had a really hard time seeing someone that I admire so much try to justify such abuses by the Catholic church; it was almost as if I were watching a friend struggle to make excuses for something she had to know was wrong. It hurt me to see her in such a state. It hurt me to see her go against what I know she knew was wrong, because it was required of her by the Catholic church. She never condoned the abuse, and in fact spoke out against it. But she still adhered to her Catholicism. I had to wonder how such an intelligent person could continue to be subject to such a corrupt institution.
This week, she renounced Christianity. She wrote on 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.
I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
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 very much empathize with Ms. Rice. I have gone through my own struggles with faith; raised in the church, dealing with various issues in life and with those who would force me to believe the way they do, rejection, a semi-reconciliation to some sort of spirituality...I eventually came to the logical conclusion for me. It has not been an easy path, and I understand her dilemma and why she was driven to find solace in some sort of faith. It is not my place to disabuse anyone of their faith, at least if they don't ask my opinion on it. (You won't see atheists knocking on people's doors trying to convert them, believe me.) It is never easy for anyone who struggles with justice and equality and the inconsistencies of what some insist is the literal word of God, not to mention family members who would never accept such heretical thinking.
We all have our own path we must navigate. Faith or lack thereof is a very personal decision, and I know all too well that it can be a very rocky path, indeed. I suspect that Ms. Rice is still finding her way. We all are, because our journey doesn't end until we do. I wish her safe travels, and I applaud her for standing true to her convictions concerning societal justice rather than falling into the party line. I hope she continues to question and explore, as we all should. I hope she can eventually look at things from a scientific and rational viewpoint and perhaps change her views even further.
Having said all that...Welcome back, Anne! I missed you!