OK. I’ve never read any of the Vampire Chronicles. I didn’t see Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire. So when author Anne Rice announced some years ago that she became a Christian, I thought, “That’s nice,” and shrugged.
Ah, but two weeks ago when she announced that she was leaving Christianity, that caught my attention. She made quite the splash by posting on Facebook:
And then this follow-up:
This has been the reaction of some Christians:
“In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.” I don’t know her story, but this statement speaks strongly to me. Back in 2003, in a post titled A Different Approach to Evangelism, I wrote,
The first Christ-followers were Jews. When Gentiles began following Jesus, it caused all sorts of problems. There those who insisted that if you were going to follow Jesus, you had to become Jewish. …Could Acts 15 be a pivotal story for our own time?
The question of the early church in Acts 15 was, “Do you have to be a Jew to follow Jesus?” My question for people today is, “Do you have to be a Christian to follow Jesus?”
Of course, it all depends what you mean by “Christian.” The difficulty we face in post-Christian contexts is that it doesn’t matter how we define the word; the word is already defined for us. On Facebook the day before her now-famous outing, Anne Rice wrestled with the word:
The issue is bigger than controversy and revulsion. It goes to identity and culture. We need to stop extracting people from their native cultures to assimilate them, Borg-style, into “the church we accept.” Instead, we need to adopt a missionary mindset that empowers and releases people to follow Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit in their own native contexts, letting them discover what that looks like for themselves. …Or do we not trust the Holy Spirit?
And finally, a word to my friends of all stripes (atheists, agnostics, humanists, pastafarians, you know who you are): Come, let’s learn together what it means to follow Jesus. It’s okay, you won’t have to become Christians. So relax. …You only have to die to yourself.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Related posts: Great posts about (and with) Anne Rice