Friday, July 30, 2010

To Anne Rice: You can be pro-gay AND Christian


Bestselling author Anne Rice announced this week that she is quitting Christianity because, as she put it on her Facebook page:

“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.”

Her decision to leave the church is getting a lot of news coverage. Here is a copy of my open letter to Anne Rice:

Dear Ms. Rice,

I read the news that you quit being a Christian because you refuse to be anti-gay and anti-feminist.

Believe it or not, you can be Christian AND support gay rights and feminism! I’m a lesbian minister and author who blogs about gay, lesbian, bi and trans spirituality and the arts at http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/

There are thousands of churches around the world that affirm LGBT people. You can find links to them through my website http://jesusinlove.org/

It sounds like you have made an important transition from being a church member to being a post-institutional, individual follower of Christ. Congratulations. I believe that this is one of the stages of spiritual growth to which Christ calls us.

I feel a special connection to you because, like you, I wrote first-person novels about the life of Christ. I also enjoyed meeting your son Christopher when he moderated an authors’ panel discussion on which I appeared as finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.

A book review comparing your “Christ the Lord” novels and my “Jesus in Love” novels is available at this link:

http://jesusinlove.blogspot.com/2008/09/novels-show-jesus-from-heart.html

Here is an excerpt from the review:

"Cherry in essence begins where Rice's narrative ends… Cherry's primary objective is to depict Jesus as fully human in terms of sexuality, while maintaining, as Rice does, that Jesus was not genitally sexually active. Her rational for this, which I find marvelously sensitive and cogent, is that Jesus realizes his divine nature would inevitably produce an "imbalance of power" that would not permit the full and free interaction of "consenting adults" which sanctifies all human sexual interaction. Jesus also recognizes, in Cherry's vision, that he is "married" to the Holy Spirit."

Ms. Rice, I thank you for supporting LGBT people and I hope that you will continue to grow in your relationship with Christ.

Blessings,

Rev. Kittredge Cherry
___

This isn’t the first time that I have corresponded with Anne Rice. I sent her an email to inform her when the double review of our books was published, and she even sent me a short personal reply. I hope to hear from her again this time!

(Photo: Anne Rice)

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12 comments:

Trudie said...

Although I had a brief correspondence with Anne Rice after the publication of her first book on the life of Jesus, "Out of Egypt", I hadn't heard from her again, although I, too, shared with her my comparitive review of the Jesus in Love novels and her second story, "The Road to Cana".

This past spring, I also read her spiritual memoir, "Called Out of Darkness". I was so impressed by the memories she shared of her early days in New Orleans and the stories and poetry read to her by her mother that I decided to go ahead and write my own long-postponed reminiscences of my own mother, Lee Schuyler.

My own spiritual path has been from a fairly laissez faire Christianity in my parents' home, through a very enthusiastic attempt to be a dedicated Catholic early in my marriage, to my present keen awareness that to be a follower of Jesus means taking all institutionsl religion with a very large grain of salt, but realizing that the love that Christ taught is the most important single thing that a human being can experience.

And that love is all-inclusive, erotic as well as charitable, and is beautifully fleshed out both in Anne's writings and in your own, Kitt. I would love to resume a dialog with her!!

KittKatt said...

This post is getting a lot of comments on my Facebook page. People especially liked this trenchant comment from Douglas Blanchard: “I'm not prepared to concede the Gospel to people who believe that they own the copyright to it, and who use it as a cudgel to dominate others.”

It’s fascinating how each person’s spiritual path is unique, but all include twists and turns as we follow the divine call. Thanks, Trudie, for telling us about your journey and recommending "Called Out of Darkness."

KittKatt said...

Anne Rice has posted a new comment about quitting Christianity on her Facebook page:

“My posts about quitting Christianity have brought in a lot of mail. Most of it is positive; a small amount is negative. But one thing is clear: people care passionately about belief. They care about living lives of meaning and significance. And that is a beautiful and reassuring thing. I'll have more on the subject in the future.”

I’m looking forward to what more she has to say!

KittKatt said...

I just heard Anne Rice on NPR talking about her decision to quit the church. I agree with her statement, “I found God, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a member of any organized religion.” When asked why she didn’t stay in the church and fight the anti-gay, anti-feminist forces that led her to quit, she simply said that debate was unwelcome in “the Christianity that I was presented with.” I hope that she comes to see that there are many varieties of Christianity and ways to be Christian, including LGBT-affirming Christian paths.

I was moved when she discussed her conversion from atheism to belief in God, which was also part of my own experience. She said that her vampire novels grew out of her atheism, but now she believes that God witnesses all suffering. Amen to that.

Turtle Woman said...

I love that Anne Rice comment, because it is so direct and right on target! But sometimes, she comes across a little naive. Any church that does not ordain women to ministry, should be immediately put on the NO GO list for all women.

If women walked out of that place, the whole system would fail. The Catholic church relies on free women's labor to function.

How Anne Rice missed all this is beyond me. How long ago did Mary Daly publish Beyond God the Father? Come on women!!

Turtle Woman said...

P.S. Better late than never I guess.

KittKatt said...

By popular demand: Here’s a link where you can listen to Anne Rice’s interview on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1

Turtle Woman, you're right that Ms. Rice comes across a bit naive about church politics. Now her eyes are opened and she said on NPR that the last straw was Catholic funding of the proposition to ban same-sex marriage... the interference of the church in a secular issue, as she saw it.

Trudie said...

Again, thanks for the heads up about Anne's interview on NPR, because I had missed it live but was able to go back and pick it up online. As always with NPR interviews, it was beautifully done and informative, and Anne was extremely eloquent. I appreciate the opportunity to hear her discuss her beliefs in a different venue than in her writing. Both the written and the spoken word have great power!

CJ Barker said...

When you *need* something the church has got, it's fairly easy to put parts of your conscience on hold while you get it. I think she stayed long enough to get what she needed, but once that was done had to start dealing with things she couldn't in conscious support. That's a fairly common story, lately. What's interesting to me is her choice, having had the experience, and still being rock-solid clear about her commitment to Christ, to forgo the the name "Christian." If you're not willing to surrender the spiritual experience and the spiritual reality, why be willing to cede the name, either? Membership in a particular church or denomination- sure. But why decide that the name, the label, belongs to people who you really believe are absolutely blaspheming the spiritual reality it's supposed to represent? If the answer is that it's become so tainted that it's now essentially un-redeemable- well I guess I can understand that. But what label does she suggest instead? I don't like giving old words up. They have a power about them that you can't just recreate by dreaming up new ones. Christian is a precious word to me. And I particularly dislike the idea that it can or should be owned by those she now seems willing to let just have it unchallenged.

KittKatt said...

Inspired by CJ’s analysis, I just posted this question on Anne Rice’s Facebook page:

“I understand why you want to leave the Roman Catholic Church. But since you’re still committed to Christ, why give up the word “Christian”? Why let that powerful word be defined by a small, narrow-minded subset of people that you describe as “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous”? They’re not the only Christians.”

Anne Rice keeps posting comments expressing her surprise at the kindness and understanding that she has received from many Christians over leaving the church. It sounds like she is learning that “Christianity” is broader and more diverse than she thought.

For example, today she wrote this, “I continue to be surprised by the generosity. I expected much harsher criticism. And I am moved. I do not want to return to organized religion and do not feel that I can. But certainly religious critics are being very kind in their approach to this.”

About an hour ago she posted a link to an interesting article in Christianity Today". Pastor Dan Kimball, author of "They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations," points out that :quitting the church means quitting ourselves, because “We are the church.”

KittKatt said...

We’ve been quoted! Dave Beldon at the Tikkun Daily Blog quoted this blog extensively and added his own insights in a new post title “Jesus in Love to Anne Rice: You can be pro-gay AND Christian.”

You can see it at this link:
http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2010/08/05/jesus-in-love-to-anne-rice-you-can-be-pro-gay-and-christian/

Thanks, Dave!

KittKatt said...

Discussion of my open letter to Anne Rice is taking an interesting turn over at the Wild Reed
Blog.

http://thewildreed.blogspot.com/2010/07/quote-of-day_30.html

Paula commented there, “Does it mean that being an individual follower is a superior stage of spiritual growth? A more advanced stage than the need to belong to a community? I suspect that the growth potential of working within an institution is greater than that of a disengaged individual. Am I wrong?”

I did not mean to say that being an individual follower is superior to being a church member. I was thinking of Jesus’ often-repeated command to “Repent!” The Biblical word means to change one’s mind. It seems that Jesus was asking people to undergo a kind of conversion experience in order for God to become real to them. For people who were raised in the institutional church like Anne Rice, this often seems to mean leaving their church of origin or at least rejecting some parts of it in order to follow the second half of Jesus’ command, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”