Last week Anne Rice, the best-selling author of Interview with the Vampire and the subsequent sequels part of The Vampire Chronicles, stirred up some controversy among the Christian community when she posted to her Facebook status that she was quitting Christianity. Rice had previously been an atheist and later became a Christian, joining the Catholic church. In her recent decision, Rice states that she is still a follower of Jesus but refuses to be part of a community that is “anti-gay” and “anti-feminist,” among other reasons.
Many came out in support of Rice’s decision asserting that following Jesus and being a part of the Church are not the same thing. Some wrote blogs stating they made the same decision years ago. The comments sections of articles and blogs relating to Anne Rice were filled with discussions over the Church and Christianity.
I can understand Rice’s sentiment. Many times, I have felt embarrassed by the actions of those claiming the religion of which I am a part. I’ve watched different groups spewing out hate in the name of Christ, or others watering down His teachings until they were meaningless, and I’ve wondered how it was possible for us to be following the same Teacher. Yet, I will not leave this group.
On all sides of my family, I have watched as family members have made poor choices. Some of their choices have embarrassed me, and they served as a poor reflection of the family name. Despite their choices, however, they are still part of my family. I can legally change my name, but the fact still remains–we share the same blood. There is no denying that we share a common bond. And because of that family bond, I cannot help but care for and pray for the redemption of those family members, no matter how much I despise their actions.
As a Christian, I belong to another family, and whether or not I agree with the actions of every member, I cannot divorce myself from it: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12: 4-5). And when I became a Christian, I didn’t join because of the actions of the Church; I joined because of the actions of Christ. He is the only one blameless, and because of His grace I can be forgiven. Likewise, because of His grace, I can also forgive, even those within this same body.
While the debates rolled on over Rice’s decision, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps her eyes were on the wrong people. Yes, there are definitely those who have embarrassed the name of Christ, and here’s the kicker–I am one of those who has brought embarrassment to His name on a daily basis. Any time I lose my patience with my children and utter an unkind word, when I don’t love my husband unconditionally but rather base my actions on my feelings for the day, when I choose comfort over conviction, I have tarnished the name of Christ. And because I know the depravity of my own soul, I cannot cast blame on others for the poor standing of Christianity in the world.
Instead, I choose to look to better examples, and I don’t have to look far. I see members of my own church heading to Mozambique to build wells and bring clean water to communities who have only known filth. I see those among the Christian community fighting to bring awareness and an end to sex trafficking within our own country. And across the globe, I see those dying to be part of the name that Anne Rice has cast off. When I look to these examples, I can only feel gratitude to a God who lets me be part of such a community, of which I am the least.
The Christian community is full of problems, but thanks to Jesus, it’s also full of grace. And amidst of all the problems, the Church is full of members whose eyes are locked on Christ’s, whose hearts are tuned in to His purpose and are doing good around the world. Rather than form my own island, I choose to look to the Teacher and the examples of those living right and hope that my actions will bring glory to His name. I choose to accept His grace and extend it to others because it is united as one body that we can do the most good for this world.
Yes, I will still call myself a Christian. I see the good and the potential for good that we are doing, and I want to be a part of this group. I see that while I can certainly believe and pray to Jesus by myself, Jesus never intended for me to walk this journey alone but with other believers. Yes, I will still call myself a Christian–I’m proud to.