If you quit, Jesus doesn’t give you a severance packageAugust 2, 2010
You may know Anne Rice as one of the earlier authors to make vampires less awesome. You may not know, however, that she had converted from atheism to the Roman Catholicism of her youth around 1998 and declared in 2005 that she would stop writing vampire books and “write only for the Lord.”
Apparently now she’s done with Christianity, declaring on Facebook: “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.”
Whether this means she’ll go back to writing books about vampires instead of her recent books about angels and Jesus is unknown, but it raises a question: can someone believe in Jesus Christ without calling themselves a Christian?
“I would say she’s an unaffiliated Christian, but a Christian nonetheless,” says Avonia the Wiccan Pimp, my go-to person on spiritual matters. “I’m sure there are smaller Christian groups that could accommodate her pro-gay, pro-feminist, pro-contraception, pro-science views. Maybe the Universal Unitarians could welcome her, but she didn’t bother looking into them.”
“Yeah, it’s in the name,” I say. “Christ. Christianity. I don’t think you can separate the two.”
“Maybe it’s like being a fan of a particular player on a team, but you hate that team,” says Avonia. “Maybe you can like Kobe Bryant without liking the Los Angeles Lakers.”
“But you can’t separate the man from the team,” I say. “No matter your personal distaste for the Lakers or Christianity, you are still supporting the organization you hate when you patronize the portion of it that you like.”
“I have to disagree,” says Avonia. “I love Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman as actors but Hannibal was a shitty movie. Are you saying that because I like Hopkins and Oldman that I have to like Hannibal?”
“No, because they aren’t continuously performing Hannibal,” I say. “They do other movies and other roles. Jesus, however, has one role, that of the Savior of the World, and he’s the default creator of Christianity itself. The two are intertwined.”
“I guess you’re right,” says Avonia. “I mean if someone told me they worshiped Brigid but didn’t consider themselves a pagan, I’d give that person a funny look. I mean, Brigid’s a pre-Christian Celtic goddess. You can’t get more pagan than that.”
“Plus I’m not sure if a strongly-worded Facebook update is the proper procedure for leaving an organized religion,” I say. “I’m thinking it might have to go a little further than that. Like you need to write a longer repudiation of your former religion or sect, maybe three or four healthy-sized paragraphs to fully distance yourself from your previous faith. It’s more of a public proclamation of where you currently stand than a resignation letter, seeing how there’s really no one you can submit it to.”
“You’re saying organized religion needs a better human resources department?” says Avonia.
“I’d just like clarification on how people can be a member of a faith without completely relying on just their say-so,” I say. “I could declare myself a Zorastrian, even though I’m not, just because I said it out loud. If I didn’t qualify that last sentence, how could you know that I wasn’t really a Zorastrian? All you have is my word, untrustworthy as it is.”
“Well, most Christian faiths hold that you become a Christian after baptism,” says Avonia. “For Judaism you have to take like a six-month study course, learn Hebrew, and be circumcised. ”
“And I think Islam just requires a beard and bad fashion sense,” I say. “But no faith is forthcoming about how to leave it. Apparently Anne Rice thinks a Facebook posting is enough, and maybe it is. Who knows until we get a ruling on this from the Vatican.”
“Well, Anne Rice could get officially booted from the Catholic Church if she helps someone obtain an abortion, like that nun in Phoenix did,” says Avonia. “Or she get herself ordained as a priest. They excommunicate women for that too. But that’s probably more effort than she wants to exert.”
“So how do people get out of Wicca?” I say.
“I guess you just stop doing it, much like how you get out of any group that you don’t pay money to join,” says Avonia. “Like how I stopped being in the chess club in high school just by not showing up anymore. Though I will say the fastest way to get kicked out of a coven is to pimp smack the taste out of a member’s mouth in front of everyone. That doesn’t eject you from the faith, but it does make it easier for you to remove yourself from that circle of catty drama queens.”
I’m at the point where it’s just easier for everyone to call their faith by their own given name and just put -ism at the end of it. Like Tag Larkinism, which is indeed the one true universal faith, except that only Tag Larkin has the capacity to follow it.