We’ve all heard the expression, “God, I love; it’s His people I can’t stand!” But can one follow Jesus while simultaneously despising His people? According to Anne Rice, the best-selling author of a variety of popular vampire novels, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Anne Rice wrote Interview With the Vampire in 1976, the forerunner to her long-running series of novels known as the Vampire Chronicles. These books dressed up, popularized, and romanticized what had been a purely horror genre and spawned the recent teen mania surrounding the Twilight Saga series dominating theaters and bookstores. Rice shocked popular culture in 2002, however, when she publicly declared that she had become a Christian. In an interview about her memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession, she joyfully exclaimed:
To be able to take the tools, the apprenticeship, whatever I learned from being a vampire writer, or whatever I was -- to be able to take those tools now and put them in the service of God is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful opportunity . . . . And I hope I can redeem myself in that way. I hope that the Lord will accept the books I am writing now.
After her conversion, she published the Christ the Lord series, among other Christian-themed books, but like too many public celebrity confessions of faith, Rice’s was short-lived. My interest was naturally piqued when I read recently of another public announcement made by Mrs. Rice: she had, it seemed, decided to be a Christian no longer -- or had she? Her blog-site read:
I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or being a part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. 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.
In response to this ardent declaration against what Mrs. Rice perceived to be the evils of modern-day evangelicals, I anticipated the usual hand-wringing and, right on schedule, a stream of agonized introspection began to circulate. Various church leaders and Christian publications wondered aloud if there was indeed some merit to Mrs. Rice’s words and, likewise, what Christians should do to rectify this problem. One evangelical pastor from a church outside D.C. concluded in a piece for Fox News:
At its core, Anne Rice’s statement is a challenge to the modern church to look and act more like Jesus. Her message is muddled in political tones and her conclusion is regrettable but the church would be amiss in dismissing the essence of her words.
Of course, Christians should persevere in their eternal quest to be more like Jesus. But this kind of evangelical handwringing badly misses the point and does nothing to help Mrs. Rice or others who follow her line of thinking. Simply put, Mrs. Rice’s vision of Christianity reflects the social sensibilities of liberal political ideology rather than Scriptural truth. On that basis, ironically, she displays the very judgmental attitude she denounces in Christians. Her argument, which condemns the specific things she despises in Christians, in fact reveals that her problem is not with hypocritical Christians, but with the authority of biblical revelation that underlies their beliefs.
Mrs. Rice appears to be lacking one crucial aspect of authentic faith in Christ. One of the realities of becoming a Christian -- that is, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit -- is that many of the things one previously hated one begins to love, and vice versa. Instead of revering what the world worships and adores, one begins to love what God loves. The Bible tells us that God writes His laws on our hearts and minds (Hebrews 10:16; cf. Jer 31:33), and bestows a new heart through spiritual rebirth in Christ (John 3:5-6; cf. Ezekiel 36:26).
Mrs. Rice listed several points on which she disagrees with Christians, but the fact remains that the source of her disdain lies with many key issues addressed by Scripture: a respect for the sanctify of life, family, and marriage -- a love, moreover, for God’s Word. If Mrs. Rice bothered to look a bit closer she would find that there are a host of Christian believers and traditions who are neither anti-science, anti-intellectual, nor opposed to, say, birth control, etc. but who simply do not subscribe to the presuppositions of atheistic humanism. And she would also discover many Christians who are, in fact, walking in the genuine love, mercy, charity and compassion of Christ. These distinctions are crucial yet, surprisingly -- as with so many who share Rice’s stance -- it does not even seem to occur to her.
While Christians are not yet experientially perfect, in my estimation Anne Rice’s problem is ultimately not with “Christians,” but with God. As the apostle John declared, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).
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Before coming to Patrick Henry College, Dr. Darrel Cox was an Associate Professor of Bible and Theology at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA. He has served as Chairman and Associate Dean of a School of Christian Ministries and as a faculty liaison for new academic programs with SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). He teaches core and upper level courses in Biblical Studies and writes curriculum for online classes. Dr. Cox lives near Winchester, Virginia, with his wife and seven children.