In 1998, Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice generated controversy when she renounced her vampire ways and embraced Christianity. She has now created even greater controversy with the revelation that she has “quit being a Christian. I’m out.”
Revealing this dramatic plot twist on Facebook, Rice wrote that she had abandoned Christianity because, “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.”
Still, Rice wrote the following day: “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God, is crucial to me.”
If Anne Rice’s rediscovery of Jesus and her encounter with Christianity were her latest novel, this reviewer would be compelled to point out that while the story begins well, it is ultimately plagued by an underdeveloped main character and a conclusion that does not work.
First, the story began well. Unlike many within popular culture, Rice did her research and dug deep into the foundations of Christianity to discover the reality of Jesus of Nazareth. As her two novels from the Christ Our Lord series make clear, Rice understands that Jesus – or more accurately, Yeshua bar Joseph, must be interpreted within the framework of His Jewish context. He was not the blond-haired blue-eyed Jesus of Church tradition, but rather the fulfillment of Jewish messianic expectations. This is a lesson that many within the church have yet to learn.
Second, the Jesus that Rice discovered – the Jesus that led her back to Christianity – ultimately remains an underdeveloped character in her story. The motivation behind Rice’s decision to reject Christianity indicates that she never fully came to grips with who Jesus is.
Rice misunderstands Jesus
Although Rice believes Jesus is the Son of God, it is likely that she does not understand the implications of what that fact means. Despite the richness of her novels, Rice does not really grasp the Jesus of history. She is enthralled with the idea of Jesus – but not the real Jesus or His teaching.
Rice was willing to embrace Christianity as long as the Jesus it proclaimed reflected her own perception of truth and conformed to her own standards of right and wrong. Unfortunately, there are many people out there just like her. From her perspective, in the words of the Doobie Brothers, Jesus is “just all right with me,” as long as His teachings do not violate what she holds sacred or contradicts what she truly values. For her, the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Christopher, her son, is a gay-rights activist. Rice insists that his homosexuality did not affect her decision to depart from Christianity. She points out that she had a gay fan base long before Christopher came out of the closet. I would have preferred that Christopher’s homosexuality were the issue.
Rice apparently ignores the part of the Bible where Jesus upholds the Torah – which includes the prohibition against homosexuality. At least a mother’s love would explain the contradiction of believing Jesus to be the Son of God while rejecting His authority.
Rice has failed to grasp that we cannot simply pick and choose what to believe about Jesus or the Bible. It’s an all or nothing proposition. To put it simply, the idea of Jesus provides Rice with an outlet to express her fuzzy spirituality, religious longings and syrupy morality. Ultimately, it isn’t Christianity Rice is rejecting, but rather the fullness of who Jesus is and what He taught. Rice shapes characters for her novels, but she doesn’t understand even the most obvious dilemma within her own character.
Finally, Anne Rice’s conclusion is simply implausible – you cannot separate Christ from Christianity. Despite its many faults, the Church was entrusted by God with the duty of contending for the faith “which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Christians oppose homosexual behavior because the Bible prohibits homosexuality, not because they are inherently contentious malcontents. Rice wants to embrace Jesus while rejecting His church. She would not be the first, but again, the same Bible that gives us Christ also gives us His church.
Dr. Noel Rabinowitz is a professor at The King’s College in New York City.