Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Warning Shot? by David VanCronkhite

Many of you have already read and digested the interview between prominent author Anne Rice and Christianity Today published last month. If you have not, I highly encourage you to read it. Rice is a woman of words who can express the hearts of so many who just can't get the words out.

She appears to have no cause or agenda to promote, just a telling of her personal story and continuing journey of faith. Her story, though, is a reflection of the hearts of untold masses in the United States, especially the South, and, therefore, a warning worth pondering. She hits a vein that could explode at any minute in a world no longer looking for the right answers but figuring out the right questions. It's a world hoping to find the lost God who is worthy of demanding our awe and receiving our love.

As you may recall, there was much hurrah ten years or so earlier when this atheist writer of vampire books "became a Christian." Now we have to decide what to do with her recent announcement: "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."

With one Facebook posting, the author has seemingly invited the wrath of organized evangelical religion and the cause-oriented, church-growth focused, denominational systems. In one fell swoop she has declared that there is nothing relevant, endearing, or authentic in the religious system to hold her in.

"I wanted my readers to know that I was stepping aside from organized religion and the names Christian and Christianity because I wanted to exonerate myself from the things organized religion was doing in the name of Jesus," she wrote. And I wept when I read that.

Oh, the things we do in the name of Jesus that must make Jesus weep. I envision a perplexed Son looking over to the Father with huge tears rolling down his cheeks saying, "Dad, I don't understand it. It's in my name they say those things, do those things, hate those people, build political parties and systematic theology that try to prove which people I love and which people I hate. And all I ever taught was that they should first love you and then love their neighbor. I even explained that the real indicator of being my follower was wrapped up in loving your enemies. What happened to my followers being known for love?"

Rice says, "Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love. They have become associated with hatred, persecution, attempting to abolish the separation of church and state, and trying to pressure people to vote certain ways in elections." This last statement will hurt, but if you look deep within our religious systems you know she is right. And she says, "I wanted to make it clear that I did not in any way remain complicit with those things."

The interviewer from Christianity Today asked Rice, "What will it look like to follow Christ without being a part of the institutional church?"  She responded, "The most important thing Christ demands of all of us is to love our enemies as much as our neighbors. That is the radical core of his teaching. If we do that, we can transform our lives.

"Christ reaches out to us individually. He's saying, 'Come, follow me; I am the way, the truth and the life.' These are beautiful things. I read Scripture every day, I study it every day, I'm mindful of it everyday. I don't claim to have the right interpretation of every passage, but I wrestle with it, and that's what I think he wants us to do...I feel called to declare that I am a believer. I have my bible, and I'm deeply committed to Christ. I don't contest people who do it the other way...I affirm my faith in Christ every time I get the chance. It's what transformed my life. I've affirmed it over and over again. I get occasional e-mails from people who say, 'How can you turn away from God?' But they just haven't Goggled."

I heard from a noted and internationally recognized theologian regarding this article and the comment was, "This might well be the shot fired across the bow." I would say we should heed the warning story of Anne Rice. Notice its timing and significance. This could be some of the best news we've heard in a long time for today's environment of change, where kingdoms are truly clashing, and the world is awakening to the reality that maybe the organized institutional church doesn't truly reflect the heart of Jesus' message and God's intent.

Maybe it's time to stop trying to be right and pretending that we are not sinners because we have passed a moral litmus test. Maybe it's time to admit we are in great need of a God who stirs an awe within us, a God who is love; a God who is faithful and loves each of us beyond our limited human comprehension.

Whether Ann Rice's letter is a warning shot across the bow of organized Christianity or a shot that will be heard around the world, or maybe even the cosmos, I am again filled with hope that the world can, through His Church, discover the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. A Kingdom that is supernatural, experientially relational, and where all the Law and the Prophets hang on loving God and loving man.

David VanCronkhite


  1. Amen. I recall when Bob Dylan was asked if he was a Christian. As I heard the story he replied that he did not know because he had never met one. Later I learned he had spent time with Keith Green and a CA Vineyard. I still must agree that I say like the prophet that I feel like I am the only one. I know His response is that there are others, but where? I feel alone, and isolated. Churches don't want me, even my own cousin--an ordained minister--has not spoken to me in nearly a decade. What kind of Christian witness is that? If I am a sinner he is commanded to talk to me. If I am a brother he is commanded to talk to me. If I slipped as a brother he is commanded to talk to me. I use this relationship as a model for the rest of the church, because they have all done something similar. Won't someone please do what the Bible says? John 13:34-35

  2. There's so, so much here. My heart is full when I hear this about Anne Rice. The heart of the matter is one's allegiance to Jesus. In the same way Anonymous above. We shall move into the glory of God. The world will not remain fractured and hostile and incomplete for long. The end comes for this life - which changes into the glory of God. When someone see another not living up to the glory of God, the effort is to get into the mix to assist while taking care of yourselve. I encourge anyone who is in a position like Ms. Rice to ask God for the power and grace to become a positive change agent around themselves to move things into the glory of God. Focus on the perfection which is arriving and is to come. Love and work on loving. He is faithful. Honor your neighbor. Bless your neighbor. Talk about their faults carefully in public always position encouraging toward the good.
    I wish Ms. Rice the power and glory to achieve to the blessed high calling of Jesus. She is an awesome person. Let this fracas serve not as an obstacle, but as incentive for all who hear of it to push farther into God's heart and plan.

  3. I am crucified with Christ. I don't glory in myself but in Him who is changing and molding me into His image.The peace I have comes from knowing that my life is in His hands, that He has bought me with a price,and I am free to follow Him and have abundant life.His power lives in me. I am learning to be a vessel open to His use to pour His love and power out into this world. I am so very glad I belong to Him!!!

  4. I was SO impressed with your article. Thank you. I have felt the same for about 15 years. When I first voiced my thoughts at the "church" I attended I was almost labeled a heretic, and the more I saw, the more I was isolated and shunned - and lectured on the "truth".
    Before Jesus died His very last recorded prayer was for us - His disciples. What did He pray? (see John 17) - that we would be O-N-E as He and His Father are One, and that we would not only be one with Him and the Father but ONE WITH EACH OTHER. Has this happened? - NO. Forty odd thousand divisions/denominations sounds like a lot of "I'm right and you're wrong" to me. What DID happen to the two greatest commandments. I know that if I love God with ALL of my heart, soul, mind and strength, I will want above ANYTHING to obey, worship, praise and serve Him....I will WANT to live His way. And if I love others as I love myself, and I can only love me with God's love....then I would never want to harm my neighbor or even my enemy, but to serve them and bless them, too.

    I do know that there are many unbelievers who are very much put off by Christianity today! And one of their very great points is that if we can't agree over what WE believe to the the "truth", who are THEY going to believe, and what? It seems that man's philosophy and opinion, not to mention entertainment has become more important than the preaching of the Word, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I praise and thank God that Christ has said that HE will build His church.....and I know that He will do it His way, and we WILL be ONE as He and His Father are One. And His bride WILL be spotless and without blemish - bound together by the LOVE of GOD.

  5. Amen, Sister Clare. I love the Upper Room discourse, John 13-17. But I must admit, I am just as guilty of failure to love especially when it matters most--when I am being rejected for my views.

  6. Wow! I think this captures what so many are feeling, thinking and wrestling with. Boy do we need to reflect on this! I went through a phase in my life where I was becoming a bit disillusioned with "church." It just did not seem like our talk and our walk matched and we seemed to fall short in so many areas. At this point in my life a truth speaking friend gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received and it saved me from taking a wrong turn. He said, "if you ever find the perfect church, do not go to it, because you will ruin it," In that moment I realized that everything I saw wrong with the church was also true of me. We definitely need a restoration of authentic Christianity so let's start with the log in my own eye first!


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