Monday, August 2, 2010

Put a Stake Through It

I like publicity stunts almost as much as the guy after the next guy, and I definitely like high-profile deconversion stories, but I have to admit, I still don't care what Anne Rice does even when she suspiciously loudly proclaims her departure from Christianity:

She announced her decision on her Facebook page:
"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: 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."
... "It was very painful," Rice tells NPR's Michele Norris. "But I've always been public about my beliefs, and I've always been public about wanting to make a difference."
What difference did she believe herself to be making by adding vampire novels to the world's enormous stack of them, I wonder? This may sound like just another needless jape, but no, I actually had been counting on the idea that my lasting contribution to the world consists, in no small part, in declining to add more shitty vampire novels to the pile. I was feeling pretty good about that. This leaves me in some existential angst.

Not all is lost, though. Vampire Novelist #19's announcement has given minister Max Carter a chance to explain, under the far-reaching auspices of the Washington Post, what Christianity really means and how Anne Rice can't possibly have left it. Or something. Minister Carter:
Nonconformist and radical reform traditions such as Friends have sought in their beginnings to bypass the accretions of the ages and return to "basic Christianity," the faith of the first disciples - what some would call "Gospel Christianity." The trouble is, the Christian scriptures themselves, describing the nature of that earliest form of the faith, are already products of the development of a "Church," of a set of dogmas and practices that developed in the decades after Jesus walked the earth. Quakers have historically sought to address this problem by appealing to the "Spirit of Christ" directly. Without creed, an ordained clergy, or a ritual other than centered, expectant waiting on the Spirit of Christ in worship, Friends appeal to their Inward Teacher, the Real Presence within, to Jesus Christ in all offices of prophet, priest, redeemer, saviour, and Lord.

If this Real Presence is, indeed, available here and now, radically apocalypic [sic] in the sense of "unveiling" truth to the seeker, then, indeed, no further "notions" are necessary; the very author of the script of what it means to be a faithful follower is on the stage! In that sense, then, "Christianity" is not necessary - we have Christ. "Religion" is not necessary, we have the Spirit.

However, our experience also tells us that there are other "voices" within us; other "notions" that may lead us astray - or worse! Thus, it is beneficial to discern with others what the Spirit of Christ is saying to us. Is it consistent with how Christ has been revealed in the past - in scripture, in the experience of Friends, in the experience of the broader Christian community? Is there an integrity to the revelation? I don't doubt that Anne Rice can have Christ without "Christianity," but my guess is that she still talks with others who are trying their darndest to be faithful and, like two pilgrims trying to find their way through the forest with their lanterns, combine their lights better to illumine their path.
Whew! What a relief to get that all squared away -- or so I assume is something like the expected reaction of a hypothetical reader who can make sense of what Minister Carter thinks he is saying with all that emphatic warbling.

As near as I can tell, the minister means to say Anne Rice is following her Inward Teacher, which equates to the Real Presence within; and those are typed in title case because, I gather, they're aliases for Jesus, and we capitalize proper names in English. The minister's larger point seems to be that Anne Rice has, at long last, come around to his pet version of Christianity. Congratulations to the minister on that: surely it speaks favorably of the power of his ideas when a pulp novelist -- one who has spent years honing her faculties by dreaming up involute tales of vampire-related melodrama -- comes to them independently. Who wouldn't be crowing?!

Again, whatever -- if this means a noticeable decrease in the rate at which vampire novels get published, it sounds like a net gain to world civilization. Or possibly book sales.

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