What Would Jesus Think?

The media are all atwitter because a novelist named Anne Rice (photo above) has renounced “Christianity.” When I saw Ms. Rice on CNN over the weekend, I asked Sandra who she was and Sandra told me she’s a famous author who wrote several books about vampires.

Today, the discussion is still alive. Someone named Lily Burana announced in Salon.com that Ms. Rice could go ahead and quit Christianity but she, for one, was embracing the church even more fervently.

I looked up Ms. Burana and I found out that she is also “a critically acclaimed author.”

I’m sure she isn’t the only one writing about Ms. Rice’s decision to be a non-Christian. It’s such a juicy topic. Who can resist the temptation to exploit it? (You’ve probably noticed that I can’t.)

But it turns out Ms. Rice is playing with words. She isn’t abandoning Christianity at all. She says:

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 10 years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else … In the name of Christ, 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.

I read that as a denunciation of religion, not of Christianity. And the way I interpret the Gospels, Jesus did pretty much the same thing.

His message – to me, anyway – was one of laid-back tolerance. Don’t sweat the small stuff, He said. You’ re a sinner, buddy, and you should be worrying about your own soul, not sitting in judgment of your fellow-humans.

I would describe his lifestyle as cool. He didn’t burden Himself with possessions. He gave and accepted unquestioning love. He consorted with life’s rejects and he healed the lame, sick and blind – even lepers. If nobody else could find love in their heart for someone, Jesus stepped up to the plate.

To me, that’s the opposite of the “Christianity” that Ms. Rice has abandoned.

If Jesus were among us in human form today, He would surely shun the “Christians” that Ms. Rice complains about. He described people like that as “whited sepulchers,” and he advised us that God does not hear prayers of self-praise but hearkens to the plea, “Have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

I wonder whether He considers those who practice exclusion, bigotry, cruelty and scorn in the name of Christianity to be guilty of “taking the name of the Lord in vain”? In my view, they might be guilty of an even graver transgression – the unforgivable sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

But who am I to judge? I’m just another lost lamb, begging for forgiveness in His name.