Many who like Christ aren't fans of Christians
BY NORRIS BURKES • FLORIDA TODAY • August 8, 2010
"Today I quit being a Christian!" wrote the legendary author Anne Rice on her Facebook page last month
Why would the notable author of the "Vampire Chronicles," who later documented her conversion to Christianity in "Called Out of Darkness" make such a public recant?
Apparently, Rice is disgusted by sharing the title "Christian" with those she describes as being "quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious and a deservedly infamous group. For 10 years, I've tried. I've failed. . . . Following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity . . ."
In choosing to distance herself from those calling themselves Christian, perhaps she saw the news story I saw about the "International Burn a Qur'an Day" sponsored by Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville to protest what it calls a religion "of the devil."
CNN quoted Pastor Terry Jones' justification: "We believe that Islam is of the devil and that it's causing billions of people to go to hell."
Jones, author of "Islam is of the Devil," plans to sell his book along with coffee mugs and T-shirts with the same phrase at the three-hour event.
To paraphrase a saying, "With 'Christian friends' like that, who needs enemies?"
It's no wonder Rice doesn't want to be associated with us.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of Rice, her genre or her politics, but she raises a point being made by others. Gandhi expressed the same point when he said, "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Brian McLaren, named by Time magazine as among the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America, also has distanced himself from the Christian title.
In his popular book, "A New Kind of Christianity," he wrote, "I do not believe in Christianity the way I believe in Jesus. I am a Christian who does not believe in Christianity as I used to, but who believes in Christ with all my heart, more than ever."
In "Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God," Tony Campolo, famed Christian Sociologist, agrees. "Over the years, all of us have said and done things that surely must have embarrassed God. Which of us can deny that, even as we are trying to follow Jesus, we sometimes behave in ways which must make God and Christianity seem ridiculous to those outside the faith?"
The whole thing makes me want to personally apologize to her for these types of scorekeeping Pharisees of the Christian faith.
Our church issued just such an apology last year. We brought hospitality baskets to a gay newspaper, a strip club and an abortion clinic. While making it clear that we didn't agree with them, we apologized for the way Christians have treated them in the name of Christ. (See miniurl.com/Christian
Jesus' brother James taught that "God-talk" is useless without matching actions with words: "For instance," he says, "you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, 'Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ!' and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup. Where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?"
"Outrageous nonsense" pretty well defines what Rice was talking about.
Still, she still maintains that: "My faith in Christ is central to my life," and that remaining a "believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me."
It's crucial to a lot of us, Anne. Keep struggling. Follow Christ. Stay the journey.