Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

A recent news article has caused me to wonder, can one follow a leader without being a follower?

By now you may have heard about celebrity author Anne Rice’s “resignation” from Christianity two weeks ago. She hinted at what was coming with several posts on her Facebook page illustrating ignorance, violence, and “horror” among Christians. Then she quoted Ghandi, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Finally, the next day she posted this announcement:

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.

She followed up her resignation with these words:

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. 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.

For two weeks, people have been discussing, disputing, and dissecting her position. Can a person follow Christ without being a Christian?

Perhaps this is what happens when we place Christ-followers on a pedestal. Christians are frail and Christians are flawed. As Christians, we are in the process of becoming all that God created us to be, but we aren’t there yet. The apostle Paul wrote:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (I Corinthians 13:9-12).

I find it telling that these verses are part of the “love” chapter. Paul describes the characteristics of godly love – the love Christians are to have for others – then reminds his readers that we’re not there yet.

Someone once said Christianity would be a cake walk if it weren’t for all the people we have to deal with. But I’m sure that’s exactly what other people say about me. I hope Anne doesn’t think that she’s the only person among Christ’s followers who got it right. Wouldn’t that smack of the same arrogance she ascribes to others who bear the Savior’s name?

Still, she makes a point. When did Christianity become all about the “anti’s”? I find it sad that she has boiled down Christianity to a series of anti’s…anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-science, just to name a few. Is this what we’ve become to the world, a group of people who are known more for what we are against than for what we are for?

I’m not saying we should compromise God’s righteous standards. Absolutely not. But didn’t Jesus reach out to sinners with the love of the Father? Surely we can be anti-sin while showing love for the one caught in that sin. After all, wasn’t that the condition of each one of us before we were washed clean by the sacrifice of Christ?

I don’t understand how anyone – including Anne Rice – can say she follows Christ, yet not be a follower of Christ. To be a follower of Christ is to be a Christian. However, I do think many call themselves Christian who are not followers of Christ. Perhaps that’s the real problem.

What do you think?

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  1. Laura Christianson

    The conundrum, for me, is how she puts Christians in a box. Are we to assume that all Christians are anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-artificial birth control, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanism, anti-science, anti-life?

    Just about every Christian I know is pro-at-least-one-of-the-items-on-her-list. Maybe I am friends with the wrong Christians?

    To me, being a Christian isn’t about my political views or my opinions on hot-button issues; it’s about loving Christ and knowing I’m one of His forgiven daughters.

  2. Ava Pennington

    Good point, Laura. If we love Christ and are aware of how much we’ve been forgiven, our relationships with others will reflect it!

  3. Nancy

    Perhaps the most vocal Christians are the ones who take a stand against certain lifestyles and behaviors. I’m not one of the vocal and I’ve been told, “If you don’t warn that person that s/he is on the way to hell, the blood is on your hands.” Is everybody in the body of Christ required to do this? What if a homosexual directly asks, “Am I going to hell? I’m a believer, but I love my same-sex partner. Why would God condemn me when I was born this way?”

    I sort of went off on a tangent, I know. But it doesn’t surprise me that Anne Rice came across Christ-followers with very strong opinions on what constitutes sin. I have friends from all walks of life, but this does not sit well with certain believers. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God,” I’ve read and heard. A relative of mine was tossed out of church when the minister discovered he and his partner were gay.

    I just don’t feel comfortable judging. Jesus forgave me of my many sins. Who am I to make judgment calls?

  4. Ava Pennington

    Nancy, relationships with those who don’t follow Christ are not easy. Then again, relationships with those who follow Christ are not easy, either! We need to maintain a lifestyle that reflects God’s holiness without being arrogant to others. Maybe that’s why God reminded us through Paul to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Sin is sin, whether it’s sexual sin or attitudinal sin – we can’t overlook it in the name of tolerance or friendship. However, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). So perhaps the answer is to humbly live lives that reflect His holiness by the power of His Spirit, speaking the truth in love so that those who are ensnared in sin will desire to have what we have!

  5. Nancy

    Anne Rice wrote:
    “…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.”

    Nancy here:
    Are Christians “anti-life”? How so? I don’t vote Democrat because I can’t name any pro-life Democrats. The intolerance comes from the “secular humanists” actually. Christians believe the teachings of the Bible. Our OPINIONS count for nothing. And “anti-science”? Hmm, there’s the big-bang THEORY. No proof. Just a THEORY. My trust and hope is in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “Anti-gay”? Please refer to Romans 1:26,27. I don’t understand how I can follow Christ but “quit being a Christian.”

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