i love you man, but i can’t stand your wife :: anne rice, derek webb, vampires, and the church

August 11, 2010

 

Almost two weeks ago now, novelist Anne Rice (famous for her “Vampire Chronicles” series, including Interview With the Vampire) did something, because of her faith in Jesus Christ, that resonated with a lot of people.

She left Christianity.

July 29, 2010, on her Facebook page, Anne posted the following:

In follow-up posts and interviews, Anne has continued to espouse a life-changing faith in Jesus while rejecting any unity with other believers… at least in any organized way (aka: religion).  In her next FB post, Anne wrote “Following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

Yes… but.  And that’s a big “but.”

It’s not that I don’t understand where Anne Rice is coming from.  While I don’t share many of her social politics or views, that’s not the point here.  I agree with her in some ways.  I think so much of the in-fighting and judgement and hypocrisy and (fill in the blank) that exists within organized Christianity is yucky, too.  That’s like calling water wet.  But what Anne is doing here is basically taking the blood of Christ for herself, and leaving His Body behind.  * Insert vampire metaphor here. *

And it is appealing.  To many, many people.  Faith without structure.  Spirituality without accountability.  Personal God-relationship without the clutter of people-relationship interfering in your faith life.  The blessings of the one-on-one experience without the responsibility of community.

But God designed us for relationships!  We’re wired for community!  Look at Genesis…  Before Eve came along, Adam was in a perfect relationship with God – before the tree, before the apple, before the fall.  There was no sin.  There was no shame.  There was open face to face communication between Adam and God.  And IN THAT CONTEXT, God said, “it is NOT GOOD for man to be alone…”

I will tell you right now, if you diss my wife, you will answer for it to me.  That wasn’t just meant to be full of testosterone-laden machismo.  I’m saying NO ONE I hang out with can get away with choosing me and not accepting Amy.  We’re a package deal.  Rejecting Amy means losing me, too.  We’re ONE.

God said the Church is His Bride.  Jesus’ last prayer session in John 17 before being taken captive and crucified for us is a longing prayer that we (His followers) might become ONE, the way He and the Father are one.  He loves the Church that deeply.

And when asked about the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:37-40), Jesus answered (paraphrased) ” Love God like crazy, first of all, but ALMOST as important is to love the people around you selflessly.”  It has always been God AND people.  That’s His design.

Sure Anne Rice, or you and I, could love people in Jesus name – serve the poor, etc. – without any community of faith.  We can be Lone Wolves for Jesus.  But He doesn’t want us to.  If you want a meaningful relationship with me, you get Amy, too.  Husband and Wife.  Jesus and the Church.  She’s not perfect, but she is beautiful.  And mine.

If you’ve got a couple minutes, listen to this track (posted below) called “The Church” from Derek Webb (on “She Must and Shall Go Free”).  We agree that the Church is a flawed bride.  She has sold herself for a lesser reward that Jesus over and over and over again.  But if you can simply accept that the problem with the Church is that there are people in it who need love and grace, maybe it’s time to rethink that lone-wolf faith that seems so simple and so uncluttered.  If you love Him, love His church…

Click on the tab below to stream the audio >>

[audio:http://www.jskogerboe.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/11 – The Church.mp3|titles=11 – The Church]

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“i love you man, but I can’t stand your wife :: anne rice, derek webb, vampires, and the church” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

21 responses to i love you man, but i can’t stand your wife :: anne rice, derek webb, vampires, and the church

  1. crazy awesome title

  2. Awesome, Josh – so agree with all you’ve said. The community/group/church we’re sanctified and sent to is the very one God can use to draw us closer to Him, reveal things about Himself and help us to serve in Christ-like ways. Without anyone around us, how do we not only accept grace, but be messengers of it?

    • Thanks Mela. I am concerned to see more and more young Christians making up a kind of “do-it-yourself” Christianity. There is such a danger in making your faith so experiential and isolated… God’s Spirit moves to communicate His will through the Word, but it is often CONFIRMED through UNITY in community. The Biblical construct for teaching from the Word was always done in community. There’s no end to reasons we need the Church – we are designed to need and serve each other. Anne Rice is setting a dangerous example here. Thanks a ton for reading and adding your voice, friend! God bless…

  3. Paul Johnston Sr August 11, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Josh, again I am so glad that I found your blog. I truly enjoy your thought provoking writing. It just seems to me that in the Bible when God’s children find themselves alone is when they often get in trouble. Elijah after the defeat of the priests of Baal found himself alone and threw a deep depression pity party. David while alone on the rooftop made a terribly wrong decision that destroyed his earthly reputation and brought great sorrow to him and his family. Jonah took off by himself to do things his way and had a whale of a lot of trouble and who knows what would have happened in Eden had Eve and Adam been standing together when Satan came with his temptations. King Solomon talks about strength in numbers: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. (10) For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. (11) Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? (12) And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
    Clearly the practical wisdom of Solomon is as true today as it was thousands of years ago. The church for all its faults can still be a refuge for the troubled soul. It should be a place where we can go and find love and comfort from those having a like Spirit. Should we fall we should find someone to pick us up and encourage us. If we are depressed, rebellious, or find ourselves tempted, then we should find a non-judgmental friend with like faults to set us back on a Biblical track. There is an old saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” I believe this is a saying that Ms. Rice would benefit to ponder. How many hospitals, inner city missions, orphanages and other praise worthy institutions had their roots in a church? Perhaps we just all need to get back to the simple instructions given in Ephesians: Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, (2) With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (3) Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    • YES. Thank you Paul. Great passage you closed with… right on point. My expectation is that Anne Rice simply could not live wih the cognitive dissonance created by her social moral construct and the Biblical commands to live otherwise. Then you add to that all of the corrupting influence of SIN on people (within the Church, sadly), and you can find a million examples of un-Godly behavior coming from Jesus’ own followers. I’m actually surprised there isn’t a lot MORE of this kind of spirituality on display. I think it runs rampant in our culture… make-it-up, no-accountability, no-support, no-responsibility Jesus followers… we just don’t see it that often. Although, there’s strong evidence from the thousands who have voiced their support for Anne in the two weeks since her posting. It has prompted a kind of “Yeah! To HECK with the Church!” response that is worth paying attention to.

      And maybe, we within the Church have something to learn about how to engage the culture with the Gospel as well.

      Thanks as always for your interesting commentary. I appreciate you, brother. God bless you and your famly.

  4. this needs to be said, brother. over and over again. props on a potent and colorful retelling.

  5. Ms. Rice has given at least one interview (that I’ve listened to), maybe more, where she says quite clearly that she lives in a household of believers who, as a matter of practice, have daily prayers and regular bible study. Which puts squarely her in a community of faith.

    It’s quite clear – in her own words – that she is no “lone wolf.”

    The beauty of the internet is that, given enough real concern about an issue, you can actually listen to what someone has to say. Of course, that means that you must be willing to be patient, do some research, and not just type away just to read your own words.

    • Diane… ouch. But thanks for adding your input. I realize you don’t know me very well, so I’ll extend grace for your accusation that I’m just typing to read my own words.

      As to the content of your comment, I am really glad to hear that Ms. Rice is in a community of faith of sorts. I had not heard that interview, although I’ve read several of her other statements, and I recognize that her position is obviously more nuanced than what can be communicated in her initial posts on Facebook. She has been in the process of clarifying since then. And, like I said in my post, I understand her position. My point was not to personally attack or challenge MS. RICE, as much as to speak to what I see is a real trend in this culture.

      So I agree with you – I did not fully understand Anne Rice’s situation (to the degree that you do) and the family community that prays and reads the Bible together daily. I’ll take your word for it – and I wish Anne Rice nothing but the best. No attack was meant.

      But when a public figure makes a clearly controversial conversation-prompting statement, and thousands of people click “like” before she has a chance to clarify her communal life-style of faith, then I think it is a topic worth discussing.

      God bless, Diane. Hope you came back again. Thanks for the challenge. That’s the beauty of the internet – everybody’s voice can be heard.

  6. Ok A.) He really doesn’t type just to read his own words.

    Oh BOY Josh. I am one of the people that is so put off by the “church” that it has made me question more and more all the time. Why do we believe what we believe, who first said it, what prompted him to say it, what constitutes a church? I could go on, but I’m the questioning type.

    I get what she is saying COMPLETELY. I think that there are so many “churches” out there that people who want to belong will belong or they will create their own.

    I cannot tell you just HOW disgusted I was by a group religious discussion I participated in. There was a strong contingent of biblical literalists that told me, and other people of faith, if we didn’t believe the way they did that we shouldn’t call ourselves Christians. Not wanting to be lumped in with that kind of exclusionary belief system I DID remove myself from the label.

    I am NOT saying that you would say such a thing, but it is an example of how I can feel where she is coming from.

    I miss the social constructs that we had with the church when I was a kid, but just can’t bring myself to join one. I’m a blasphemer to some, I accept that.

    • Heidi Jo – you have made my whole day. I’ll tell, you why… you are a friend. This is an important – *really* important – discussion to have. No, I would not tell you you have to believe like I do or you’re outside of the “in” club. That’s dangerous talk, because we ALL have it wrong to some degree. Humility is more effective, I think.

      Having said that, I have no problem with clear doctrine and strong convictions. I just think we ought to season our conversation with grace and humility. So, in that spirit, Heidi, you’ve made my day.

      Thanks for being honest. I TOTALLY can see where Anne (and you) are coming from. I’m sorry you have been put off so strongly by church people. My first question for you is, have you walked away from Jesus, too? Or do you see, more like Anne, that you can have some kind of Jesus relationship without the yuckiness of the church? Because that is a different discussion.

      On the other hand, if you left the church AND Jesus behind, I’d just really encourage you to examine that again. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. The church is full of people. Not particualrly better or worse than the general population. I think the rest of culture is full of judgment and back-stabbing and self-righteousness and excuses (just like the church), because we’re talking about PEOPLE here. The only one in all of history to break that cycle was Jesus. And since you can’t SEE HIm – we only get to interact face to face with His followers – that gets lost in the muck.

      It’s good that you’re the questioning type. I think God wired you that way. Fire me questions any time, and I’ll either be able to help, just share my opinion, or say “I don’t know.” But I’m always open to talk about faith stuff.

      With regards to Christianity being exclusionary… yes it is. Jesus said He was the ONLY way to God and the ONLY way to forgiveness. That is just basic core Christian doctrine. But somehow we Christians get mixed up in our thinking – and in our relationshipos with people not connected to God – and we shut down questions and put our own “it is finished” stamp on our own understanding of all things theological… and then we’re jerks about it. That kind of attitude turns people off. Can you relate? I don’t get why Christians lose their common sense going to church, but it happens.

      Anyway, I’d love to know… is Jesus still a part of your life, or have you left Him and the church behind? You know me – I’m not looking to point fingers or get all up in your grill. 🙂 I’m looking to understanhd people better – and know you better. I believe this faith stuff is worth an honest conversation. Because if what Jesus has said IS true, it’s a life-and-death kind of decision. If He’s a lunatic or a genius liar, we have nothing to worry about. But I think He’s absolutley for real. So, on we go.

      Thanks Heidi. I really wish I could see all you guys this weekend at the reunion. God bless you. Seriously. 🙂

      • I promise to FULLY answer your questions and express my opinions (which its nearly impossible to keep me from doing anyway) after I get to Mom’s or maybe after the reunion. It requires and deserves a thoughtful discussion.

        FYI I thank God often for your reintroduction into my life. I LOVE being made to/allowed to THINK and examine.

        Don’t get hurt moving this weekend ok?

        • Sounds great, Heidi. Whenever it works. Thanks for the kind words, too. Likewise. I thank God for the ablity to stay conected to so many people via social media, and have good discussions about things that matter. I hope I can nudge thinking people to engage faith-stuff again – and express clear convictions – without coming across as cocky, or a jerk. It’s always a tightrope walk.

          Have the greatest time ever in Bemidji. Can’t believe I’m missing this. There’s always 25, right??

  7. So several things….

    1. Awesome title.
    2. I have been waiting for you to write this post for weeks.
    3. For all my waiting to hear your point of view on Jesus vs. Church, and for all the countless conversations I’ve had about this over the last couple weeks, I don’t really have that much to add mostly because I actually agree with you. If you believe the teachings of Christ as presented in the Bible, you sorta have to come to the conclusion that the church and Christ are wed. It’s in there. I do hope that this encourages the Christian church to consider interacts with society and social policy. I think that would be of benefit to everyone. But overall, to me, religion is something you’re all in or all out on, which might sound weird coming from me. If I believe in the ideals of an organization, I support the organization even if I disagree with some individuals in the group. Case and point, in the summer of 2004, I worked for the John Kerry campaign in Florida. Was it because I thought John Kerry was the greatest candidate and I loved him? No. But I saw that the Democratic party wasn’t getting behind our candidate and working for him at the level he needed to be elected president of the United States, so I got off my butt and did something for him because I support, overall, the Democratic party. Is there infighting in the party? Sure. Do I agree with everything Democratic politicians do? Of course not. But I generally believe in the ideals of the group so I do what I can to be supportive. Same goes for the church. If you believe and support the ideals, then you should be in their community. I can respect being Christian or openly not religious more than I can respect the wishy-washy concept that most people call spirituality. Spirituality is attractive to people because it’s about them. Christianity is about Jesus and his church. I’ve chosen to be all out; you’ve chosen to be all in. So be it.

    (Sorry, that was a little more ranting that I meant for it to be.)

    • Ashley, I love it when you join this forum. You’re sharp. Excellent insight, per usual.

      I have a theory, but I have no more support for it other than my gut… Some day, I think you’re coming back. And I will throw a huge party that day.

      In the mean time, I loved your analysis of “spirituality” vs. “Christianity” vs. “none of the above.” I think you’re right on. And, by the way, based on the info shared by Diane above, I’m not really sure that this is a fair criticism of Anne Rice, per se, because she may have a group of believers she considers her “fellow brothers and sisters…,” – her community. But I think this is a huge trend right now. Wishy-washy is a good label. Also narcissistic would work.

      I have empathy for those who are so fed up with church people that they chuck the whole deal under the bus. It makes me sad. But I’m empathetic.

      Since we’re in this conversation, Ashley, I’m often surprised by you. In the best way. You are very self-aware – so much more than most, it seems to me. Was it similar frustrations that turned you away from faith? I know you grew up as an “insider” in the church, now as you say, you’ve chosen to be “all out.”

      But it seems to me that you’re not prone to self-deception. Maybe I’m wrong, but you seem to know yourself well when you interact here. So if it was negative experiences with the Church that caused you to turn away, isn’t there some cognitive dissonance in that decision? I mean, people are ALL flawed, right? Church people and non-churched people. So it seems like letting go of JESUS because of a flawed institution or flawed followers is inconsistent. You would have to intentioally let go of Jesus, Himself, to be “all out.” Or maybe you just came to the realization that you just don’t believe it. I don’t know. Just curious.

      Anyway, thanks, as always, for your input. Take care. 🙂

      • So, I actually have the totally opposite problem of Anne Rice. I LOVE the church community and have often wished there was some other construct in society (other than church) where you could find like-minded people and be apart of a community like that. Since I quit practicing, I have moved twice, both times to large cities after growing up and going to college in small towns in the south. The first time was really hard, and I actually started going to church again just to have a place to meet people and things to do. I went to a church of the same denomination as the one I’d grown up in, and it was comfortable and I knew what was going on. But after awhile, I felt really bad about this and eventually I couldn’t get over the feeling of being a hypocrite so I stopped going, but the fact that the church is flawed and people are flawed (because as you said, everybody and every group is flawed) isn’t what bothers me and isn’t the reason I left the church.

        I did not one day stand up at Sunday dinner and announce that I was renouncing my baptism and leaving the church. I just drifted away. As I grew older, faith and Christian values stopped being relevant to me. They didn’t have anything to do with what I did on a daily basis, and they don’t correlate with whether people are kind and charitable or mean and ungenerous, whether they are honest, fair, and ethical, or not. Anyway, after awhile, I had to really consider my motivation in going to church and practicing. I wasn’t doing it out of any sincere conviction or belief, I was doing it simply because that is what I’d always done and going to church was part of the social structure of my life. That’s the wrong reason, so I quit going.

        Lots of people ask me (and I’m not insulted by this at all) if I really quit being Christian or if I was never Christian in the first place. I don’t really know. Most of the time when I was practicing, I was a child or a teenager, i.e. not groups known for their critical thinking skills and self-awareness. I don’t know, partially because I don’t remember and partially because I doubt I really had a clearly formed opinion at the time, what I really believed then. Lots of people suggest to me that perhaps I never had any genuine conviction in Christ, and I can’t really dispute that. My faith was always more about practice to me, and when I was old enough to realize that I was lacking the core belief that should have been underlying that practice, I didn’t want to label myself anymore in a way I felt was so false and deceptive to others. Hence my “I’m all out” mindset now. I feel like I can only interact with Christian groups now (I do a lot of volunteer work with social services organizations that are religious-based), if I am very straightforward about the fact that I am a non-believer because I don’t want anyone to think I am trying to be deceptive or somehow “infiltrate” their organization and spread my non-believing ways. That is never my intention.

        • Thanks for getting back to me/us. Like I said, you know yourself. It’s rare. I appreciate and respect intellectual honesty. It’s rare.

          I dodn’t know if you read my posts about talking to atheists last month. In one of them I made the case to Christians to stop trying to save people – that’s not our job. And that’s where I’m at with you, in the same sense that you say it is not your intention to spread your non-belief. I believe you. And I appreciate the opportunity to connect here. I hope you sense the same safety with me.

          Having thrown our that huge disclaimer, I’ll be honest and say that it is hard on an emotional level to hear someone like you talk so freely about just not buying it. The Jesus is Savior stuff. And I don’t mean that with any disrespect. But I honestly believe the Heaven and Hell gospel story, and I believe that Jesus is your only hope (and mine) of forgiveness and relationship with God – and eternal life. Those are huge stakes. So I try to walk this tightrope with unbelieving friends… on the one hand, I want to see them in a relationship with Jesus that is truly life-changing, and on the other I will respect them enough not to PUSH my belief on them in an offensive way. So, Ashley, because I want the BEST POSSIBLE for you, I’ll be praying that Jesus becomes real to you some day. Hope you’re OK with that. But I will never try to talk you into faith. ‘Cause that’s annoying.

          Besides, with your background, you’ve heard all this before. So you know the story. You either are going to accept it at some pount, or continue to say “no thank you.” That’s between you and God. And in the mean time, it’s a pleasure talking to you.

          Thanks again, friend. Have a superlative day. I’ll be busy cleaning, boxing, packing, and moving in the heat for the next two days. Waahooooo. 🙂 Take care.

  8. Josh,

    If you have not already I encourage you to send Anne Rice an email. I did once and she quickly replied. I was actually amazed that she did but found out quickly that she is down to earth and is a very passionate person. I however do not pretend to know just what context or frame of mind she was in when she made these statements. I do know that as “Christians” we all go through peaks and valleys from time to time. Certainly she is no different in that regard.

    I am not agreeing with what she said but I definitely feel like she does from time to time. I have always defined my feelings this way when it came to “religion” and or being “religious”. I have had many a discussion with people about being religious and often ask them what they think it means. I don’t consider myself religious just a follower of Christ and a firm believer that he died for our sins!

    I know I drifted off a bit with my 2 cents but wanted to share on a very good topic/discussion. Great stuff as always Josh. I am never disappointed with your blog.

    All credit goes to our God and Saviour. God Bless!

    • Hey brother. That’s a great idea. I may just shoot her an email. Good call.

      I love your idea of focusing on the relationship rather than the religion. I’m with you, dude! But Jesus did design this faith life for community, too. So, we embrace personal relationship with God, and deep relationship with other brothers, and building relationships with people outside the faith. Wait… sounds like “Building Relationships that Change Lives.” 🙂 So glad you and your family are at Living Hope with us. So glad. Bless you guys.

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