A tale of the undead

RoadtoCanaABC’s Good Morning America had a bit about author Anne Rice the other day that caught my attention. Rice is the best-selling American author of vampire tales who has recently written a couple of religious-themed books:

After becoming a born-again Christian, Rice stopped writing about vampires and dedicated herself to religious themes.

Rice, a former atheist, returned to her Catholic roots, and her newest book, “Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana,” is her second book devoted to Christianity. The book follows Christ’s life beginning with his last winter before his baptism in the Jordan River and ending with the miracle at Cana.

Oh dear. Apparently nobody in the story production at ABC knows that born-again Christian is not really a phrase to use for a Catholic.

The phrase “born again” comes from Jesus. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” he says in the Gospel of John.

But the phrase is used differently by traditional Christians and evangelical Protestants. Let’s see how the Religious Newswriters Association defines the term:

born-again: Theologically, all Christians claim to be born-again through the saving work of Jesus Christ; they just disagree over how it occurs. Catholics and Orthodox, for instance, say it occurs in the sacrament of baptism, which frequently takes place when the baptized person is too young to recall it. Evangelical Protestants emphasize being born-again as a personal, transformational experience that involves a deliberate commitment to follow Christ. Because the term tends to associate someone with a particular religious tradition, do not label someone a born-again Christian. Rather let the person label themselves, as in, who calls herself a born-again Christian.

Of course Lutherans and other sacramental Christians believe that spiritual rebirth occurs via baptism. Still, the style recommendations of the Religion Newswriters Association are sound. And I don’t think Rice calls herself a born-again Christian. An article in World magazine a few years ago explained that she was raised in the Catholic Church and attended parochial schools in New Orleans:

At age 18, while attending San Francisco State University, Anne broke with her childhood faith. Her apostasy, she says, resulted from exposure to a wider world: “I stopped believing that [the Catholic Church] was ‘the one true church established by Christ to give grace.’” She also stopped believing in God. . . .

But in 1998, she gradually began to feel again the press of God: “I began to be more and more concerned with my relationship with God in my books. I wanted to be in the company of God, in the company of the drama . . . what we can know, what we don’t know, what we believe.”

She began attending Mass again and participating in sacraments. In 2000, her husband agreed to remarry her in the church: Despite his own atheism, “he was very supportive about my writing [Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt], and he was fine with me going back to the church. It surprised him, but not that much. I don’t think I had ever stopped talking about God.”

That doesn’t sound like someone who identifies as a born-again Christian. For a better treatment of her religious views, you might read a November 2005 profile in January magazine, where she discussed her views on theodicy:

I felt I had to ask Rice about God. I know people who, having endured great tragedy, feel abandoned by God. Over the years, Rice has lost a daughter and a husband, and has had her own brush with death at the hand of diabetes. I wanted to know if she had ever felt abandoned.

“I’ve never felt abandoned by God, really,” she said. “I felt that I abandoned him when I lost my faith as a young woman. Though I’ve suffered the loss of a daughter, a husband, and of course both parents, I have not ever seen these things personally. They are ‘what happened.’ I think it’s entirely possible that God might have been very sad when my daughter died. I believe Divine Providence is the fabric of the universe. God is with the person who dies in a car accident, just as he is with the person who survives. We can’t guess what his plan is. I see that throughout the Old Testament.”

Rice is a fascinating woman with an interesting story to tell. Too bad some in the mainstream media are so bad at telling it.

Print Friendly

  • http://tmamone.blogspot.com Travis Mamone

    Actually, while baptism is an important part of spiritual rebirth in the Lutheran Church, we do not believe baptism in and of itself saves souls.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NonDualBibleVerses/ Eric Chaffee

    If ABC terms her “born again” it might be good to wonder if they didn’t get that from Rice herself. I sit a table every Saturday in a nondenominational men’s Bible study with a very devout Catholic dentist (retired) who serves his church in high lay positions. He calls himself born again, and charismatic. Evangelical protestants do not own that term which Jesus gave to any who take His counsel seriously.

    Times change, Mollie. The Berlin wall came down overnight. And walls between denominations can collapse quickly, too. Stay tuned. Keep pace.

    ~eric.

  • Hans

    Travis said

    Actually, while baptism is an important part of spiritual rebirth in the Lutheran Church, we do not believe baptism in and of itself saves souls.

    Actually, we do.

    From Luther’s Small Catechism:

    What benefits does Baptism Give?
    It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

    From Luther’s Large Catechism:

    Thus, we must regard Baptism and put it to use in such a way that we may say: ‘But I am baptized! And if I have been baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.

    While I recognize that GR is not the forum for discussing or debating doctrine itself, for anyone who may come across this board, I simply wanted to point out that, while Travis may not believe that baptism saves, the Lutheran Church always has.

  • cheryl

    This recent USA Today story about Rice and her author son Christopher is also interesting. No mention of her being “born-again,” but it does paint a convincing portrait of Rice as a self-described “progressive” Catholic, staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, etc. Meanwhile her son, who writes fiction with gay themes, comes off as quite self-absorbed, IMO:

    http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2008-03-05-rices-literature_N.htm

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I agree with Eric Chaffee. There are some in my Catholic parish who are charismatic oriented and who refer to themselves as “born again” simply because they were baptized as infants, and who now are alive and filled with an active Catholic Faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. And virtually all of these take the moral teachings of Christianity and the Catholic Faith far more seriously than Anne Rice apparently does. Maybe someday she will embrace the fullness of the Catholic Faith instead of being a “cafeteria Catholic” picking and choosing the doctrines of The Faith secular society approves of or that suits her (instead of God’s) wisdom.

  • Dale

    I suppose the real test is whether Rice finds the label “born-again Christian” to be an inaccurate description of herself. While evangelical Protestants have a habit of using the story of Nicodemus and Jesus’ phrase “born again” to describe the experience of Christian faith, it’s in the Bible for Roman Catholics to read, too. The story is clear about Rice returning to her Roman Catholic roots, so I don’t think a reader will take away any misperceptions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00368463715994694203 FrGregACCA

    If the reporter HAD to include the phrase “born again” to describe Rice’s return to the Roman Catholic faith (cafeteria or otherwise: give her time, Deacon John), it would have been best, IMHO, to describe her as a “born again Roman Catholic”.

    That said, I agree that Rice should have been allowed to label herself, although the example given, “…let the person label themselves, as in, who calls herself a born-again Christian” raises issues that have been previously discussed on this blog.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    Saint Patrick described himself as born again.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    All Christians believe that they must be born again. Jesus said so.

    The question is whether the journalist should have used a phrase that has a very particular religious association in this context.

    I’m not seeing a good argument here that indicates so.

  • Julia

    There are some new terms that Catholics are using colloquially in this regard.

    After about 10 years as a “fallen-away” Catholic, I returned to the Catholic Church. I would be called a “revert” as opposed to a “convert” who is new to the Church. Both are adults who are chosing to be Catholic.

    However, there is also a really new term applied to adult Catholics who never fell away, but consider themselves to have chosen to live as Catholics rather than just staying out of habit – they call themselves “intentional”.

    I’ve heard “charismatic” described in a number of different ways. I’ve heard people who have attended a cursillo, describes themselves that way. Others think it entails a more pentecostal-like worthips preference.

    Hard to keep them all straight. I don’t think a reporter should use any of these terms unless the person uses it him or herself.

  • http://tmamone.blogspot.com Travis Mamone

    Oops, my mistake, Hans. I’m rather new to the Lutheran Church. Sorry about that.

    But I did want to add something else (which is not related to baptism). When Jesus said, “Ye must be born again,” that didn’t mean “Ye must be a mainstream Evangelical Protestant.” It goes for all believers in Christ, so Rice is technically a born-again Christian.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Mollie, while I (and others) disagree with your statement that “born-again Christian is not really a phrase to use for a Catholic”, I agree that it is the wrong phrase to use for someone who grew up Catholic, “broke with her childhood faith” at the age of 18, and then returned to the faith. Sloppy work by GMA.

  • http://paganmonist.blogspot.com/ Copper Stewart

    “Born again” strikes me as clearly ironic when so closely followed by “return to her Catholic roots,” not as synonymous with any particular salvation theology.

  • Man Ray

    Just a remark on Anne Rice. Someone above mentioned her gay son. I read an interview with Anne Rice about 10 years ago. I never cared for her vampire books, just found them too dark and felt like she must be some weirdo. When I read this interview, my mind changed. She was living in New Orleans somewhat cloistered off, away from people other than her family. She spoke about how the death of her young daughter from leukemia had changed her. I am not lying when I say I wept at her remarks about losing her daughter, who was just a little girl when she died. Years later, she was still grieving, you could see that. She was very close with her other child, her son, who is gay, and supported her son’s desire to become a writer. Ms. Rice felt he had tremendous writing talent; if someone could “beam” from within the pages of The Washington Post, well, she did. She was devoted to her husband, who has since passed away. She seemed to me like a very brave and kind woman who had had tremendous heartache but who truly loved her family and got her joy from that. If you clink on the USA Today link provided above, you can see a recent interview with her. She gave a way a lot of her furniture to the people of New Orleans who lost things in Katrina. I do not like to see a good human being judged because she is a Democrat or continues to love her sole surviving family member because he is gay. Just felt like getting this off my chest since it seemed like the person above was insinuating she is somehow not a good Christian. Thank you for the forum and the chance to say this.

  • Man Ray

    Just a remark on Anne Rice. Someone above mentioned her gay son. I read an interview with Anne Rice about 10 years ago. I never cared for her vampire books, just found them too dark and felt like she must be some weirdo. When I read this interview, my mind changed. She was living in New Orleans somewhat cloistered off, away from people other than her family. She spoke about how the death of her young daughter from leukemia had changed her. I am not lying when I say I wept at her remarks about losing her daughter, who was just a little girl when she died. Years later, she was still grieving, you could see that. She was very close with her other child, her son, who is gay, and supported her son’s desire to become a writer. Ms. Rice felt he had tremendous writing talent; if someone could “beam” from within the pages of The Washington Post, well, she did. She was devoted to her husband, who has since passed away. She seemed to me like a very brave and kind woman who had had tremendous heartache but who truly loved her family and got her joy from that. If you click on the USA Today link provided above, you can see a recent interview with her. She gave away a lot of her furniture to the people of New Orleans who lost things in Katrina. I do not like to see a good human being judged because she is a Democrat or continues to love her sole surviving family member despite him being gay. Just felt like getting this off my chest since it seemed like the person above was insinuating she is somehow not a good Christian. Thank you for the forum and the chance to say this.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X