Carl Olson lets fly here about novelist Anne Rice’s latest anti Catholic tirade. I have to admit that I really liked Anne Rice’s books about Jesus. I was asked to interview her, and she very kindly sent me detailed answers to lots of questions I emailed her. She was polite and respectful to me as a priest and seemed like a really nice person.
However, I sensed a problem. When she was discussing women’s ordination or homosexuality she was clearly tiptoeing through a personal minefield. Her answers were honest, but cagey…”I fully accept the church’s teachings, but I personally wish they were different…” I felt she was being real careful in order to get good reviews from the Christians she hoped would buy her book. OK. You can be a faithful Catholic and feel such things. You can be a faithful Catholic and still try to be shrewd in how you handle interviews. That wasn’t the real problem.
I think the real problem is her personality type. From her writing and her letters to me I could tell she was very much the intuitive, emotional, heart to heart kind of person. A sympathetic, loving and kind person, and a mama as well–she’s simply allowed heart to triumph over head. To put it bluntly, she’s a sentimentalist, and locked into a society where sentimentalism rules, she simply couldn’t swim stronger than the sentimentalist undertow. The mama bear instinct ruled and she couldn’t bear to see her baby mistreated. Having spent years in the bleeding heart liberal world, a Rooster Cogburn Catholic Church was too much to take.
I think I understand and I’m genuinely sorry. After she publicly announced her renunciation of the Christian religion I wrote her another email saying how sorry I was to hear of her decision and reminding her that not all Christians or Catholics were idiotic, fundamentalist, homophobic bigots. I encouraged her to re-consider and admitted that sticking with the church required huge amounts of humility, stamina and good humor. Anne fell into the trap of mistaking Catholics for Catholicism, and then ruled against Catholicism because of the Catholics. Good heavens, if we all judged Catholicism on the Catholics we’d all come unstuck!
The problem is that, for whatever reason, we feel that we can be the judge of the church and not the other way around. We want the church to live up to our expectations, when in fact, we should be asking how we can ever live up to the church’s expectations.
Beneath this problem is good old fashioned spiritual pride. Anne spotted the hateful hypocrites, the lying loonies, the uncaring apologists and pompous prelates and thought she was better than them. What she (and all of us) need to do is see these folks and mutter in shame, “Geesh, they’re awful, but they’re my brothers and we’re all in the same lifeboat, so we’d better pull together.” Anne couldn’t do that, and like so many of her sort, thought she rose above it all, only now to end up saying stuff that’s just as judgmental and shallow and uncaring as the people she was blaming.
Anyhow, one of the good things Anne contributed was a smart criticism of the modern Biblical critics. Her essay on the subject in her first Christ the Lord book was great. She wrote from the perspective of a historical novelist doing research, and a bit like C.S.Lewis, who criticized the Biblical critics as a literary critic, she revealed the naked emperors in the halls of theological academe for what they are.
The biggest problem for Anne now is that she has fallen into the same trap she accused of which she accused the New Testament scholars. She rightly said that they were creating a Jesus in their own image, or as someone has written, “They were writing autobiography as New Testament studies.” Poor Anne has now done the same thing. Cut adrift from the authority of the Catholic Church she can only do what all the Protestants have done for the last 500 years: create a Jesus in her own image.
So Anne now ‘follows Christ’, but what Christ? It will be the loving, sympathetic teacher, gentle Jesus who is, well, somewhat effeminate really. Anne was a flower child in college, so her Jesus will be the kind of hippie Jesus we’re all familiar with from that generation–a long haired, groovy kind of beach bum who meditates on mountaintops, mixes with down and outs and delivers a real cool anti establishment, John Lennon kind of sermon. Then when Anne or her son is ‘persecuted’ by the hard hearted, hypocritical religious leaders she’ll understand how Jesus was persecuted too.
That’s a real nice Jesus, and that kind of Jesus isn’t unknown to the gospels, but remembering that heretics don’t preach lies, they preach half truths, we have to say that the hippie, flower child ‘give peace a chance’ Jesus is only part of the story. Anne Rice needs to meet the Jesus who is also the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings–Christus Rex and Christus Pantacrator.