Anne Rice, whose book Called Out of Darkness was a beautifully-written spiritual confession, has decided that she loves Christ but not Christians.
She’s neither the first nor the last to feel that way.
Sometimes I do, too. Sometimes I hate myself as a Christian, because I do the thing so badly.
Christianity is easy to do badly. You take the dogma and leave out the love — you’re doing it wrong.
You try to “correct” others and bring too much “righteousness” and not enough love — you’re doing it wrong.
Apply too much love, without accountability — you’re doing it wrong, then, too.
We cheat Christ when we do it badly.
We cheat Christ and each other when we teach Him badly.
We cheat Christ and each other and the Church when we catechize poorly, or when we approach the Supernatural with superficiality; when we stop applying thought to it.
Forty years of sloppy, empty elementary catechesis during concurrent social revolution and generational upheaval was a bad choice for the churches, who now reap what they have sown.
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.
Rice’s angry frustration with what she (and, let’s face it, many others) perceive to be a sort of Institution of No is interesting. She refuses to be “anti-gay,” but the church teaches that indeed we must not be anti-gay, that homosexual inclinations are not sinful in themselves, but that all are called to chastity, whether gay or straight.
So, what she is refusing is not so much church teaching, which she incorrectly represents, but the worldly distortion of church teaching both as it is misunderstood and too-often practiced. I do not know how anyone could read the USCCB’s pastoral letter, Always Our Children and then make a credible argument that the church is “anti-gay.”
But then, I do not know how anyone can read Humanae Vitae and credibly call the church anti-feminist or anti-humanist.
I do not know how anyone can read Gaudium et Spes and credibly argue that the church is out of touch with the Human Person or Society.
I do not know how anyone can read Fides et ratio and credibly argue that the church does not hold human reason in esteem.
I do not know how anyone can look at the Vatican supporting and funding stem cell research or the even the briefest list of religiously-inclined scientists and researchers and credibly argue that Christianity is “anti-science.”
Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying “Yes” to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes” — that being a “yes” toward God, whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time — rather than a “yes” to ourselves.
Unfortunately, we Christians teach this poorly and generally make too many excuses for our failings. Too many of us go out into the world seeking to confront and “fix” others, when the key to the Christian life begins with confronting and “fixing” the self. This can only be done through grace, which enters upon the Yes, and moves and grows on the intentional breeze of Willingness, because that is the only thing that counts, our intentions and our willingness; “worthiness” does not enter in.
But willingness only comes with humility. It comes when we can say “Thy will be done,” and then actually surrender, instead of preparing a treaty.
The world, because it is worldly, cannot understand Christianity or the churches; the world will never love either, and it is foolishness to think otherwise. But the church is not here to be loved by the world; it is here to serve the Bread.
The Living Bread did not come for the love of the world, but for its life.
If the media defines us, that is our own fault in allowing it. If the world defines us poorly, that is our fault, too, because the Gospel, rightly preached, is irresistible; we’ve too often preached the Gospel poorly in our actions.
We are not supposed to hide our light under a bushel-basket, but we’re also not supposed to put others under its glare, and thus send them scurrying back into the shadows. At the Transfiguration, the dazzling brightness did not sting the eyes of the apostles.
If the light is well-placed, it does not repel others, it attracts from out of darkness where, God help us, we may all be well taught.