As Rice herself wrote on her popular Facebook page, "I'm still pondering the great outpouring of support I received on this page and in other places for my decision to quit Christianity in the name of Christ. I am also pondering the criticism, much of which is substantive and thoughtful." Rice has always been willing to engage with her readers in an unusually respectful and thoughtful way, and this case is no exception: on her Facebook page, she links to both supportive pieces, like Michael Rowe's contention on the Huffington Post that she's "never been more of a Christian" to those that are more critical. And these are interesting, too: while there's the been the expected knee-jerk vitriol (see: "Is Anne Rice Going to HELL?"), her announcement has prompted an intelligent discussion about the meaning of Christianity and the place of the modern church, both Catholic (the church Rice exlicitly "quit") and Evangelical.
Writes one of her critics, Justin McRoberts, in "An Open Letter To Anne Rice,"
It's simply reasonable that if you set yourself against people who set themselves against people you are only adding to the friction. If part of your issue with Christianity is it's exclusivity, you aren't helping by only including those who "get it" the way you do. True christian inclusivity means embracing the homosexual and the gay-basher in the same embrace; working for the release of the oppressed while praying and working for the redemption of their oppressor; loving the beautiful game of baseball and yet, somehow, also loving the Yankees. It means loving the Lord with all of yourself and also loving those who grossly misrepresent Him.
Taking a more theological bent, the "St. Johnny" blogger Anthony argues,
If Anne is to follow Christ and not his followers then Anne must, according to conscience, be prepared to stand within the Church and help it "grow into him who is the Head, that is Christ." (Eph 4:15) It is even put more explicitly: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (vs. 25) This is a duty and an obligation to our fellow believer, which no person who is in Christ has the ability to reject.
Many others have embraced Rice's decision, which seems to reflect the growing disconnect many Christians feel. Writes the Daily Beast's Kirsten Powers, who herself had a similar experience with the Catholic Church, this is in many ways the crystallization of what's becoming a movement:
One emerging leader is Jonathan Merritt, a Southern Baptist pastor, who grew up in the bosom of conservative Christianity; his father was the president of the Southern Baptist convention and Merritt graduated from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. "I am finding disillusionment with Christianity in America," said Merritt, who just released, Green Like God-Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet. Christianity "has become so bogged down with cultural baggage that it has marginalized its followers. I know exactly how Anne feels: that Christianity has been hijacked."
Whatever one thinks of Rice's personal decisions, the debate she's prompted is a civil, intelligent and necessary one that she's helped take public. And as ever, the author's willingness to engage and debate - and actually listen to readers - could serve as an example to many a popular thinker.
Anne Rice Rejects Christ Goes To HELL
Open Letter to Anne Rice [Justin McRoberts]
Anne Rice's Christianity Crisis [Daily Beast]
On Anne Rice's Quitting of Christianity [St. Johnny]
Why Anne Rice Has Never Been More of a Christian [Huffington Post]