I have been reading Anne Rices’ latest book “Of Love And Evil” and was struck by the descriptions of the main character’s experience of the presence of the divine. I had read many of her earlier books ( I think Servant of The Bones – 1996 was my most recent until Of Love And Evil ) and her descriptions in this newer book were so compelling I wondered if she had become a Christian while I wasn’t looking and apparently she had.
When I “asked the box” I learned that just last year she renounced her 1998 conversion to Christianity (see http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128930526 ). There were two things about her renouncement that struck me as I mulled it over.
1. The explanation for her choice was filled with things she could not be; anti-gay, anti-Democratic, anti-science …
2. She did not/could not go back to being an atheist.
It is revealing that the things she itemized are those things that divide when her writing clearly demonstrates an intimate understanding of the active peace and completeness we must be destined for in Heaven (this is a whole other post). Indeed my first reaction was to recall the passage where Jesus says that all men will know we are his by our love for one another (John 13:35) but then I recalled that he also said he did not come to bring peace (Matthew 10:34) but a sword.
It may be her explanation did not list enough of the things she had to be “anti” to satisfy God’s Righteousness. I have found (as Paul explains in Romans) that there is no standard of behavior I am capable of that makes me a good Christian. This is also a problem for the church when they have to take a stand on any moral issue (which they must in fact do). We forget that the moral condemnation is not just on Liberals and Gays, but equally condemns Conservatives and Heterosexuals. Is the sin greater in God’s eyes because we hate and kill than if we hate and do not kill? Maybe, but the ultimate judgment is the same which is death. How easily we forget that ALL are condemned by the law because ALL have sinned. Maybe part of the problem is how to identify light rather than cursing the darkness. What things are we as Christians “pro” rather than “anti”. We need to remember Philippians 4:8 and concentrate on the good.
That brings me to the second point which is that Ms. Rice could not go back to a world where good and evil, light and darkness were relative or abstract concepts. There is Light and there is Darkness. We know this to be true even when we cannot stand the Light. The illumination of darkness will cause the division (the sword) of Matthew 10:34. Where are we if we must call good evil, light darkness or hate love to justify our deeds? The requirement of a universe without the moral authority of a Supreme and Righteous God is one where good may be evil or evil may be good. This truth has kept me from giving up or going back when my own internal conflict has caused me to loose faith with the institution where I practiced.
The institutions where we congregate to “practice” our faith are like democracy. They are not perfect but they beat the alternative (since complete isolation is unrealistic). The treasure we have is held in our earthen vessels and those vessels need to bump and jostle each other if John 13:35 is to be realized. If you have a crisis of faith and must leave your institution remember the difference between Light and Dark. Loving the Light will bring you through the darkness.