Legendary vampire author Anne Rice recently announced via her Facebook page that she is quitting Christianity. Among the reasons for her “religious conversion” (as ABC news aptly called it) she explains, “It’s simply impossible for me to belong to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.”
Having listened to the latest of the bigoted, hate-filled, secretly taped outbursts of self-proclaimed Christian Mel Gibson, I too am painfully aware that there is more than a kernel of truth to Ms. Rice’s statements. Regrettably, I also on occasion, as both a sinner and saint, have been observed to be quarrelsome, hostile, and disputatious. Just ask my wife. That being said, the author misses the real significance of what it means to be a Christian.
What Anne Rice fails to comprehend is that our faith is not about us. We often forget that you and I don’t find God. Rather, God finds us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus He has broken down the wall of sin that separates us from Him and He makes our union with Him a reality. We call this gift grace.
Ms. Rice’s well-chronicled conversion to Christianity was not of her own doing, but rather a gift of God via the Holy Spirit. As Christians, Christ calls us to be His slaves. As a result, we are not “free” to pass by the other side. We are not free to “quit” our faith. Rather, we are called to diminish ourselves in order to see and to serve those in our path – especially those who are hurting.
When you or I, or Anne Rice publicly or privately denounce others for their seemingly un-Christian behavior, we are often doing nothing more than enhancing our own egos at the expense of others. We fail to heed the warning of the words of Jesus, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3).
Does it hurt when we observe fellow Christians, members of our own family, or even ourselves, act in a manner that serves to diminish the Christian “brand”? Of course it does. However, unlike Ms. Rice, I have not given up hope on myself or my fellow Christians. At Lutheran Social Services and in my own denomination and congregation, every day I see faithful people quietly serving as foster parents, home health aides, teachers, pastors, accountants, parents, caregivers, cooks, volunteers, mentors, and the like. These are the Christians whom I seek to emulate. These are my role models and heroes who have quietly chosen to give of themselves in order to live in Christ and to serve their neighbor.
In a subsequent post to her blog, author Rice acknowledged that her faith in Christ remains central to her life. It is my prayer that she will receive the power of the transforming blood, not that of vampires, but that of our Lord and Savior, which will equip her to daily worship and be of service to God.
Dr. Kurt Senske is chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South and author of The Calling: Live a Life of Significance (forthcoming, November, 2010)