Saturday, 14 August 2010

Can you keep Christ and give up being a Christian?

My contribution to the Guardian's Comment is Free thread can be read here

Earlier this month, Anne Rice announced that she was stopping being a Christian – but that she wouldn't give up Christ. Does this make sense? Can you have one without the other? Could you cling to the prophet and abandon Islam? More generally, should anyone be held responsible for the crimes of their co-believers?

Should they hold themselves responsible?

It may be that the answer for Christians and for other religions is "yes", they can and should. Monotheistic religions aren't just matters of personal preference, but of collective effort. They command the believers to build a better society. So do many forms of atheism. So if the building turns out to be slaughterhouse, or a jail, perhaps it's right to leave the work crew. But must you then repudiate the ideals that you have seen betrayed?
Whatever it is that Anne Rice sees in the figure of Christ is the same thing as fuels her revulsion from her fellow Christians. So, how to deal with the problem?

Monday's response

John Richardson: I can understand Rice's position. But her desire to set herself apart, I would argue, owes a lot to pride

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  1. I noticed your piece cited in Today's Guardian piece by Shirley Lancaster:

  2. But it could also be argued that religion, particularly monotheistic religion, post literacy (when religions have a habit of becoming more Protestant/Evangelical/individualistic – as has been demonstrated in both Christianity and Islam, as literacy has increased); religion itself is a form of institutionalised pride. As I write this, I am just about to set off to the church I am attending at present and part of me inwardly groans at the thought of the ‘me, me, me – ness’ of much of what passes for prayer and worship. Outwardly, the corporate is seen as the ideal, but the reality is lots of individuals who make the same compromises with this ideal and ‘play-act’ in a land of make-believe community when much of the overriding concern is the welfare of the individual – either materially or spiritually. Even the height of self-giving, martyrdom, is usually only entered into because the belief of spiritual or psychological reward.

    You have stated ‘Monotheistic religions aren't just matters of personal preference, but of collective effort. They command the believers to build a better society.’ Yet, at no point in the New Testament is there any command to build a better society; and there is not one word about ruling a society – perhaps with good reason, history is littered with the failed attempts, when this has been tried. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions... Again, this could be seen as a species of pride that there are very vocal Christians (not least this blog) who believe they have some divine right to rule – or know better how a society should be ruled.

    Perhaps Anne Rice has just swapped one form of pride for another or she has decided to make her own way for her own reasons... Perhaps she is even able to make up her own mind without the help of those who think they know better? But then we’re back to pride again, but alas, that is the essence of the human condition...

    Ken Simpson, Manchester

  3. Ken, I'm sorry, I should have made it clearer that I had cut and pasted the Guardian's introduction to the 'Comment is Free' topic, so it was them, not me, who wrote, "Monotheistic religions aren't just matters of personal preference, but of collective effort. They command the believers to build a better society."

    I agree with you - I don't see that as an NT imperative, and I also agree there is a lot of 'me' about modern 'worship'.

    I hope you've read my actual article - sorry about the misleading presentation.

  4. I don't feel it is pride at all. Her statement seems to show disappointment, pain, perhaps bitterness and certainly anger.
    I am glad that she is simply holding onto Christ and if she does that with all her heart, soul and strength many blessings be upon her. I only pray she means what she says.

  5. John,
    When so many profess to be Christians, while virtually dismissing Christ, it is equally understadibe that some will think that they can ditch Christianity and retain Chrst. That is just how screwed up things are these days.