Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anne Rice & Loving Jesus but Not His Wife

A few days ago, celebrity author Anne Rice announced that she was leaving Christianity:

And she expanded upon it here:

As would be expected, this created a bit of a backlash from people who consider themselves "church enthusiasts" and from evangelicals who embraced Anne Rice's conversion to Christianity a decade ago.

One of the phrases I've noticed being thrown around is the bumper-stickerlicious "You can't love Jesus and hate his wife." The idea is that the church is the bride of Christ. And that by believing in Jesus you have to take the church along too; full of flaws, broken people and failures.

I saw it on twitter while the RT's were starting up, and was taken back by it a bit. We'll see if I get a response from those who tweeted it at my request for an explanation...but I see a few problems with this pithy little phrase.


To me, this is an attempt to argue instead of understanding someone's position and actively seeking reconciliation. To say that you're sick of Christianity and many of its adherents and to be countered with the equivalent of a "nuh-uh!!" you're trying to pick a fight. (Yes I understand the irony of saying that and writing this post...but here we are)

Where is this phrase even from?

That's about it. Where did this come from? Does this have some Biblical rooting in the reasoning behind it? I'm not so certain. But even before Anne Rice's statement last week I've seen this phrase (or an equivalent) in plenty of places before. Someone better have copy-written it, this seems to have the same kind of catchphrase potential that "love the sinner, hate the sin" has had in the past. Blech.

Questioning someone's faith

Anne Rice says that she loves Jesus, and hates the church. Someone says that this isn't possible. They're making a logical claim that you either A) Don't really love Jesus, or B) Don't really hate the church. The connotation is that the person who made the initial claim is either a liar, or not really a Christian.

Am I the only one who sees the kind of inflammatory nature behind this retort?

Is it even true?

I'm not even sold on the validity of the phrase "You can't love Jesus and hate his wife." Why would we think that? Surely you've known a person whose spouse you didn't quite care for. That doesn't seem out of the ordinary. Why would we think differently about Jesus & the church?

That all being said, let me make something clear.

Frankly, to me, if you believe in Jesus you are a Christian. You are a part of Christianity. This whole affair seems to be a matter of semantics in Anne Rice not wanting to be affiliated with what she interprets to be the face of modern Americanized Christianity. Which would put her firmly in the ranks of a growing number of believers in mine and the generations directly around me.

But unfortunately or not, believing in Jesus puts you firmly amongst the worst public faces of the faith. It associates you with the crusades, witch burnings, and anti-intellectualism of the past...while also putting you alongside the homophobia, racism, anti-feminism and anti-intellectualism of the present. And the Westboro Baptist church.

Whether we like it or not. Maybe that's really what people mean in the first place. That those outside the church are still going to view you as a part of it, even if you don't want to be. But if so...surely there's a better catchphrase than what's currently being used.

And, again to me, it's up to us individually to change the perception of what people think of as Christianity or Christians on a person by person basis. That isn't done by engaging in semantics or attempting to not be labeled a certain way.

What do you think? Is Anne Rice's position one that you identify with? 

What about the phrase "you can't love Jesus and hate his wife?" Ever even heard of that before? Reactions to it?