About a year ago, I wrote a hopeful post touching on the reversion of well-known author Anne Rice. This week, I read an article from the LA Times about her defection from the Church based on her Facebook announcement that she’d “quit being a Christian.”
The news seemed anticlimactic after my October 2009 post, in which I rejoiced over Rice’s claims that she’d been on a long and winding search for God that had ended with her embracing the Christian faith of her roots, and that she planned to dedicate all future works to her “Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
It’s always disconcerting to see a brother or sister fall away from the faith. Those of us who have tasted the goodness of the faith life hurt when our siblings in Christ become disillusioned. We can, and should, recognize that oftentimes there are valid reasons this happens, and that it can serve as a call to us to work even harder to form our heart to Christ’s.
The aforementioned article was written by William Lobdell, a former Times staff writer who himself is a defector of the faith. So do consider that the story was approached through the lens of one who already feels disillusioned. Even so, he did bring up some important points.
In the article, Lobdell cites evidence that more and more American Christians are failing to live out the faith they profess. He says that though
Rice herself points to the hypocrisy she witnessed as the main reason for her departure, and Lobdell ends the article saying we’re seeing only the beginning of the exodus.
Leaving it at that would be enough to make any Christian lose heart, but from all that I’ve experienced in my own long journey as a Christian, I believe there’s more here than what Lobdell can see.
Trying to explain the downhill slide, Lobdell says it could be that many people who call themselves Christian don’t really believe, deep down, in the tenets of their faith, causing their actions to reveal their true beliefs.
I would respond in this way: we are in the world, and as long as this is so, our Christian lives will be — in fact are set up to be — an uphill battle. We are not yet in our homeland, and as such, we are going to fail, daily. And it’s not necessarily because we don’t believe, deep down, in the tenets of our faith, as Lobdell says, but more likely that the world in which we live is in such contrast to those tenets that living them out takes a nearly insurmountable amount of courage, conviction and formation. It is becoming harder to live the Christian life, in part because the world is more and more at odds with what we believe, and oftentimes the subtle ways this permeates our lives makes the journey quite murky. We require keen senses to traverse the bog in order to come out the other side shining.
Only the saints who were able to take vows of poverty and completely transform themselves to Christ were able to live this out successfully. The rest of us, including parents with children who have to be more fully engaged with this world, are undoubtedly going to have a tougher time of it. We are going to struggle. Living out the faith is a daily dying to self and resisting this world. We may be successful in one hour, and unsuccessful in the next.
And a word of warning: those of us who take notes on the apparent disconnect of belief and action of fellow Christians and base our view of the faith on that alone will be sorely disappointed. We will, like Rice, eventually walk away. It is only when we can fix our gaze on Christ and what He is calling us specifically to do that we’ll find what we need to stay the course.
We should not, cannot, give up, despite everything in our world that lures us away from His face, including the imperfections of our siblings.
Q4U: What sorts of things do you do to intentionally set yourself apart from this world in order to live more fully in Christ?