Small Wonders: Why I'm still a Christian

Minority GroupsChristianityProposition 8 (California, 2010)Fox Broadcasting CompanyElections

As a columnist, I'm given some latitude in expressing how I feel while reporting the facts. I do so in hopes that my thoughts will resonate with readers and, agree or not, generate productive dialogue.

With this in mind, let me tell you how I feel about a vampire book author's renunciation of Christianity and fur coats.

An uproar on Facebook trickled into mainstream media recently. Anne Rice, a Christian and the only living author of vampire books worth reading, formally announced that she has "…quit Christianity in the name of Christ."

To summarize, she said: "I remain committed to Christ as always, but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group ..."

She refuses to be "anti-gay," "anti-feminist," "anti-artificial birth control," "anti-Democrat," "anti-secular humanism," "anti-science" and "anti-life."

She continued: "Following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."

While somewhat over-generalizing and not reflective of many denominations' views, her description of "Christianity" is a commonly held stereotype. And in my humble opinion, more accurate than not.

The response Rice is getting emphasizes the schism within this quarrelsome and hostile group. As a public figure, her words add fuel to this bonfire. She could have kept her spiritual struggles private. But she didn't. And I'm glad. Because I agree with her. Mostly.

I too want to divorce the flawed and fractious manmade institution, disassociate myself from its politicized views and hypocrisy. But I cannot renounce its people. I could no more deny certain embarrassing relatives than I could certain opinionated members of the collective church. But I will disagree with them.

The church is people. Not a building, an organization, a dogma or the formal written declarations of a few. To embrace Christ — within a formal institution or in one's heart — is a personal and therefore unique relationship. But not private.

To accept that relationship is to accept the collection of imperfect, damaged and misinformed followers he's gathered. The disciples, a motley and disputatious group themselves, didn't get to choose who made the final 12. Neither do we. Jesus went out of his way to gather a bunch of self-centered and disagreeable people; to befriend and defend the disenfranchised. So must we.

I'm one sheep in a big flock. And many in that flock are fighting to prevent a segment of our society from using the word "married" to define their union. With the overturning of Proposition 8 this week, the battle is sure to continue for some time.

As an American, as a Christian, I have no right to tell someone else whom they may or may not marry. Especially a group so systematically ostracized from the church as to feel unwanted by their very maker. Whether homosexuality is a sin isn't the debate. Civil rights is the debate.

To argue that same-sex marriage will deteriorate the institution of marriage is a frail argument at best. A quick survey of my divorced family members and friends shows that we heterosexuals have done a pretty good job of that ourselves. Adultery, which remains legal in California, is a far greater threat to the sanctity of marriage than whether my friends Rick and Rick get to walk down the aisle and legally seal their lifelong commitment to each other.

It's rightfully argued that Proposition 8 passed "by the will of the people" (52.3% of voters to be exact). Well, even majorities get it wrong sometimes. It took a four-year Civil War to convince the majority of people in the Confederacy that slavery was wrong, and quite a few more years to give African Americans equal rights under the Constitution. Women weren't granted the same rights as men until just 90 years ago.

And in both cases, the Bible was used to defend their subjugation. Today we know that this was an incorrect interpretation of scripture at that time in history. But are we now saying we've caught every vague biblical interpretation and, unfortunately, the rights of non-heterosexuals didn't get in under the deadline?

The separation of church and state is a mutually beneficial arrangement sacred to our God-given and constitutional rights. If you don't believe in God, no one can force their views upon you.

Jesus didn't.

And while I'm at it, let me get this off my chest — 8,000 or 8 zillion years, I don't care when or how the Earth was created. If God himself devoted only one of 1,189 chapters in his book to this topic, why are his followers so obsessed with it?

Many Christians religiously tune in to Fox News as if it were God's Own Network. They quote Glenn, Rush, Bill and Sean more than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Frankly, I feel Fox News is merely ratings-seeking, ad-revenue-generating sensationalism disguised as news to exploit a rabid fan base.

In the spirit of equal time, I think MSNBC is the lower-rated left-wing equivalent, just as toxic and one-sided. Which is why so many people now get their news from Comedy Central.

Jesus seemed to hate labels ("neither Jew nor Greek"). Try imagining him telling an honest seeker, "This may not be the right church for you," because you're liberal, gay or social justice; because you listen to NPR, voted for Obama or against Proposition 8.

I'm a Christian. Not a conservative, not a liberal. Neither right nor left, Republican nor Democrat. Just a Christian — the noun, not the adjective.

There. I'm out of the closet. I'm taking off my wolf-skin-fur-coat stereotype of what it means to be Christian. I'm a sheep in a very diverse flock — a sheep in sheep's clothing.

Disagree with me.

PATRICK CANEDAY can be reached on Facebook, at http://www.patrickcaneday.com and patrickcaneday@gmail.com.

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