Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Anne Rice

I wouldn't describe myself as an Anne Rice "fan". I did enjoy reading Interview with a Vampire way back when, but really didn't give much thought when, with the publication of her "Jesus books" and memoir Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession the world recognized her reversion to Catholicism.

Now, it appears that Anne Rice has "reverted". Or, in the words of her memoir, lapsed into darkness. In fact, according to her, she

came to the conclusion 12 years later that [Catholicism] was not a fine religion, that it was dishonorable, that it was dishonest, that it's theology was largely sophistry... and that it was basically a church that told lies. And that it was for me, for my conscientious standpoint, an immoral church; and I had to leave it."
What I do happen to notice is that, for one who has allegedly "quit" the Catholic faith, and "quit as a believer", she has retained a pathological obsession with the content of the faith -- taking up permanent residence in the comments boxes of various popular Catholic bloggers and Catholic forums, spending what seems every waking moment breathlessly reiterating her objections to this or that Catholic dogma and espousing her Jesus-fashioned-in-her-own-image.

Anyway, a few others on Ann Rice:

  • Nice Anne Rice, by Fr Dwight Longenecker (Standing On My Head):
    From her writing and her letters to me I could tell she was very much the intuitive, emotional, heart to heart kind of person. A sympathetic, loving and kind person, and a mama as well--she's simply allowed heart to triumph over head. To put it bluntly, she's a sentimentalist, and locked into a society where sentimentalism rules, she simply couldn't swim stronger than the sentimentalist undertow. [...]

    The problem is that, for whatever reason, we feel that we can be the judge of the church and not the other way around. We want the church to live up to our expectations, when in fact, we should be asking how we can ever live up to the church's expectations.

    Beneath this problem is good old fashioned spiritual pride. Anne spotted the hateful hypocrites, the lying loonies, the uncaring apologists and pompous prelates and thought she was better than them. What she (and all of us) need to do is see these folks and mutter in shame, "Geesh, they're awful, but they're my brothers and we're all in the same lifeboat, so we'd better pull together." Anne couldn't do that, and like so many of her sort, thought she rose above it all, only now to end up saying stuff that's just as judgmental and shallow and uncaring as the people she was blaming.

  • Ignatius Press' Carl Olson on Anne Rice (a response to Rice's latest ouburst, and a roundup of his prior posts):
    Maybe it's just me, but admitting to ignoring "facets of Christianity"—why oh why doesn't she simply say, "tenets of Catholic doctrine"?—makes it sounds as though Rice 1) wasn't willing to engage with the entirety of Church teaching, 2) was perhaps unfamiliar with basic moral teachings of the Church, 3) and wasn't willing to put her own beliefs and notions to the Truth Test. ...

    Note that Rice never, as far as I've seen over the past five years, provided any reasoning or arguments for her stances on issues such as "same sex marriage," contraception, and women's ordination. She simply assumes her position is correct and she apparently believes that clichés and emotive sound bites are all that are needed to demonstrate the validity of her position. Meanwhile, the Church has formally issued all sorts of documents about those various matters and numerous Catholic authors—both at academic and popular levels—have written articles and books explaining and defending Church teaching on these and other issues. Yet, apparently, folks should simply accept by faith Rice's statements as infallible pronouncements of objective truth.

  • Some insight from an Anne Rice reader:
    I read Ms. Rice's Christ the Lord novels, and (like many orthodox Catholics, including Peter Kreeft) found them to be beautiful and moving, particularly The Road to Cana, which imagines Christ's adult life just prior to the beginning of his ministry, up to and including the Wedding at Cana. I loved her depictions of Mary, Joseph (who is depicted as an enormously holy and admirable man, the unquestioned head of his extended household), Jesus's half-brother James, and of Jesus himself, a man patiently waiting for the time to begin his ministry, while his contemporaries wonder when he's going to make something of himself.

    But I can't help noticing that Ms. Rice's book left off at precisely the moment when she would have to deal with the decidedly unimaginary Jesus of the Gospels, the Jesus who warns strenuously of Hell, who tells us that he has come to set family members against one another, who informs us that "mere" lust is equivalent to adultery, among many other hard sayings. And I've wondered if Ms. Rice's "unversion" was at least partly driven by the stark incompatibility between her imaginary Christ and the real one. We Christians all at various times have to face up to the fact that Jesus is not the person we might wish him to be (one who gives us free passes and lets us bend the rules when it suits us), but very few of us have set ourselves the task of writing novels about him. Perhaps when she realized that she couldn't shoehorn the Christ of the Gospels into her preferred narrative, she was left with the options of either conforming herself to him, or rejecting him. Sadly for herself and for us, she chose the latter.

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