If you haven't heard, Anne Rice has left Christianity ... but not Christ, she says. I'm a little upset about her announcement. Not so much because of her decision, but because of the reasons she gives for her decision. She has been wounded by us. (Lord, have mercy.) But I am rooting for her, and for others like her. I am rooting for people like Christopher Hitchens who is suffering with esophageal cancer. I feel kinship with them; I have an affection for them. I see Christ in them.
Anne Rice's story is important not because she's a bestselling novelist. Her story is important because it's been told before, and it's been told by Christ. But we clap our hands over our ears and heap our disregard onto a wounded sister's shoulders. Anne Rice left the Church because you and I fail to love our neighbor. It's that simple. You and I make the faith about issues and politics and a world of things other than Christ. She left because you and I fail to be quiet and humble. When someone doesn't share our views - whether it's about sexuality, abortion, politics, or liturgy - we bristle and spit, "You aren't Catholic if you ..." or "You cannot follow Christ and ..." This is not love, but judgment. There is a place for those who are spiritual to come along and exhort, encourage, and correct. But it is not my place. It is not yours.
Nothing animates the pious like issues: not God, not Church, not loving the poor and marginalized - nothing. A fight invigorates us. But all our "righteousness" will never change the desires of someone who is homosexual. We cannot raise one hand to protect the unborn and choke our brown neighbor with the other. We will never convince anyone of the love of Christ with our anger and judgment. We are called to be martyrs for Christ. To die. And by our love to be the sacrament of God to our world.
If anyone will kill the Church, the pious will.
God is love. He is full of mercy. We must love others because God loves them. (If we are in communion with God, then we will love whom he loves.) We must be quiet and, like a child, humble. We must pray always. As for Anne Rice, let me close with a quote I recently read: "We believe ... that Christ is present in any seeker after truth. Simone Weil has said that though a person may run as fast as he can away from Christ, if it is toward what he considers true, he runs in fact straight into the arms of Christ" (from For the Life of the World, by Alexander Schmemann).