Bestselling novelist Anne Rice, whose 1976 novel "Interview with the Vampire" was way ahead of the current vampire craze, in the last decade reinvented herself as a Christian writer who returned to the Catholic faith of her youth and began writing books such as "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," which imagined Jesus as a child of 7 or 8 years old.
Now, Rice has shocked her readers again by announcing on her Facebook page
that she has "quit being a Christian," though late Thursday afternoon she clarified that her "faith in Christ is central to my life."
"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian," Rice wrote in a post at 10:36 am on Wednesday. "I'm out. 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. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."
Five minutes later she added a comment, which illuminates some of her motivations, including a refusal to be "anti-Democrat":
As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of . . . Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
Thursday afternoon, Rice's posts grew more enigmatic, as she began putting up verses from the Gospels.
The first was Jesus' warning in the Gospel of Matthew, that he "did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34
) -- a controversial passage that has been a matter of debate among Bible readers for centuries.
The second posting, also from Matthew (Chapter 6, verse 6
), is when Jesus warns his followers against appearing pious and self-righteous. "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen," Jesus says. "Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. "
Rice then continued to drop in other scripture passages, such as the famous passage by Paul in First Corinthians
("If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal"). She also cited the powerful prologue
to the Gospel of John, in which the evangelist recapitulates the Genesis story to show that Jesus Christ -- the Word -- was in fact God himself, which is the central theme of the last Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..."
In between those posts were two about Amazon's new Kindle, which only amplifies the puzzling nature of Rice's comments.
And late in the afternoon she posted this:
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than C...hristianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
One clue may be in her posts on her own website
in past months, as she chronicled the current wave of revelations of clergy sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church.
On March 27, she felt she had to defend herself from critics, noting that "some Catholics on this site have aggressively criticized me for reporting on the pedophilia scandal in the church. What is their thinking? I'm confused. I feel concerned Catholics should speak up in defense of the victims of clergy abuse, and publicly demand that their church cleanse itself."
A few days later, on Good Friday, she wrote: "I would like to say -- as a loyal Catholic -- to all the victims of clergy abuse: I am sorry. I am sorry for what happened to you. My heart goes out to you. I apologize to you. May our Church, the world over, cleanse itself and reform itself, in response to your witness."
The 68-year-old Rice has always had a flair for the dramatic and the mysterious, and her life has been marked by several painful episodes. Her daughter died of leukemia at the age of 5, and in 2004, two years after her husband died, she left her native New Orleans -- the inspiration for her many vampire chronicles and other tales of the dark side -- to be closer to her son in California.
In 1998, after going into a sudden diabetic coma, Rice returned to the Catholic faith that she had left at 18, "becoming a member and supporter of it with my whole soul," as she wrote. In 2004 she again came close to death during surgery for an intestinal blockage.
In a "Profession of Faith"
posted on her website, Rice describes her realization, while sitting in church in 2002, that she would dedicate her art to God.
"I realized that the greatest thing I could do to show my complete love for Him was to consecrate my work to Him -- to use any talent I had acquired as a writer, as a storyteller, as a novelist -- for Him and for Him alone."
She published "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" in 2005 and "Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana" in 2008, about Jesus' ministry. A further novel about Jesus, "Christ the Lord: The Kingdom of Heaven," is reportedly in the works, but there is no publication date. She also published a spiritual "confession" in 2008, "Called Out of Darkness." Her two most recent works she describes as "metaphysical thrillers." The first was "Angel Time" and the second was "Of Love And Evil."
While she did not explicitly renounce her earlier novels, she said that she wrote "many novels that without my being aware of it reflected my quest for meaning in a world without God."
Perhaps the same could be said for Rice's latest transformation in her religious life.