Four Lessons for Evangelicals from Anne Rice’s Christian Departure

The author Anne Rice, best known for her vampire novels before she returned to the Catholic Church twelve years ago, recently made waves when she posted the following announcement on her Facebook page:

“Today I quit being a Christian. 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.”

To which she later added:

“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.”

Quite a lot of ink has spilled (much of it virtual) since Rice’s statement went public. One can now view CNN video interviews in which Rice explains her position (one and two), read articles from noted media outlets such as the LA Times,, First Things, Huntington Post, and, of course, peruse any of the gazillion comments on the blogosphere.

Having  personally corresponded with Rice over the last year, I have followed her story with interest. In what follows I would like to offer four lessons that have occurred to me, lessons that apply to everyone, but especially to evangelicals.

1.) We Speak as Christians.  Frankly, I have been a bit embarrassed by the amount of uncharitable vitriol expressed by some of us in the “Christian” community. For instance, one blogger writes:

“I’m tired of Anne Rice.  I’m not impressed with her as a writer, and I find her efforts to publicize her religious mutations a sign of gross conceit.  The attention others have given her “de-conversion” exaggerates her importance as a public figure and creates the impression that her reasons for leaving the church are profound.  Really, folks.  Do you care that much about this woman?”

There are certainly occasions to be direct. I’m a born and bred New Yorker; I love when people shoot straight. But the above quote is surely not an appropriate way to communicate, especially before the world on behalf of Christ. Paul’s words to the Corinthians are worth remembering at this point:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. … it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Cor 13:4-8).”

We must never forget that when we speak truth, according to the Apostle Paul, we necessarily do it in love (Eph 4:15).

2.)  Fidelity to One’s Conscience. Maybe it’s just because I’m a Protestant that when I read Anne’s words, “My conscience will allow nothing else” used in reference to moving out from under religious authority, I think of Luther’s defense at the Diet of Worms. You’ll remember Luther’s statement before Emperor Charles V.

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scripture or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. [He then added in German] Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.”

The crucial difference between Anne and brother Martin is the authority to which their respective consciences clung. Imperfect as he was, Luther, nevertheless, sought to base his life and teaching upon Scripture. Therefore, leaving Christianity was not an option. Likewise, we must keep our consciences tethered to biblical truth. 

3.) What is Our Ecclesiology? How do we evangelicals give an answer for the ecclesial hope within us, or, stated more simply, what role does the church play in our life of faith?

It’s interesting how Anne’s departure from the Catholic Church is ipso facto a departure from Christianity. This is entirely common, by the way, among many of us who have been raised in the Catholic Church. As I told the Protestant friend who first invited me to her church, “Why would I switch golf clubs to imitation knockoffs when I own Big Berthas?”

What I want to call attention to, however, is the opportunity that we have to think carefully about our corporate identity. We may not express our view of the church in the same terms as Anne Rice, but if you look at our involvement in our congregations or look at our prayer life, we find that the degree of individualism is really not quite different.

4.) Log Removal. I wonder, have we Christians paused for a single moment to consider why Anne Rice is so exercised? With reference to her protest about the church being anti-feminist, anti-Democrat, anti-science, and anti-gay, for instance, do we have any measure of culpability?

I’m  not for a moment suggesting that we dial down our commitment to biblical teaching; but I wonder if at times there is maybe a margin for improvement in the way that we communicate such ideas. Are we, for instance, consistently speaking the truth in genuine Christian love?

Whatever the answer might be in the final analysis, the humility of Christ would have us first pause and consider the log in our own eye before we seek to deal with the speck in someone else’s.


If you would like, you can hear me discuss this topic tomorrow at 3:30pm CT on Moody Radio’s Chris Fabry Live.

About the author

Chris Castaldo (PhD, London School of Theology) is the lead pastor at New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel and coauthor of The Unfinished Reformation.


  1. All four of your points are well-thought out and articulated. Well done, my friend.
    Another thougt which is a slight tangent. I’m always a little nervous about celebrity conversions. The Christian community seems in a hurry to stage a well-known writer, entertainer, athlete, scholar, etc. who becomes a Christian. It’s almost like we’re so insecure about our worth that we think a high profile celebrity validates our faith and spiritual heritage. Hooray, actor Stephen Baldwin joined our team!!!! We’re somebody now!! You can’t say we’re kooks cause Bono is one of us!”

    Remember how the church went rushing to Miss California Carrie Prejean’s side after she took a stand against gay marriage during the Miss America pageant. We hurried to make her a hero and a Christian martyr, put her on the speaking circuit before doing much of a background check. A few topless photos can sure slow down the march to sainthood.
    Many Christian athletes have fallen from pedestals the church placed them on. But we keep putting them up there. Partially I think because we believe that famous people loving Jesus validates the faith. If Steve Jobs or Bill Gates comes into the fold, we’ll be more excited for US than we will be for THEM. Why? Because it “glorifies God”? We’ll say that’s it but what we really mean is that if Beyonce gets saved and starts singing gospel it makes us all look good.
    Am I against famous people coming to Jesus? Of course, not. If anybody needs Jesus more than Tiger Woods I don’t know who it is. But can you imagine the evangelical reaction if Tiger Woods were to get baptized at First Baptist Orlando? “Praise God, we’ve landed a big one!!”
    But there’s a downside to the celebrity conversion frenzy. What if they fall like Mel Gibson or drop out like Bob Dylan and say it was just a phase or cancel their subscription like Anne Rice? It’s embarassing. Why? Because we held them up as our trophies. And we made their conversion a validation of our worth in the eyes of the culture.
    So the Anne Rice parade has come to a screeching halt. And more than we are probably concerned about her, we are concerned about our image–we the ones who put her up there on the throne of the big floral float.

  2. Thanks Ramon. Your parade metaphor makes me think of Paul’s words in 2 Cor 2:14-16. We’d probably benefit from remembering that Christ’s procession marches before the world in weakness and humility and not on a red carpet amidst paparazzi. Good to hear from you brother.

    “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?”

  3. I really think she is not a believer…..all her concerns are very real.
    I believe she is seeking…

    I would love on her…pray for the Light of the World to
    enter her life…that she might see more clearly, and find the Truth the Way and Life….all she is seeking is a relationship…she had religion.
    PRAISE the LORD !! for the hunger she has for truth..!!!!…I’ll keep praying for her…

  4. I heard the show today and liked how you responded to Anne Rice’s statements/declaration. Ramon thank you for your comments; as we struggle to let God reform our identity in Christ it seems we often feel a bit insecure as we are letting go of our need and dependence upon the world’s (and other Christian’s) approval. I agree, lets stop putting anyone on a pedestal except Jesus.

    Chris, I really resonated with your comment at the end of the show that Jesus came to us in grace and truth. Too often we believers just stop at truth which, without the inflow and outflow of living, breathing, blood pumping Grace, turns into cold, hard lables (anti- this or that). I say lets not forget that Jesus is the Word incarnate. It cost him a great deal of pain to become this. If I’m not willing to risk a cost to myself of either emotional or physical discomfort when either living or speaking in Truth then all the beauty drains out of my witness to it. It is my hope and prayer that we the Body will grow in that beauty and the world will no longer see lables or feel labled, but loved. I hope Ms. Rice will see that she cannot seperate being a Christ follower from His Body, the church, no matter how fustrated she may feel. I know what it is like to feel like you do not belong and to feel surrounded by people who seem to stay silent in a Christian fellowship for the sake of unity. In some ways her voice points to a sickness in the Body and I hope it promotes a cure. If left unaddressed it may leave others vulnerable to a similar disembodiment.

  5. Thanks Jennifer. I couldn’t agree more–there are some valuable lessons that we can learn from Anne’s situation along the line of shepherding people in our churches who may be wrestling through a crisis of faith. God help us to do find the fortitude to not only recognize these insights, but to also respond with wisdom. Blessings to you and yours! Chris

  6. It’s interesting that Ms. Rice had to “Quit Christianity” given the fact that there are several other denominations which would have welcomed her values. She could have kept her “version of Christianity” and still remained part of many congregations.
    If she was a member of lutheran(ELCA) synod or american episcopalian, she never would have come to this point of departure.
    As always, there is hope that the “hound of heaven” will not give up on her, (as He has not given up on any of us) and will bring her back home.

Comments are closed.