Life Meets Faith: From vampire stories to God
For most of those familiar with biblical portraits of Jesus, I would think that the books pay off. This is partly because she relies on the work of scholars such as N. T. Wright who are using the historical research available today to understand Jesus within his context more fully.
About 10 years ago, Rice embraced Roman Catholicism and became a very public Christian. This past summer though she declared she was no longer a Christian. "In the name of Christ I refuse to be anti-gay, anti-feminist ... anti-secular humanism ... anti-science ... (and) anti-life." These words are part of the statement she posted online.
Strikingly, Rice announces that she is a follower of Christ while stepping away from the organized religion named after him. She has concluded that what Jesus' followers do is out of synch with his own example and teachings.
Rice's move away from organized religion to a focus on the person of Jesus Christ is not new. It is one that many Christians, discouraged with the organized churches available to them, have made over the centuries. Many Christians who self-identify as evangelical claim to be uninterested in religion, in Christianity poorly practiced. They claim the key to living is not the "religion of Christianity" but a personal following of Jesus Christ. The irony, not altogether an unhappy one, is that often they create new churches.
To get back to Rice's critique though, it is quite clear that many Christians are not against gays, birth control, feminism, science and all the rest. One only has to note that in the Protestantism and Catholicism (the two main Western branches of Christianity) birth control is widely used, women and men often share all roles in the church and many high profile scientists such as Francis Collins (head of the human genome project) are Christians. Christianity is home to gay organizations such as Gays in Faith Together.
Rice obviously did not have all Christians in mind when she labelled them as she did. Who then was she thinking of? Most likely it was the leadership of the Catholic church which often makes public comment that most would regard as anti-feminist, anti-gay, etc.
My point here is that many, maybe most Christians don't fit the picture of Christians Rice seems to be presenting. Although in Rice's country, the United States, a greater percentage might. And insofar as some do, many readers would applaud her decision to follow Jesus but not Christianity.
Point taken. It is probably a very good thing for Rice to draw attention to the person of Jesus Christ himself — in her recent books and elsewhere.
Taking a look at Jesus "directly" is not difficult to do. There are four accounts of him named after the persons considered to be the authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are short booklets and mostly not difficult to read. Conveniently, they have been collected and make up a large part of the "New Testament," itself part of the Christian Bible.
Someone who wants to find out about the Jesus Rice is trying to follow can go "directly" to the sources. One can understand more fully what it is about Jesus that appeals to Rice and why she and many others are disappointed with his followers.
In the end, Rice deplores what she sees as the hypocrisy of Christianity. And perhaps here the focus on Jesus Christ is the best antidote to that hypocrisy. That of the church, of political parties, college instructors, students, celebrities, your hypocrisy and my hypocrisy. "Jesus," as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, "is for everyone." And that includes every hypocrite wanting to change.