Where Would Anyone Get a Crazy Idea Like That?

Much has been made in the past week or so about Anne Rice’s decision to give up on Christianity (but not Christ, in her words). A number of commenter correctly pointed out that the church Anne Rice said she was leaving was a caricature. Her charges that the church was anti-evolution, anti-birth control, anti-woman, et cetera were sweeping generalizations. Indeed, this is correct, the Roman Catholic church (Rice’s own denomination) accepts evolution, many Protestant churches do take an egalitarian approach to the role of women in society, marriage and even Christian leadership (and I’m not just talking about mainline liberals here, look at the position of someone like Joyce Meyer in the charismatic movement).

So if we accept that there is much more to the body of Christ in North America than just the views Anne Rice detests, why would she leave? Where would she get the idea that Christianity is this caricature that she depicted. This is where I think Andrew Sullivan was correct in invoking that word of his, “Christianist” that he uses to distinguish Christianity-as-religion from Christianity-as-interest-group-politics. Those that curate the interest group seem to fuse together the most conservative elements of every denomination. To use Roman Catholicism as an example: John Paul II is really important to them when they are talking about the importance of family or sexuality but not when he opposed the Iraq war. Likewise the interest-group types are even going so far as to adopt Catholic teachings on birth control while ignoring Catholic teachings on evolution.

Now it is perfectly okay to hold these positions and even argue for them, but doing so on the level of a national political discourse has the effect of driving away someone like Anne Rice. Now I don’t know her situation, so I can’t say what ultimately pushed her into the position she has taken, but if someone inside the church can get the impression (however mistaken) that the church is a right-wing monolith, than how much more is this the case for those outside the church?