The preacher this morning read a Facebook post from Anne Rice in which she says that she's quitting Christianity. Not God, not Jesus, just the troublesome, overly structured, overly restrictive, and often bigoted institution called Christianity.
Well Anne, welcome to the club.
In another Facebook post, Anne says she doesn't want to be anti-[fill in your favorite political hot potato] and apparently she thinks that at least some form of Christianity requires that she be anti-something. And she's right. Some otherwise fine Baptists apparently have no trouble telling the world that "God hates fags," and some Catholics don't think Protestants have a prayer.
We could go on. In my little denomination we have folks who are against any number of things and expect the rest of us to go along with them. The problem is that from my perspective, they're out to lunch. Whether it's what women can do in church, or what sorts of music can be used in worship, or what sorts of otherwise moral things can go on in church facilities, our little groups can often get wrapped around the "thou shall nots" a bit too tightly.
And so Anne, I welcome you to the post-Christianity group of Jesus followers.
While I don't know how Anne's dropping out is going to look in her life, it is important to note that acknowledging that ""church" is not necessarily the same as following Jesus" does not let one off the hook of being in the group of Jesus followers with all their mess. If we are Jesus followers, we are in the mess with all the other Jesus followers. Our job Anne isn't to write them off as though they're silly little people. Oh no – our job is to love them – even those folks who think God hates fags, or can't fathom drums in the church band.
You see Anne, if you're a Jesus follower, you have to love people – even the bigots. Oh you don't have to hold up signs with them; you can say you don't agree with them. But you have to love them. All of them, not just the ones that make us feel good about being around them.
Anne I would invite you to come visit the group of Jesus followers with whom I meet. Oh, I don't want to show off how smoothly they can perform church or that they have given up all those anti-somethings. I want to show you how broken and confused they can be and yet accept each other in that brokenness. Do they do this perfectly? Not by a long shot. But God has placed me with them and I love them because we have a common aim behind our human egos and mistaken ideas about God and His creation.
These people I believe bear the image of God and it is no small honor to be accepted among them.
So Anne, come on and drop out of Christianity with me.
But we can't drop out of Jesus' community of imperfect, frail, and oftentimes blundering followers.