Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anne Rice's "Christianity"

This is my third post in a row about Anne Rice and the conversation about her relationship with Christ and Christianity.  This is a short discussion on linguist fallacies, with quotes from Anne Rice's website and links to a few other things.

I find this topic intriguing because as a part time logician the use of words is critical to good communication. Misusing words, or misunderstanding the words used, results in a slew of linguistic fallacies. The fallacies that most often confuse the debate between Catholicism and Protestantism are equivocation, distinction without a difference (what I call difvocation); and strawman. But Anne Rice has succeeded in using the same with Christian milieu in general and not particularly one institution toward another. She's lumped them all together. Which is easy to do considering the fallacious nature of so much of the communication in Christianity, even out of the Catholic hierarchy.

Equivocation occurs when the same word is used by two parties but the two parties have underlying definitions that are different. When an Evangelical Protestant claims to be "saved" it means something much different to a Catholic, who would reserve the term to mean their arrival for eternity in heaven. The term comes from the concepts of "Equal Vocalization".

Difvocation is the opposite of Equivocation. I coin it from the concepts of "Difference in Vocalization." When two different words are used but they have essentially the same meaning, but two or more parties claim there is a difference, there tends to be an argument over nothing.

Strawman is when an opponent raises an objection to someone or something by citing a false claim about it, and then striking it down. The argument is not real; it is made of straw.

All three of these fallacies are evident in the statements below that Anne makes. And when Christians and non-Christians try to interpret what she says, more of the same miscommunication occurs. Or worse, just because someone else is confused doesn't mean we need to politely respect their ignorant and misinformed opinion. Why should anyone be tolerant of evil or ignorance? Doing so is like asking people to put on blinders to be led around by the blind. (You don't want to act superior, do you? This person is blind, don't make them feel bad just you can see. Be humble. Pretend you're blind, too.  It's okay to fall down and hurt yourself; think how the blind person feels.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I like this woman, her romantic instincts, her boldness, her writing, and her marketing savvy -- a say nothing of the fact that she married a man named "Stan." She can't be all that bad.  I think, however, she's instinctively brought to the forefront a fabulous marketing scheme that has involved both her old fans, her confused fans, and her Christian fans. She's better at marketing her own books than her publisher, I think. And at the forefront of that expertise is controversy.

But the mistake she makes, in the long run as a writer, is that she has scarified honest communication about truth for hype. She is ultimately, as all authors are, most interested in what is true. If she doesn't seek truth in her writing, readers will stop reading her. Thus, she has herein stumbled. What I discovered in my own research and is revealed in The Moral Premise, applies to all story telling, not just movies. Perhaps she doesn't realize this at first, but eventually she must. I hope.

Anne's Statements Regarding Christianity as Posted:

For those who care, and I understand if you don't: 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.

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.

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 Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.

I quit Christianity in the name of Christ on this page so that I could tell my readers I was not complicit in the things that organized religion does. I never dreamed others would be so interested, or that they would feel the need to talk about their own religious struggles. But they do. And the public conversation on... this is huge, and I think important.
A Bit of Analysis:

First, her beef is with organized religion, which is different than her persistent claim to still be a follower of Christ. She says "I quit being a Christian" and then says "I am a follower of Christ". This is difvocation. There is no historically difference; nor is there today in the usage of those two words/phrases. She can be justified (to some degree) in saying, "I quit being a named member of any organized Christian body, such as the Catholic Church." Even most of us in the Catholic Church can understand that sentiment, although not for the reasons she later states. I've had my run in with bishops and find some egomaniacs and not worthy of the office. But that doesn't seperate me from being a Christian, or a member of the Church. Because Judas was an Apostle did the other 11 leave Christ? (Well, shortly there after ten of them did leave Christ, for a time, but that had nothing to do with Judas. Indeed, In John 6:66 we read that many left Christ... but that had to do with protesting the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of communion. )

Second, let's take the terms "anti-gay," "anti-feminist," "anti-life," and "anti-Democrat." [I'll leave "anti-artificial birth control" and "anti-secular humanist" for another time. There is less misunderstanding of these latter terms, although what I say next may apply to them as well.] These are examples of equivocation, or can be. Being gay or homosexual can refer to a person's moral disposition (in theological terms concupiscence) or it can refer to an active life style lived without remorse. The Catholic Church is pro gay in the first definition, but anti-gay in the latter definition, just as it is loving and embracing of all sinners who recognize and seek redemption from any moral weakness.

The same can be said of the other phrases, but perhaps with some clarifications. There are as many different kinds of "feminism" as there are pant-suit designers. (Fewer every year.) A feminist in the classic sense is anyone that considers women equal to men in intelligence, ability, and dignity. Jesus Christ fits that mold. Jesus was a feminist. He talked with women and protected them when no other man would.  There are "radical feminist," on the other hand, who think women are the same in their primary physical characteristics and should have masculine physical identities, including he "right" to use urinals. I don't think the "Christians" Anne is upset with have a corner on the market for being for the former or against the latter. Women are different from men in primary and secondary gender characteristics and both should be celebrated for their values to each other and society.

With regard to the "anti-life" and "anti-Democrat" designations, I cannot guess what she means, but it seems the same sort of identifications and linguistic fallacies apply.

In short, there are very specific group of people, perhaps true bigots, whom she is upset with, or whom she seems to be upset with, and to make such general statements seem out of her character.

All of her statements, however, do easily embrace the strawman fallacy, and that this is so obvious is probably the reason Christianity Today published a short interview with her without comment. The confusion of terms and identity is gross, not subtle. She criticizes perhaps the Catholic Church, but she over generalizes (another fallacy) all of Christianity, with it tens of thousands of belief systems. Certainly there are Christian organizations who believe as she would want them to believe, who call themselves Christians and a part of Christianity. Yet, she rejects them as well. Very strange behavior for an author. Who knows maybe this will start yet another Protesting denomination, the Church of Anne Rice.

It is a false understanding, and therefore a "strawman argument," to say of Catholicism that it is anti-any human being, and particularity "anti-life." It's easy to say that the Catholic Church does not endorse a number of planks in recent Democratic platforms, especially in regard to abortion and artificial birth control. But there's no general logic (as she claims it) that applies to the concept of being Democrat.

Oh, one more -- "anti-science." Dang this is strange. Catholicism (and thus Christianity) established science. What many of us Catholic scientist types object to is how many in the science community have become political and irrational, throwing out the scientific method and ignoring clear scientific evidence that refutes their political agenda. Last I checked the Vatican was the only established religion that has a working cosmological observatory. And the hosts of world-renowned Nobel prize winners who were Catholic is astonishing. Indeed, Christian's who are scientists have an discover advantage over atheists. The atheist believes in random disorder, and the Christian believes that the universe follows an understandable order and structure imbued by benevolent intellignece. When a scientists makes a hypothesis to test, he or she assumes an order that can be known. By definition every scientists that makes a hypothesis based on past patterns and knowledge is proclaiming there is an intelligent design(er) to the universe. To discard the benevolent intelligence behind nature is to make one incapable of forming a hypothesis.  Q.E.D.

Moral Relativism

That Anne is embracing moral relativism is almost too obvious to even mention. If she is a follower of Christ then she either must follow what Christ taught which included a number of charters to individuals to lead a Church infallibly. That she certainly does not understand. It may well be that she's hanging around with, was hanging around with, a lot of protesters in both the Protestant and Catholic resistance. Such friends can be very confusing.   Pray that she sees, and begins to understand the difference between what people do, in the name of Christ (as she is even doing), and what Christ has commanded in the infallible charter He gave his Apostles that those that followed.

Anne, there's a huge difference between what people of "faith" do and what the Church infallible "teaches." The biggest mistake you can make is saying, "I love Christ and guess what, He taught exactly what I believe."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anne Rice, Catholicism, and Dave Armstrong's Defense

Is Anne just a marketing genius, or has senility set in. And yet the juxtaposition of vampires and Catholicism has some intriguing and "novel" possibilities.

Last week when the news broke about Anne Rice "leaving Christianity but still embracing Christ," I wrote that I thought someone had hijacked her Facebook blog. We had enjoyed all three of her post-vampire Christian books and I had read some of her vampire fare. And the announcement and other words attributed to her do not sound rationale.

For you that don't know, Anne Rice is the popular author of "The Vampire Chronicles," and other such books from which several successful motion pictures have been made. She's a master at marketing as much as writing, with a personal staff larger than her publisher employs on her behalf.

A few years back she returned to the Catholicism of her youth. Her re-conversion made headlines in both vampire and Catholic/Christian circles. After her re-conversion she swore off writing vampire novels although she still justified their promotion because they honestly chronicled her journey in the dark looking for the light. Indeed her later vampire stories are about her vampire protagonists searching for redemption, something they cannot find by virtue of the story genre to live eternally as the damned. They are cursed monsters needing salvation. Viewed from that perspective there's value in Anne's books that came out of her period of atheism.


The juxtaposition of Catholicism and vampire lore has some intriguing story potential. I've been involved as a consultant on a movie project that examines the "origin" and eventual redemption of vampires one step further than Ms. Rice's effort. The movie effort attempts to correlate the vampire's thirst for blood with the Christian's thirst for Christ's real presence in the blood of The Eucharist. The image of a vampire drinking human blood in search for life -- juxtaposed with a Catholic drinking Christ's redemed blood in Mass seeking eternal life, is poignant to say the least.  In John 6:53-56 we have these shocking words of Christ:
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (Jesus)
So shocking was this teaching that many of Christ's followers left never to follow Him again (John 6:66). Historians suggest that Jewish law which forbade eating meat  that was bloody, was the reason so many found this teaching repulsive.

It's not without purpose that Vampires (human blood suckers) and Zombies (human flesh eaters) are the two most popular horror genre in film. There are a lot of confused Catholics out there looking for meaning to the ritual of the Mass. Catholic teachers have done a poor job explaining it so it's up to filmmakers, I guess.  

Allow this sidetrack to continue for another paragraph. Jon Springer is the Catholic horror filmmaker form St. Paul, MN. Back in 2003 he produced a short B&W film called LIVING DEAD GIRL. The film begins with the typical zombies going crazy, biting people, and turning them into the living dead, walking around town looking for another human to bit and spread the curse. But then, this particular zombie girl comes upon a strange man standing on the street corner. It's Jesus. She attacks, taking a bite out of his arm. She, rather than He, falls to the ground. And a moment later she's resurrected as back to normal, healthy human, again. The message is clear. Society, in general, is like the living dead. But when we take a bite of Christ, and make him (literally) part of our life, we find life. It is Christ's flesh and blood that gives life.


Anne followed her re-conversion by three wonderful Christian books. "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" was her first person telling of 7-year old Jesus' trip with his family from Egypt back to Roman occupied Galilee. "Christ the Lord: Road to Cana" was the first person telling of 32-year old Jesus' beginning of his public ministry.  Both are great reads, I recommend them, highly. During this time Anne also wrote a personal book about her childhood as a Catholic youth in New Orleans, her lapse into atheism with famous husband and intellectual Stan Rice, and then her reconversion to Catholicism. It's titled "Called Out of Darkness". The book is most valuable for her description of Catholicism through the eyes of a young girl in romantic and mystical New Orleans.

Then, suddenly it seemed, a week ago, Anne announced that she's given up Christianity and the Catholic Church... but she still loves Jesus Christ. (Huh!?)

Her reasons were the typically, trite, irrational tripe about being fed up with hypocrites and transferring their misguided comments and lifestyles on the whole of Christian thought and philosophy.  Or, in her case, misunderstanding Church teaching about loving sinful persons at all costs but hating the sins that such persons commit. Anne's son is a gay homosexual author. And as she should, she loves her son. But she can't seem to separate the sin of humankind from the teachings of Christ and his Church. Or, as Dr. Ray Guarendi says in his popular DVD, WHY BE CATHOLIC? the scariest religious position today is not the atheist, or new age, or other fringe groups, but the mainstream Christian who says, "I love God, and he's just like me."

Now, this is a "smart" woman, or so I thought. Well, upon her "anti-Christianity" announcement (or "deconversion") , the blogosphere was awash with stories, praise, condemnations, Monday quarterbacking, and debate about this "turn of events". Especially of interest is the strange and irrational reasons this celebrated author gives for rejecting Christianity but still embracing Christ. Frankly, I still think her Facebook page has been hijacked (because I expect more intelligence from her), but evidently she appeared on The Joy Behar Show in person to discuss this whole thing. (Joy Behar... makes "sense.")


Dave Armstrong (and wife, Judy), is a friend(s) and author of a number of fine books on Catholic apologetics that I sell on Nineveh's Crossing, and one I'm editing for publication. Dave was not familiar with Anne Rice, but he caught wind of her "reasons" for "leaving Christianity" and... well, Dave can't turn down an easy Internet post when Catholicism can be defended. (It'll be a chapter in a future book of his, no doubt.) His website was perhaps the first Catholic apologetic website in the world (goes back to the mid-1990s), and he's making a writing career out of the fodder. Dave's writing is thoroughly organized,  accessible, smart, and relevant. I've hired him several times to write material for Nineveh's Crossing (our study guides all have his touch).

So, Dave did his usual thorough job at refuting the several irrational arguments against Christianity and Catholicism that Anne takes, and posted a thorough defense of Catholicism and Christianity on his blog. . You can read his initial blog entry in a post titled: The Deconversion of Novelist Anne Rice: Straw Men, "Baby/Bathwater" Mentality, Sexual Liberalism, and an Irrational Held, Apologetics-Free Faith   LINK HERE

Then the drama sets in. Anne reads Dave's post, or part of it, and writes on her Facebook blog:
Here's a rather critical, and well written discussion of my leaving organized religion for Christ. 
And then she gives a link to Dave's post (as I have give you above)

Within 24 hours Dave is besieged by comments (pro and con) on his blog,  as is Anne on her Facebook page. Dave has posted some of the comments at his post: Anne Rice's Facebook Followers Irrationally and Intolerantly Attack Yours Truly for Criticizing the Lack of Adequate Reasoning for Her Deconversion.   LINK HERE

All of this I'm very happy about... for Dave and for Catholicism. There's nothing like controversy to get people thinking or talking about what is true.

And there's nothing like Dave's very clear, easy to read defense of the faith. I can only hope that Anne (and thousands of others) take Dave's arguments to heart, and perhaps read a few of his books. All of which are on sale (15% off) at Nineveh's Crossing, naturally. HERE: 

Best to all of you.