When Christians Get it Wrong

Adam Hamilton, the pastor of the church that Ann and I attend, recently wrote a book with the same title as this post. The book is based on a great series of sermons Adam taught in January of last year. Last week he wrote an opinion piece on the Washington Post website responding to Anne Rice's recent comments about Christianity. I liked what Adam had to say.. it is consistent with what he regularly teaches. Here is the piece in full:

Don't reject Christianity because of Christians
By Adam Hamilton

When I was a child my mother used to make fish sticks for supper a couple of times a month. This was seafood night at the Hamilton house. Over time I came to despise those little crunchy sticks I got it in my mind that I was not a seafood person. It wasn't until I was 38 when I was nearly forced to try swordfish steak and salmon at the Bristol restaurant in Kansas City that my eyes (and taste buds!) were opened and I came to realize that fish sticks were just barely seafood.

On July 28 bestselling author Anne Rice announced on her Facebook page that she was quitting Christianity and would no longer be "Christian" but that she was still a follower of Christ. Anne went on to give the reasons why she was renouncing Christianity. She noted that she refuses to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti birth control, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanist, anti-science and anti-life.

I appreciate Anne's frustration. I believe it is shared by tens of millions of people in America, including a growing number of young adults. They could add quite a few more reasons for rejecting "Christianity" to Anne's list. But I'd like to suggest that Anne might be rejecting seafood in the name of fish sticks. She is rejecting a particular expression of the Christian faith. Even in her own (or formerly her own) Catholic tradition, tens of millions of Christians and thousands of congregations refuse to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-science, anti...

Once, I had a parishioner write me after an encounter with a particularly obnoxious Christian saying, "Pastor Adam, from this day on I will no longer call myself a Christian. I don't want to be associated with people like this man. I don't want others to think I see the world like he sees it. I am a follower of Jesus, but I don't want to be known as a Christian any more." In response I wrote, "Please, don't let this man define what it means to be a Christian. We desperately need to show the world that there is another way to be Christian!"

There are many churches whose members welcome and love gays and lesbians, whose congregations speak up for the rights and value of women, who see science as a form of liturgy expressing the glory of God, and where Democrats and Republicans sit side by side as followers of Christ. They are not perfect, but they are followers of Christ, living in community and seeking to change the world.

For years my friends would tell me not to reject seafood simply because I didn't like fish sticks. It took me 30 years to figure this out. I hope it doesn't take Anne as long.

If you enjoyed Adam's thoughts, and have a about forty minutes, you might want to check out his interview with a local talk radio host where he comments on his new book and answers questions from listeners on all sorts of issues. You can download the podcast here.


  1. Interesting commentary.

    Fish sticks makes me laugh, as when our daughter was in elementary school a list of cafeteria food was sent home and we put it on the refrigerator.

    Jill took a look one morning, and saw "fish sticks" and said, Mom, Yuk, I hate fish! Make me a Tuna sandwich, I'll take my lunch!! Tuna wasn't fish to her!!!

  2. You can get Adam's book, When Christians Get it Wrong, for 99¢ as a Kindle download this week at Amazon

  3. I have a major concern with this issue since it has gotten so much play. The trouble I see is we are focusing on the wrong portion of this issue, namely, we are trying to defend Christianity by saying not all Christians are like Rice's description. Therefore; 1) don't lump us in the same mix; and 2) please like us - we are not that bad.

    The issue is Anne Rice by what I have read from her is not a Christian. Am I the only one saying hold on a minute - she is not a Christian and she is not describing Christians?

    We need to take the gospel to her in love and humility bathed in prayer calling her to repentance.

    We need to reiterate for all who have no or wrong deifinitions of Christianity what biblical Chrisianity is.

    Let's not give her a pass becasue she thinks she is rejecting the small majority of people who blackened the name of Christ.

    Ann Rice and all who don't know Christ and are not known by Christ turn from your sin and repent, perhaps the Lord will grant you repentance and salvation in Christ and Christ alone!

    The title of this post today is "When Christians Get It Wrong." Well let's not get this wrong but let's defend the gospel, preach the gospel, and quit thinking that her definition of Christianity is only thinking fish sticks instead of sea bass.

  4. @Gregg - I guess my view is a bit different because I heard Adam preach the sermon series last year. I saw his messages as ones of correction for the flock. He preached against the sins of hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, unloving attitudes and rejecting people rather than embracing them. Always difficult to hear a message on sin.. especially when it applies to me. :)

  5. Bob, I agree with your pastor and his message, we as believers are guilty of sin - I am with you.

    The issue with Anne Rice is not that she is leaving Christianity for any of those reasons you listed, she can't leave what she is not.

    She has to be a Christian first, then she can make as ludicrious and ridiculous statement as she wishes.

    I feel we are redefining Christianity by telling Rice and those like her not to leave Christianity because of hypocrites when she is not a Christian to begin with.

    This is my issue. I am with you when it comes to believers who fall into sin or are unloving etc.

    This isn't the issue with her.

  6. @Gregg - Obviously you have read more about Anne Rice than I have and believe that she is not a Christian. My initial thought was that her statement saying that she was still a follower of Christ meant that she simply rejected the rituals but still believed in Jesus.

  7. I can certainly see why you go to his church, I like what he says a lot! I will check him out.

    (Also, hadn't heard this about Anne Rice. Interesting to know).

  8. Maybe I am misreading this comment.

    ...all who don't know Christ and are not known by Christ turn from your sin and repent, perhaps the Lord will grant you repentance...

    The idea that I need to first repent before coming to Christ, and that "perhaps" he will love me seems at odds with what has been placed on my heart.

    John the Baptist did command us to repent, but then something amazing happened. The Lord died and rose again. And everything changed.

    The reason I work to turn away from sin has nothing to do with the law -- it has everything to do with love. We have to help people fall in love with Christ and everything else will take care of itself. Anyway, that's my two cents.

  9. It seems to me that Anne has a misunderstanding of what Christianity is. Whether or not she is a Christian, I cannot say, but how can one leave Christianity and yet still follow Christ?

    So maybe she is just making a statement about all that is wrong with the formal institution of Christianity. Great.

    Or maybe she is sitting in judgment of formal Christianity, a dangerous thing to do.

    In either case, I wonder what such a statement (I am leaving Christianity) does for the cause of Christ, whom she says she still follows.

  10. Many in the Blogosphere have sad similar things but have said that they were leaving the "Institutional Church".. folks seem to understand that.. maybe it is just an issue of how Rice expressed herself?

  11. He was interviewed on my morning radio show w/ chris stigall. I'm not sure. But then again, I don't know where my leadership stands on pretty much any issue in today's world.


I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply. You can click here to see my comment policy.