A Catholic girl grows up, goes to college, breaks with the faith, loses belief in God, and joins the literary establishment (which tend to affirm these beliefs), finding popularity writing about vampires and other supernatural beings. This the Anne Rice I never read, because I never wanted to, and yet now she is writing about Jesus at the age of seven?
I admit that when I first heard of this book, I suspected it had to be a blasphemy -- Jesus the gay, the flawed, certainly the mere mortal, most likely. But Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt is anything but that. Rather, it is a fictional account of Jesus at age seven, narrated from his perspective, yet it assumes his deity and sinless nature and imagines what it must have been like for him to slowly realize who is was and yet, at seven, not fully what he was on earth to do. While Rice adds fictional elements to the story, filling in the interstices of the Gospel story, she is at great pains not to include anything that would contradict scripture or be out of character for the boy Jesus. Her account is speculative, and yet it is based on meticulous historical research. Truly, it is a fascinating read, one at the end of which you find yourself saying "well, it could have been like that," and one that sharpens our sense of who Christ is by giving us the rich context scripture sometimes merely assumes.
As fascinating as the story is, however, just as fascinating is the story of what brought Rice to such a telling. In the Afterword, she essentially details her compulsion, her desire to conduct the scholarly research to get at who Jesus really was. Having done the research, considering all the liberal scholarship out there, this is what she concluded:
In sum, the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and would be horrified by it if he knew about it --- that whole picture which had floated around in the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for thirty years --- that case was not made. Not only was it not made, I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I'd ever read. . . . I saw almost no skeptical scholarship that was convincing. . . . And I had also sensed something else. Many of these scholars, scholars who apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and some felt an outright contempt. This came between the lines of the books. This emerged in the personality of the texts. . . . I'd never come across this kind of emotion in any other field of research, at least not to this extent. It was puzzling.
She also came to disbelieve the liberal claim that the gospels were late documents, written after the Fall of Jerusalem. She could not understand this, given the horrific and cataclysmic nature of that event. She ultimately "found it absolutely impossible that the Gospel writers could not have included the Fall of the Temple in their work had they written after it as critics insist." She ultimately found that orthodox scholar N.T. Wright answered the questions best in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, believing that "Christianity achieved what it did. . . because Jesus rose from the dead."
Jesus rose. Reading that at 3:30 a.m. this morning, I was strangely assured. An atheist, Anne Rice, an educated woman, one who has read more broadly than I ever will, believes in the Risen Christ. I have believed this over 40 years, so why does it mean so much to me to know that at the end of her searching, she believes it too? I suppose because the claim is so outlandish, so crazy, so counter-intuitive, that the residual doubt that lingers in the recesses of my soul, the nagging but little countenanced "what if it's not true?," is banished for a time. For a moment I can honestly say with total conviction, "My God, it is true, and. . . and if it is true, then so is all the rest."
Thank you Anne Rice. Welcome Home. I know your quest is not over. I know there are issues we will disagree on. I know you are politically liberal. You don't need to just fall in line. Be who you are, and keep searching for Jesus and the mind of Christ in all things, because even though you haven't fully grasped Him, he has fully grasped you.