Bestselling Author Anne Rice:
Noted for the painstaking research behind her historical fiction, an atheist of 36 years makes a surprising discovery when she turns her attention to the mystery of the historical Jesus
Excerpt from Author’s Note in Christ The Lord Out Of Egypt
©2006 Anne O’Brien Rice. Used by permission.
Every novel I’ve ever written since 1974 involved historical research. It’s been my delight that no matter how many supernatural elements were involved in the story, and no matter how imaginative the plot and characters, the background would be thoroughly historically accurate. And over the years, I’ve become known for that accuracy.
If one of my novels is set in Venice in the eighteenth century, one can be certain that the details as to the opera, the dress, the milieu, the values of the people- all of this is correct.
Without ever planning it, I’ve moved slowly backwards in history, from the nineteenth century, where I felt at home in my first two novels, to the first century, where I sought the answers to enormous questions that became an obsession with me that simply couldn’t be ignored.
Ultimately, the figure of Jesus Christ was at the heart of this obsession. More generally, it was the birth of Christianity and the fall of the ancient world. I wanted to know desperately what happened in the first century, and why people in general never talked about it.
Understand, I had experienced an old-fashioned, strict Roman Catholic childhood in the 1940’s and 1950’s, in an Irish American parish that would now be called a Catholic ghetto, where we attended daily Mass and Communion in an enormous and magnificently decorated church, which had been built by our forefathers, some with their own hands.
Classes were segregated, boys from girls. We learned catechism and Bible history, and the lives of the saints. Stained-glass windows, the Latin Mass, the detailed answers to complex questions on good and evil – theses things were imprinted on my soul forever, along with a great deal of church history that existed as a great chain of events triumphing over schism and reformation to culminate in the papacy of Pius XII.
Left The Church At 18
I left this church at age eighteen, because I stopped believing it was “the one true church established by Christ to give grace.” No personal event precipitated this loss of faith. It happened on a secular college campus; there was intense sexual pressure; but more than that there was the world itself, without Catholicism, filled with good people and people who read books that were strictly speaking forbidden to me.
I wanted to read Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Camus. I wanted to know why so many seemingly good people didn’t believe in any organized religion yet cared passionately about their behavior and the value of their lives. As the rigid Catholic I was, I had no options for exploration. I broke with the Church. And I broke with my belief in God.
When I married two years later, it was to a passionate atheist, Stan Rice, who not only didn’t believe in God, he felt he had had something akin to a vision which had given him a certainty that God didn’t exist. He was one of the most honorable and conscience-driven people I ever knew. For him and for me, our writing was our lives.
In 1974, I became a published writer. The novel reflected my guilt and my misery in being cut off from God and from salvation; my being lost in a world without light. It was set in the nineteenth century, a context I’d researched heavily in trying to answer questions about New Orleans, where I was born and no longer lived.
After that, I wrote many novels without my being aware that they reflected my quest for meaning in a world without God. As I said before, I was working my way backwards in history, answering questions for myself about whole historical developments—why certain revolutions happened, why Queen Elizabeth I was the way she was, who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays (this I never used in a novel), what the Italian Renaissance really was, and what the Black Death had been like before it. And how feudalism had come about.
In the 1990’s, living in New Orleans again, living among adults who were churchgoers and believers, flexible Catholics of some sophistication, I no doubt imbibed some influence from them.
The Central Question of All Western History
But I also inevitably plunged into researching the first century because I wanted to know about Ancient Rome. I had novels to write with Roman characters. Just maybe, I might discover something I’d wanted to know all my life and never had known:
How did Christianity actually “happen”? Why did Rome actually fall? To me these were the ultimate questions and always had been. They had to do with who we were today.
I remember in the 1960’s, being at a party in a lovely house in San Francisco, given in honor or a famous poet. A European scholar was there, I found myself alone with him, seated on a couch. I asked him, “Why did Rome fall?” For the next two hours he explained it to me.
I couldn’t absorb most of what he said. But I never forgot what I did understand—about all the grain for the city having to come from Egypt, and the land around the city being taken up with villas, and the crowds being fed the dole.
It was a wonderful evening, but I didn’t leave with a feeling that I had the true grasp of what had happened.
Catholic Church history had given me an awareness of our cultural heritage, although it was presented to me early and quite without context. And I wanted to know the context, why things were the way they were.
When I was a little child, maybe eleven or younger, I was lying on my mother’s bed, reading or trying to read one of her books. I read a sentence that said the Protestant Reformation split Europe culturally in half. I thought that was absurd and I asked her, was this true? She said it was. I never forgot that. All my life I wanted to know what that meant.
In 1993, I dug into this early period, and of course went earlier, into the history of Sumer and Babylon and the whole Middle East, and back to Egypt, which I’d studied in college, and I struggled with it all. I read specialized archaeological texts like detective novels searching for patterns, enthralled with the Gilgamesh story, and details such as the masonry tools which the ancient kings (statues) held in their hands.
I stumbled upon a mystery without a solution, a mystery so immense that I gave up trying to find an explanation because the whole mystery defied belief. The mystery was the survival of the Jews.
As I sat on the floor of my office surrounded by books about Sumer, Egypt, Rome, etc., and some skeptical material about Jesus that had come into my hands, I couldn’t understand how these people had endured as the great people who they were.
It was the mystery that drew me back to God. It set into motion the idea that there may in fact be God. And when that happened there grew in me for whatever reason an immense desire to return to the banquet table. In 1998 I went back to the Catholic Church.
But even then I had not closed in on the question of Jesus Christ and Christianity. I did read the Bible in a state of utter amazement at its variety, its poetry, its startling portraits of women, its inclusion of bizarre and often bloody and violent details. When I was depressed, which was often, someone read the Bible to me, often literary translations of the New Testament—that is, translations by Richmond Lattimore that are wondrously literal and beautiful and revealing and that open the text anew.
In 2002 I put aside everything else and decided to focus entirely on answering the questions that had dogged me all my life. The decision came in July of that year. I had been reading the Bible constantly, reading parts of it out loud to my sister, and poring over the Old Testament, and I decided that I would give myself utterly to the task of trying to understand Jesus himself and how Christianity emerged.
“I was ready to do violence to my career…”
I wanted to write the life of Jesus Christ. I had known that years ago. But now I was ready. I was ready to do violence to my career. I wanted to write the book in the first person. Nothing else mattered. I consecrated the book to Christ.
I consecrated myself and my work to Christ. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it.
Even then I did not know what my character of Jesus would be like.
I had taken in a lot of fashionable notions about Jesus—that he’d been oversold, that the Gospels were “late” documents, that we really didn’t know anything about him, that violence and quarreling marked the movement of Christianity from its start. I’d acquired many books on Jesus, and the filled the shelves of my office.
But the true investigation began in July of 2002.
In August, I went to my beach apartment, to write the book. Such naiveté. I had no idea I was entering a field of research where no one agreed on anything—whether we are talking about the size of Nazareth, the economic level of Jesus’ family, the Jewish attitudes of Galileans in general, the reason Jesus rose to fame, the reason he was executed, or why his followers went out into the world.
Vast Landscape of Jesus Scholarship
As to the size of the field, it was virtually without end. New Testament scholarship included books of every conceivable kind from skeptical books that sought to disprove Jesus had any real value to theology or an enduring church, to books that conscientiously met every objection of the skeptics with footnotes halfway up the page.
Bibliographies were endless. Disputes sometimes produced rancor.
And the primary source material for the first century was a matter of continuous controversy in which the Gospels were called secondary sources by some, and primary sources by others, and the history of Josephus and the works of Philo were subject to exhaustive examination and contentions as to their relevance or validity or whether they had any truth.
Then there was the question of the Rabbis. Could the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the Talmuds be trusted to give an accurate picture of the first century? Did they actually mention Jesus? And if not, so what, because they didn’t mention Herod, who built the Temple, either.
Oh, what lay in store.
But let me backtrack. In 1999, I had received in the mail from my editor and longtime mentor a copy of Paula Fredriksen’s Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. I had read a substantial part of this book in which Fredriksen re-created beautifully the Jewish milieu in which the boy Jesus might have lived in Nazareth and in which he might have gone to the Temple for Passover along with his family.
Fredriksen made the point strongly that Jesus was a Jew. And that this had to be addressed when one wrote about him or thought about him, or so it seems to me.
Now six years later, I have produced a book which is obviously inspired by that scene which Fredriksen wrote, and I can only offer my humble thanks to her and acknowledge her influence.
Of course my beliefs are the polar opposite of Fredriksen’s as the book Christ the Lord reveals. But it was Fredriksen who steered me in the right direction as to exploring Jesus as a Jew, and there my serious research of him began.
But to return to the year 2002. As I began my serious work, a call came from my husband. He was experiencing the first symptoms of a brain tumor from which he died in less than four months.
We had been married for forty-one years. After my return to the Church, he had consented to marry me in the great old church of my childhood with a priest who was my cousin saying the words. This was a marvelous concession coming from a committed atheist. But out of love for me, my husband did it. Forty-one years. And he was gone.
Was I given the gift of purpose before this tragedy so that it would sustain me through it? I don’t know. I do know that during his last weeks, my husband when he was conscious became a saint. He expressed love for those around him, understanding of people he hadn’t understood before. He wanted gifts given to those who helped him in his illness.
Before that he had managed, though half paralyzed, to create three amazing paintings. I must not neglect to say that. Then after that period of love and understanding, he slowly lapsed into a coma, and he was gone.
He left more than three hundred paintings, all done in fifteen years, and many books of poetry, most published during the same period, and thousands of unpublished poems. His memorial gallery will soon move from new Orleans to Dallas, Texas, where he was born.
I went on with my quest right through his illness and his death. My books sustained me. I told him about what I was writing. He thought it was wonderful. He gave me glowing praise.
From that time on, December 2002 when he died, until 2005, I have studied the New Testament period, and I continue to study. I read constantly, night and day.
I have covered an enormous amount of skeptical criticism, violent arguments, and I have read voraciously in the primary sources of Philo and Josephus which I deeply enjoy.
Taking The Jesus Skeptics Seriously
Having started with the skeptical critics, those who take their cue from the earliest skeptical New Testament scholars of the Enlightenment, I expected to discover that their arguments would be frighteningly strong, and that Christianity was, at heart, a kind of fraud. I’d have to end up compartmentalizing my mind with faith in one part of it, and truth in another.
And what would I write about my Jesus? I had no idea. But the prospects were interesting. Surely he was a liberal, married, had children, was a homosexual, and who knew what? But I must do my research before I wrote one word.
These skeptical scholars seemed so very sure of themselves. They built their books on certain assertions without even examining these assertions. How could they be wrong?
The Jewish scholars presented their case with such care. Certainly Jesus was simply and observant Jew or a Hasid who got crucified. End of story.
I read and I read and I read. Sometimes I thought I was walking through the valley of the shadow of Death, as I read. But I went on, ready to risk everything. I had to know who Jesus was—that is, if anyone knew, I had to know what that person knew.
Now, I couldn’t read the ancient languages, but as a scholar I can certainly follow the logic of an argument; I can check the footnotes, and the bibliographical references; I can go to the biblical text in English. I can check all the translations I have and I have every one of which I know from Wycliffe to Lamsa, including the New Annotated Oxford Bible and the old English King James which I love.
I have the old Catholic translation, and every literary translation I can find. I have offbeat translations scholars don’t mention, such as that by Barnstone and Schonfield. I acquired every single translation for the light it might shed on an obscure line.
Skeptical Arguments: Some of the Worst and Most Biased Scholarship
What gradually came clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments—arguments that insisted most of the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written too late to be eyewitness accounts—lacked coherence. They were not elegant. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were no more than assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were reached on the basis of little or no data at all.
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 hew knew about it—that the whole picture which has floated 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 the Gospels, shredded by critics, lost all intensity when reconstructed by various theorists. They were in no way compelling when treated as composites and records of later ”communities.”
Contempt for Jesus & the Sneer of Secularism
I was unconvinced by the wild postulations of those who claimed to be children of the Enlightenment. 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.
The people who go into Elizabethan studies don’t set out to prove that Queen Elizabeth I was a fool. They don’t personally dislike her. They don’t make snickering remarks about her, or spend their careers trying to pick apart her historical reputation.
They approach her in other ways. They don’t even apply this sort of dislike or suspicion or contempt to other Elizabethan figures. If they do, the person is usually not the focus of the study. Occasionally a scholar studies a villain, yes. But even then, the author generally ends up arguing for the good points of a villain or for his or her place in history, or for some mitigating circumstance, that redeems the study itself.
People studying disasters in history may be highly critical of the rulers or the milieu at the time, yes. But in general scholars don’t spend their lives in the company of historical figures whom they openly despise.
But there are New Testament scholars who detest and despise Jesus Christ. Of course, we all benefit from freedom in the academic community; we benefit from the enormous size of biblical studies today and the great range of contributions that are being made. I’m not arguing for censorship. But maybe I’m arguing for sensitivity—on the part of those who read these books. Maybe I’m arguing for a little wariness when it comes to the field in general. What looks like solid ground might not be solid ground at all.
The Gospels: Written Long After The Fact?
Another point bothered me a great deal.
All these skeptics insisted that the Gospels were late documents, that the prophecies in them had been written after the Fall of Jerusalem. But the more I read about the Fall of Jerusalem, the more I couldn’t understand this.
The Fall of Jerusalem was horrific, and involved an enormous and cataclysmic war, a war that went on and on for years in Palestine, followed by other revolts and persecutions, and punitive laws. As I read about this in the pages of S.G.F. Brandon, and in Josephus, I found myself amazed by the details of this appalling disaster in which the greatest Temple of the ancient world was forever destroyed.
I had never truly confronted these events before, never tried to comprehend them. And now I 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.
It simply didn’t and doesn’t make sense.
These Gospel writers were in a Judeo-Christian cult. That’s what Christianity was. And the core story of Judaism has to do with redemption from Egypt, and redemption from Babylon. And before redemption from Babylon there was a Fall of Jerusalem in which the Jews were taken to Babylon. And here we have this horrible war.
Would Christian writers not have written about it had they seen it? Would they not have seen in the Fall of Jerusalem some echo of the Babylonian conquest? Of course they would have. They were writing for Jews and Gentiles.
The way the skeptics put this issue aside, they simply assumed the Gospels were late documents because of these prophecies in the Gospels. This does not begin to convince.
Before I leave this question of the Jewish War and the Fall of the Temple, let me make this suggestion. When Jewish and Christian scholars begin to take this war seriously, when they begin to really study what happened during the terrible years of the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the revolts that continued in Palestine right up through Bar Kokhba, when they focus upon the persecution of Christians in Palestine by Jews; upon the civil war in Rome in the ‘60s which Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., so well describes in his work Before Jerusalem Fell; as well as the persecution of Jews in the Diaspora during this period—in sum, when all of this dark era is brought into the light of examination—Bible studies will change.
Right now, scholars neglect or ignore the realities of this period. To some it seems a two-thousand-year-old embarrassment and I’m not sure I understand why.
But I am convinced that the key to understanding the Gospels is that they were written before all this ever happened. That’s why they were preserved without question though they contradicted one another. They came from a time that was, for later Christians, catastrophically lost forever.
Notable Jesus Scholars
As I continued my quest, I discovered a scholarship quite different from that of the skeptics—that of John A.T. Robinson, in The Priority of John. In reading his descriptions, which took seriously the words of the Gospel itself, I saw what was happening to Jesus in the text of John.
It was a turning point. I was able to enter the Fourth Gospel, and see Jesus alive and moving. And what eventually emerged for me from the Gospels was their unique coherence, their personalities—the inevitable stamp of individual authorship.
Of course John A.T. Robinson made the case for an early date for the Gospels far better that I ever could. He made it brilliantly in 1975, and he took to task the liberal scholars for their assumptions then in Redating the New Testament, but what he said is as true now as it was when he wrote those words.
After Robinson I made many great discoveries, among them Richard Bauckham who in The Gospels for All Christians soundly refutes the idea that isolated communities produced the Gospels and shows what is obvious, that they were written to be circulated and read by all.
The work of Martin Hengel is brilliant in clearing away assumptions, and his achievements are enormous, I continue to study him.
The scholar who has given me perhaps some of my most important insights and who continues to do so through his enormous output is N. T. Wright. N. T. Wright is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever read, and his generosity in embracing the skeptics and commenting on their arguments is an inspiration. His faith is immense, and his knowledge vast.
In his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, he answers solidly the question that has haunted me all my life. Christianity achieved what it did, according to N. T. Wright, because Jesus rose from the dead. It was the fact of the resurrection that sent the apostles out into the world with the force necessary to create Christianity. Nothing else would have done it but that.
Wright does a great deal more to put the entire question into historical perspective. How can I do justice to him here? I can only recommend him without reservation, and go on studying him.
Of course my quest is not over. There are thousands of pages of the above-mentioned scholars to be read and reread.
But I see now a great coherence to the life of Christ and the beginning of Christianity that eluded me before, and I see also the subtle transformation of the ancient world because of its economic stagnation and the assault upon it of the values of monotheism, Jewish values melded with Christian value, for which it was not perhaps prepared.
There are also theologians who must be studied, more of Teilhard de Chardin, and Rahner, and St. Augustine.
The Highest Task of the Modern Writer
Now somewhere during my journey through all of this, as I became disillusioned with the skeptics and with the flimsy evidence for their conclusions, I realized something about my book.
It was this. The challenge was to write about the Jesus of the Gospels, of course!
Anybody could write about a liberal Jesus, a married Jesus, a gay Jesus, a Jesus who was a rebel. The “Quest for the Historical Jesus” had become a joke because of all the many definitions it had ascribed to Jesus.
The true challenge was to take the Jesus of the Gospels, the Gospels which were becoming ever more coherent to me, the Gospels which appealed to me as elegant first-person witness, dictated to scribes no doubt, but definitely early, the Gospels produced before Jerusalem fell—to take the Jesus of the Gospels, and try to get inside him and imagine what he felt.
Then there were the legends—the Apocrypha—including the tantalizing tales in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas describing a boy Jesus who could strike a child dead, bring another to life, turn clay birds into living creatures, and perform other miracles. I’d stumbled on them very early in my research, in multiple editions, and never forgotten them. And neither had the world. They were fanciful, some of them humorous, extreme to be sure, but they had lived on into the Middle Ages, and beyond. I couldn’t get these legends out of my mind.
Ultimately I chose to embrace this material, to enclose it within the canonical framework as best I could. I felt there was a deep truth in it, and I wanted to preserve that truth as it spoke to me. Of course that is an assumption. But I made it. And perhaps in assuming that Jesus did manifest supernatural powers at an early age I am somehow being true to the declaration of the Council of Chalcedon, that Jesus was God and Man at all times.
I am certainly trying to be true to Paul when he said that Our Lord emptied himself for us, in that my character has emptied himself of his Divine awareness in order to suffer as a human being.
This is a book I offer to all Christian—to the fundamentalists, to the Roman Catholics, to the most liberal Christians in the hope that my embrace of more conservative doctrines will have some coherence for them in the here and now of the book. I offer it to scholars in the hope that they will perhaps enjoy seeing the evidence of the research that’s gone into it, and of course I offer it to those whom I so greatly admire who have been my teachers though I’ve never met them and probably never will.
I offer this book to those who know nothing of Jesus Christ in the hope that you will see him in these pages in some form. I offer this novel with love to my readers who’ve followed me through one strange turn after another in the hope that Jesus will be as real to you as any other character I’ve ever launched into the world we share.
After all, is Christ Our Lord not the ultimate supernatural hero, the ultimate outsider, the ultimate immortal of them all?
As for my son, this novel is dedicated to him. That says it all.
My Journey from Atheism to Faith
When the novel Christ The Lord Out of Egypt was published in 2005, I had no idea that the Author’s Note, especially the story of my own personal return to faith, would prove of such interest to readers, and that I would receive so many questions about the various points that I raised about belief, about the gospels, and about the source materials of this book. It’s been suggested that I write a work entirely about my own journey to Christ and I am considering this. But for now I want to address some of the questions which are still coming from readers today.
I returned to faith in Christ, and to the Roman Catholic Church on December 6, 1998. It was after a long struggle of many years during which I went from being a committed atheist, grieving for a lost faith which I thought was gone forever, to realizing that I not only believed in Jesus Christ with my whole heart, but that I felt an overwhelming love for Him, and wanted to be united with Him both in private and in public through attendance at church.
The process for me had been gradual and somewhat intellectual. I’d lost faith in atheism. It no longer made sense. I wanted to affirm the presence of God because I felt it. Yet I was tormented by a multitude of theological questions and social issues that I couldn’t resolve. No matter how strongly I believed in God I still considered myself a conscientious humanist.
How, I asked myself, could I express the love for God that I felt by becoming a member of a community of believers when I didn’t know what I thought about the literal truth of Adam or Eve or Original Sin?
How could I join with fellow believers who thought my gay son was going to Hell? How could I become connected with Christians who held that there was no evidence for Darwinian evolution, or that women should not have control over their own bodies? How could I affirm my belief in a faith that was itself so characterized by argument and strife?
Well, what happened to me on that Sunday that I returned to faith was this: I received a glimpse into what I can only call the Infinite Mercy of God. It worked something like this. I realized that none of my theological or social questions really made any difference. I didn’t have to know the answers to these questions precisely because God did.
He was the God who made the Universe in which I existed. That meant he had made the Big Bang, He had made DNA, He had made the Black Holes in space, and the wind and the rains and the individual snowflakes that fall from the sky. He had done all that. So surely He could do virtually anything and He could solve virtually everything.
And how could I possibly know what He knew? And why should I remain apart from Him because I could not grasp all that He could grasp? What came over me then was an infinite trust, trust in His power and His love, I didn’t have to worry about the ultimate fate of my good atheistic friends, gay or straight, because He knew all about them, and He was holding them in His hands.
I didn’t have to quake alone in terror at the thought of those who die untimely deaths from illness, or the countless millions destroyed in the horrors of war. He knew all about them. He had always been holding them in His hands.
He and only He knew the full story of every person who’d ever lived or would live; He and He alone knew what person was given what choice, what chance, what opportunity, what amount of time, to come to Him and by what path.
That I couldn’t possibly know all was as clear to me as my awareness that He did.
Faith Does Not Negate Reason or Exploration
Now this was not totally understandable to me in words at that time. I couldn’t have explained it in this way then. But it is essentially what happened: faith became absolutely real to me; and its implications became real. I found myself in a realm in which the beauty I saw around me was intimately connected in every way with the justice, the wisdom, the mercy and the love of God.
Did this mean that I thought doctrine and principles didn’t matter? No. Did it mean I thought everything was relative? Certainly not. Did it mean I did not continue to ponder a multitude of ideas? God forbid. What it did mean was that I put myself in the hands of God entirely and that my faith would light the pages I read in the Book of Life from then on.
Now why did this happen to me? Why did this love and trust fill my heart at that particular moment in time? The honest answer is: I don’t know. Had I prayed for faith? Yes. Had I searched for it? Yes. But faith is a gift, and it was a gift I received on that day.
Over the next few years, my conviction and my awareness of God’s love deepened; and no matter what crisis or dilemma I confronted, that trust in the power of the Lord remained.
In the summer of 2002, as I’ve explained above, I consecrated my work to Christ, but I really didn’t make good on my promise to work only for Him until December of that year. From that time on, I have been committed to writing the life of Our Lord in fictional form.
At the time that I began this work, I had no idea that my life would be transformed by this task, that the anxiety I took for granted as part of life before 2002 would almost entirely disappear. In fact, had anyone told me this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have believed such a thing. But my life has been completely changed.
Now what happened in 2002 was this: I was praying, I was talking to the Lord, I was discussing my writing with Him, and what came over me was the awareness that if I believed in Him as completely as I said I did, I ought to write entirely for Him. Anything I could do ought to be for Him. I told Him so. I set out to put this into practice.
As I said, I didn’t succeed to full commitment until December of that year. But the day when I told the Lord I’d write for Him, and Him only, I now see as the most important single day of my entire life. Truly not the simplest things have been the same since. I am united in mind and body as never before. In fact it seems that every aspect of my life has been brought into a coherence that I’d never expected to see.
My early religious education, my long quest, my many experiences both dramatic and trivial, my losses, my developing writing skills, my research skills—all are united now in one single goal. There is a feeling in me at times that nothing, no matter how small, that I experienced has been lost. And of course I wonder if it isn’t this way with every human being; it’s just that most of us can’t see it most of the time.
There is much more I can say about my journey to conversion but I think this gives the emotional picture which is lacking above.
Finally, allow me to say this about the crafting of a novel about Our Lord.
As Christians, I feel most of us in the creative community must seek to be more than scribes. If Diarmaid MacColloch is right in his immense history, The Reformation, we had plenty of Christian scribes on the eve of that enormous and painful upheaval.
But it was the printing press that enabled the great thinkers of that time, both Reformer and Catholic, to transform our “assumptions about knowledge and originality of thought.” I suggest now that we must seize the revolutionary media of our age in the way that those earlier Christian and Catholics seized the printed book. We must truly use the realistic novel, the television drama, and the motion picture to tell the Christian story anew.
It is our obligation to tell that story over and over and to use the best means that we have.
In that spirit this novel was written—with the hope of exploring and celebrating the mystery of the Hypostatic Union as well as the mystery of the Incarnation—in a wholly fresh way.
But we, O Lord, behold we are Thy little flock; possess us as Thine, stretch thy wings over us, and let us fly under them. Be thou our glory.
Anne O’Brien Rice
July 12, 2006