Hearty Heresy

Escape from America
May 27, 2007, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Christianity, God, Heresy, Religion

Not quite. But Mrs. Heretic, Hearty, Jr. and I are once again visiting our neighbors to the north. This time we’re in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to see Mrs. H.’s Aunt Sarah. Right now I’m in a Starbucks, paying way too much for an hour’s worth of internet connection. But I had a little online work to do, and I wanted to point out a couple of things. One…Today’s Pentecost! I found that out because we went to Aunt Sarah’s Mennonite church this morning, and they pinned red carnations on all of us. Two…Yesterday was the anniversary of a very important event: “On May 26, 1521, Martin Luther was declared a heretic by the Edict of Worms because of his religious beliefs and writings.” So a hearty happy heresy to all my Lutheran friends! And three…according to TheSpoof.com, angry atheists are going to sue God. Looks like it’s Christopher Hitchens’ idea. This extremely unreliable news source says that he’s “filed a lawsuit in federal court requesting damages in the amount of $800 trillion.” I think that’s not enough.

And I guess that as long as I’m pointing out humorous bogus news stories, you might want to take a look a Sub Ratione Dei and this repost of “Frightened Black Family Flees Emergent Church.” I love the last line: “They need to go back to whatever they ’emerged’ out of.”


From God’s Rotweiler to Bavarian Cream Puff
May 24, 2007, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, Religion, Theology

According to George Weigel’s review in Newsweek of Jesus of Nazareth, the new book by the Pope formerly known as “God’s Rotweiler,” John Ratzinger has finally become “the teacher he always wanted to be.” Now that he doesn’t have to defend the faith by silencing heretics like Hans Kung and Matthew Fox, Pope Benedict is free to reveal his gooey, sweet interior. Apparently, Christianity is all about having an “intimate friendship with Jesus.” Thing is, when you’re bishop of Rome, vicar of Christ, successor of St Peter, Prince of the Apostles, primate of Italy, patriarch of the West, archbishop and metropolitan of the Roman Province, sovereign of Vatican City and Servant of the Servants of God (whew!), you probably have some pretty specific ideas about what an intimate friendship with Jesus looks like.

So while Weigel assures us that “Benedict XVI is no reactive anti-modern,” he’s definitely not proactively post-modern. Now I confess that I haven’t read the book–only a few reviews (including Bruce Chilton‘s) and a bit of the online excerpt. But it seems to me that for all his world-class theologizing and “his profound knowledge of the Hebrew Bible,” Ratzinger is still doing what he’s always done best, defend the Catholic version of Brand Xianity. For example,

Why is it the meek to whom the Beatitudes promise the inheritance of “the land”? Because, explains Ratzinger, drawing on the imagery of the Exodus, “the land was given [to the people of Israel] as a space for obedience, a realm of openness to God that was to be freed from the abomination of idolatry.”

Oh, I get it, the meek shall inherit “the land” because they’re obedient. Now that’s a interesting idea. The Pope wants people to be obedient. But there’s no conflict of interest here, see, because the author didn’t write this book as Pope Benedict XVI, but as good ol’ John Ratzinger, the guy you’d what to knock back a couple of Spaten Optimators with.

I don’t buy it. And I don’t buy his interpretation of why the meek shall inherit “the land.” So I thought I’d take my pitiful knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and see if I might find a passage from the OT to draw some imagery from. I figured that Isaiah was a good place to look since that’s where Jesus took his mission statement from. And this is what I found in Isaiah 5:8 (from The Message):

Doom to you who buy up all the houses
and grab all the land for yourselves—
Evicting the old owners,
posting no trespassing signs,
Taking over the country,
leaving everyone homeless and landless.
I overheard God-of-the-Angel-Armies say:
“Those mighty houses will end up empty.
Those extravagant estates will be deserted.
A ten-acre vineyard will produce a pint of wine,
a fifty-pound sack of seed, a quart of grain.”

Maybe this was the land Jesus had in mind. Of course, unlike the Pope, I could be wrong.

A New Header for a New Heresy: Comfortism
May 22, 2007, 2:25 am
Filed under: Elvis, Faith, God, Heresy, Religion

Frankly, I’m a little tired of clinging to the coattails of other people’s heresies. So I’m starting my own, and it goes something like this. IF, as Ray Comfort insists, the PROOF of GOD can be found in a BANANA, and IF, as Chuck Missler believes, the PROOF of GOD can be found each time you open a jar of PEANUT BUTTER, and IF these two PROOFS of GOD’S EXISTENCE constitute a double-whammy of an ATHEIST’S NIGHTMARE, THEN it only stands to reason (and certainly Ray and Chuck are all about reason) that BANANAS and PEANUT BUTTER together make up a THEIST’S DREAM. And that is why my new header features a bunch of bananas and a jar of peanut butter.

The old header, by the way, was a juicy piece of steak being seared on a flaming grill. I chose it for my original header because it was so rich in heretical symbolism. Like being burnt at the stake for being a heretic. And being burnt to a crisp for all eternity in Hell just because you didn’t believe in the exact right proportions of human to divine in the person of Jesus. And there’s nothing heartier than slab of grass fed, organic beef grilled to perfection (medium well is perfection in my case). At any rate, I worried that the header would put off my vegan friends. So bananas and peanut butter for everyone!

Back to the heresy. I’m calling it Comfortism. Not just after Ray, who got me started on this whole thing, but after the concept of “comfort food,” which is actually what bananas and peanut butter really are. Just ask Elvis. As I’ve noted before, the King loved his Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches. I figure that’s got to be one of the elements in Comfortist communion. The other is, TA DA, Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothies. You see, if God is in bananas and peanut butter separately, then there’s even more God in both of them combined. So if you eat a lot of PB&B sandwiches and drink a lot of PB&B smoothies, you’re going to be CLOSER to GOD.

Which brings me to my final point. The human being who was closest to God, according to the new heresy of Comfortism, was the King himself, Elvis. In fact you may not have known this, but Elvis weighed 260 pounds at his death. That’s a LOT of PEANUT BUTTER and BANANA SANDWICHES! And consider this, too. When John Lennon said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, he was revealing a hidden truth (and isn’t that what religion is all about, having hidden truths to reveal?): John knew that while the Beatles may have been more popular than Jesus, they would never, NEVER be more popular that Elvis. Because ELVIS was CLOSER to GOD than ANY HUMAN EVER. Period.

So that’s my new heresy. If you’d like to give it a try, this is all you have to do: Make yourself a Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich, a Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie, toss an Elvis LP on the record player (yes, it MUST be ANALOG!…just kidding), and lose yourself in the sweet, protein-rich comfort food of God. Soon, you’ll be tipping the scales toward heaven where the King himself will great you with “Peace in the Valley.” I’m telling you friends, it doesn’t get better than this. Thank you, Ray Comfort. Thank you, Chuck Missler. Elvis loves you, and so do I.

Take the Falwell Challenge
May 17, 2007, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology, Uncategorized

I know that immediacy is one of the great things about blogging, so I apologize for taking so long to write about Jerry Falwell. In my defense, I will say that I hopped around the blogosphere a bit on Tuesday to make a few comments. I usually said one of two things: I mentioned that Falwell once called Bishop Tutu a fraud (don’t you love how supposedly forgiving Brand Xians are so quick to condemn one another); and I also quoted John Donne’s words “Any man’s death diminishes me….” At any rate, along the way I found this comment about Falwell from Brahnamin at TotalTransformationTest, and it reminded me of a challenge I would like to offer to Brand Xians. First, the comment:

i went to liberty university (briefly) in my youth. i listened to him speak many times, of course, but i only met him once. he offered to give my roommate and me a ride back from the mall.

he kinda thought we were skipping class (we weren’t) but he was really cool about it.

the thing he said that has always stuck with me was :: even if there were not resurrection, no heaven, nothing to look forward to beyond this life, i would still choose to be a christian because i like the lifestyle. i like the man it has made me.

(forgive the clumsy paraquote :: i only heard him say it once during my freshman year)

“…even if there were no resurrection, no heaven, nothing to look forward to beyond this life, i would still choose to be a christian….” That sort of sums up a challenge I’ve wanted to make. Only rather than choosing to be a Christian, one would choose to still following the teachings of Jesus. And as you know, I think there’s a pretty huge difference between the two. Liking the “lifestyle” Brand Xianity offers to a twenty-first century white male in the United States is, what?, roughly 2000 years away from the “lifestyle” following Jesus offered to first century Mediterranean peasants. That “lifestyle,” according to John Dominic Crossan in The Historical Jesus, has more to do with creating a “Kingdom of Nobodies.” Here’s a taste of what Crossan’s talking about:

He comes as yet unknown into a hamlet of Lower Galilee. He is watched by the cold, hard eyes of peasants living long enough at a subsistence level to know exactly where the line is drawn between poverty and destitution. He looks like a beggar yet his eyes lack the proper cringe, his voice the proper whine, his walk the proper shuffle. He speaks about the rule of God and they listen as much from curiosity as anything else. They know all about rule and power, about kingdom and empire, but they know it in terms of tax and debt, malnutrition and sickness, agrarian oppression and demonic possession. What, they really want to know, can this kingdom of God do for a lame child, a blind parent, a demented soul screaming its tortured isolation among the graves that mark the edges of the village?

My challenge, then, is simply this: Even if there were no resurrection, no heaven, nothing to look forward to beyond this life, would you still find the message of Jesus, Mary’s bastard son, so compelling that it would move you to want to help make the kingdom of God manifest here and now, not just for the rich and privileged, but for everyone, the nobodies, the poor and oppressed? Just asking.

A Heretic’s Guide to Brand Xianity
May 15, 2007, 11:09 am
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, God, Hell, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology

I’m thinking that what I need to do is start Hearty Heretic’s College of Heretical Knowledge. But before I could do that, I’d need a textbook, something along the line of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States: telling the story of Brand Xianity “from the bottom up,” and “throwing out the official version…taught in [Sunday] schools.” Granted, a lot of heresy is slipping back into Christianity these days (just google the words “emergent” and “heretical”), but there’s no one place to go and get a heretic’s-eye-view of what Brand Xianity looks like in toto.

So for now well have to do what folks on the bottom have always had to do when it comes to trying to discern the truth about the status quo: read between the lines. For example, did you know that (according to an article in The Evening Bulletin)

Last week, the International Theological Commission, a pontifical commission of 30 international Catholic theologians that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concluded its study on the question of whether salvation is attainable for babies who perished prior to baptism…. “Our conclusion is that the many factors we have considered … give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision,” wrote the commission in its report titled, “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized.”

This is big news for unbaptized babies (and, apparently, for aborted fetuses). The church has decided that they will no longer have to remain in “limbo for eternity, absent communion with God.” This whole limbo thing grew out of the church’s teaching on original sin, specifically St. Augustine’s view of it (which was based, by the way, on a mistranslation of Rom. 5:12). He was pretty hardnosed about it, writing “that there was no ‘middle ground’ between heaven and hell and ‘there is no middle place left, where you can put babies.'” So limbo was the church’s attempt to temper it’s own teachings. And now their tempering them even more by providing an opportunity for salvation that doesn’t require baptism.

At any rate, the secret history here is that there was an alternative to the concept of original sin that the church might have accepted, but didn’t. Those of us who’ve studied the history of Brand Xianity know all about the monk Pelagius, who denied the doctrine of original sin, and his heresy, Pelagianism, which says that infants “were completely innocent and promised eternal life.” Pelagius based his thoughts on a slew of orthodox writers, and, according to W.H.C. Frend in The Rise of Christianity,

In circumstances other than those of the first decade of the fifth century his teachings might have provided a basis for a Christian ethic which would have set the seal of conversion on the empire. Medieval Europe might possibly have been built on different and more optimistic foundations.

Well, we’re not in the fifth century any more–something the Catholic Church even seems to realize. Unwavering adherence to doctrines like original sin bring with them all sorts of unpleasant implications that need to be explained away (or not, read “24 Reasons Not to Reject Limbo” in the Bulletin). Or, we can admit that there have always been alternatives to Brand Xianity, and just because once upon a time some version of “official” Christianity ruled against them doesn’t mean we can’t seriously consider them. But be careful. Thinking for yourself is one of the hallmarks of heresy.

Way Cup!!!!!
May 12, 2007, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

One of Hearty, Jr.’s favorite games is to lie down on the floor in a semi-fetal position, say quietly to himself, “Sleeping…sleeping…sleeping…,” then suddenly jump to his feet and shout, “Wake Up,” which actually sounds more like “Way Cup!!!!” He’s been playing this game for almost as long as he’s been able to talk, and he still enjoying it at the ripe old age of twenty-two months.

I mention this because Mrs. Heretic and I watched a movie last night that I’ve been waiting to see for quite some time. I would look for it every time we visited one of the Blockbuster’s near our house, but all I ever found was the plastic card indicating that the movie had already been rented. When I finally asked for it, I was told that they didn’t have it in stock anymore, so I added it to my Blockbuster Online queue, and TA DA! (another of Hearty, Jr.’s favorite sayings) Richard Linklater’s Waking Life arrived in our mailbox two days ago.

This movie contains more heresy per minute than I’ve seen in a long time, so of course I just loved it. (You can read what spiritual film critics Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat have about it here.) I mean, you’ve gotta love a movie that contains the line, “The ongoing WOW! Is happening right now,” which seems to be the basic message of a good portion of the world’s religions. In Buddhist terms, it’s about being “awake,” which fits nicely with the movie’s title. Jesus, though, didn’t talk about being awake. And that gets me thinking about what the equivalent metaphor in his teachings might be.

I’m thinking that life as a Feast is the metaphor Jesus used to express the same idea. If we would only open our eyes and truly appreciate all that is before us, we’d know that we are all guests at God’s banquet, and all that we will ever need is right in front of our eyes. And that makes the bread and wine of the communion table a symbol not of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice, but a reminder of the infinite abundance of God’s love and grace. And that makes me want to see Babette’s Feast again! I think I’ll add it to my queue.

Two Views of the Universe
May 9, 2007, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

I stumbled across something called The Mysteries of Deep Space Timeline yesterday that claims to cover the period of time “From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe.” Pretty tall order, if you ask me. It’s kinda neat though, and the way it divides up the history of the cosmos (Time after the Big Bang, Years before the Present, AD, and Years in the Future) reminded me of those really eerie charts that claim to show different dispensations, like this one called “Rightly Dividing the Word.” While I appreciate the graphics in RDW, I was really impressed by a chart from RightDivision.com (motto: “One Lord…One Faith…One Baptism…One Site…RightDivision.com”) called “An Overview of God’s Revealed Plan and Hidden Purpose in the Ages.” I’m especially fond of the very beginning of this chart, where it claims that “Before the Foundation of the World the Godhead prepares a revealed plan and a hidden purpose.” I mean, who doesn’t want to put their faith in a Godhead that thinks it’s fun to have a “hidden purpose”? Not me.

So rather than envisioning a Trinitarian huddle at the before the beginning of time, where F S and H (or Mr. Deity, Jesse, and Larry) come up with a scheme to test the faith of those they are about to create, I tend to believe in a creator who has only the best intentions, and whose message is so basic and understandable that it can be revealed in ways that everyone can understand. So here’s my chart of God’s revealed plan (from The Message):

Jesus said,

“Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.” This is the most important, the first on any list.

But there is a second to set alongside it:

“Love others as well as you love yourself.” These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.

No hidden purpose, no secret plan. Just a two step program designed to give anyone access to the most powerful force in the universe.