Hearty Heresy

Speaking of Rev. Billy
November 1, 2007, 1:15 am
Filed under: Consumerism, Jesus, Religion

I got this e-mail just after I posted about Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping:

Dear Friends-

I want to invite you to participate in a noteworthy cause. It’s about sweatshop labor, social justice, and the Big-Box overtaking of America.

From producer Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and director Rob VanAlkemade, What Would Jesus Buy? examines the commercialization of Christmas in America while following Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse (the end of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt). From the humble beginnings of preaching at his portable pulpit on New York City subways, to having a congregation of thousands – Bill Talen (aka Rev. Billy) has become the leader of not just a church, but a national movement.

Rev. Billy’s epic journey takes us to chilling exorcisms at Wal-Mart headquarters, to retail interventions at the Mall of America, and all the way to the Promised Land on Christmas Day. The Stop Shopping mission reminds us that even though we may be “hypnotized and consumerized,” we still have a chance to $ave ourselves this Christmas.

You can see the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/wwjbmovie http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/whatwouldjesusbuy/.

Since this is very much a grassroots film release, we wanted to make sure you had the details. I’ve listed the cities, dates, and theaters below that are set. We encourage you to attend the film as a group since it will be a great invitation to discuss the causes and effects of our consumption and how to approach it in your own neighborhood. In the coming days, we’ll have a group sales number available at http://www.wwjbmovie.com.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please let me know. Thank you for your consideration to participate in attend and discuss these very important issues.

All the best,

Zach Kincaid

Now I don’t know Zach Kincaid from Adam, but I appreciate being tipped off about What Would Jesus Buy? I checked out the trailer (and uploaded it to my VodPod, below left) and the movie looks like a serious hoot. I’m definitely planning on seeing it when it comes my way (December 7, Edina, Minnesota). Check the list below for showings in your area. See you at the movies!


Nov 1 – New York, NY – Cinema Village
Nov 1 – Irvine, CA – EDWD Westpark 8
Nov 1 – Los Angeles, CA – Laemmle Sunset 5

Nov 21 – Sacramento, CA – PFR Crest Theatre

Nov 23 – Portland, OR – Cinema 21
Nov 23 – San Francisco, CA – LAND Lumiere 3
Nov 23 – Berkeley, CA – Landmark Shattuck Cinemas

Nov 30 – Baltimore, MD – Charles Theatre
Nov 30 – New Haven, CT – Criterion Cinemas
Nov 30 – Palo Alto, CA – Landmark Aquarius Twin
Nov 30 – Chicago, IL – Landmark Century Center Cinemas
Nov 30 – Seattle, WA – Landmark Seven Gables
Nov 30 – Madison, WI – Marcus Westgate Cinemas
Nov 30 – Santa Barbara, CA – MET Plaza De Oro

Dec 5 – Portland, ME – Movies @ The Exchange

Dec 7 – Denver, CO – Landmark Chez Artiste
Dec 7 – Edina, MN – Landmark Edina 4 Theatre
Dec 7 – Houston, TX – Landmark Greenway 3
Dec 7 – San Diego, CA – Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas
Dec 7 – Dallas, TX – Landmark Magnolia 5 Theatre
Dec 7 – Atlanta, GA – Regal Tara Cinemas
Dec 7 – Austin, TX – Regal Arbor Cinemas at Great Hills
Dec 7 – Tucson, AZ – The Loft Cinema
Dec 7 – Salt Lake City, UT – Tower Theatre

Dec 21 – Albuquerque, NM – Guild Theatre


Another Group of Heretics I Like
October 29, 2007, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Christianity, God, Hell, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology, Uncategorized

Every once in awhile I stumble upon a group of Christians who do a wonderful job of articulating what I would call the true Gospel of Jesus. One such group is The Center for Progressive Christianity, which offers “an approach to Christianity that is inclusive, innovative, and informed.” What do they mean by that? Well, here are their 8 points, which they say are designed “to present an inviting expression of a particular approach to the practice of Christianity.”

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who…

  1. have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.
  2. recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
  3. understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’ name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God’s feast for all peoples.
  4. invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):
    *believers and agnostics,
    * conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
    * women and men,
    * those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
    * those of all races and cultures,
    * those of all classes and abilities,
    * those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope;
    * without imposing on them the necessity of becoming like us.
  5. know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe.
  6. find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers.
  7. form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God’s creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers.
  8. recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

I’m not sure if there’s an expression of Christianity that I could find that would be any more in sync with what I believe about Jesus. I am sure that these 8 points would probably be considered heretical by Brand Xians and condemn these folks to eternal torment. Too bad.

Who’s Preaching the Real Gospel?
October 26, 2007, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Faith, God, Jesus, Religion

When I started this blog last February, I said that one of the things I wanted to do was keep tabs on “rock star” ministers–those pastors who go out of their way to project a up-to-date, contemporary (dare I say “worldly”) image to the world in hopes of attracting secular folks to their mega-churches or church plants so they can hear the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Christ: “Acknowledge that you’re a hopeless sinner and that God deliberately killed is darling little boy so you won’t have to suffer eternal torment. If you don’t accept Jesus, well, you suffer eternal torment. Oh, and God loves you sooooooo much!” So the only minister I’ve named so far is Perry Noble, who’s started a “no hell” campaign at his church. He doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, so for Christ’s sake, please accept the crummy deal God is offering! But the current issue of Sojourners magazine has an article that’s got me thinking about another blogging pastor and the way he presents the Gospel and how it just doesn’t seem to fit with the message I hear from Jesus.

First, the article. It’s called “What Would Jesus Buy?” and it’s by noted scholar Walter Brueggemann. It’s about “Rev. Billy” and his Stop Shopping campaign. (You can read a printer friendly version here.) Rev. Billy (who’s not a real clergyperson) stages “shopping interventions” at corporate havens like Starbucks and McDonalds and Disney stores. His point is pretty simple: we should be seeking “the god that is not a product.” I don’t know about you, but this sounds close to what I perceive to be Jesus’ main theme–you don’t have to pay anyone for salvation because God is always already within you.

Contrast Ben Arment, blogging pastor of Reston Community Church in Virginia. Read a few of his posts where he salivates over the features of his new iPhone. Linger on the passages where he sings the praises of the nearest Starbucks. And reflect on this post where he mulls over the possibilities of the iTunes Wi-Fi store being accessible at Starbucks. Then ask your self, “What the heck does this have to do with Jesus?”

Forget John 3:16, It’s John-117 Now
October 7, 2007, 7:15 pm
Filed under: Christianity, Jesus, Peace, Religion, Spirituality

I have to admit that I’m thoroughly disgusted at the notion that evangelical “Christian” churches are using Halo 3 as a recuiting tool. At least that’s what the New York Times is reporting. That’s right, rather than trying to reach youth with their already twisted interpretation of the teachings of Jesus, they’ve decided to lure unsuspecting teenagers into their congregations by offering massive Halo 3 shootouts! Whoo-hoo!

I guess the question is now “Who would Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 obliterate?” instead of “What would Jesus do?” But hey, as one Brand Xian pastor put it, ““We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell.” Well if that’s they case, why don’t they just take the advice of James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who said “If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it.”

All of this just shows how hypocritical Brand Xians are when it comes to following the actual teachings of Jesus. So much for the Prince of Peace, eh?

Those Damn Unitarians
October 3, 2007, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Christianity, Faith, God, Hell, Heresy, Religion, Spirituality, Unitarian Universalists

The Unitarian Universalists are starting an new ad campaign to increase awareness of their religion (I know, any Bible-believing Brand Xian worth his salt would call them a “cult”). To go along with the ads that will be appearing in TIME magazine, they’ve come up with a 10 minute video that explains who they are. Biggest bunch of heretics I’ve every seen!

Kill Christianity, Part Two
September 28, 2007, 10:20 am
Filed under: Christianity, Heresy, Jesus, Religion | Tags: , , ,

Okay, so before we can “kill Christianity,” we have to “kill the Christ.” I don’t want to kill Jesus, mind you–I’m not one of those the-historical-Jesus-never-existed kind of heretics. I wouldn’t be a heretic then, just an unbeliever. But I do believe that the teachings of Jesus still have value, which is why I feel it’s so important to go beyond the standard interpretation of them (Jesus wasn’t just a spiritual teacher and moral exemplar, but the SON of GOD who DIED for YOUR SINS!) and dig the diamonds out of the dunghill of the Gospels (to use Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor). So, where to begin killing the Christ?

Brand Xians sometimes like to point out that Jesus (as the Son of God) not only became human, but became the lowest of the low of humans. After all, he was baptized in the Jordan River, the lowest point on land on earth. That’s a nice metaphor, but remember–John baptized everyone else in the Jordon River, too. They were all sort of equally low. Sure Jesus was born into humble circumstances, but so were all of the other non-Roman citizens at the time. (And Jews even had special privileges in the Roman Empire, like being allowed to continue their exclusive sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem.)

So Brand Xians will take it further: Yes, but Jesus was even lower because he was a Galalean, and “nothing good comes out of Galalee.” Of course most the inhabitants of Galalee were non-Roman citizens, so they were all sort of equally no good. Again, that doesn’t make Jesus very special–just part of the great unwashed.

The next step can be taken by the only most non-sentimental Brand Xians, which is to acknowledge that Jesus was considered a “mazmer,” i.e., illegitimate, and therefore relegated to the lowest of the low. But Matthew and Luke inserted an escape clause here by claiming the Mary was actually betrothed and eventually married to Joseph which saved Jesus from being labeled with the worst possible designation–being a bastard.

But that’s actually the place to beginning killing the Christ. Spend some time meditating on the idea that he wasn’t the Son of God, but a Jewish bastard from Galalee–the son of an unwed teenaged mother, if you will. For me, that’s why his teachings about love and forgiveness are so powerful. He really was in a pretty low position in the pecking order of the day, and there would be absolutely no expectation that a country rube who adhered to a quaint relic of a religion would have anything of value to say, especially if he was a bastard. But he did have something of value to say, which is why his teachings survive, in spite of the best efforts of orthodox Christians to elevate him to GodMan status, a status which I believe actually devalues his teachings. So down with the Son of God and up with the bastard Jew from Galalee!

Kill Christianity, Part One
September 21, 2007, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Buddhism, Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

Scanning the radio as I was driving home from a trip to Kansas last Sunday, I stumbled upon the American Public Media program Word for Word, which was featuring a presentation by Sam Harris entitled, “A clash between faith and reason?” (You can download a podcast here.) It was certainly a welcome relief after hours of football scores, 70s rock, and Brand Xian preachers. Harris delivered a wonderfully thorough argument against religion (specifically religions like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, which require adherents to take so much of their beliefs on faith alone). I enjoyed it so much that I cruised the web when I got home looking for more from Harris. His website lead me to a provocative article by him in Shambala Sun called “Killing the Buddha.” Here’s the opening blurb:

“Kill the Buddha,” says the old koan. “Kill Buddhism,” says Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, who argues that Buddhism’s philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion.

I think Harris is right here. Buddhism at its best is not so much a religion, but a philosophy of life that’s supported by specific practices. Here’s how Harris puts it:

The fact is that a person can embrace the Buddha’s teaching, and even become a genuine Buddhist contemplative (and, one must presume, a buddha) without believing anything on insufficient evidence.

He goes on to say that “the same cannot be said of the teachings for faith-based religion [like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam].” I agree wholeheartedly with the first part of Harris’ statement, but I have to disagree with the second. I believe that “faith-based” religions can provide philosophies, insights, and practices that can benefit more people. In fact, I believe that the same exact statement Harris makes about Buddhism can be applied to Christianity:

The fact is that a person can embrace the Christ’s teaching, and even become a genuine Christian contemplative (and, one must presume, a christ) without believing anything on insufficient evidence.

Indeed, that’s a pretty accurate summation of what I would call my main heresy, that one can follow the teachings of Jesus and develop the “christ-nature” within oneself without believing anything on insufficient evidence. But in order to do so, one must both “Kill the Christ” and “Kill Christianity.” Neither one is very easy in this culture. As Harris notes:

If you really believe that calling God by the right name can spell the difference between eternal happiness and eternal suffering, then it becomes quite reasonable to treat heretics and unbelievers rather badly.

And that, of course, is what fundamentalists specialize in–treating heretics and unbelievers rather badly. But I won’t let that stop me. In my next few posts I plan on taking a shot at killing Christ and killing Christianity. Stick around.