Hearty Heresy


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 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.



Being a Loving Father
August 28, 2007, 9:48 am
Filed under: Christianity, Faith, God, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

Mrs. Heretic and I have pretty much decided that Hearty, Jr. is going to be an only child, which if fine with us (and I hope with him). There are a lot of factors involved in this decision, but given the settings on our biological clocks (tick tick tick), it’s more or less inevitable. This means that I have the luxury of having to consider only one child when it comes to carrying out my fatherly duties. And when I think of all those fatherly duties (changing diapers, making sure the house is childproofed, getting the tires on the Subaru rotated) one stands out as Job One: giving my son enough love to last a lifetime.

Pretty simple. My primary job as a father is to make sure that my son will always know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I do and always will love him–unconditionally. Of course I’m not sure how this will play out, exactly. There are no guarantees that either Hearty, Jr. or I will be around in twenty years, or ten, or five, or even tomorrow. That’s why I take this job so seriously: I have no idea how much time I have available to me to do this job right. Which means that the here and now is always the best time and place to show that love.

Anyway, this has got me thinking about the part in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says,

If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

I’m thinking that if I, an admittedly imperfect human being, can imagine wanting to be an unconditionally loving father to my son, then it’s not hard to see the God Jesus is talking about in a similar light: a God who has made loving his children his number one priority. (The pronoun “he” is from Jesus, of course. I could just as easily be talking about God as a loving mother or a loving parent.) What’s more, it doesn’t take much to expand this notion of unconditional love beyond a single lifetime, which makes God’s number one priority this: to give each and every one of us enough love to last forever.

And that, I believe, is the heart of what Jesus taught. God is such a loving God that he will never, ever give up on us, no matter what. And it has nothing to do with our nature and everything to do with God’s nature. This, I believe, is how Jesus experienced God (“You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life”). And Jesus knew this, too: it is ultimately impossible to reject or hoard such love. All we can do is accept it–and give it away. Which makes it easy for me to fulfill my fatherly duties. If I ever need a reminder of God’s love, all I have to do is look into my son’s eyes.



Love is All I Know About God
August 23, 2007, 11:47 am
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

Emphasis on love. One of the first posts I wrote for this blog included this response from Stephen Mitchell to the question “What is the Gospel According to Jesus?”: “Simply this: that the love we all long for in our innermost heart is already present, beyond longing.” I mention this now because for some time I’ve been meaning to write a post about my experience of God, and I have to say that all I have ever known about God has always been love.

Emphasis on know. You see, the God that I know, the God that Mitchell’s quote points to, is the only God that I have ever experienced in my life. Sure, I’ve been told lots of things about God, from people who think that God can be found in the “common storyline, common theme, and common message” of the Christian Scriptures. That God is what I like to call the “Bad Dad” God, the God who acts like a petty tyrant lording over his household, whose every action (no matter how indefensible) is an expression of his perfect will and must not be questioned, and who enforces submission to that will through violence. Oh, and he loves you, too. How do you know? Because “the Bible tells you so,” so you’ll just have to believe that it’s true.

In all honesty, I’ve never experienced that God. I’ve experienced petty tyrants who could easily be human models for such a being, but I’ve never truly had a sense that the real God–the God I know in my innermost heart–is anything like this Bad Dad. No, the God of my innermost heart is a loving God, pure and simple. And my belief in that God doesn’t come from “66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents,” but my from own personal experience, as confirmed by what I believe to be the true teachings of Jesus, summarized repeatedly by Jesus himself: “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

So when I read the Christian Scriptures, I can’t help but understand them based on what has been my experience of the holy and the divine. And when I look at the teachings of Jesus, it’s pretty clear to me that he, too, experienced the holy and divine in a similar way. That experience is what informs the most beautiful and compassionate parts of his teachings. All the other stuff attributed to Jesus just sounds too much like the same old Bad Dad story to be the authentic teachings of a truly enlightened being.

Does this sound naive? “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in.” Jesus said that, too.



Make That Emergent/Postmodern/Liberal Quaker/Unitarian Universalist
August 1, 2007, 11:26 am
Filed under: Buddhism, Christianity, Faith, God, Judaism, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

At the risk of over-posting, I wanted to report the results of the Belief-O-Matic quiz I took again at the suggestion of Jon. I took this once many years ago and pretty much scored the same. If you’ve never taken it, give it a try.

Your Results: The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.

1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
3. Secular Humanism (90%)
4. Neo-Pagan (83%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (83%)
6. New Age (79%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (77%)
8. Mahayana Buddhism (71%)
9. Taoism (69%)
10. Reform Judaism (65%)
11. New Thought (60%)
12. Nontheist (60%)
13. Scientology (58%)
14. Orthodox Quaker (57%)
15. Jainism (55%)
16. Bahá’í Faith (52%)
17. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (45%)
18. Sikhism (41%)
19. Hinduism (40%)
20. Islam (27%)
21. Orthodox Judaism (27%)
22. Seventh Day Adventist (27%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (23%)
24. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (22%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (20%)
26. Roman Catholic (20%)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (11%)

Liberal Quaker. Doesn’t sound quite a cool as emergent/postmodern, does it? Jon pointed out that this quiz (as opposed to the Theological Worldview quiz) goes beyond Christianity. It is nice to see how one’s beliefs stack up to other traditions.

Oh, and I added a few clips from Jesus Camp to my VodPod (below left) if you want to check it out….



Seems I’m Emergent/Postmodern
July 26, 2007, 6:17 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Hell, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology, Uncategorized

I can’t remember which blog first tipped me off to this, but here are my results from the “What’s your theological worldview?” quiz at QuizFarm:

You scored as a Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern
 
86%
Modern Liberal
 
82%
Classical Liberal
 
79%
Roman Catholic
 
36%
Neo orthodox
 
36%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
 
21%
Charismatic/Pentecostal
 
18%
Reformed Evangelical
 
7%
Fundamentalist
 
0%

What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

I’m pretty cool with this, given the number of Brand Xians running around calling the Emergent Church heretical. Still, I hesitate to associate myself to closely with any single theological point of view.