yep, i guess i'm a heretic

yep i'm a hereticheretic [her-i-tik] 1. a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church. 2. anyone who doesn’t conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.   synonyms: apostate, backslider, recreant, dissenter, skeptic, freethinker. (those made me laugh!)

my post up at rachel held evans’ blog last week–insecure christians–got some great comments, both positive ones & negative ones.  the negative ones tended to come from the perspective that by me saying there is something good in us (because we are originally created in the image of God) that it somehow devalues the work of Christ in our lives.  i’m personally so confused by this fear, that if we have even a little bit of good in us, it somehow untangles the whole rest of the story.  to me, it enhances the Story and the work of God in this beautiful, messed up world.  it doesn’t dismiss the power of sin and the reality of its presence in each of us from the moment we step into this Genesis 3 world.  but it isn’t our starting place.

and i guess sometimes these i-honestly-don’t-think-they’re-all-that-crazy-when-you-read-the-gospels ideas make me a heretic.

i’m called one now and then.

and for the most part i always take it as a compliment.

it’s part of the cost of being a dreamer, lover, and status-quo rocker.

honestly, if believing that there’s some shred of good in every human being because we were created in God’s image makes me a heretic, then yep, I guess i am.

if thinking that even though we are full of brokenness, we are also beautiful no matter what we believe makes me a heretic, then yep, I guess I am.

if holding that women should be fully equal with men and free to lead fully and completely in whatever way God is calling them to lead makes me a heretic, then yep, I guess I am.

if refusing to build entire oppressive & mean systems of belief about homosexuality based on a few passages in the Bible and loving my gay friends freely & fully makes me a heretic, then yep, I guess I am.

if valuing practicing the ways of Jesus over nitpicking about doctrine makes me a heretic, then yep,  i guess i am.

if being convinced that it’s possible that men and women can be true brothers & sisters & soul friends without all kinds of sexual weirdness and fear makes me a heretic, then yep, i guess i am.

if passionately believing that a lot of the modern church has been built on power, put-togetherness & serving itself instead of extending the tangible love of Jesus & restoring dignity to hurting people makes me a heretic, then yep, i guess i am.

if loving & valuing the Bible without making it more important than the wild-and-mysterious-Holy-Spirit-at-work-in-people’s-lives makes me a heretic, then yep, i guess i am.

i have a feeling a lot of you are heretics, too!

it can feel scary & lonely to be a heretic.  i experienced the weirdest feeling when i was reading some of those comments over at rachel’s blog–a feeling of being an outsider. of being someone who no longer is part of a system that many still ascribe to and i used to fully embrace.  it was mildly painful on a weird level but a huge relief on another.  i respect the beliefs of some of the commenters and our differences; the world needs all different shapes & sizes of christianity.  but it made it even more apparent how “out” of those particular traditional evangelical circles i really am.

i live in a different more grace & hope-filled world than ever before and i love it.

i have tasted “goodness in the land of the living” (psalm 27:13, i love that psalm) and there’s no turning back.

i do not want to raise my kids in the former system i was in & i don’t want them to believe that being a miserable wretch is their primary starting place.  they, like most human beings, will probably have the same basic reflex toward shame and somehow feeling like they are falling short despite all their efforts.  what i would like for them, for me, and for all-those-i-know-who-struggle-with-believing-they-are-worthy-of-anything-good to know is we are loved fully and completely by God just as we are–in all our mess & all our glory, in all our goodness & all our badness, in all our strength & all our weakness, all our beauty & all our ugliness–no matter what small or big faith we might have.

yep, i guess i’m a heretic.

 

 

80 Comments

      • Well it is sort of an inside comment about the 2nd century efforts to develope a creedal stance on basic required Christian beliefs and the beginning of piecing together a rudimentary canon of New Testament books. There were so many opinions of such extensive veriety that choices were difficult to make. Whatever the final choices were there were many who saw the result as heretical. So the statement is a humerous barb which implies that what the majority of heritics would accept was accepted as orthodoxy. Of course this is not precisely historical but not far from it.

        Charles

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  • I am glad I found your website! It is so encouraging to find others who are on this same crazy/beautiful journey. I too want to raise my children to know they are beautiful and wonderfully made in the image of their creator, and I am trying my best to understand what it means for me to live out the love God has showed me, so that I can instill that in my babies as they grow. One of my favorite authors says in one of his books that he wants to make sure his kids have to “unlearn” the least amount possible. I hope I can do the same! Thanks for this blog post, I hope more of us can be heretics. :o)

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    • oh i like that thought about “unlearning as little as possible.” so good. and so true. oh i don’t want my kids to have to go through what i have to find their way…it’s hard enough without too much extra baggage.

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  • I guess I’m a heretic, too! 🙂 Welcome to the club. You should see the crazed looks I get when I accidentally let it slip that I trust God to lead me more than I trust the devil to deceive me! or that I think being a new creation in a new covenant, with a new nature, plus the mind of Christ and the Spirit of God in us actually CHANGED everything. hehe! Yeah, people think it’s weird when I tell them that the old man is dead, co-crucified with Christ and we are raised up in new life with Him… it’s scandalous because I think that actually makes a difference in who we are now and how free we are and how un-bound by sin we can be. OH WELL! 🙂 I think I’ll just continue along with my sure-fire method of evangelism… it’s called, “Being the happiest person in the room!” 😀

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    • thank you for reading & taking time to comment. here’s to living free & being comfortable in our own skin!

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  • I grew up being taught traditional theology, but believing more the things you listed out…and when I realized just how on the outside of all that I was, those words ‘scary’ and ‘lonely’ were me….and still me….and I struggle. Thank you for speaking up….it helps the rest of us know we are not alone. 🙂

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    • thanks, tiffany. yeah, it’s interesting because when i look at my journey,this is some of where i started way back at the beginning, before i got systemized. and the more i talk to people, the more i hear of that deeper thing that resonates, the gospel embedded in hearts but somehow with no safe place to really come out. i have a feeling it might always be scary & lonely, at least for a chunk of years as some of these bigger shifts happen. that’s why we need these little weird connections that somehow make us feel a little less crazy, a little less alone. peace to you.

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      • Kathy, oh yes, less crazy for sure…that is something I have said before, and even in the past days really realized how very much those connections can help with that.

        Charles, thanks for the book recommendation.

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    • Check out Marcus Borg’s most recent book, Speaking Christian. He demonstrates how “traditional” religeous language of our time can be far removed from the meaning of the Greek Biblical text.

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    • always great to hear from you here, my favorite HERetic. i love you and you do help me feel less alone, less crazy. can’t wait for your book to come out.

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  • The old “religion” of worshiping the dead man on the cross as an idol was something that I could never really get. The way I see it, if I am going to follow Christ, then the best example then comes from a living, speaking Christ. As cliche as it sounds, dead men tell no tales.

    What Jesus shared with us was God’s love, plain pure and simple. This is the same benevolent love that God tried to share with us all along. Even in the book of Leviticus, one of the harshest books in the Bible contains a command for us to love one another as we love God. But sadly the message wound up ensnared and lost in legalism and God was to be feared, not loved. And we wound up fearing one another.

    So God, tired of having His sons and daughters fearing (and hating) each other, gifted us with Jesus. Since they had long since lost the message, God sent a messenger. Problem was, the message was foreign to those in power and they conspired to kill the messenger. But the message this time was to outlast both the messenger and his murderers. And for that, I am very thankful. And if following the teachings of Jesus rather than obscure Mosaic law makes me a heretic, I am flattered.

    Caio!

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    • sarah, oh those are some pretty thoughts & i love this line: “the message this time was to outlast both the messenger and his murderers.” so good.

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  • Kathy, thank you for an inspirational post!

    Guess I’m a heretic too!

    I also think it’s important that we see people as inherently good, as created in the image of God, as that changes how we interact with people! It’s as if I subconciously treat people differently depending on how I see them. I came to this realisation a few years ago when I truly and deeply exprienced God’s grace. When I see people as inherently good, I treat them better, give them grace and I look for the best in them. But the flipside of the coin is that if I don’t see them as inherently good, I tend to treat them poorly and don’t really want to give them grace.

    And how I treat people, impacts my relationship with God. And my relationship with God impacts the way I treat people…

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    • i really like your thought about how we see people, too. i think it’s why so much ugliness is out there; because so many of us have not loved & valued ourselves well it’s pretty tricky to love and value others well too. it seems like it’s possible but really there’s some kind of disconnect. and yeah, i am so with you, how we treat people is connected to God and how we connect with God affects how we treat people. they are all tangled up together and can’t be parsed out. thanks for reading and taking time to share. peace.

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  • Count me in! I’ve been struggling lately with the typical Evangelical beliefs I grew up with and am constantly inundated with and I have to tell you I’m really feeling more comfortable as a heretic. A Jesus loving heretic. Thank you.

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    • i am glad you are finding your way to a new place. thanks for taking time to share here.

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  • Jesus on the cross is important, but like everything else it points to the empty tomb. It is harder to wear an empty tomb around your neck. Even if that could be managed, it would be missing the point. People would see only the tomb. The power, mystery, and hope of faith is evidenced by nothingness in the place of death.
    I don’t mind the cross or crucifix as a symbol of our faith, so long as we remember what it really points toward.

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    • love this line: “i don’t mind the cross or crucifix as a symbol of our faith, so long as we remember what it really points toward…” yep.

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  • Precious Kathy, how succinctly put! I hear your heart and find mine to be proclaiming and crying out for the same…if believers only knew how much they were loved, it would change EVERYTHING! And getting a glimpse of that truth for myself is too wonderful for words.
    Thank you, Kathy…my “sister heretic.”

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    • thanks, rebecca, for taking time to share. yeah, i do think it would change everything. we talk about the rock all of the time but so many feel like it’s always been shifting sand & can never quite get our footing. i don’t think that was ever the idea!

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  • I, for one, think you understand Jesus and the Gospel better than most. It’s an understanding of the heart. There are some people who attend numerous church “services”, Bible studies and theological discussions and are always on the lookout for heresy and then there are those who follow Jesus and love people in tangible ways. You fall in the second group. ‘Nuff said.

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    • Sam, I think that is one of those foundational transition realizations from religion to freedom….realizing it is far more about the heart than any theology. 😉

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      • Sounds to me like you’re making that transition, right? Just curious – in which camp, the religious or the free, have you felt closer to Jesus? In which have you been better able to express love for neighbor? Being able to answer those questions can bring about some major realizations, yes?

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      • yep, i always quote one of my spiritual direction instructors who says “the 18 inch journey from our head to our heart is the longest journey we’ll ever make.” i also think our systems have made it much more complicated than it ever needed to be!

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    • thanks for taking time to comment. i am glad to meet so many ones i hadn’t known before..

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  • You might want to read some Richard Rohr. He’s got a great way of navigating the territory that seems heretical but is actually just going further up further in. “Everything Belongs” gives a perspective on the water we swim in if we live in America and claim to be Christian. And there is a difference in our culture between being a Christian and following Jesus. 🙂

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    • oh he’s one of my all-time favorites and i was just sharing about paradox this saturday night at the refuge. i am so grateful for his prophetic words. thank you for reading and taking time to share.

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  • Kathy,

    One more reason I am no longer a Calvinist, the doctrine of total depravity. It allows us to dehumanize those who have not accepted our version of Christ. If we had to admit that people had some intrinsic good or value based solely on the fact that they are a precious, unique, image bearing creation of God then we actually have to start treating them like they have value. The trouble is that doing this a lot of work, and its also messy, and uncomfrtable. Yes, if loving people and treating them with respect and valuing them makes me a heretic, then yes, I too am a heretic.

    Love You,
    Your Brother
    FedEx
    President,
    Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry.

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      • yeah, i love fedex’s thoughts, too. thanks for taking time to comment, dominique.

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    • On that same journey, to re-learn the actual character of God as perfectly good and anti-evil at all times, and all the implications for that in seeing Him in what He has made …

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      • lots of us on a similar journey, looks different for all of us but i love the word “implications” and what we get to learn along the way, what our eyes and our hearts can be opened to.

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    • thank you my friend, i am so grateful for your voice and heart and how you share snippets of your journey here. it’s like what felix said earlier–it changes everything about how we treat others, ourselves, and God, too. and it shouldn’t really be heretical, honestly, that is kind of silly to me but it’s what a lot of the religious systems many have been in has created…

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    • Well said, FedEx. I have a friend who is a Calvinist, but our friendship is limited because he doesn’t have a heart for people like I expected that he would. He’s hard.

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      • Laurie,

        It is so sad that much of mainline Christianity has allowed theology to become a means of getting around Christ’s commands. Much like the Pharisees of Jesus time had made rules so they could appear to keep the law without actually following God’s commands. We fail to obey Jesus command to love others, and we justify ourselves with our theology. I am so greatful for people like Kathy who had allowed the two greatest commandments to inform all the rest of their theology.

        FedEx,
        President,
        Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

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  • Truth be heard, I would have completely walked away from the Christian faith altogether had our paths not intersected. So freaking grateful that you model a walk of follwing Jesus that is truly *worth* following. Watching you live a life of faith inspires, challenges, and reallllly humbles me.

    If you are a heretic, then I for sure want to be labled one too. Life in the trenches is absolutely no Kansas, and you are the absolute real deal. Yep, you are a heretic that continually, even daily, leads me into actually *wanting* to seek God. Can *never* escape that paradox. 😉

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    • no question, we’re not in kansas anymore 🙂 it’s all sort of silly, really, how non-heretical we really are, just people trying to live out this Jesus thing together as best we can but how against the grain the lack of “constraints” are for so many. wild and weird. glad we’re in the thick of it together.

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    • thanks for taking time comment. yeah for happy heretics who are learning to be comfortable in our own skin.

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  • Don’t feel bad. We’re all heretics from somebody else’s point of view. Some of us just accept it, that’s all. 🙂

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  • i just had an interesting conversation with someone on twitter about self-branding-as-heretic. i get it, if the idea is to question the labels people lob, to highlight the foolishness of drawing lines and begin to have the conversation of “what does it really mean to follow christ? what do we believe? where can we agree to disagree?”

    but, my heart is for unity in the church. i don’t want to paint Them as cold and oppressive while We have the generous (real?) “heretic” gospel. i loved your post at rachel’s and i’m with you on all of it, BUT…i’m not a heretic. there is only one gospel, right? One Jesus we follow? i want to call people (back) to him and believe with all that i am that there is common ground at the foot of the cross.

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    • I too love the heart behind trusting that there is common ground at the foot of the cross. I also believe that there is!
      I also think there is value in saying that I am a heretic, even if it is said with a wink. I think that self-branding-as-heretic is a mindset that releases us from the oppression of those who would call us that in a mean spirited way. It frees us from those who judge and condemn without the lovingkindness of Christ. It proactively protects our faith from harm, in some circumstances.
      Ironically, doing so also brings us closer to an actual “personal relationship with Jesus”. Because up to that point, we’re relying on everyone else to tell us what that must mean.
      That being said, I also have very great respect for the body of Christ-followers over the last 2000 years, and the decisions they have made collectively about the spirit of the faith. I think they have made crucially correct decisions about the Cannon, for the most part. Not perfect or to anyone’s exact liking, but plenty good enough. Looking back at this long journey of discernment helps us to “keep it between the lines” as we drive our “personal relationship with Jesus”.
      The best approach I’ve found is from the old Moravian Christians. Their motto is-
      In essentials, unity.
      In non-essentials, freedon.
      And in all things, Love.

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    • yeah, i saw that. and i totally agree with you that it’s so easy to just reverse the us and them. and that’s not what i’m after, either. i never dismiss that some people just see things very different from me. my point on this is that it’s utterly silly for any of these ideas to be “heretical”! but my experience has tended to be this, though, when it comes to some of these topics–we don’t know how to properly hold a space for our differences. instead of just respecting differences, there’s this need to throw in scripture and convince and try to discredit certain ideas based on “biblical truth.” when it came to my original post about insescure christians, i’m not saying this is what everyone should believe, i’m saying this is what i believe. and in most circles, it’s no big deal. but in some, it becomes this big nutty argument about doctrine and theological b.s. and that’s kind of my point. my favorite part of our community is holding a space for wide theological differences and practices and not molding them into some weird glob of nothingness but holding & respecting our differences and agreeing on love.

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  • Bless you for posting this blog. I was feeling a bit lonely, but now I realise I’m in good company… we can love Jesus without embracing “churchianity” and the attitudes within it. :-)))
    *doing the happy dance!*

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  • I often have that same feeling, Kathy – that “outsider” feeling. sometimes I feel like people are playing a game that I don’t understand or even want to hear about. I have gotten a fair amount of criticism lately (comes with the territory and no complaints really) but it makes me realise the truth of God and his calling and the good words. This is amazing truth for me, right now. Thank you for every word of it. I’ts good to find my tribe.

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    • thanks my lovely and wise and brave friend from afar. it always helps me to remember i’m not alone and we must listen to what God is stirring up in us and bravely go even when it means taking some hits. i never want to edit out of fear but rather continue to learn to be free and clear and live with the beauty and reality of our differences. but the only way to be strong enough to do that is to love and encourage each other to be brave. thank you.

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    • yeah, i am just joking about the label but t seems there are a lot of us out there who agree on some of these deeper things and come from all different places.

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  • It’s odd that the Bible supports your position. Heretics often are. Gen 5:1, after sin enters, we are still described as humanity created in God’s image. After the flood, Gen 9:6 describes humanity as being created in God’s image. 2 Cor 3:18, 4:6 & Col 2:9-10 both point us to this marvelous truth. Augustine’s hermeneutic of seeing all doctrine through the lens of loving God and loving the neighbor would serve us all.

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    • yep! that’s kind of my point, really, that the Bible has sometimes been hijacked by certain strong & powerful teachings that have lead people to believe there aren’t other ways to see it. thanks for taking time to share.

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  • Jesus was a heretic, so I think we are in good company. When confronted by the finger pointing Christians who take a verse or two to justify their practice of exclusion and hate I like to quote billy graham. When asked if homosexuality was a sin, he said:”it is God’s job to judge, the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and my job to love”. It’s funny how we all want to do God’s and the Holy Spirit’s job, when we can’t even do our own job. The bible may be inerrant, but we are fools to believe our interpretation is inerannt. Good post, kath.

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    • Karl Barth wrote that the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy was to lay a foundation other than Christ. It has always seemed to me that you, ultimately end up worshipping your own interpretation of the Bible.

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  • I have long felt like an outsider as well -for similar reasons. For other reasons as well. . .I like how you think for yourself and tackle hard issues . . .as a woman and mom (of 5! …like you!). . .I am not interested in “women’s ministry” as other women are and I can see you are into life and discussions about things that matter as I am – there’s more to a woman’s life than cookie exchanges and overpriced luncheons. . .

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  • History is full of ‘religions’ and the religious acting as enforcers of their own doctrines and laws.. and many those things stand in stark contrast to love I see described (1CO13, Jas1:27, Gal5:22).

    People were upset with our Lord for not enforcing their expectations either – so walking in the footsteps of our Great Heretic suits me as well.

    Well done.

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