“So, Pam, you’ve been called a heretic, is that right?” asked the program host of OPB’s Think Out Loud radio show. “Yes,” I chuckled, “I have.”
Her question surprised me. Someone did there research! I cannot even remember if I ever blogged about that, about Ken Silva, the celebrated heresy hunter of Apprising Ministries,
outing me at his blog. It’s been about a year since Silva posted a criticism on his blog about an article I wrote for Off the Map:
I found out that Jesus loves pagans. He’s not offended by their beliefs of many deities or their outright rejection of him as the Son of God. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it, of the Gospel, to reconcile people to friendship with God? (Online source)
At least so says Pam Hodgeweide and other man-centered semi-pelagians in the emerging church. If the Lord allows I’ll get to Hodgewide another time, but for now I point out that she happens to a contributing writer for the very appropriately named Off The Map (OTM) whose co-founder and Executive Director is Jim Henderson:
(well, the heresy here is not what I wrote for OTM about pagans, but that Silva spelled my name wrong!)
Later, when a(blogger Mike Morrel was “outed” by Silva, I left this comment:
…it cracks me up. in some circles to be labeled the H word would inspire fear and trembling. but in other circles, people practically erupt with applause and whoo-hoo’s. It’s like a badge of merit. “Oh, someone’s calling me a heretic? Yes! This means I’m finally making waves!”
I saw someone at my local library wearing a t-shirt that said “Embrace your inner heretic.” The shirt was covered with names of people who’ve been accused of heresy over the centuries, like Joan of Arc, Jesus, Galileo, Martin Luther, etc…
Ok. Clearly the H word does not bother me or many others in the least. Especially since the practice of burning heretics at the stake was abandoned long ago. Thank God.
Silva has stopped by my blog and OTM’s blog a time or two. And though we obviously are far from agreeing with one another about doctrine and Christian practices, he has always conducted himself respectfully. He has, what I call, good blog manners. So with that in mind, I was dismayed to learn that his blog was pulled by his server due to a complaint by someone Silva criticized several years ago. The server demanded that Silva remove the article from his blog or else the whole blog would be shut down. Silva, refusing to be censored, began scrambling for a new server and refused to comply. Good for him. His voice is an important voice in the blogosphere and to shut him down just because one person felt defamed…which really, if you’re going to write books and such as the “defamed” person does then ya gotta expect some public criticisms of your message.
Oregon writer and blogger, Sally Stuart, rightly observes when she blogged:
There are serious implications here for all bloggers, regardless of what sort of blog they publish. Anyone who has a complaint about your views can claim that you have engaged in slander and the ISP Terms of Service usually allow for the companies to remove your website if you don’t take the material in question down. The First Amendment means nothing in these cases. ISP’s cannot and will not explore the claims of slander and simply notify bloggers to remove whatever is causing the problem. This opens the door for anyone to censor what a blogger writes online.
(you can read all about the mess at Silva’s new and uncensored site HERE)
Heretic. What is a heretic? Why does this word carry so much power? Dictionary.com defines heretic as this:
a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church; anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.
Yep. That pretty much nails me and a whole lotta people I know. I think we have more heretics among us than we realize. They’re hiding in the closet, like smoking Christians who hide their cigarettes when certain people around, many Christians hide some of their beliefs behind closed closet doors.
I had a conversation several months ago with a man who believes in universal reconciliation (that all shall ultimately be saved and none shall spend eternity damned to hell). In our conversation he told me that during his time at seminary he began his study of this perspective and wrote a paper about it. He consulted with several theology professors at his conservative seminary and was surprised to learn that some of them were also reconciliationists. These theologians did not publicly teach this position out of necessity : they didn’t want to lose their jobs. And why would this put their livlihood in jeapordy? Because in many theological circles it is considered heretical to embrace universal reconciliation.
In contrast, I am a happy heretic. I freely blog and speak about what I believe and put my hope in. (such as the fact that I am an unapologetic hopeful reconciliationist). I am not closeted up with my beliefs in the shadows. This blog is proof of that.
I am not a theologian. I am not a teacher. But I am a writer, a blogger, a thinker who likes to go off the grid into once forbidden places of Christian thought and spirituality. That’s what I do. There is no risk for me. No vocation that could be threatened by such adventures in faith.
For me, doctrinal error is not nearly as important as how I treat people and how I honor God in my life. Jesus summed up all the law, in other words, all doctrine, when he taught, Love the Lord with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor as well as yourself. Love, is the sum of the law. Love, is the sum of doctrine. There is no room for casting stones at people I am in disagreement with over doctrine. I cannot fault the heresy hunters who feel that it would be less than loving of them to sound the alarm, and for that, I gotta love them and see past their inflammatory rhetoric.
For me, the greatest heresy is to lead others away from friendship with God in the way that I live my life or treat others. If by my actions or words I inspire others to a decrease in faith in the goodness of the Lord, this, my friends, is what would break my heart and flood me with remorse.
But if by my words and my life I help others on their journey towards their father in heaven, well, heretic or not, I think I’m on the right track.
Heresy. I’d love to see the new heresies of the 21st century be more about practice rather than belief.