Heresy & Heretics

Arthur's Journal on God & Politics
What Does It Mean to be Christian in America?
A God of War
Apocalypse & End Times
Biblical Literalism
Christ Path
Conformity & Orthodoxy
Fear, Shame & Guilt
God & Politics
Goodness, Morality & Sin
Heresy & Heretics
History, Mystery & Doubt
Kindergarten Religion
Mental Spiritual Constructs
Mystical Christianity
Mythical Proportions
Passion of The Christ ...
Someone Else's Magic

evil personified

Heretics labeled evil by the popes who called for crusades against more than non-Christian heathens.

The "evil" of Gnosticism?

Disagreement with the authority of the RC Church and popes including the RC interpretation of the Bible.

Their fate?

The Inquisition.

The thinking behind that, particularly that of the Inquisitors themselves? Convictions that they were doing God's work and that Jesus approved.

Now that was evil personified.

Today, certain politicians want a return to their own interpretation of Biblical Law including capital punishment - stoning for example - for the man or woman caught in adultery.

The thinking behind that? Conviction that it's God's will and that Jesus approves.

That is also evil personified.

a temptation to question and doubt one's self as suggested by the church.

We really ought to clean our inner houses for precisely the reason that if we don't, the punitive God of literalism will. Heaven forbid that we do it for any other reason, perhaps such as a desire for living an upright life because it's the right thing to do.

Giving as some sort of faithfulness test as in "if you love God you will give to the Church" is in fact a temptation to question and doubt one's self as suggested by the church.

Giving purely out of a need to prove to others that you are as good as they engenders giving with a spirit of resentment. Personal giving for that reason - directly giving to someone in need because you have something to prove - runs the risk of your own reluctant giving (a giving you would not do for other reasons than prideful self-doubt) arousing a resentful spirit in the receiver of your "charity."

I refuse to throw the Book at you and continue authoring (Arthuring?) heretical content upon which apologists of all genre can foist their petards.

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters, Defenders of the Faith, Soldiers of the Crusade(s), Inquisitors and Fellow Heretics:

With fear and trepidation I write nakedly here before you in defense of my lack of teachings. But, in the tradition of famous ancient Jewish teachers, I ask you to gather here at my feet - in the accustomed manner - while I refuse to throw the Book at you and continue authoring (Arthuring?) heretical content upon which apologists of all genre can foist their petards.

Let us begin by renewing our vows to not toss buzzwords like "hate", "attack", "defend", "persecute", or any other quick-draw punch-lines that portray one point of view as "victim" while implying that an opposite point of view is invalid , not "Godly" and certainly full of rancor, hate, and unfair persecutorial attack.

All are welcome to sit at my feet and bespeak their wisdom while I ponder pontifications as to how best to engender wisdom in the lives of those who might want to encounter an array of opposing viewpoints upon which to ponder as part of a process of making up a mind.

I realize that like my my historical Jewish counterparts, among them the revered Gamaliel and Hillel, I and those who agree with me are probably outnumbered by a majority of Pharisaic moralists who claim to represent a base of true believers at a ratio of 1 to 59 million (see 11/02/04: Final Vote Tally), as has already been referenced previously in this particular thread. Millions agree, I am told.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of persecuting the majority against overwhelming blind-guide odds, I feel that you, my disciples and I must continue attempting to mislead the majority of our fellow American Christians by tempting them with the sin of critical thinking.

Or, since some cannot find my teachings in my voluminous 3-year high-fat/hight-carb career of liberal religious blather here, I must concede that teachings and opinion are often not the same things.

In this regard, I apologize to all those who - when I repeatedly have referred to Sermons on Mounts, Forgiving Fathers of Prodigal Sons, Good Samaritans, Lilies in Fields, Not judging so as not to be judged, and a historical teacher's God of Compassion - assumed I was endorsing the teachings of someone else when in reality I was not really teaching at all, merely expressing opinions.

Let us continue our pursuit of spiritual truth, ethical (oops, sorry) I mean, MORAL values and learning how to co-exist in a world where some want to be totally right so as to leave everyone else totally wrong - in the eyes of God, of course.

By questioning, I might be influencing others of less spiritual strength and causing them to lose their faith.

Although I left the LDS Church over ten years ago, in my early 20's I labored as a Mormon missionary. One of the fundamental propositions we made in support of the LDS version of reality was a challenge to those whom we proselyted. It went something like this:

"Once you have heard our message, we challenge you to pray and ask God if it is true. God will make the truth known to you and you will feel it inside."

Not a bad challenge if limited to the single act described above. However, the LDS then took the position that if you prayed to God and God made you to know something other than the truth they espouse, you didn't receive it from God, but from some other source. In other words, Mormons have the only truth that God will reveal to anybody.

As I grew older and began to dissent, one of the admonishments I received was that I should refrain from questioning the LDS version of a gospel of Christ. By questioning, I might be influencing others of less spiritual strength and causing them to lose their faith.

This never made sense to me as my own spiritual strength was something given me from God, not loaned to me by someone else inside or outside any church. It is also important that I do not portray myself as a wiser authority on God than anyone else.

The idea that I have power in and of myself to overrule God's influence in the life of someone else belittles God. As persons of faith, perhaps our faith is most tested when we are tempted to not trust God's processes. Like overbearing and over-protective parents, do we hover around someone else thinking we know more about what is spiritually best for them than God? Are we then failing to trust that God is at the helm?

This is not license to move about testing God by presuming to speak for Him and insert ourselves in between God and another soul. It also is not license to willfully decry the spirituality of anyone else as not equal to our own - AND - if we are not persons of faith, it is not license to go about tearing down religious attitudes in others.

For if we are not persons of faith, then why would we struggle to attack something we ourselves do not believe exists?

There are many Christians who are quite content to live in the simplest arenas of belief - who feel no need for deeper spiritual and mystical experience and have no hunger to come any closer to God than they are right now.

There are others who are so secure and established in a fixed and unchanging spiritual mode, that they truly are afraid of really exploring and testing what they really believe. In some cases, people like this will be critical if they encounter explorers, questioners and testers who are on a quest to come to know God as God knows them - in a highly personal and spiritual context.

Traditional formulas full of shoulds and should nots are like paved roads. There is much to see from the road, but you never know what meadows and mountains exist if you do not step off the road and make your own trail into a wilderness of opportunity.

An Argument
"There is nothing in scripture that remotely reflects your belief that Jesus came into the world to suggest that, 'I am God....and so are you.' "

Doesn't have to be. I treasure the Bible because it introduced and still sustains my spiritual practice. But the Bible does not have to authorize my understanding of Jesus. Nor do I have any desire to cite the Bible as the basis for what I've come to understand about Jesus.

"In fact this is the starting point of all heresy as revealed in the opening chapters of Genesis in the story of Adam and Eve."

Heresy only exists when divergency from orthodoxy is considered a crime. The Genesis story is not a recording of a literal event. It is a hymn and the more important knowledge from Genesis is why did the writers express Genesis in that manner?

"Equating yourself with Jesus and God is the ultimate end of your kind of folly."

Equating your own interpretation of the Bible as truth and mine as myth is an even more precarious kind of folly. Most myth is in reality another way of expressing truth.

"You would place your ideas, beliefs, and teachings on the same level of importance as those of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Thomas Jefferson declared that he himself was Christian in the only way he believed Jesus wanted believers to be Christian. I personally believe that the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and that humans also have the same status is an incredibly powerful and empowering message.

Restricting Jesus' divinity to a heavenly attribute truly diminishes and reduces spiritual power in being mortal. Extending Jesus' divinity into his actual mortal life extends the resurrection and all implied in a wonderful manner.

"You can phrase the belief in whatever educated format that suites you, but your teachings do not reflect the New Testament message that Jesus came into the world to save us from our true inner nature of rebellion."

That is not the New Testament message. It never was. That is why the issue of historical redaction of the scriptures to support a politically religious or religously political position is important. So long as we believe that your declaration is THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE message from the New Testament, we remain in spiritual bondage to orthodoxy at the cost of sustained spiritual ignorance.

"Teachings" are nothing more than expressed opinions that others must validate for themselves. You yourself have applied this process to my writings and have differed with my opinions.

If I were you I would not then label my opinions "teachings." You imply a kind of validation in doing so. Stick to words like heresy. That will get the knee-jerk reaction you want from spiritual innocents who might encounter these writings.

I disagree that our true inner nature is rebellion. Once again, in my opinion, the construct of a Judgmental God requiring obedience and commanding an army of humans against a supernatural evil is a false one. My experience of God is best described by the image of the Father of the Prodigal Son.

"Your message is perhaps the most extreme form of heresy available today because it is given apparently within a 'Christian' context. It belongs within the Unitarian religious construct, imo. At least in those churches, there is not the pretence of a conflicting belief in the truthfulness of the story of Jesus."

I confess that what I believe about Jesus the Man who became Jesus the Christ conflicts with that story of Jesus constructed and supported by Biblical literalists - the same literalists who behave in a manner that suggests that if their interpretation is wrong, all is lost.

The Episcopal Liturgy includes the Nicene Creed with which I strongly disagree. I propose the Nicene Creed as the traditional Jesus story in synopsis form as interpreted by biblical literalists. And yet, based on my own personal experience with God and Jesus, I can easily relate the essentials of the Nicene Creed to Jesus' compassionate mortal message.

The thrust of your contention with me seems to be that if my views do not reflect the "approved" interpretation of the New Testament, I should perhaps cease publishing my opinions rather than run around saying what I think as an intellectual and spiritual danger to minds too young to have yet completed their Christian literalist programming?

Wouldn't you really like to know exactly what the historical Gnostics believed rather than have the primary body of information about them consist of attacks of their enemies?

Wouldn't you really like to know exactly what the historical Gnostics believed rather than have the primary body of information about them consist of historical hysterical Catholic denunciations?

It's like trying to understand John Kerry by listening only to the Swift Boat Veterans.

One thing I understand is that the Gnostics considered the O.T. God the demiurge and an imposter.

The Fate of Heretics
National Christian Political activists and broadcast celebrities gnash their teeth almost daily trying to get many whose lives are otherwise prompted by Jesus of Nazareth to conform to human ignorance.
The self-appointed tell us
"My Jesus is not your Jesus. My Savior is not your Savior. I own the true redeemer and you can only call Him Savior & Redeemer if I agree with you. You can only call Jesus your friend if I agree with what you mean by that. You can only resist evil as I define evil. Any other resistance to an evil of your own perception is heresy and God will punish you for that and for not believing me."
And of course, the implied ...
"Me and God but not you. Ain't that right God?"
The very FIRST Christian Heretic
Christian literalists have been engaged for centuries in a continuing conflict with liberal-minded Christians who have included - in addition to scripture, to prayer and to tradition - the practice of reason in understanding God.
This historical debate has included torture and torment administered by authorities who made no bones about doing it all literally in the name of Christ;
a silliness of thought that remains manifest currently, typified by the blustering
“Blow them away in the name of the Lord,”
exhortation of one of Evangelical Christianity's most prominent celebrities
- Reverend Jerry Falwell.
Literalist Christians believe themselves subject to explicit and direct biblical verbiage that supposedly commands and instructs every aspect of human morality and behavior.
They remain Christian practitioners most blinded by assumption, basing their thinking and action on conformity-driven groupthink assumptions of who God is, what God is like, who Jesus is and what Jesus meant in his messages.
Quick to criticize those who openly recognize and admit a reluctance to judge others and make absolute bricks out of strawed down assumptions, literalists assume a God and Christ neither attractive nor benevolent - merely judgmental to a fault and obsessed with every nuance of human intimacy.

 Passion of the Christian: Literal Thinking and Violence Portrayed

This week America will have its long-anticipated opportunity to view The Passion of the Christ.
The film does not seem so much to be a presentation of the gospel according to Mel Gibson, but rather Mel’s graphic interpretation of the original Roman Catholic version of Christ’s passion. Christ's passion equates to His physical suffering while carrying out the redemptive sacrifice required by God.
I have no doubt that the presentation and feelings evoked by the film will reflect Gibson’s tremendous talent and skill in creating a visual portrayal that impacts our perceptions of the real agony of crucifixion. In this regard the industry's evolving ability to create a greater realism in film combined with Gibson's giftedness will succeed in presenting the Christian story in a manner entirely beyond previous efforts out of Hollywood.
And you know what? I consider this one of those “It’s about time!” moments when Hollywood uses its tremendous assets to actually convey something deep and meaningful that is part of our religious psyche.
I have always found myself moved by movies much more than any other medium of expression. Many movies have brought me to tears over the years. What kinds, you ask? Well, suffice to say, a good example was when Willie cleared the barrier and landed in open ocean.
Free Willie brought me to tears. The whispering of a spiritual truth – Willie's finding freedom by one death-defying leap of faith – is what moved me.
Many will and have already reacted to Mel’s movie in the same way. We’ve already seen news broadcasts in which The Passion of the Christ has prompted tears in folks, particularly macho males who never cry - who didn’t cry when they saw Free Willie - but were crying openly as they exited the theatre after viewing The Passion of the Christ.
How can one argue with that?
How can one resist the idea that the film will truly be the wonderful impetus for a renewed interest in Jesus, Christianity, spiritual thinking, morality and ethics that has evangelicals excited?
I grant you that vicariously and visually experiencing the intensity of Jesus’ suffering is a profound learning opportunity. However, I suggest also that understanding that He underwent his ordeal willingly is bound to evoke in us a sense of our sinfulness, ingratitude and need to plead with God for forgiveness.
I’m reminded of the closing scenes in the old film, The Cross and the Switchblade, where David Wilkerson's (played by Pat Boone) physical description of the suffering of the crucified Christ brings Nicky, the warlord of the Mau Maus, to tears.
In the Confession in our liturgical congregations we declare that we have sinned against God by what we have done and by what we have left undone. Gibson’s film will evoke that spiritual sense in us.
He has been quite candid that what his film attempts derives from his own religious perspective as one who is emphatically a traditional Catholic.
His tactic, however, is not a new Christian device. Fear, shame and guilt have been cornerstone motivational tools of clergy going back centuries and this is the part of Gibson’s current religious attitude with which I take issue.
The original Roman Catholic position of being the church founded by Jesus and extended through history by apostolic succession is something Mel obviously has accepted and still preaches (including an admission that his wife, who is Episcopal, is certainly a better person than himself but is still included with all non-Catholics who are going to hell.)
Such thinking then diminishes the magnificence and power of his current film portrayal, reducing it in effect to Mel’s own public worship of Jesus Christ from his traditional perspective. Non-Catholics who are moved to re-think their lives and spiritual attitude seem then to be relegated to mere moral and ethical improvement since, according to Mel, the ultimate achievement of the Christ – universal salvation - remains exclusively in the proprietary purview of the Roman Catholic Church.
This evidence of Gibson’s literal thinking reduces Christianity to the proprietary purview of both Catholic and non-Catholic fundamentalists who believe the Bible to be the only absolute truth of God, inerrant in its content and prophetic pronouncements. These literalists have been engaged for centuries in a continuing conflict with those liberal-minded Christians who have advocated, in addition to scripture, prayer and tradition, the practice of reason. This historical debate continues unabated.
Part of that history includes tortures and torment administered by authorities who made no bones about doing it all literally in the name of Christ.
In this light, while congratulating Mel Gibson on his marvelous filmmaking, I would then respond to his judgmental declarations about the Creator who commands everything as interpreted by historical Catholicism with the following request:
Mel, the film is wonderful and I think that you have captured your sense of historical reality in a fantastic manner. I think we are very much in need of more of your gift which may powerfully impact how we perceive and believe other elements of Christian history.
You’ve demonstrated ample skill with historical portrayals in other films such as Braveheart and The Patriot.
Please now consider a new historical movie that will certainly enhance and heighten our sense about the real suffering of Christian martyrs. In that way, we may more firmly grasp what it means to be true to the faith.
Please, sir, a movie about Southern France during the Crusades.
I’ve included below some background information that hopefully will illustrate what I believe you could clarify. Would it not be, in the spirit of your current film, an excellent sequel - perhaps entitled The Passion of the Christian?
Note the fine details from which graphically filmed reality might portray the truth.
By the way, if you do your job as well this time, the villains in this film against whom an audience might be enraged would not be the Jews.
No, not the Jews. Someone else:
"The Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition in Languedoc had established one dark, immutable axiom: To dedicate one’s life to a Christian creed outside the bounds of medieval orthodoxy was a capital crime. Only those who renounced the Cathar creed would be spared the flames of ecclesiastical justice.

"Bertrand Marty and his 200 companions had a fortnight to think over their stark choice: recant or burn. Not one of the Perfect came forward to beg mercy of Archbishop Amiel. They parceled out their meager belongings among their neighbors on the mountaintop and comforted their weeping relatives.

"As their time left on Earth dwindled each passing day, the men and women of the dualist faith steeled themselves for an awful death. From atop the walls of Montsegur, the archbishop’s men could be seen at work in a field far below, stacking a large enclosure with dry wood scavenged from the surrounding forests.

"On Sunday, March 13, ten days into the two-week wait, twenty-one credentes approached the Perfect and asked to be given the consolamentum. They too were willing to brave the fire. It was the most eloquent moment in the whole sad saga of Catharism, a testament to the devotion inspired by the holy men and women whose preaching had convulsed an era.

"Now, as they were on the threshold of death, twenty-one people stepped forward to join them. It was an act of defiance, solidarity, courage, and, in the end, faith. These companions of the last hour came from all stations of feudal society. Raymond of Pereille’s wife, Corba, and daughter, Esclarmonde, decided to leave their noble families for the timeless embrace of the Good. With them went four knights, six soldiers (two with their wives), two messengers, one squire, one crossbowman, one merchant, one peasant woman, and one lady.

"The Perfect of Montsegur administered the consolamentum to all of them and welcomed them into their ranks. They had three days of life remaining.

"The lugubrious procession of March 16, 1244, began in the early morning. It wound down the sinuous track leading from the summit to a clearing at the base of the hill. The 220 or so condemned walked past the last patches of snow on the brown winter grass until they reached a palisade of logs. Friend and enemy looked on.

"The leaders of the Cathar faith, barefoot and clad only in coarse robes, climbed the ladders propped up against the wooden walls. Groups of them were lashed together, their backs to the tall stakes sticking up from the colossal bier. At a sign from the archbishop, his men threw burning brands into the enclosure.

"The low murmur of prayers was overtaken by the crackling sound of flame, spreading underfoot, curing the first of the fiery twigs and setting the hems of garments alight. Within minutes, the crackling had become one great oceanic roar.

"By midmorning, a choking black nimbus billowed through the ravines and valleys leading from Montsegur. Shepherds on nearby hills would have seen it rise slowly, heavy with the stench of fear and pain and man’s inhumanity to God. The wind took the cloud and, as it had done so long ago at Beziers, lifted it high into the skies of Languedoc. The particles of smoke drifted and dispersed, then disappeared."

Stephen O’Shea- The Perfect Heresy

"Amaury responded to the question: ‘How shall we tell who are the heretics?’ with his now infamous answer that undoubtedly expressed the spirit of the Albigensian Crusade. ‘Kill them all, the Lord will know his own.’"

Tobias Churton- The Gnostics

The American Christian is a journal based in Bay Center, Washington. 
Copyright 2005-2009 The SwanDeer Project
Send all e-mail to aruger at gmail dot com