I am a heretic.
This isn’t perhaps such news to some of you. I’ve been called one before, by people who meant it, and it was a painful experience.
When my church, the First Baptist Church of Berkeley decided to become a Welcoming and Affirming congregation, in the early 1990’s, it lead to direct accusations of heresy. I was on the board of deacons then, and I stood shoulder to shoulder with the leadership of my church and we were called that together. I know my family and friends there helped shield me from the worst of those accusations and the accompanying hateful speech, energies and even prayers of harm directed towards us. In part, because they would have shielded anyone they could, but also, I was a teenager still.
Even with my church running interference, I still felt the hurt of being called a heretic. The actions of the larger institutions of my denomination at that time led to a prolonged skepticism (to put it graciously) towards organized religious bodies that I still have not managed to put away. I say this now as a student in a seminary run by that same denomination, with the intent to be a pastor within that denomination.
Part of the way I bounced back from the hurt done to me by being called a heretic was to own the title. You could call it taking back, you can call it naming and owning the demon, whatever… I have forcefully, gleefully and sometimes even as a necessity claimed the title of heretic. And humor helps, even when it feels a bit too close to the truth: Emo Philips Heretic.
Watch that to the end. It’s worth it. Thanks Emo.
I have also flinched away from the title, and sometimes I still do. The hurt dealt by the word has ramifications, and I still haven’t completely put away the pain.
But then Rev. Gina Pond started her podcast. This Week In Heresy has been an amazing and exciting podcast to follow. Comprised of roughly hour long interviews with people who some would consider heretics, it works to take in Christian, wiccan, pagan, secular, atheistic and other voices. It may have helped that I’d met the first four or five guests and Gina was a friend, but mostly I think I needed the amazing example that Gina provided in powerfully, honestly and cheerfully showing that we NEED heretics among us. Without the heretical, and near heretical, we wouldn’t have a Pope proclaiming liberation theology. We wouldn’t have a Protestant reformation. Heck, being a follower of Christ was actively considered a heresy by the man who perescuted it most fervently – until he too became a heretic to follow the Nazarene’s teachings and ideas.
And now Gina has had me on her wonderful podcast. I can’t thank her enough for doing this amazing ministry. I am honored to be among the people she has chosen to be part of This Week In Heresy. You can find my episode here: TWIH Episode 58.
Now I can not only say I’m a heretic, I’ve got the audio to prove it.