Call Them What They Are: Heretics

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Current Affairs

So, when is it going to be acceptable to call them “heretics?”

By “them” I’m referring to the might-is-right, me-first, prosperity-focused, gun-toting, Muslim-hating, purveyors of right-wing-talking-points-as-Gospel crowd.

You know. The ones who believe Trump – a thrice married man with wandering hands and a foul mouth – was “God’s choice.” The ones who reflexively defend the State of Israel even when they completely forsake 3,000 years of Jewish teaching through unconscionable policies towards Palestinians. The ones who would rather keep refugees out of our country – even women and children – when not one refugee has committed even a single act of terror on American soil.

When can we call them heretics?

Because they are.

They might call themselves “Christian.” They might have large “ministries” that have global reach. They might have “churches” or “Christian” universities. They might run otherwise perfectly fine international relief organizations.

They also might believe in the Trinity, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and fervently proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But, just because they might pass a basic doctrine test, they completely and totally forsake everything the Bible ever said about mercy, grace, concern for widows, orphans, and strangers, sacrificial love, and judgement of others.

Here, the scion of the great Billy Graham promotes a completely safe and selfish vision of our faith. Here, Franklin Graham whistles by the refugees who are lying in a ditch by the side of the road, forsaking any sense of sacrificial service to those in need.

Greater life has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Forget the fact that refugees in America have been found to be no threat. Forget the fact that security experts have said that specifically denying Muslims entry into our country is exactly what ISIS wants to highlight in their recruitment propaganda.

Forget all of that. It’s expressly against the teachings of Jesus, AND presented by a “Christian” leader.

Heresy.

I mean, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. But, the Sermon on the Mount comes to mind: Blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers. Anointing a culture of violence is antithetical to the faith espoused by the Prince of Peace, the one who tells us to pray for those who persecute us. The one who says if they take one cloak from us, we should give them the other.

[While writing this article, I grabbed a tweet from Jerry Falwell Jr., criticizing Nordstroms for succumbing to pressure from “liberals” and dropping her clothing line. In the few minutes between grabbing the tweet, and posting this article, Falwell had deleted the tweet.]

I’m sure there are “liberal” Christians who thought Obama walked on water, and could do no wrong, and that misses the mark too. We simply cannot conflate “real” Christian values towards one side of the political spectrum, and demonize the other (Whichever one we happen to be on). And, we cannot baptize a presidential administration, or political party and defend their every action and position from the pulpit or on Twitter.

To do so is to forsake Jesus. And that, is heresy. Or, if it’s not heresy, then I don’t know what that word means anymore.

The emerging American “Christianity” bears strikingly little resemblance to the faith that Jesus taught. Or, that the Torah teaches. Or, that the prophets cried out.

We can argue doctrine or theology. We can have differences in our approach to sexuality, worship styles, or whether we choose to employ Lucite pulpits. There are many things that we can agree to disagree on. We can even disagree on what’s important, central, and necessary.

But, when you so divorce yourself from the basic teachings and example of Jesus, then you become unmoored from anything that can even loosely be called “Christian.”

It really isn’t enough to believe that Jesus died for your sins, if you discount everything Jesus said prior to his death on the cross. One of my favorite priests, Gray Temple, once said that “Jesus is not merely a hematological function.” He bled for us, but he also taught us.

He taught us that the meek inherit the earth. That we are not to judge the speck in someone else’s eye lest we miss the plank in our own eye. He taught us to love, unconditionally. And to love our neighbor – which includes everyone on the face of the earth. He even taught us to love our enemies. He taught us to welcome the stranger, and feed the hungry. He told us to be like the one who jumps into the ditch to save the one in need, at the expense of our own comfort and safety. He taught us to turn the other cheek, and not retaliate upon the one who strikes us.

If the faith we are preaching and proclaiming doesn’t resemble these teachings, that’s fine. It’s a free country. You can do what you want.

Just don’t call your thing “Christian.”

And the rest of us should call it what it is: heresy.

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella