Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Religious heretics

Yesterday I posted this thought on Facebook:

Taking the Bible at face value & obeying it will almost always make you a heretic to religious people.

I wanted to unpack a little bit what I was thinking when I wrote it.

First, we're a very religious society. While I totally oppose the concept that we in the United States have every been, are now, or should be in the future a "Christian" nation, there is little debate that we're one of the most religious societies on earth.

Second, religion has its ups and downs. We all have religious practices, to one degree or another, and those practices can have deep meaning and impact on our lives. They can also become places of pride, contention, and downright violence in proving who is right.

Third, religion has tended throughout history to be user and usee when it comes to political clout, power and influence. Religion, once it becomes the accepted practice, does not want to lose its influence, so it seeks to maintain the status quo and hold on to a position of power.

When the early church has no clout, no social capital, it lived on the margins of society and had its most incredible growth and impact EVER. The rise of the church in the first 300 years is nothing short of amazing. But in the 4th century, as the church became the institution of the social norm, it moved away from the margins and into the center. It became sluggish and dull, fat on the feeling of stability and power.

And so has it been for nearly 1700 years since.

Those who rise up and challenge the established religion, often by a humble return and obedience to the core passages of the Scriptures, are labelled as heretics because they challenge the position of power that the religious structures and leaders have long held.

I believe God opposes these positions of power, and challenges us instead to live on the margins, influencing society through acts of service to the quartet of the vulnerable, speaking prophetically to the thrones of power that seek only to maintain their place of favor, even at the cost of those most vulnerable. To love God and neighbor with such reckless abandon that it cannot be dismissed nor bought nor bribed.

That's the kind of heretic I want to be.

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