Posts Tagged ‘Heresy’


I’ve been watching the centrist-left leaning debate around the UCP Christmas message, shared some of my preliminary thoughts on my own site, and respected The Rev. Greenwood-Lee’s (Bishop-elect), which from the Anglican’s Via Media (middle way) path of theology taking into account the four footed stool was quick and enriching. The challenge being those who need to understand the message, sadly, would have dismissed as they do not believe in the ordination of women to senior leadership roles. But I am digressing on the points as to why I have decided to way in again as it is taking on the form of discussion of the Dominionist Christendom drive to craft a theocracy in Alberta. Which is partly true, and partly true that there are many overthinking the act (Read about the Heresy here).

See, the Via Media is an apt Latin phrase for understanding what is happening and is everyone who professes a belief in Christ or Christianity apart of this? Well, no. But there is complicity if we who are not remain silent and do not use our own learned lens to speak out when things are used to abuse. I have a rather winding road of involvement within the Christianities (yes, long term readers will understand the term as there is a multiplicity of denominations, traditions, and teachings out there with Brother Jesus at the core, but the living out is different), and have been involved with what used to be known as State Churches (that is those that were formed in the Reformation or pre-Reformation tied to political power that brought us heresy such as the Doctrine of Discovery, I also point you to the great work in refuting this heresy by Knox Presbyterian Calgary minister Rev. Mark Tremblay). It is a balance of voices and encouraging voices to become active within their expertise area, a mosaic (much like Canada is) so that there is voices/teachers that can speak into each situation with the message.

This is the challenge that happens in the divisive divide that exists currently within Alberta politics. What Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks equates to dualism, for my side to be right, the other side must be complete evil incarnate and there is no middle ground (I encourage you to explore his writings if you want to understand a bit more the concepts emerging and emergent around the dualism of Old & New Testaments and the systematic (and mostly unknown to those in the pews) anti-Semitism). Why does dualism and anti-Semitism matter? Simple, it is what is being pointed towards the usage of the Isaiah quote within the Christmas Message.

Here is the thing, as someone who has been involved in spiritual formation, confirmation, membership education, sacrament preparation, monastic orders, higher Christian education from fundamentalist to progressive, and over 20 years involved in ministry across the Christianities, sadly at this point in history one thing is true: There is a religious illiteracy amongst many. That means, they do not explore outside of what is really explore on a Sunday morning, for those that do, they will usually become involved in teaching roles, and for others leadership, but as with many non-profits, leadership does not always default to the most qualified, but rather to those with the longest tenure or donation power. Not judging this system, for each organization must live and survive (some thrive). This is to share that throwing out terms such as anti-Semitic is not helpful in the discourse of trying to show wrongdoing. For even the hyper-fundamentalist-dominionism (the perhaps 5-10% of pew sitters) are also those that will blindly support the nation state of Israel, so do not see themselves as anti-Semitic (using the Hebrew Bible-nee Old Testament-scriptures to show a deficient state, or the supremacy of Christendom feeds into dualistic anti-Semitism, a rather hard concept to understand or think through). For those that are not on the more progressive thinking scale, they can begin to understand, but will still use these terms of Old & New Testament, or even use these passages in their Lectionary Cycle that may or may not be used in such a way, yet, the way it is designed is implication.

Exploring what one can take from the Government's Christmas Meme

So even progressives may balk at the term.

And what does it leave between the 5-10% on each extreme, 80% that were simply taught that the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Jesus as Messiah, and do not see it as wrong, or it is never even touched upon. Throwing down the Anti-Semitic label, or how wrong it is to use, what is heard by those 80%?

Some say, it should be a call to learn and change, yet we are in a flux of massive societal change, and core beliefs are the hardest to move, long lasting learnings the hardest to jettison. What is heard is a message of inhospitality. See, this is the other personal aspect to touch upon in this post, how to cultivate, and decimate the Religious Right in Canada (I point you to The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald to explore the origin of this force in Canada). For my own life-long political journey of a political mosaic or rather all the colours of our parties and independent rainbows, I have found that those on the extremes are very unwelcoming to the religious. Those on the left, try to find ways to push you out through screening questions (you must answer with the exact words they want, or it becomes a debate that makes them uncomfortable), for those on the right that want to tap into the Religious Right of you, you must answer with the exact words of screening questions of they act to push you out (and answers that diverge but reflect living your faith makes them uncomfortable). Politically I can function more left than socialist, but truly it is through living my faith, and wrestling to understand the story and teaching from Brother Jesus in the Christian Testament (Nee New Testament, note the Anti-Semitism/dualism from those old labels?) that brings me to understanding and exploring the research, data, and the qualitative (that is the story/narrative of those impacted) to reach my decisions. Working within the parties in-between, there is discomfort with religion, because not realizing it, their approach to religion creates a gulf that makes one who is not ready to bear the brunt of a less chaotic storm, begin to think what they were told on the Left is true. If you want to believe the “myths” then the Conservatives are where you belong.

Note, what happens, when a fully engaged conversation that begins with unpacking what terms mean, examples of the rationale of why (moving beyond the 280-character limit) and ideological screenings creates? In the extreme, two instances: an apathetic religious who chooses not to be active at all, or will simply default to what the most active will tell them which is the Christian choice is on the right (and yes in Alberta I have even heard this in left leaning churches from the church board chair)—please note this is anecdotal, and shaped by my experience in Alberta, and having travelled within Canada’s religious and political world I do note it is not this simple, or black and white outside our rusted Bible Belt of a province.

Now, what have I discovered?

One being a bit hard-headed in asserting you space in the political world does help, but it is tiring, and you will be left battered (one of the reasons of pulling back on my end). But I have also found entering the work of discipleship with religious works well:

  1. This is where a non-partisan movement can cultivate a religious mentorship/think tank almost model.
  2. Where folks from the mosaic of Canada can come together and create resources, host seminars and courses, coffee/tea klatches for discussion (borrowing from the history and present of how shift happens).
  3. Take time to share infographics to full party platforms within these circles but do it as a blind study. Removing the party brands allows for them to wrestle with their belief systems and what it means in the public realm.
  4. Take time to move individuals beyond the smokescreen issues to what truly matters in their belief system, and how it can best be worked out.
  5. Understand when engaging in discussion to know which are key topics that can activate and it may not be what you realize, there is a passion to end sex trafficking, for ending poverty yet we allow the “Dominionist” to shape the conversation, re-take the conversation.
  6. Understand that in mentoring and connection, it is important to share a common understanding framework to begin therefore it is important to cultivate a healthy belonging space for religious discussion for those that need it to engage (but also have a stream where it is not necessary).

It is simple to break the back if you will of the heresy driving politics in Alberta. It begins with connection-discipleship-discussion-belonging. Cultivating a healthy space of equipping. This is what needs to be objectively thought through with the negligent messaging of our current governance.

The question is whether or not the divided political landscape of Alberta will allow the empty prairie of the middle to be heard and actualized?


Image result for broken coffee potI am used to diverging theologies and belief systems within the Christianities. I have sat through many a sermon and/or liturgy I do not agree with and discourse about it freely. It is part of being a thinking and feeling believer. It is about knowing that just because words are put forth to be recited in unison, one still needs  reflect on the words and if they believe them before repeating them.

I also am the first to admit when it comes to sermons, I love the sermonette, give me 10 solid minutes of deep thought and application, with good music, extended learning let it happen in a raucus bible-theology study with kids playing, coffee flowing. Unless it is a contemplative service. But that is an aside on taste, showing that we all exist differently for there is the person that loves the extended play sermons as Sunday may be there only time to get to church. But I am rambling.

Part of the Liturgy (work of the people) in Mainline and Catholic-Orthodox churches, is a prayer of confession, most are phrased something like this:

Prayer of Confession

When we recall all that you are for us,

we confess to you who we have been, trusting your grace:

 God of compassion,

we confess that we prefer darkness to light,

and our own plans to your purposes.

We shrink from costly discipleship

and seek cheap grace. 

Forgive our fleeting enthusiasms and shallow commitments.

Guide us always

so that we might live in your glorious presence

and follow the way of your Son now and always.

(From the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s Lent 2 2019 Order of Service).

But we know in liturgy planning when it is not set ala Anglican or Roman Catholic, that those presiding/preaching can craft their own or use other resources. It is part of Protestantism and gives a connection to the people in the pews. It can also lead to moments of awkward silence and fading voices when one decides to be bold or risk with their prayers. It can happen on any end of the theological spectrum, but this past Sunday it was jarring for me, and many of the younger ones in the pews to hear our Elders praying along by rote the two screens of this prayer from 1996, Pastor Joe Wright’s Prayer to the Senate of Kansas. It is a very American centered prayer, and out of the Religious Right. Some will read the words and say it sounds like the one above, but the one above reflects inwardly to our own journey, this one attacks specific groups. As well, in my years of researching hate groups and extremists grounded in religion, it sadly sounds like something out of a Southern Alberta Klan rally of the time. The italics inserted are scriptures of my own rebuttal. The still small voice of the Holy Mystery (Spirit) resonates strongly with me in anger to the words, and to reflect on what the Kingdom means in 2019 during this time of Lent:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. (so far pretty Kosher, could sound like the woes from Gospel of Luke 6’s Sermon on the Plains).
We confess:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism. (I point you to Matthew 23 when Jesus calls out the Scribes and Pharisees. It is not about Sola Scripture, it is about understanding the world we live in. Also as the preacher and believer (which these passages are geared to now) it is about understanding that we need to be true to our faith and not using it for leverage. Pluralism is nothing new, it is what happens in a world of people, within the church there are multitudes or you wind up with lemmings. The spiritual teachings of Jesus were not to develop Lemmings, neither were his disciples’ that came after.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. (John 4 The Samaritan Woman at the Well, those seen as actual traitors to the nation of Israel under occupation, and yet here is Jesus sitting, conversing, and being with her authentically…oh yeah multi-culturalism oh so evil. The 10 Commandments acknowledge other deities, what it points to is the supremacy of the river that is YHWH that the other wells are fed by).

No photo description available.We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle. (Ah 1996, the year of death threats when I wrote in Calgary, AB in support of equal marriage. The buzz words are all here to attack the LGBTTQ2+ brothers and sisters, or those that shun traditional marriage…but what is traditional marriage in the Bible? We have examples with David of domestic violence, of love of Jonathan, with Jesus we have beliefs ranging from celibacy to marriage, Peter was married, Paul was not, in the Hebrew Bible Abraham had multiple wives…but wait how did Jesus sum up the entire Law and the Prophets: Matthew 22:34-40

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. (Can’t argue this one living in Alberta. We have normalized addictions as a means to support non-profits, schools and hospitals. It goes against what the original Social Gospellers and So-Cons in the CCF and Social Credit stood for in bringing us public education, universal health care, and government entitlements–yes all sides of the theological spectrum can sit down and work together to build a better world, it is a beauty of Multi-culturalism and pluralism).
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. (There is more than 2000 verses in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament about care for and provision for the poor. In Acts of the Apostles everything was kept in common, in the Gospels the women worked so the men could teach, to an outside eye these men appeared lazy. And dang it then there’s the Sermon on the Mount teaching about the speck and log in eyes. Government entitlements and safety nets were designed to support the least of these in times of need, they are there and paid in to by a society that states we value all for their inherent worth. One of those ideals from the teachings of a schmuck out of Nazareth)
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. (I am putting these two around abortion together, in the USA it is a hot button issue because it is a law issue. In the Commonwealth nations it is a medical procedure. Want to point out in one breath you cannot call someone on welfare lazy, and then lambast a woman with no options for abortion if you will not provide for her. A true believer would not be attacking and defending Jesus is with both, they would be building a world where all life is honoured from conception to death. They would also stand with those making hard decisions, and be compassionate to them. They would also believe in gun control, and that taking of any life whether shooting, war or death penalty is wrong. Yes, I am going to cop out and point to the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7 ). 
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. (This bullocks comes from Proverbs 12:34, spare the rod and spoil the child. It also led to such domestic discipline rods as “rule of thumb” you could use any rod to beat wife or child as long as it was not thicker than your thumb. Jesus commanded us to let the children come to him, and to keep that youthful spirit of curiousity. He commanded us to let them be heard. All these things were honouring and nurturing inherent self-worth and self-esteem. Anything else put out there is a heresy (and I have had this word lobbed at me enough to be comfortable lobbing it back).
We have abused power and called it politics. (In an address to a State Legislature this term makes sense. But a more Gospel centric viewpoint that honours how Jesus spoke about Empire and Sanhedrin would be we have abused power and called it leadership, finance, politics and religion…this is skirting one’s own inward introspection, and not rending onto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s).
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. (Coveting is a Big 10, it is also covered in the Sermon on the Mount by pointing out not storing up treasures on Earth. That is that the intangibles of life are what give it value not the things. Ambition though is not always tied to what your neighbour has and creates a false dichotomy).
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. (I love how he does not attack Freedom of Speech, but rather the Canadian Freedom of Expression. What was the Pastor trying to get at here? Riding a 1990’s hobby horse of My sin is better than yours more than likely. What is missed is a riskier call out against hate, and the need for Love. The core of the Gospel, but that would mean admitting the us-them mentality that already existed in USA politics of the time, and religion (and that which is trying to get a beachhead in Canada).
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. (Which is the Gospel message, and reinforced in the Epistles. The throwing off of the caste systems, the constant asking of why do we do that? How do we draw the circle wider? How do we belong? The affront of the miracles of Jesus was that he forced the community to accept those they had cast out, those they had placed the “I am not as bad as them for x,y,z”. Enlightenment is moving beyond the letter of the rules, to the soul and understanding that we are all created in the Image of the Holy Mystery, and have the spark of cosmic dust and Holy Breath that gave us all life and all of Creation).
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the Name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. (I just question how a nation that extols separation of Church and State has such a statement within their hallowed halls?)
Amen.(Amen means essentially and so it is. I would challenge with any prayer, by rote or repeated, it is on the conscience of each believer for we are thinking and feeling whole beings).

Lent is the journey of drawing nearer and more intimately with the Source of all that is, was and ever will be. It goes beyond just a purge of a sin list, but into a practice of life that allows for a new world to be created based on the greatest gift of all– Love.

It was that teaching that led the Political and Religious authorities to execute Jesus of Nazareth on a Dark Friday, and on a rising sun Sunday for the Universe to say “Nu-uh” to the verdict as new life was born.

Step into the wilderness, journey to the darkness, and await the new light. Be present each step along the way to see what awaits.

Patience will be rewarded.

Your Lenten chuckle, cause laughter heals and teaches:

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Captain Jonathan Archer These people you’re fighting – what makes them heretics?

Yarrick We believe the Makers created the Chosen Realm in nine days. They believe it took ten.

Captain Jonathan Archer [scoffs]  For that you’ve been at war for over a century?

 -(Star Trek Enterprise “Broken Realm” Episode, 2004)

It is funny, not ha ha, but sad irony that the Christianities have spent so many centuries rooting out heretics and executing them. I state this from the obvious, even with what was kept in “canon” is the story of a movement that included many who did not belong, and had different views expressed within (tax collectors; cortezans; labourers; zealots; persons with disabilities; Samaritans—in the ancient world quite a motley crew). The crew brought their own understanding, language and beliefs into the movement of transfigurement.

Even that moment had Jesus inner circle upon seeing Moses and Elijah respond with making shrines, not seeing what should have been seen in the moment. Falling back upon the familiar. From Jesus’ execution, to the grand nu-uh to the Imperial-religious powers, to the breathe that shattered false barriers to bring belonging…a new wave had begun. One that for its first almost 300 years was quite diverse in understandings, in what was brought into, and in standing its ground when religious authorities made the call to cast them out of the Synagogues. That is when two monotheist religions stared at each other, and one was told to conform to what was “traditionally acceptable” and what was not. How did the early adopters respond? Some thought of giving in, but truly they realized what was at stake, the ability to grow, change and adapt to what they experienced.

Thomas Cranmer almost 1200 years after Constantine brought the same idea forward during the Reformation, and the creation of the Book of Common Prayer. It was the Reformation that brought the stories of God and her people to the language of the people, but also brought creation where both the cleric and people’s words of worship could now be known by all. His intent was not for a static unmoving, unchanging liturgy (Latin for work of the people) but a dynamic creation that would shift and change with the communities and people, and how they came to understand the Holy Mystery that had created. The teachings of Brother Jesus, and the cosmic love that bound it all together.

Now some may say this sounds highly Catholic or Anglican. Yet, I challenge you, does your spiritual gathering have a rhythm for prayer or service? That is a liturgy. Plain and simple. From the Reformation until the early 21st century struggles around this happened through many movements, as the traditionalist/fundamentalist wanted to keep it static because of tradition and that God did not change; while the progressive/fundamentalist (a fundamentalist can understand things both ways depending where they place the emphasis) pushed boundaries, let movement in, different music, open up of prayers, social movements, challenging powers and principalities, and language- how beautiful and transformative was the language changes as structures were broken down and we began to understand what our genesis was from.

It was a reminder of the Indigenous groups under the Roman Empire that had converted either by force, or shrewdness (the Norse Chieftains understanding the control that could be given to them under monotheism) …also a reconciliation work for the damage done of further exploration and passive/active genocides.

What also was celebrated was a full encompassing of the stories of God. Understanding the Gospels were not only the four in the canonical bible, but were more, and each person was crafting their own through the life lived out of their beliefs. Also, though a deeper understanding of the words used for understanding the Holy Mystery. Yes, Trinitarian language (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) existed within the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testaments, but it was a belief structure pulled from an allusion to this plausibility. What also existed within the texts was poetic, metaphorical, anthropological, historical, animist, psychological, sociological and many other forms of understanding the Holy.

Language was changing. Liturgies were experimenting. There was a revival happening.

The powers to be were not happy and attempted to clamp down. Sadly, some took the “threats” seriously, and like those in the Christian Testament stories when challenged folded under the pressure. Some took their lumps and spun out continuing growth, and some continue to exist under the guise of language and linguistic gymnastics.

Yet here we are celebrating a Sunday. A liturgical moment. Created by the people, as part of the work of the people. Part of community building. For some, it holds significance, for others being there and saying the words is a hypocrisy. Yet both claim the spirituality of Brother Jesus, and live a life for the better out of their heart held beliefs. The challenge before us is one of true authenticity. Moving beyond the entrapment of language as the beating stick, or as the opening quote reminds us—how much blood has been shed over 9 or 10 days?

In the Christianities how much blood has been shed over who holds the power to speak the right words/proof texts of the Creator?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

-Matthew 25:31-40 (English Standard Bible)

When actions transcend words, and are what shapes our lives, then what does the Liturgy become? Does 9 or 10 matter? Or the words used to express our relationships of love with Creator, teacher and neighbour?

When love reigns… how are you and your community transfigured?