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    Entries in blogging (7)

    Monday
    Aug162010

    Comment Policy

    At this time, I don't get an overwhelming amount of comments.  But I have had to moderate and remove a few, so I felt that a comment policy is in order.  This is my blog, and therefore it is my space to manage.  It is my hope that this blog will develop over time to become a vibrant community for discussion, whether for those that share life in nearby proximity, or through the web as a space for conversation concerning important ideas and events.

    My policy can be reduced to one sentence: I reserve the right to remove any comment for any reason whatsoever.  If a comment is excessively inflammatory, malicious, or destructive, it will be removed.  If your comment is obviously spam, it will be removed.  If you insult, attack, or demean others who comment, your comments will be removed, or comments will be closed.  Final judgment on what constitutes inflammatory, degrading, or insulting speech is mine to make.

    In order to build up the community, I would ask that when the truth is spoken, that it be done so in love.  I ask that comments be cordial and respectful.  When a disagreement is present either with what I say, or with what another commenter has said, I ask that dissent be expressed irenically, rather than polemically.  If it is possible, I would like to establish the conversation space at this blog as one of peace.  I cannot do that without the assistance of others.

    Finally, if you subscribe to my blog through an RSS feed, through email, or through a blog reader, I'd ask that you leave a comment to say hello.  I'd like to have an idea who is reading.  If you have a blog, link to your space.  If you utilize Twitter, leave your handle, so I can connect with you in that way.  And if you've been reading my blog for a while, and have a topic you'd like to see me address, please indicate that in the feed.

    Thanks for reading, thanks for being respectful, and thanks for building up the community.

    Wednesday
    Mar032010

    Shrugging Off Heresy

    If someone calls you a heretic, do you just shrug it off?  Could you?

    Yesterday this thoughtful post from Julie Clawson made an appearance on the God's Politics blog, and with a little digging I found that it had appeared in mid-February here.  Julie Clawson is the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices, and a regular blogger.  Her writing style is passionate, and her delivery has force.  So far I've yet to find anything she has written dull or boring.  Even when I disagree, here prose is quite sharp.

    Clawson's post cited here engages the topic of heresy, and using Dan Brown's controversial novels The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code to set up her argument, she demonstrates how such works have done the Christian community the favor of calling into question our firmly held beliefs.  These books, though they contain misleading historical information and numerous jabs at Christian institutions and their theology, at the very least have reminded Christians that the task of apologetics is never through.  As Clawson points out, oftentimes the first people who need to re-examine or reevaluate their beliefs are not authors like Dan Brown, but the Christians who find such literature controversial and distasteful.  Like Clawson, I have been amazed by Christian leaders who systematically denounce works like The DaVinci Code without ever having read what they are denouncing.

    While Clawson's post includes many insightful critiques of how Christians handle controversial theologies or assertions made in popular literature, and challenges Christians to deeply consider how they evaluate their beliefs, this is not the central thrust of the article, nor the most important point.  The point is that she is tired of being called a heretic, and will no longer be listening to those lobbing those charges.  She doesn't care.  My guess is that there are people denouncing her theology, and she's suspicious they have never read her work.

    In her post, Clawson says that heresy, "has nothing to do with truth (as much as they accuse us postmodern[s] of abandoning truth). It has everything to do with toeing the line of a particular tradition."  She further asserts:

    Call it what you will – “orthodoxy” “historic Christianity” “biblical Christianity” – all it is is the box that you feel comfortable in and pledge allegiance to. People who look, think, and act like you are in and everyone else is out. And while I fully acknowledge the need for community and tradition and admit I have allegiances, when that box becomes a shield to defend against ever learning anything new or entering a conversation in order to grow, then I have no use for the box. So while I love and appreciate (to varying degrees) The Apostles’ Creed, Augustine, Martin Luther, Calvin, Barth, and McLaren, I’m not going to exchange my faith in the living transforming God in order to cement myself in their camps. I may be a heretical Barthian or C.S. Lewisian, but since that really isn’t the point of my faith, I no longer really care.

    The point here, of course, is that the focus of Clawson's faith is Ultimate Reality itself, the Living God, and her allegiance to that God is not entrapped within the system of any one particular theologian or one particular stream of the Christian faith.  But by placing distance between that point of focus and the history of the Christian tradition, I think Clawson understates how the Creeds and the best of Christian theological reflection carries a great deal of weight concerning how we think about the faith today.  The Holy Spirit has a history, and that history has been embodied by a people called Church.  You don't have to cement yourself in the tradition of one theologian or another to be considered "orthodox," but you do have to claim certain essentials of the Christian faith to avoid charges of heresy.  Tradition can be a box, and even a shield, that serves a good purpose.  Thus, we shouldn't say that all boxes should be tossed aside.  Some should be crawled inside as dwelling spaces where others can be invited to come in.

    In addition, I think the dichotomy that Clawson presents concerning the relationship between allegiance to a tradition and truth is false.  Being labeled as someone espousing heresy, contrary to Clawson's assertion, is about truth.  It is about denying the truth claims of a particular tradition, or at the very least forwarding an idea that threatens to undermine another central claim within it.  Heresy is a threat to the coherence and integrity of a community, and therefore must be named as such.  It may be the case that finding this label affixed to oneself is disturbing, and it may be valid to raise questions as to whether the claim is warranted, but that does not mean that it is not a valid move by an existing community.  Every community has orthodoxies, and when those orthodoxies are negated or denied, one places oneself outside of that community.  Clawson, by blasting those who section off persons who are in and others who are out, establishes a community where some are in and some are out.  That appears to be a foundation for a community that has an allegiance to at least one truth, that being that heresy has nothing to do with truth, and everything to do with allegiance to a community.  

    If someone calls me a heretic, I could not say that I do not care.  I would not ask, "So what?"  I'd be more inclined to ask, "How so?"  Having one's theology labeled as unorthodox, rightfully so, evokes an emotional reaction, most likely hurt, bitterness, disappointment, and perhaps even a bit of embarrassment.  Those reactions, predictably, can lead to defensiveness, apathy, or even rage.  Who wants to see their deeply held beliefs called in to question, especially when it may at first glance appear that such accusations might have warrant, revealing errors both minor and egregious?  I know I don't.  But if I have been labeled a heretic, as such, I'm in danger of being set apart from a community which I may need in order to be able to see, know, experience, and witness to the truth.  I cannot simply say that I do not care that others have labeled my thought heretical.  I have to come to terms with their claims.  If they are right, I must humble myself.  If they are wrong, I must move on, and pray that if, when moving on, I might find a community of people with whom I can follow after Christ, and who stand in accordance with the truth.  

    To stand alone, as a heretic, is a scary place to be, for the Christian faith is by nature communitarian.  If someone calls me a heretic, I will care.  They might be right.  And it becomes very difficult to know the one Christians claim as the Truth apart from others who claim allegiance to that Truth.

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