Playing the Heretic Card

Playing the Heretic Card

This time popular author Jen Hatmaker has thrown the white evangelical community into a frenzy with her recent interview affirming gay marriage. She must have prepared for this, but the fall out has been brutal. Jen has been torn apart and demeaned.

She has been told she needs to pray and read her Bible more until she comes around (forget that there is Biblical scholarship and a growing number of Christians representing her point of view). She’s been told she’s being fooled and should go back to being the “HGTV Lady” (high-five to sexism—oh, poor Eve). And as the ultimate badge of honor for heretics, Lifeway has pulled her books from their shelves. I’m willing to bet that many other well-known Christian public figures share her view, but they don’t want to risk losing their livelihood.

This is the perfect example of why I’ve preferred to keep my opinions to myself. I’ve been told my entire adult life that my convictions are not valid. Is it any wonder that I struggle to trust the voice of God in my life? What happens when something I feel deeply convicted about conflicts with something my pastor says? Growing up in the church I was told that I had direct access to God and could hear his voice, but does it only go so far? Of course, I was taught if God’s voice is telling you something contrary to the Bible (e.g., kill someone), then it shouldn’t be trusted. But there’s the rub. There’s a total lack of willingness to dialogue about what the Bible says, and even worse, we seem to be able to use the Bible to justify just about any kind of behavior.

I will never forget when John Piper tweeted, “Farewell, Rob Bell” after he published his book Love Wins. It shook me to see someone so flippantly dismissed from the church for wanting to start a dialogue about the doctrine of Hell and the afterlife.  Knowing stories like this, when we feel convicted in a certain way but loud voices outside are speaking out strongly in opposition to our convictions, our choices are few.

  1. Speak out from our deep convictions and risk being labeled as a heretic and dragged through the mud, losing friends and followers along the way.
  2. Distrust our own inner convictions because someone in authority is saying otherwise. I understand the value of submitting to spiritual authority, but this can lead to a sheep mentality and in some cases spiritual abuse. I believe something just because someone told me so and I will toe the line till the day I die. It creates surface understanding of our faith, a lack of self-confidence, and the inability to trust the Holy Spirit’s voice in our lives.
  3. Go underground with our opinions. We can stay in a place that preaches contrary to what we believe, but the cost is our splintered soul. This way of living is unsustainable in the long run and leads to great unhealth.
  4. Walk away. This is what I talked about in my three part series—we throw the baby out with the bath water. They say I have to believe that, but I don’t, so I guess I don’t belong here. This is what is happening. The people who love the church so much and will stick to their orthodoxy till the day they die—they’re killing the church. If everyone in my generation leaves the church, there will be no church in the next generation.

Church, we’ve got to do better than this. Since when has the fruit of the spirit been defined by our doctrine? We’ve got to take the long view of history. Again, can we create just a tad more spaciousness here for a difference of opinion or interpretation? Let’s remember that not too long ago our very churches were endorsing and fighting for the ownership of slaves. Let’s remember that Jesus himself was labeled as a heretic for healing on the Sabbath, claiming to be God, and declaring that salvation was not only for the Jews.

Church, what are we so afraid of? Why are we so threatened by ideas that are different from our own? We do our children a disservice by not teaching them that other people might believe differently than us. This is not how the world operates. It’s shocking when we step outside and realize that other people have different views of the world. We are utterly unprepared to face that reality. If all truth is God’s truth, then it is inherent no matter what “heresies” we are exposed to. My prayer is for less reactivity in our conversations, less attachment to our views on the minor league issues, and more room for love, grace, and peace.

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