“If heresy means questioning orthodoxy, then it is not only our right but our duty.
The fire of consciousness in our heads is a gift that is only honored by radical honesty and by full expression. To clip the wings of reason so that it will grow placid in its official cage is the true heresy. To claim that one group has captured the infinite into its sect, and the mystery into its creed, is that not the true heresy?
The more we love our sect, the more we must confront its arrogance. The orthodox might as well try to fit the sun into a lantern than claim the infinite mystery has been captured by them alone.”
Jim Rigby posted this just a few days ago and it made me laugh because for a long time I had an email and blog entitled Heresy Girl. That was back in my early to mid 30′s and I chose the name in part because I just liked how it sounded. It’s likely though, that there was rarely a time when I wasn’t questioning orthodoxy, at least ever since my baptismal minister told me all Jews were going to hell, something I questioned him on since our neighbors, very lovely people, were Jewish. I rejected that at 9 and still do.
The thing is about heresy is that you actually need to know some orthodoxy. I can’t say that my religious upbringing was thorough or strict. Mostly, I went to Presbyterian Churches from birth through middle school, until I fell into a two year stint at Emmanuel Episcopal in Athens, GA. Even that was a pretty liberal hippie experience with a strong dose of Buddhist youth group, and boys I wanted to chase, all while my mother was exploring Shirley MaClain-ian esoteric paths eastwards.
During my 20′s and 30′s I rejected Christianity full bore in the sense that “Christianity” meant anti-gay, anti-justice, anti-woman and I wanted nothing to do with that business. While my early life had been filled with Sunday School, reading of bibles and long conversations (and my adult years were most certainly filled with academic study of politics, systems, performance and community), I can’t say I studied religious texts or ancient mystic literature or took classes on liturgy, or understood most of the history behind the orthodoxical things I thought of as bullshit.
There was just a knowingness I felt about the bullshit.
Now, I find myself truly curious about the orthodoxy. I still sense a deep knowingness around the bullshit of it, but would like to have real history in my brain, real understanding behind my instinct, if only to hone arguments more effectively. I’m not entirely sure I’m doing things in the right order, and I suspect any metaphysic or mystic understanding I gather from “religious study” will only confirm my original bent towards the heretical, push me more radically towards justice work.
I am aware that in many ways, the most heretical thing I could do right now, at this time in my life where I help produce a raucous show about sexuality, is embrace that which has scared me the most-a longing for spiritual connection. I am not identified with that role (or maybe I’ve just denied that I am), but that type of skill, between people and community, is where I find my gifts, that earnest sense of love and desire for peace. Going to church feels extraordinarily odd in a world that mocks spirituality (and for good reason, given how horrible religion has been), but more and more I’m listening past my brain, into a different space that is saying, “Yeah, over here.”
“Church” or not, it’s about the connection between people. Any place (a bar, the grocery store, a fender bender, dinner with friends) could be church given the power of community and presence. Any official church could be empty and devoid of real connection given the hypocrisy of individualism and greed or the stagnancy of orthodox rules. Seems kind of obvious at this point, but I most certainly didn’t get that in my 20′s. Or maybe I did, but refused to see it. Doesn’t matter, I suppose. What matters is that I’m starting to see things now and I’m ok with the challenge of seeing.