Richard’s Short Guide to Heresies

1. Transconsubstantiantarianism – the desire to use Communion bread that’s easier to chew.

2. Sedevacantism (Empty Seatism) – sitting in the back pew and attempting to glean the same level or spiritual insights one might gleam from the front pew.

3. Harmoniousism – a belief that doing religious work (even interfaith activities) together results in strength and unity. While this is not a heresy, many people believe such “harmoniousists” to be heretics. They are wrong.

4. Aegyptia reditusism (Egyptian Returnism)-a heresy which teaches that life was better under Pharaoh, before Moses (sometimes also extrapolated to include Jesus of Nazareth). This heresy is easily identified by a desire to return to a time prior to God’s salvific intervention in our lives. Those who express this heresy have often forgotten the oppression, hardship, and pain marked by the era prior to God’s intervention with Moses and/or Jesus.

5. Usism – A uniquely North American phenomenon; the heresy that Jesus was (and still is) a white, English speaking Protestant.

6. John Wesleyanism – a heresy, common among Methodists, which attributes every ancient ecclesial practice, saying, or tradition to John Wesley.

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Totally Real Things I Heard People Say on This Memorial Day Saturday


1) I wonder what this place is like in the off season
2) Man, Memorial Day weekend sure is busy, you can’t find a place to park
3) I feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere
4) Next year I want to go to the “Hollering Contest”
5) Do you have to wear a tuxedo to the Fireman’s Ball?
6) Dave, look
7) Where’s the lighthouse?
8) Leave the beer out of the bag
9) Your dog is having separation anxiety
10) Riding a bicycle while smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee is a bad idea. (I said this one.)

Are You My Mother? (A Mother’s Day Reflection)

In P.D. Eastman’s seminal work on motherhood and abandonment, “Are You My Mother?” the reader follows the journey of an infant bird, suddenly abandoned by its mother.  Forced to seek food beyond the confines of the nest, the baby bird is confused, disoriented, and alone.  Like many single parents in the today’s economy, the need to feed her offspring forced the mother to make a difficult decision.  Do I leave the nest to work and obtain food, leaving my child beyond the care of a relative or friend or do we starve?  Without a community to rely upon, the mother left and her child was alone.

The bird has never seen its mother.  Born in darkness and reared in a silent oval of matriarchal darkness, the bird has no concept of itself or the world it inhabits.  The bird’s entry into the animal kingdom was one of ignorance.  The bird lacked access to the basic skills and education held by others animals it would soon encounter.  Fueled only by a desire to connect with its mother, the bird left the relative safety of the nest for a world it did not know or understand.   Unable to fully read, write, or express itself, the bird was severely disadvantaged.  Predators (both financial and physical) were irrelevant to bird’s narrow world view.  Without basic knowledge and relationship awareness with the other animals, the market driven economy would devour the bird.

In quick succession, the bird meets three local animals: a kitten, a chicken, and a dog.  The “kitten just looked and looked.  It did not say a thing.”  The cat is a natural predator of the bird.  Mute kittens, while harmless enough to humans, provoke fear in the minds of small birds.  This cat represents the sum of all fears; that which the bird address and is to frighten to name.  Clearly, this evil is not his mother.  Similarly the chicken and the dog are also like the bird but different.  The chicken is a bird, they share similar qualities, but they are not the same.

On the other hand, the cow, who speaks, is large and benevolent.  The cow might be her mother. In Hinduism, the role of the Mother is raised to the level of a Goddess.  Mothers are highly venerated.  This is why the cow is considered a sacred animal.  Cows give us sacred, life giving milk.  Cows are maternal, sacred, and life-giving animals.  Is Eastman telling us, despite the bovine protestations, that the cow is indeed the mother of the bird and mother goddess of us all?  I believe so.

Not to take rejection lightly, the bird asks, “Did he have a mother?” This is the ultimate existential question.  Where did I come from?  Do I exist?

“I did have a mother,” said the baby bird.  “I know I did.  I have to find her.  I will.  I will!”

The bird realizes we all come from somewhere. The bird has stumbled on to one of the greatest Mathematical paradoxes of the modern era.  First described by Kurt Gödel in the early 20th century, it’s often referred to as the “incompleteness theorem”.  In 1931, Gödel began work on idea which said; whatever is the biggest idea humanity can figure out, we can always go one bigger.  That thing one bigger may be God or in this case, the bird’s mother.  The little bird is on to find the unmoved mover.

However, instead of moving onward toward the cosmos or inward toward the soul, the bird goes outward into the junkyards of late 20th century capitalism.  There is the beat up old car, the steam ship traveling through a canal, a jet, and finally a backhoe.  In each of these confrontations, the bird honestly believes he’s found his mother.  To the reader, a sense of sadness should be palpable.  How did an innocent, abandoned bird, a victim of the modern capitalist economy come to confuse his mother with the byproducts of capitalism (tools which are used to destroy his home, his family, his food supply)?

Isn’t this the socio-economic horror story of our time?  Yes.

The backhoe takes him home.  A happy ending.   Yeah, right.  How long before the wealthy landowner orders the backhoes to take the tree down?  Eastman doesn’t tell you that story.

I send my thoughts and prayers to the bird and his mother, preemptively.

Richard Lowell Bryant

 

Today is the Anniversary of the Destruction of Pompeii

Today is the anniversary of the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD which destroyed the Roman City of Pompeii.   It was one of the worst natural disasters in the ancient world.

Ongoing archaeological excavations in Pompeii have uncovered fragments of a document (in Latin) from an early Christian Church in Pompeii.  Though to be the final prayer of the “First Century First Evangelical Pentecostal Holier than Thou Methodist Church of Pompeii”, it is translated from the Latin and published here in English for the first time:

Father God,

We just want to thank you for finally hearing our prayer and causing this volcano to erupt.  We have been praying for years than you would burp from the Earth below to smite the sexual immorality and pagan religious practices surrounding us.  It is so good to know you’ve actually heard our prayers.  We are grateful that you are about to rain fire, death, and brimstone on the evil fornicators, idol worshipers, and Caesar lovers who are our neighbors.  Thank you for finally hearing our calls for death and destruction.  Perhaps now, we can get back to being the disciples you called us to be; those with love, unity, and peace in our hearts.

At this point, the prayer breaks off.  The manuscript notes that, “a certain Gaius Marcus Vitleus raised his hand to tell the pastor that the church was seconds away from being destroyed by flaming ash and lava.” 

Thus ended the final prayer of the “First Century First Evangelical Pentecostal Holier than Thou Methodist Church of Pompeii” and their early Christian community.  It’s amazing how far we’ve as Christians.  I doubt anything like that would happen today.

Richard Bryant

10 Things United Methodists Do During A Blackout

1. Switch the Welch’s for Sangria.

2. Attribute everything, from the slightest breeze to the dog’s passing of wind, to the Holy Spirit.

3. Watch the Baptists wait for the liquor store to fix their generator.

4. Tell each other about the time we didn’t have air conditioning when we were growing up.

5. Listen to me yell from the kitchen, “I told you this is how the rapture starts”.

6. Make plans for the church to hold a Blackout Awareness Readiness Blessing Quorum, a BARBQ.

7. Appoint a committee to buy matches and another to count them.

8. Send for a candle making kit from Cokesbury.

9. Attribute the noises you make when taking a cold shower to “speaking in tongues”.

10. Compose a song about the journey from darkness to light to be performed by a children’s choir.