What makes a heresy heretical?
When I read today about Westminster Abbey refusing to allow "The DaVinci Code" movie crew film in their cathedral, I just had to chuckle. The issue is a heresy, namely the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was married, had children, and has living descendents. This belief is a basis for the (very exciting) plot line of Dan Brown's novel, now being made into a movie, and it has offended many defenders of Christian orthodoxy. "No heresy in our town!" is the rallying cry of those who would deny Ron Howard et al to set up shop and make their movie.
Now, in case I missed something, "The DaVinci Code" is in the fiction section of my local bookstore. Fiction! If ordained clergy were preaching odd things about Jesus' family life, that would be one discussion. But when a novelist uses the idea as a plot enhancement for his novel, that is another discussion altogether. Likewise, if Ron Howard was trying to convince residents of these towns of the truth of the heretical ideas, THEN we would have something to talk about. But as of now, all we have is a novel being made into a movie, and that seems to be somehow threatening several English Christians, who will do all they can to protect their fragile orthodoxy from any idea other than the ones they espouse. People, it is a movie!
Which brings me to my question du jour: What makes a heresy heretical? Does it depend on who is talking? Does Dan Brown saying it have as much weight as Walter Brueggeman saying it? And then, if Ron Howard makes a movie about something Dan Brown is saying, is Ron Howard a heretic by association?
Nothing I have ever read leads me to believe that Jesus married, had kids, and there are living descendents walking the earth today. It is hard to imagine that an idea of that magnitude could be successfully expunged from common knowledge for 2,000 years and counting. But on the other hand, nothing about that idea is such a threat to my own faith that I completely refuse to have anything to do with it. In other words, my faith is strong enough to survive any threat Ron Howard's movie might pose. It is just a movie. (Actually, it probably is going to be a pretty good flick; I love Tom Hanks!)
What makes heresy heretical? I think an idea becomes heretical when it is denigrated by the orthodox. Until then, it is just an idea. Only when the orthodox give the idea teeth does it threaten to bite. Ideas are threatening to us when we allow them to be, when we bestow them with undue importance. If we simply hear the idea, assess its merits, and then decide how to respond based on that assessment, everyone is going to be just fine, I promise! No one gets burned at the stake, no one gets excommunicated, and Ron Howard can film his movie in peace.
It's like saying that recent study has uncovered that Jesus of Nazareth had webbed toes. Until someone calls it a scandalous heresy, it is really just a silly story.
Sit on it, Richie,
Make Room--A Sermon for Christmas Eve
2 weeks ago