I am a heretic and I talk to my cat, Gustavo — It’s on the internet, so it must be true

Usually, I do not respond to folks who engage name-calling. When folks attach words like “apostate,” “heresy”  or “theological celebrity” to me, especially when left by people named “guest” or “anonymous,” my guess is that they are NOT interested in having meaningful conversations. Also, I know that there is no way I can respond with, “I know you are, but what am I” with any modicum of graciousness.

Yesterday, though, I received an alert from Wikipedia that someone had just made some edits to the article about me. The word ”Heretical” caught my attention.

It was corrected pretty quickly by a friend on mine who I will now refer to as Wiksignor Landon Whitsitt. But oh yeah, I screenshot it before it could be corrected.

The first change was in the description of what KIND of minister I am:

And the second was describing the kind of heretical work I am involved in and why.

And then this morning, yet another change was made. This one is one more absurd than the first two; while I may talk to my dog, I am allergic to cats ;-)

Now I have no idea who is doing this. All that he article history says is that these updates are being posted by an anonymous user with the ip address: 151.201.12.39. My guess is that the person probably knows me or has some connection to me. I am not that well-known, so I also bet that it is a member of my own denominational family . . . though that would make me very sad.

In any case, I lift this up not because I want folks to defend my honor. Heck, I DID work on a controversial collection sacred texts. Plus, I’m working on another new book project, so this is buzz-creation with which I have no issue. I just wish somewhere he/she included some reference to a past affair with a troubled movie star or told of the time that I risked my life and ignored my allergies to save my grandmother’s kitten from a burning building.

Oh a boy can dream.

Anyhoo . . . I lift this up because I think whoever this is missed a prime opportunity to actually lift up the fact that some may indeed believe that my work is controversial, even heretical. You see, wikipedia is NOT about trying to win or lose, but about a group of people doing their best to get as close as they can to the objective truth about any particular subject. I have edited my own article to correct or add information, others have approved or rejected those changes and in the end there is a decent view of me.

So 151.201.12.39 , if that is indeed your real name, you could have put something like:

Bruce was part of a church council who has compiled a controversial group of ancient texts titled “A New New Testament” by Hall Taussig. These texts and his involvement have been characterized as heretical by some and welcomed by others.

There could be links back to other wikipedia or published articles on the publication, the author and/or the word “heretical” — all helping the reader to discern the truth about this person named Bruce Reyes-Chow. In some contexts, passive-aggressiveness and mean-spirited snark are the norm and might persuade, but on wikipedia, 151.201.12.39 has probably undercut any chance to actually convince people that I am indeed a heretic, which I assume was the hope all along.

So if you want to leave snarky comments and call me names on my blog, I have no problem leaving up them for people to see, but that kind of of unsourced opinion does not play on Wikipedia. Conflict and disagreement are not bad and I do not believe that I am above any of it, but the kind of arguing and discourse that goes on in most places on the internet is simply not part of the wikipedia experience . . . and I wish the rest of life.

Again, I am not looking for people to defend my honor with colleagues or pile on the trolls. What I hope for is that, even in times when we disagree with one another so deeply on issues of the Christian faith, we can do so always knowing, believing and living the challenge that it is to be the Body of Christ. This is my prayer and I’m sticking to it.

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Pre-Order Your NEW New Testament

[click image to pre-order]

Last year I was privileged to be part of a group of folks brought together to think about sacred Christian texts, past AND future. Yes, I said future because like many others, I have always felt that the texts that have informed my faith and life in Christ were never meant to be static, rather, were meant to expand and grow. So when Hal Taussig asked me to part of a Church Council who would determine the texts to be included in the new book, A New New Testament (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) I did not need much convincing.*

As this journey began, however, I was filled with great excitement and event greater trepidation. Who were we to decided what new texts should be part of any sacred canon? Who was I to be part of such a group of scholars, theologians and cultural icons (Barbara Brown Taylor, Margaret Aymer OgetKaren KingJohn Dominic Crossan, Bishop Alfred Johnson, etc.)? And most importantly, who in their right might would choose to wade into the firestorm of controversy that would be before us? After all, to many, this will undoubtedly be seen as messing with The Word of God and will be labeled as blasphemous and heretical. Not the first time that those labels have been directed my way, but why invite it?

From the book publisher . . .

In February of 2012, a council of scholars and spiritual leaders,convened by religion scholar Hal Taussig, came together to discuss,debate, and reconsider which books belong in the New Testament. They talked about dozens of newly found texts, the lessons therein, and how they inform the previously bound books. Reading the existing New Testament alongside these new texts—The Gospel of Luke with The Gospel of Mary, Paul’s letters with The Letter of Peter to Philip, The Revelation to John with The Secret Revelation to John—offers the exciting possibility of understanding both, the new and the old, better.

For me entering into this daunting task was simple. As I read text after text after text, it became clear to me that God was moving then and will move now through these words that we offer to you in this New New Testament. The Spirit of God moved in my reading, the Spirit of God moved in our sometimes heated discussions, and I truly believe that the Spirit of God will move in others as they are exposed to these transforming texts.

Take for instance one the texts that was very high on my list, the Nag Hammadi text, The Thunder: Perfect Mind.

I was sent out from power
I came to those pondering me
And I was found among those seeking me
Look at me, all you who contemplate me
Audience, hear me
Those expecting me, receive me
Don’t chase me from your sight
Don’t let your ovice or your hearing hate me
Don’t ignore me any place, any time
Be careful. Do not ignore me

I am the first and the last
I am she who is honored and she who is mocked
I am the whore and the holy woman
I am the wife and the virgin
I am he the mother and the daughter
I am the limbs of my mother
I am the sterile woman and she has many children
I am she whose wedding is extravagant and I didn’t have a husband
I am the midwife and she who hasn’t given birth
I am the comfort of labor pains
I am the bride and the bridegroom
And it is my husband who gave birth to me
I am my father’s mother,
My husband’s sister, and he is my child
I am the slavewoman of him who served me
I am she, the lord of my child

But it is he who gave birth to me at the wrong time
And he is my child born at the right time
And my power is from within him
I am the staff of his youthful power
And he is the baton of my old womanhood
Whatever he wants happens to me
I am the silence never found
And the idea infinitely recalled
I am the voice with countless sounds
And the thousand guises of the word
I am the speaking of my name

Full Translation and Commentary by Hal Taussig

Thunder, you had me at “I was sent out from power” :-)

I have yet to see the gallery copy, but my understanding is that A New New Testament will read like a traditional Bible with short introductions at the beginning of each texts with translations and footnotes to follow. Our hope is that this is not simply an academic book that will be seen as a novelty accomplishment by a group of yahoos who sat in a room, but that it will be the beginning of some great conversations about the future of the Christian faith and the texts through which we view God’s relationship with humanity.

Lastly, not the snazziest of video treatment that I have ever seen, but the video below will give you and idea of how it began who was part of it and what it includes. You can also pre-order A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts and it is expected to be published in March 2013.

YouTube Preview Image

* Disclaimer: Other than the expenses associated with travel, room and board for the meeting of The Church Council, I have not and will not receive any compensation from the publisher or Hal Taussig.

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