Do I Stand Alone?

Do I Stand Alone? November 7, 2019

Last week I got a private message from someone I’ve known for a few years. He told me I was a false teacher and said he was praying that I would repent of preaching a false Gospel.

Not that he was willing to dialog with me about what the Gospel actually was, or to read a free copy of my book to find out what I actually believe about the topics he was offended about.

It was just easier to accuse me and slap that “heretic” label on me.

Then, a few days later, one of my closest friends also sent me an email to explain why he had unfriended me on social media due to something I had posted about how people – rather than God – wrote the Bible.

Just today, I got an email from a friend letting me know that he’s been getting labelled a heretic because he invited me to speak at his event a few months ago. He’s been hearing people warn others about me; to ignore me because I’m trying to lead them astray somehow.

Now, I can understand that sometimes I take stands that are controversial, and I admit that what I write about in books and post online in blog articles is strategically designed to rock the boat and challenge the status quo of American Christianity.

But to be very honest, it still hurts to be called names and experience the rejection of people who know me personally.

Now, it’s one thing if the rejection comes from total strangers online. That really doesn’t bother me very much. Over the last decade I’ve dealt with enough of that sort of noise from faceless social media accounts to develop a fairly thick skin.

But, when someone who has been to your house, sat at your table, prayed in your home and shared a meal with you actually takes the time to let you know they are done with you, there’s nothing quite like that sort of rejection.

As for me, I’d love to maintain those relationships. I forgive them automatically. I’d gladly invite them to my home again, share a meal with them again and spend time with them in fellowship as my brothers and sisters in Christ again at the drop of a hat.

But, I can tell that’s not something they’re interested in right now.

So, I give them their space. I back off. I allow them to move on with their lives.

Still, it hurts.

Now, at the same time, I’ve received some very encouraging and beautiful messages from people who have gone out of their way to bless me and to make sure I know how much my books and blogs and posts encourage them in their faith and bless them in their daily life.

Those are precious.

But, if I’m honest, I could receive 200 of those every day and it would still only take one single rejection from someone I know in the real world to tip the scales into the negative for me.

There’s not much I can do about those who reject me due to my opinions or my writing. I can’t help being who I am. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen or unknow what I’ve learned.

And I’m not someone who is willing to keep silent about the things I’ve discovered when it comes to Hell, or the Gospel, or Homosexuality, or the Bible, or any of those topics that I’ve been writing about for over a decade now.

So, this is who I am. This is what I get.

I read. I think. I learn. I write about it. I publish it. I get both praise and rejection.

This is how it works. I get it.

I just need to know: Do I stand alone? Or are there others out there who can’t keep silent? Are there others out there willing to take a stand for what they believe? Are there men and women who aren’t afraid to step up and say, “This is what I believe. Treat me as a friend and a brother in Christ, or reject me for thinking different. But I’m not about to sit quietly and allow only one side of this story to be told.”

Well, even if not. I’m still standing. I’m still writing. I’m not backing down. And I’m not going away.

Please understand. You can scream “Heretic!” and “False Teacher!” all you want. But none of that will stop me. None of that will ever shut me up, or shut me down.

I’d prefer that you take the time to consider the things I write about. I prefer that you consider the possibility that what you’ve been told your whole life about the Bible, and Hell, and Jesus might not be the whole story.

Yes, I would prefer a conversation about these things rather than an attack on my character and a rejection of my ideas. But, I also understand that some are afraid of that conversation because it might mean re-thinking their assumptions and they’re not ready for that just yet.

I get it.

So, it’s up to you. Make your choice. Listen and consider, or blame and reject.

But me? I’m doing my best to follow Jesus the best way I know how.

You don’t have to like what I say. You don’t even have to agree with what I write. But, please, at least have the courage to talk with me directly if you have a problem with something I say. I’m not that hard to reach. Some even say I’m a pretty good listener.

And if you don’t believe the way I do, that’s ok. I will still call you my brother or sister in Christ. I’ll never reject you. I’ll never call you a heretic or a false teacher. I’ll just love you, the way I would want you to love me.

Can you say the same?

**

 Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife have returned to El Paso, TX after 25 years, as part of their next adventure. They hope to start a new house church very soon.
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Are you an aspiring author? Keith is leading an Author’s Academy starting Nov. 4. Learn how to become a full-time author and crack the code for building your platform and marketing your books online. Details HERE.
Podcast: Heretic Happy Hour Podcast is on iTunes and Podbean.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Herm

    Keith you’re loved! You are welcome in my home anytime. I read everything you write. Being called a heretic seems to come most often from those comfortable in the majority of their community. Caiaphas was comfortably in the majority of his community.

  • Eeyore

    Jesus… Paul… Francis… Luther… You’re in good company.

    Stand fast.

  • Tom Dye

    Hell No Your Not Alone!
    For decades I had turned away from God. after reading your book, “Jesus Unbound” everything just clicked, it truly was an epiphany. This described the exact same belief in Jesus, religion and dogma that I had always thought and everyone always told me that I was, wrong, misguided,etc. After reading your books listening to the Heretic Happy Hour podcasts I knew I was right all along. Jesus is back in my like stronger than ever before and he has revealed direct proof of his existence to me (not that I needed it) and it was awe inspiring. Now I know that I am not the only one that believes this way. If there was ever an agent for God it would certainly be you. Peace and Happy Birthday Keith (11/9) -Brother Tom from Florida

  • mia

    Keep planting seeds! The harvest will come soon. I am deeply thankful for the person who posted jarring things that came up on my Facebook feed years ago and pointed me to Jesus. Now many of us feel quite lonely as we echo the truth vibrating in our hearts and friends drop away. But we are all in solidarity with each other as we wait for our precious brothers and sisters to catch up.

  • Phil McCarthy

    In New Zealand Maori, there’s a phrase: Kia Kaha! “Stand Strong”. Pin it above your computer! In over 40 years of trying to follow Jesus (the photo stems from that period :)) I have NEVER believed that “God wrote the Bible”, rather that it is “The Word of God in the words of men.” (I know now, of course, that it is Jesus, not the Bible that is the Word of God. People like you, and Ben Corey and Tom Wright have walked/led me on a journey with me over the last 15 of those years as I have become a hell-rejecting, Christus-Victor embracing, Resurrection focused, gay-welcoming, probably some-kind-of universalist heretic like you. Like you, I have nowhere else to stand. I have the joy of being part of a NZ Anglican community that at least tolerates my eccentricities and maybe is increasingly embracing at least some of them. Whether they do/did or not, how can I un-see what I have seen? So, thanks Keith and Kia Kaha!

  • Phil McCarthy

    ..and if you ever come to New Zealand, there’s a welcome here!

  • Xavier de la Torre

    If it’s any consolation, here is one nameless (not nameless), faceless media account that stands with you.

  • gloriamarie

    Been reading your stuff for a few years now, and while I have yet to be able to afford any of your boos, I have not read a single word of heresy on your blog. But then, I am Episcopalian and we don’t like to use that word. But as an academically trained theologian who has learned what “heresy” really means, seems to me the right wing-evangelicals who support and vote for Trump demonstrate what a heretic really believes, if not apostates and blasphemers. But, you? Nope.

  • Gary Stilwell

    You might actually save Christianity from itself. Traditional Christianity is dying and Evangelical Christianity, although growing, has abandoned the teachings of Jesus in favor of political expediency. Keep up the good work.

  • billwald

    I’m with you.

  • Mike Curnutt

    If people turn away from you because you hold different beliefs, it’s a reflection on how weak their own beliefs are.

  • Marc Wagner

    It doesn’t even make sense that God wrote the Bible Himself. Even if God were the “supernatural” God of the Old Testament, and the Bible were dictated word-for-word by God and written down by humans over the centuries, it would have been recorded in terms that could be understood by people who understood very little about the physical world.

    The way I think of Scripture is that it is composed of stories written by ancient people to be understood by ancient people living in a world they could not possibly understand as we understand it today. The stories of the OT were passed down by word-of-mouth for millennia before they were written down (in the form of allegory and metaphor) in the Sixth Century BC.

    Abraham’s world extended from the Tigris-Euphrates river valley to the Nile river valley. Paul’s world extended from Asia Minor to Spain. Our world is a small planet in a galaxy composed of 100 billion stars existing among 100 billion galaxies in a Universe 14 billion years old. In our world God extends throughout the Universe — not matter how we conceive of God, that conception is insufficient.

    I like to think of the OT not as true stories but instead are stories which are “full of truth” … timeless truth applicable to every aspect of living among our fellow man in the Twenty-First Century.

    As for feeling rejected (especially by your friends) keep in mind that those who reject you for your beliefs come from a place of fear. They have spent their lives being told of Heaven & Hell and been told that if they don’t abide by the words of their pastor, they will spend eternity in Hell. Layer that on top of the universal fear of death and most dare not question what they are told to believe.

    I don’t personally believe that there could possibly be a Hell, created by God, which could be worse than the Hell we create for ourselves in our darkest hours.

    Humans seek out those willing to lead (or mislead — our of their own ignorance, or for their own purposes) — few of us are willing to be leaders because leadership comes with responsibility. Understand that the rejection you perceive is out of fear that accepting your beliefs is a sentence to spend eternity in Hell. Forgive them for their ignorance.

  • Richard Crane

    You really are NOT alone. I lost a job for 23 months as a Union Rep doing the right thing and waiting for the system and the Lord to sort it all out. You clearly find out who your friends are in those occasions and you learn to value them even more. They also become teaching moments for your children and those around you. My walk with God has changed substantially since that event 12 years ago. I trust God more and trust naysayers much less. I always understood that as long as I question my own motives and thoughts, I’m on the right track. When you are 100 percent sure you are correct, you should be very concerned. I enjoy the things you write and find them thought provoking and share them often on Facebook….unfortunately, many of those I hope it reaches never seem to respond, so I have no idea if it gets where I want it to…but I keep on keeping on…please do so too.

  • CO Fines

    Keith, as Marc points out below, those working their way thru the lower levels of spiritual consciousness operate from a spirit of fear. You know this, Keith, because you have worked your way out of those levels in cooperation with God’s Holy Spirit, so their reaction should not surprise nor befuddle you. The trick is not to react to their reaction at their level. It is natural for our ego to get upset. At this point if we are trying to keep up with the ongoing move of God’s Spirit, we should be recognizing when our ego is taking over and be equipped to do something helpful and positive about it. Our work isn’t in trying to change how other people think, that is for them and Spirit to work on. Our work is in trying to change how we ourselves think, and how we feel, hopefully not continuing in the head with the intellect, tho this can help, but in our heart with Messiah leading the way. Not easy.

    It is natural to meet resistance with resistance, and this only strengthens those lower levels. I believe you are aware to some extent of the efficacy of centering contemplation or wordless prayer as the best means of learning to separate our true Self from the tyranny of our ego, practicing the Presence of God if you will. Are you doing this or only giving lip service? I’m not saying that it is easy to learn to bless and not curse, but it is necessary. And Jesus speaks of persecution to be expected from following him. A question to be asked, is this persecution a natural result, or are you intentionally provoking it? There’s a fine line there. If natural, it can’t follow you if you are going within. Blessed be all our efforts to grow.

  • Harvey James Johnson

    Stand alone or not, I suspect you have no choice in the matter – just like Jeremiah. “O LORD, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.
    8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
    9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.'”
    (Jer. 20:7-9 NRS)

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Like everybody, and indeed these people trying to brand you a “heretic” or some such, I am sure you are right on some things and wrong on others. If what you are right about is calling people to seek God and love their neighbour (and from what I have read of it it is) being mistaken about this or that theological or biblical point doesn’t really matter, that I can see, in the grand scheme of things, it will all come out in the wash eventually.
    It is when wrong-headed dogma ends up driving people away that it really matters, and that is not something that is coming from your side.
    I would say all you can do is go with what you think is right and trust that they will come around eventually, even if it might be only when Christ himself returns to reconcile everything and all of us to each other.

  • Al Cruise

    God is love. Everything you write is about that love. Those who know God’s love can recognize it immediately. That’s the irony here, many have incredible head knowledge about scripture but do not know God’s love. Keep writing.

  • Mark Jeffrey

    A policeman once told me “The only way you don’t get complaints is if you aren’t doing the job.” I suspect serious preaching is much the same. Jesus was accused of heresy by his own friends and neighbours in Nazareth. Quite a few Old Testment prophets had the same.
    I’ve not read you much, so I don’t know whether I agree with everything you write. That’s irrelevant. If you feel God has a message for you to proclaim, you have to let it out even (or especially) if it makes some people uncomfortable.

  • jekylldoc

    I understand how devastating such coldness must be. I certainly appreciate people like you who take the trouble to explore what the Gospel might mean besides the fundamentalist version, and who don’t fear rocking the boat on the way. But I would like to mention that I am a post-post-Evangelical. In some sense I am in the wake of people like Marcus Borg and Henri Nouwen, trying to have faith in the one I believe is the real Jesus, not the wielder of the sword from Revelations. But there I go, contrasting with the old view. Not the point. The point is that I have felt the presence of grace and want to share it, and like you I am happy to hold hands with those who view me as heretical, if they are willing.

  • I so support your work and I very much understand how the rejection and labels hurt. Thank you for all you do to advance the cause of grace in the world.

  • Nimblewill

    I just need to know: Do I stand alone? Or are there others out there who can’t keep silent? Are there others out there willing to take a stand for what they believe? Are there men and women who aren’t afraid to step up and say, “This is what I believe. Treat me as a friend and a brother in Christ, or reject me for thinking different. But I’m not about to sit quietly and allow only one side of this story to be told.”

    My wife won’t even talk to me about stuff. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Spirit is the only one who can teach the Truth but that’s just me. I am encouraged when people such as yourself speak out. Our pastor said a while back that hell was the most distasteful doctrine in scripture but he had to teach it because Jesus did.

    Be Encouraged!

    3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

    4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7 But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”

    10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. 11 Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”

  • Neil Brown

    God is still preserving a remnant.

  • ProchDolor

    I stand with you in your discouragement on this matter. When did “I don’t like something you’ve said” need to become “you are a false teacher/heretic/wolf/etc”–especially when it’s a matter that doesn’t concern a matter of primary confession (i.e. the resurrection or the trinity or the divinity of Christ or something)? Is it just laziness?

  • Mike Craig

    When I have occasion to witness a “dressing down” of believers who are merely intent on sharing the Gospel of His love, calling them names and branding them as outcasts, all I can see and hear are the Pharisees attacking Christ, calling Him names, branding Him as an outcast. You stand in good company.

  • madalyn baumstark

    Keith: to Hades and Gehenna with anyone who cannot see that you have the truest take on Christianity one could hope for. As a pushed away roman catholic, I fine your truths to be self evident (jazzy, no?). Your knowledge of scripture is nothing if not impressive. Your understanding of the person of Jesus is second to none. Working my through all your books is a theological joy.

    Thank you for sharing your considerable faith and deep understanding.

  • As a former small-city mayor, lay Presbyterian pastor and church pipe organist, it is, indeed, difficult to take a stand, particularly on matters of religious expression. I have valued your insights, your fresh thoughts and the way you express ‘alternative’ views. Please continue what you do so well. I am disappointed that your friends would abandon you for your stances, but as you indicate, that is much easier than to engage in thoughtful discussion. I often take unpopular stands, as I am an educational advocate that decries the lack of learning in most schools; and an LGBTQIA+ advocate that preaches basic human rights. I am not very popular in several circles, but I shall never be quiet.