Random Thoughts on Brokenness, Heresy, Paul Young and More Teapot

kinnon —  May 19, 2009 — 12 Comments

One of my loyal subjects readers accused me of ornery hubris last week. I would suggest that’s better than cognitive dissonance. But it’s still sinful. And I will repent. Eventually.

But. In the spirit of “more teapot”, I continue.

A Little Less Honesty, If You Don’t Mind

I heard Paul Young speak @ Refresh last week. Paul wrote a little book that some of you might have read, The Condo The Shack. Unfortunately his little book has fallen precipitously on the New York Times Best Seller List. Where it once occupied the Numero Uno position on said list for more months than certain of the brethren care to admit, it has sadly fallen to the Numero Dos position – further proof that G_d is not behind it. If He were, of course it would have remained at the Numero Uno position. Forever! (7.5 Million Copies in print in English, in case you were wondering.)

Now, of course, Paul is a heretic. At least that’s the opinion of a number of prominent people in the evangellyfish community. (One or two actually read the book.) I even heard it from a sister at St. Paul’s this past Sunday.

Paul’s primary heresy; portraying G_d, the Father as a breakfast-baking, big black woman. We all know that G_d, the Father is a white male, with white hair and a white beard. (Does He wear a red suit? I can’t remember.) G_d, the Father could never be a breakfast-baking, big black woman. Especially since that person plays the Oracle in the Matrix and she bakes cookies. At least Paul Young’s G_d, the Father as a breakfast-baking, big black woman doesn’t smoke.

What’s really odd to me is how many of these prominent evangellyfishes all loved the Matrix and wanted to claim it as a Christian parable. But. When Paul Young dares allow G_d, the Father to materialize as a breakfast-baking, big black woman, HERESY!

However. I’m not convinced that’s really the reason all these white folk (predominantly) think Paul’s a heretic. (Paul Young. Not the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul is only a heretic in certain circles. Which is truly a new perspective.) I think they are frightened by Paul’s transparency.

Last Wednesday night, Wm. Paul Young stood in front of an audience that filled one of the large theatres @ the University of Toronto MedSci building and, metaphorically, stripped naked. (Thank you for doing it metaphorically, Paul.) He revealed himself. As completely as anyone I’ve ever heard.

He must have missed the memo on how Christian males were supposed to be strong and silent. You know. That woman’s voice in 10CC’s I’m Not in Love half-whispering, “big boys don’t cry, big boys don’t cry.” Still waters run deep and all that stuff.

Paul spoke of massive personal failure. And eleven years of healing. And radical transparency with his wife as part of that healing. How frakin’ scary is that? And he did it again on the CBC’s The Hour. Radical Transparency. I think he even scared Strombo.

The only other male I know who is almost as publicly transparent is the Internet Monk. And Michael gets almost as much flak as Paul. He may even have been called a heretic a time or two.


What’s so scary about transparency? Every-freaking-thing!

If I dare to be transparent, then you’ll know just how broken I am. And that will never do. You’ll know I don’t have it together. I’m not that great of a Christian. (Those who read my blog know that about me already.) I’m not much of a father. Or a husband. Or even a friend.

My brokenness will reveal me as a sinner. And I need you to know me as a saint.

Honestly, honesty is overrated. It’s all about the facade. The one with the best facade wins! (I’m not sure what we win, but…) But enough about me.

I Found This Humourous in a Sad Sort of Way

I heard some other good speakers last week. One quoted a friend of mine on the importance of community in missional engagement with culture. What was funny was the friend quoted hasn’t been engaged in any real Christian community for the better part of a decade. But. At least he’s being quoted. Maybe that’s better than community. In a brokenness kind of way.

And Over the Weekend Obama Got A Doctorate from Notre Dame and Spoke Lots of Words

All the nice people said nice things about the President speaking at Notre Dame and how good it was him receiving an honourary doctorate. The mean, nasty people questioned why the most radically Pro-Abortion president in history would be so honoured by a Catholic university. (The mean, nasty people were in agreement with the mean, nasty American Catholic bishops who in this one area are at least attempting to be consistent.)

No doubt about it, the President has got himself some very good Teleprompter™ programmers – the many words were well put together. But. At the end of the day. President Barack Obama is still the most radically Pro-Abortion president ever elected. With a real desire for us all to be nice when we talk about it.

And speaking of those nice people, being the mean, nasty person that I am (which is part of my brokenness, of course) I can’t help but point out how the Usual Suspects marched in lock step with the President in his appointment of completely pro-abortion Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. [HT]

It’s pure Orwellian doublespeak to suggest her “record demonstrates a commitment to results rather than rhetoric on life issues.” Can the “evangelicals” who wrote this statement explain to me how their position on abortion is functionally any different than that of incoming Episcopal Divinity School president, Katherine Ragsdale. I mean, really.

Speaking of Episcopalians

The Presiding Litigator with her Teleological Degree in Marine Biology continues her Blitzkrieg through Episcopal Church Canons whilst bringing suits against any diocese who dares challenge her new position as TEC’s Pope. The former bishop of the smallest, fastest-shrinking Diocese in the USofA claims, “all your base are belong to us” and “sure Jesus might be one of the most bestest ways to God, but you must be some kind of Neanderthal to suggest he’s the only way.” 815 later issued a statement to Neanderthals apologizing for any suggestion that they weren’t as bright as all the people wandering the corridors of the National Office.

Finally A Fish and A Marxist

TommyMertonHead pointed to a very good blog post at the NYT by Stanley Fish that led me down the rabbit hole to a lecture series on Religion and Science by Terry Eagleton delivered a year ago at Yale. Eagleton’s well known as a Marxist Theorist and is one of the funniest essayists I’ve read or heard in a rather long time. He has great fun at the expense of his conflated character, Ditchkins. (Dawkins and Hitchens as one.)

Oh. And This Before I Go

In light of last week’s meanness from me, I thought you might like to know that I was ordained near the turn of the Millennium at a predominantly African-American church in Pittsburgh. You may call me Pastor Bill, if you must. 🙂 Though I’d prefer to be known as Bishop.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

12 responses to Random Thoughts on Brokenness, Heresy, Paul Young and More Teapot

  1. Intriguing post! -L theuprising.typepad.com

  2. Hey Bill, thanks for the link. I’ve got to read The Shack yet. I have heard people in both camps, but figured I’d reserve comment until I actually read the book.

    Which might be awhile judging from the stack on my desk.

  3. Are you serious? You were ordained a bishop?

    If you weren’t joking, it would be neat to know how that happens.

    As to scaring the host of CBC’s The Hour – you see that as an editor/Young friend, I saw it as a journalist. Intriguing actually. Surprised him yes, that was apparent. You know the drill, your staff can brief you, you can prepare for an interview but when you are confronted with someone transparent who doesn’t fit your unconscious script, it can be rattling, disarming and intriguing. If as host you aren’t prepared or are a control freak, it would be scary. I honestly didn’t pick up that signal in the interview.

    I got so sick of The Shack chatter I tuned out. When it shows up at the second hand book store someday I may pick it up. I really enjoyed Young’s CBC appearance.

    But if you say scary, okay, far be it from me to argue with a bishop who has edited thousands of hours of tapes.

  4. bill,

    i am thankful for your broken-ness.

    I just wish you’d be as ornery with one side of the pew as you are with the other.

  5. dan macdonald May 20, 2009 at 10:22 am


    Can’t speak about the husband or father part, but as a friend I would say you pretty much…

    See? That was self control right there. Enjoy it, you may never see it from me again!

  6. and I suspect you referred to the prior President as the most radically Pro-Torture President while he was in office

    and that you hold Bob Duncan to the standards you hold the PB to ?

    c’mon, Bill – you are better than this level of snark

  7. Well, Bill…The Abbess has been saying that purple is the color of the times, don’t ya know, and the new martyrdom is serving in and through brokenness. Paul Young does purple very well and is an inspiration to me.

    I think it goes back to pondering just how much freedom can one stand? It is freeing to not have anything to hide. The cost, of course, is emptying one’s closet of skeletons … or dealing with one’s personal Shack (we all have one, now don’t we?).

    The Abbess, however, will continue to call you beloved brother Bill — not “pastor Bill” … and especially not Bishop! ;^)

  8. Bene,
    No. No. No. No bishop here. Though I was an elder in a Baptist church for years. My Greek-reading friends suggest that the word used for elder, presbuteros, can be conflated with that for bishop, episkopos, as Paul and Peter seem to use them interchangeably. You can call me Bill. ‘Tis all I am. (The bishop line was a bit of a dig at a friend who insisted on being called that.)

    And you’re right, it was hyperbole on my part to say Strombo was scared. But he was certainly taken aback. (I’m a fan of the lad – it’s one of the few shows I watch as segments from iTunes.)

    Shane, apparently you don’t have to read it to have a fixed position on it. 🙂 But may I suggest that you do read the book. Just don’t read it as systematic theology. And Paul really doesn’t seem to have any problem with folk who strongly disagree with him. (He’s one of the most disarming people I’ve ever met.)

    Thanks, Dan. You’re buying lunch when you, Triple D and I get together next week – after that comment. 🙂

    I love ya, Sis, er, Abbess! And like I said to Bene, Bill is all I am. (Even if I hate doing billing, which I’m supposed to be doing right now. Imbi keeps appearing outside my office door giving me stearn looks. And our accountant just showed up. Yikes!)

    I get a little tired of the suggestion that when I strongly hold positions different from you and your fellow emergent travellers that I am, as you write above, “better than this level of snark”. Effectively, that would be an ad hominem attack. One you have used here before and one I remember my public school teachers using on recalcitrant boys in my classes. (I was always one of the good students, unfortunately. Perhaps I’m making up for it now that I’m in my 50’s.)

    Having read you consistently throughout the US election campaign, Bob, might I suggest that it takes a surprising lack of self awareness to ask me to “be as ornery with one side of the pew as you are with the other.” I have suggested here many times, Bob, that political partisanship is inappropriate for Christians. We need to be able to speak truth to power – no matter who is in power.

    One might have reasonably thought that the self-declared evangelical leaders who supported Obama would have taken a negative stand on the person he appointed Secretary of Health. Instead they used “statistics” (in the Mark Twain sense) to support her appointment. Shame on them.

    Please do note that I have many friends who voted for Obama who they believed to be the significant lessor of two evils – but who struggled in so voting because of his radical position on abortion.

    And the US Government was pro-torture, Bob. Including your party’s speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi – as much as she attempts to bob and weave around it now.

    Are you really conflating the US government-sanctioned torture (where no one has died) with abortion, where no one lives, even when born alive? (And your new president, in the 120 days he has been in that role, appears to be backing down from many of his anti-previous-US-government-positions in terms of the use of force and torture, now doesn’t he. Though he’s still as pro-abortion as he ever was. He does so want us all to be nice about it, doesn’t he. As I said during your election, I would have written Bugs Bunny in for president, rather than vote for either of the two choices available.) I am both pro-life and anti-torture, positions that would seem to be consistent as a Christian. (I should note that until I became a Christian at 26, I was pro-choice. My position changed with my conversion – might I be so bold as to suggest, “by the power of the Holy Spirit.”)

    Politically, Bob, I’m a Red Tory. (Remember, I’m a Canadian.) I strongly believe in a social welfare net and in socialized medicine. I think Keifer Sutherland’s grandfather, Tommy Douglas (a Baptist minister), was a Canadian hero for championing what became our Canadian Health Care system – which I also admit is profoundly flawed and desperately needs help.

    I also strongly believe in free enterprise, having owned a business with my wife that has employed a significant number of people over the 24 years it has existed.

    To most of my American friends, I’m a left-leaning centrist. My English friends consider me a right-leaning centrist. Quite frankly, you don’t know me well enough to have an opinion on where I stand politically – but don’t let that stop you.

    As to the difference between Bob Duncan and the Presiding Litigator, where does one begin. Bob actually has a legitimate theological degree, has been a parish priest, does not want to take property from those who want to stay within TEC, has asked for mediation, works within the Canons of the Episcopal Church and has easily moved between the Anglo-Catholic and low church parishes in his diocese. The position he holds on church polity is consistent with the historic Anglican Church. And along with the basic tenants of Christianity as laid out in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, he believes that Christ is who He said He is – the only way to the Father. In terms of KJS, the Presiding Litigator, one would have to mark ‘not applicable’, beside each – according to both her actions and her words. (I happen to both be friends with a number of the folk at ACI who long to stay within TEC, as well as with the Rector of the church that Bishop Duncan often attends in Pittsburgh. Let me be so bold as to suggest I hold an informed position on this topic.) You may not feel I am charitable in my response to KJS and that is an opinion you are entitled to – but it is an opinion.

    You are welcome to engage with the argument(s), Bob, or continue the ad hominem response. Your choice.

    I hate the way this new Comments Plugin deals with linked URLs. I’ll need to change to something else soon. Here are the links I would have liked to have had within the post:
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    Red Tory:
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    Tommy Douglas:
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    Bob Duncan:
    link to en.wikipedia.org

  9. Bill, we share so many things – among them

    being both pro-life and anti-torture

    having a long history in things Anglican & Episcopal

    Bill, you no more know my politics or faith than I know yours – we both blog & read blogs.

    My pushback is how smug & snarky your comments tend to be around politics – both U.S. and Anglican. They are such a striking contrast to the voice your blog has on almost all other topics.

  10. Paul F.M. Zahl always used to counsel people who cried ad hominem, that no arguement was truly argumentum ad verecundiam. We are humans grasping for the truth and arguing our way to a shared understanding.

    Katharine Jefferts Schori is a fellow follower of Jesus, made in the image of God – just as Bob Duncan is. The way you describe her is not at all consistent with how we should treat one another, even if we are certain we see things differently.

  11. Bill,

    Some random thoughts on your random thoughts:

    There is evidence that the torture regime has killed people (they try to keep this on the down-low, as you might imagine).

    There’s a certain power in unguarded honesty – think of Eminem’s character in 8 mile who wins a rap battle by talking about his failings. You’ll note that those attacking Young go after his words, but not his life. Something that would not likely be true had he tried to conceal it.

  12. Bob,
    Sorry. But from what I read of her and her actions, might I humbly suggest that the Jesus KJS claims to follow is not the Jesus we find in Scripture. Further, the gospel she preaches is “another gospel.”

    As she was quoted by the Associated Press,
    “If we insist we know the one way to God,” she said, “we’ve put God in a very small box.”

    “It’s this sense that one person can have the fullness of truth in him or herself, rather than understanding that truth is — like God — more than any one person can encompass.”

    The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is a power mad leader, rewriting history to make herself the Metropolitan of a hierarchical organization that bears little to no resemblance to the historical ECUSA – a direct result of years of too many Episcopalians willing to be “nice” rather than truthful – believing that somehow God would work this all out, without their need to take a stand.

    As much as I take issue with Barack Obama on his position on abortion, my “smug and snarky comments” are aimed at the liberal self-identified “evangelicals” who are unwilling to speak truth to liberal power. They tow the party line. I have issues with conservatives who do the same thing.

    I quoted Myers Park Pastor James Howell during the election:
    People ask me: are you liberal? or conservative? Sometimes my reply is: it depends on the issue – but my true answer is: neither! The Church drifts into absurd irrelevance if we do nothing more than baptize one or the other of the prevalent options society has dreamed up. We have our own perspective, which at times seems in sync with this or that policy – but then Bam! …we surprise everybody with a wrinkle, a twist. We are not middle of the road, although when we are most faithful to God we are likely to annoy (and occasionally to please) liberals and conservatives in equal measure.

    How could this be? Human institutions, political parties, and even the noblest people who choose public service, are sinful, flawed; self-serving agendas get in the way, or the perils of the moment blind us to a greater good God would have us pursue. And frankly, not everybody out there is exactly “lost in wonder, love and praise,” deeply immersed in the Bible, and prepared to “take up your cross and follow” (Mark 8:34). Many citizens in both parties don’t think twice about God, or God is like a good-luck charm they think will help them get the goodies they crave. Politicans fawn over the electorate; they will “say anything,” and they even hire wizards to advise them on how to talk religious folks into voting for them. Parties and politics are not surprisingly out of sync with God.



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