Ozzie Guillen is an idiot. The manager of the Miami Marlins was interviewed by Time magazine for an online article, released last week. In the interview, Guillen—again, a baseball manager, not a foreign diplomat or spokesman—spoke about how he feels about Fidel Castro.
“I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [SOB] is still here.”
Nice. Really nice. Especially when your brand-new $675 million stadium rests in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. Especially when many of your ticket-buyers fled from Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Guillen basically told those fans, “Hey, you know how your parents and grandparents starved and lived in cardboard boxes? Well, I really respect the man who brought that about because none of your people could kill him.”
That is why I say Ozzie Guillen is an idiot. But, you say, isn’t it his right to say what he did? Your opinion of what he said is just that—your opinion. No, I would reply. What Ozzie said are not just words. They are damaging words. They have caused harm to the team he leads, the organization he is employed by, and the community his team represents. He is held to a higher standard. This very well could cost him his job.
Words are very powerful things. God spoke words and the universe came into being. In Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, a word was spoken that brought about the end of a world. In real life, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Words matter. I think we can all agree on this. James devotes almost an entire chapter of his short epistle on the topic of words. He begins by saying it’s best to think twice about becoming a teacher—one who uses words to reveal Jesus to others—because teachers will be held to a higher standard.
Only we don’t.
Preachers can get away with saying the craziest things. They seemingly get a free ride. If they are questioned, it’s not long before the “touch not God’s anointed” verse is misused as a shield. I know this to be true from personal experience. The church I grew up in as a believer was led by a man who announced he was God’s anointed and we were not to question him. Of course I thought it kind of silly when he railed against Catholics for (as he claimed) elevating the Pope’s words to the level of Holy Scripture when he did the same thing with his own words. Anyone who questioned him in the least was considered to be a son of Korah and was to be shunned. Spiritual abuse at its best.
Today the game is a played a little differently. Our pastor genuinely thought he was leading—he would have considered it discipling—the congregation in the way of the Lord. He backed up everything with at least three scriptures and quoted them from the Greek. Today’s “anointed” preachers are, for the most part, out to build their own brand, not lead people—even in a warped way—to lead Christlike lives. And we let them get away with it. They will say something crazy regarding money or sex or politics and we just smile and nod our heads. We don’t hold them accountable for their words out of fear of being accused of touching God’s anointed. Or maybe we really do consider big-time preachers infallible. Why are we so afraid to call someone who is not preaching Jesus Christ incarnate, crucified and risen again a heretic?
There. I said it. Heretic. It is a strong word, and not one to be used carelessly or casually. But it should be used when appropriate. To better understand just what we mean by heretic, let’s go to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia:
Heresy (from Greek αἵρεσις, which originally meant “choice”) is an accusation levied against members of another group which has beliefs which conflict with those of the accusers. It is usually used to discuss violations of religious or traditional laws or codes, although it is used by some political extremists to refer to their opponents. It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment. In some religions, it also implies that the heretic is in alliance with the religion’s symbol of evil, such as Satan or chaos. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one’s religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion. The founder or leader of a heretical movement is called a heresiarch, while individuals who espouse heresy or commit heresy, are known as heretics.Heresiology is the study of heresy.
By this definition, Ozzie Guillen is a heretic. (Or, as leader of the “I respect Fidel Castro” movement, maybe he is a heresiarch.) He is speaking something that violates traditional laws or codes (we don’t admire cruel dictators) and something that can cause tangible damage (people may stop spending money at the Marlins’ ballpark, his team may no longer follow his leadership, etc.). We are free to call Guillen a heretic. And an idiot. Yet, after he sits out a five-game suspension (five games out of 162 barely counts as a tap on the wrist), he will be back in the dugout, saying other stupid things (he also admitted in the Time interview that he gets drunk after every game, win or lose). And people will say, “Well, that’s just Ozzie being Ozzie.”
Paul Daugherty, sports columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, explains why he thinks people get away with saying whatever they want.
Conventional wisdom is that we – fans, media, Twits – like guys like Ozzie Guillen. They have controversial opinions, they express them quickly. Guillen’s utterances are the social media version of French fries. Our media heroes now – Rush and Glenn Beck and locally Bill Cunningham – are all like that.
They’re held accountable, kind of, but not long, because our attention spans fly like canaries from a cage. We move forward. They stay famous. We’re so busy listening to the current crazy thing they say, we can’t recall the last crazy thing they said.
Can we not lump many celebrity preachers in that same barrel? We may stop for a second when we hear another Gospel being preached, but not for much longer than that. We move forward, they stay famous. Or, more than likely, we don’t even flinch. Joel Osteen says he had enough faith so that God arranged for him to have a parking spot up close at the mall, and we just merrily hum along. Anyone who would jump to his or her feet and shout, Heresy!, would be escorted out of the former basketball arena. A disciple of Kenneth Hagin teaches that God had to have faith to send Jesus because God didn’t know if anyone would believe him (I have actually heard this taught by several different people) is rewarded with nodding heads, not people walking out. We are all together way too polite when it comes to those espousing heresy.
This is not a call to go on a witch hunt for heretics. More than likely you would just focus on those who you disagree with, not true teachers of a false Gospel. There are plenty of finger-pointers who feel everyone should line up with their way of thinking. Ken Ham followers, for instance. Or many Reformed Theology pastors and teachers. Protestants and Catholics have called each other heretics for centuries. No, we don’t need to start a “Heretic-of-the-Month” club. Yet neither should we ignore heresy when we hear it. Just how do we know something is heresy?
I had a talk with the Synonymous Rambler about this yesterday. (Yes, the SR is a real person. Trust me on this.) SR said, “There has to be a foundation on which all true teaching rests.” After some discussion, we both agreed on this as a baseline: Jesus, as revealed in Scripture, is the determining factor whether a teaching is true or false. Does the teaching lift up Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture? If so, then work from that starting point to make your arguments about the particulars. If the Jesus of the whole Bible (Old and New Covenants) is not being shown, or if Jesus isn’t mentioned at all, you may be dealing with heresy. The same holds true with traditions of the Church. If they line up with Jesus as revealed in Scripture, great. If not, then they are a unneeded distraction.
Most teachers and preachers, even when they get things wrong, are not heretics. They just need to work harder on how they present Jesus. Pastors of large and small churches are, for the most part, men and women who love Jesus and want to see him lived out in their own lives and the lives of those they are charged with leading. There really are not many heretics out there. But there are some, and it is wrong of us to close our eyes and ears to their false teaching. It is very wrong to let someone teach a false Gospel and we just say, “Well, that’s their opinion.”
When the Da Vinci Code novel was released, I read it and thought, “No one is fool enough to believe this.” I was very wrong. A few months later I told the board of the publisher I worked for that we needed to respond to Dan Brown’s book because I was hearing story after story of people who now believed that Jesus and Mary Magdelene were lovers and had a child, or those who said, “What would it matter if Jesus were married and had a child?” Some said, “Well, it’s just a work of fiction. Who cares what it says?” Only the author, before the story began, wrote that all the facts he was using were true. Of course, they weren’t. Not even close. Damage was being done by this heresy. We wrote and released a book that explored the heresies presented and why it was important to believe the right things about Jesus. We focused on lifting up Jesus as he is seen in the Bible, not in tearing down Dan Brown. And that is how we should respond to those who are sitting under heretical teaching. We are not to simply “cluck cluck” the false teacher. We must lift up Jesus. And in order to do that, we must know Jesus as he is presented in Scripture. And in order to do that, well, we have to live and walk with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
As I said, we are way too polite when it comes to heretics. Peter, in his second letter, didn’t hesitate to call out the wolves in sheep’s clothing. 2 Peter 2:1-3, from The Message:
But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They’ll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They’ve put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong.
They give the way of truth a bad name. They’re only out for themselves. They’ll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you. They won’t, of course, get by with it. They’ll come to a bad end, for God has never just stood by and let that kind of thing go on.
I am not worried about these false teachers. I’m more worried about the “crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong.” That is why Internet Monk will continue to point out heresy, and heretics, when it comes to our attention. Not because we want to point the finger and say, “I found another!” No, it is to try to protect the mixed-up followers of the heretics.
And I’m starting today with Ozzie Guillen. Don’t be a mixed-up follower of that heretic.