Gabe’s Lost His Mind
Given the strain of the pandemic and the fact that I have the same Myers-Brigg personality as the Joker and Captain Jack Sparrow its quite understandable that I would snap go to the dark side of the force. But I promise this isn’t what’s going on. The title, “Donuts are Heretical,” was chosen primarily as an eye catcher. Secondarily however it gets at an underlying heresy that helps explain why so many Christians in America don’t take care of themselves. So now that you know I haven’t lost my mind let me tell you a story.
Healthy Food is Too Expensive
The summer after I graduated from college I went to work at a Fundamentalist Christian Summer Camp in Colorado. Throughout the summer many of the employees at the camp became sick. This didn’t seem to bother anybody except for maybe me and a few others. For some of the workers it may have been a mystery as to why so many were getting sick but once you put together that we were not getting nearly enough sleep, our main meals were terribly unhealthy not to mention we ate desert every day, and the fact that we were at an altitude that most of us were not use too. This combination weakens the immune system of a person. Especially sugar, which we ate all the time. I began wonder why so many American Christians misreading, sometimes completely, taking care of our bodies. I knew there was something wrong about it, there had to be some reason, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until a couple of years later…
Church History to The Rescue
About a year after having ended my summer job at that camp, I was apart of my first Episcopalian church. Which had much more of an emphasis on the importance of church history than either of the denominations I came from historically have. In college the only church history class I took was Baptist history which is only roughly 400 years old. That means I was missing about 1500 years of church history! (Thank the Lord we had a new dean come into the theology depart who vamped up their history program after I left) I also started to read church history on my own as I was preparing for seminary and reconstructing my faith. I remember reading one of these books one day and the author Rebecca Lyman was describing an old heresy, maybe the first one. And it dawned on me….She was describing the theology of my childhood and much of American christianity! I thought to myself, “We’re all a bunch of heretics!”
As you can guess from my above section heading the name of our fun little heresy is Gnosticism. Much of the theology in American Christianity particularly Evangelical and the Fundamentalists traditions, is a rendition of this old heresy called Gnosticism. Church Historian Justo Gonzalez describes Gnosticism this way,
“Drawing from several sources, the Gnostics came to the conclusion that all matter is evil, or at best unreal. A human being is in reality an eternal Spirit (or part of an eternal spirit) that somehow has been imprisoned in a body. Therefore, the Gnostic’s final goal is to escape from the body and the material world in which we are exiled. This image of exile is crucial for Gnosticism. The world is not our true home, but rather an obstacle to the salvation of the spirit-a view which, although officially rejected by orthodox Christianity, has frequently been part of it.”González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Pg. 70-71
Essentially the Gnostics taught that materialness/the physical/our bodies are bad or evil and that whats spiritual is good. They taught that the world is evil, and salvation is therefore an escape from the world to a spiritual realm and this was achieved through a secret knowledge or belief. Sound familiar? This is an old rendition of our “gospel message”: The world is evil and is going to be destroyed so we need to hear the gospel (this secret information that only Christians know (as if God keeps it hidden) and believe it with our minds and then our soul will be saved and when we die we can leave the physical world behind, and go to the Spiritual realm of heaven. In the meantime, we need to retreat from the world as much as possible. We will do this by making our own “Christian” coffee shops, bookstores, homeschool co-ops, our own music and radio stations, and movies, etc. And since our bodies don’t matter since it’s really our souls will live on, we can eat junk food and never exercise!
This is what I and many others were and still are taught explicitly or implicitly. This is Gnosticism and it drives much of what Christians in America believe and practice. Its why social justice doesn’t matter to many, its why climate change and stewarding the environment doesn’t matter, and its why, as I wish I would have known working at camp, we don’t care about taking care of our bodies. But this is not the gospel that Jesus or His disciples taught!
Will The Real Gospel Please Stand Up!
What Jesus and the first Christians taught as the good news or gospel of the Kingdom was as follows: God in Christ is becoming King (A Kingdom needs a King), and as such is bringing his Kingdom to this world on earth as it is in heaven. Under God’s Kingship and Kingdom he is going to set right all of the wrongs in the world and is working to restore and heal all of God’s good, although marred, creation including our material world. In the bringing and culmination of God’s Kingdom all things, including material things, will be made new, healed, and reconciled to God. When this happens God will raise our bodies up (just like Christ’s body was raised up) in the great resurrection of the dead. And we will live in our new resurrected bodies in the healed world. The announcement of this good news, of God in Christ as King, is a call for humans to take up the work of the Kingdom by following that king and participating in his work to restore all of creation. In fact living according to the blueprint of God’s Kingdom (think sermon on the mount, and really any teaching of Jesus), is the work needed and by which we cooperate with God in making all things new, of bringing his Kingdom.
We need to break up with Gnosticism and reclaim the Real Gospel. And that’s why Donuts are heretical.
Photo by Kobby Mendez on Unsplash