5. Joel Osteen
Yes, he’s absolutely wrong about most things theological, and his teaching is very harmful to Christianity. But just look at that smile. How can you resist that smile? And that hair? And those suits? And his perfectly calibrated delivery? It’s easy to see why. Just look at those beautiful eyes, those deep wells of comfort.
4. George Carlin
I think Mr. Carlin is technically a blasphemer and not a heretic, but he’s damned either way so I can include him. He actually was raised a Catholic, and I have to think that that Catholic upbringing informed the sense of justice that fueled much of his comedy. He consistently mocked virtually all aspects of Christianity. But even his mockery pointed toward a deeper compassion toward our fellow man. I have no idea as to the state of his soul at the time of his death, but I would like to think he wasn’t too far from belief in God.
3. Galileo Galilei
The one things (among many) that dominant religions don’t like, and that’s dissent. I honestly haven’t read that much about Galileo. I do know his fight with the Catholic Church has been co-opted inaccurately by the ridiculous science v. religion debate. But then again, the church did force him to recant his celestial views. I don’t think you can draw a straight line between GG and GPS, but there is some connection. So thanks, G.
2. Martin Luther
Back in the day Pope Leo X said Luther is “one whose faith is notoriously suspect and in fact a true heretic.” But Luther is only a heretic from the Catholic perspective. If you’re a Protestant, however, he’s a hero. He is one of the primary figures of the Reformation (not the first, though). In recent months I have been studying Lutheranism, and my appreciation of Luther has increased quite a bit. He had the strength to stand up to nearly 1500 years of tradition and the most powerful institution of day and say, “Nah, you got it wrong.” Some heretics are bad, but when doctrine goes bad then heretics are essential.
1. Joan of Arc
She claimed that God spoke to her, told her to lead the French army against the invading English. The church didn’t like this, not one bit. She was eventually burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft and whatever. The film The Passion of Joan of Arc depicts her trial and subsequent burning. She was resolute in her belief that God has spoken to her, even in the face of certain, painful execution. Frankly, we could use more people of such all-consuming faith.