Nothing gets my attention more quickly than a theological discussion involving a golfer. Rabbi Andrea Myers implies in an essay in the Jewish Week that a character she calls Morris, the Golfer, is an apostate, much like the Talmudic character Elisha Ben Abuyah, whom she directly labels an apostate.
She describes how both of these characters, the modern one and the ancient one, took leave of Judaic practice and/or belief because they "had a problem of theodicy: the question of how God can exist if there is evil in the world." Both men, she implies, especially Elisha Ben Abuyah, "went from being a respected scholar to an apostate." We are not sure that Morris ever was a scholar. But he gets to be classed by Myers together with the ancient rabbi anyhow.
Rabbi Myers is sensitive and certainly appears to grapple with serious theological issues and we applaud that activity. She makes two mistakes, both critical, in her essay. First she criticizes a golfer who chooses not to attend synagogue, and who justifies to her his behavior with a theodicy story. Golfers are above criticism on this blog. They can do no wrong.
More seriously though, Myers misunderstands the term "apostate". That word is reserved in the historical and sociological literature to describe a specific personality. It does not fit to use the term for anyone with a theodicy issue who questions God and avoids organized religion. Thoughtful criticism and questioning is a valid part of organized religious life.
David Bromley in his book "The Politics of Religious Authority" says it most clearly. Apostates are subversive leavetakers from a community of faith, "who are involved in a contested exit and affiliate with an oppositional coalition." Number one, they leave the religion with a specific story of conflict, sometimes an escape-from-captivity narrative. And number two, they affiliate with another community.
Golf is not an organized religion, no matter how religiously one plays it. And Elisha Ben Abuyah does not fit the sociological apostate mold as defined by most who use the term. Elisha after all, is still talked about in the Talmud. He is a special case, not an apostate. You can argue convincingly that there is no such thing as pure philosophical apostasy. It is a term that demands demonstrable sociological acts and affiliation changes, most often joining another religion.
Myers makes a bad confusion of terminology and categories and does poor Morris, the Golfer, a major disservice.