Tuesday, June 19, 2007
What are we to make of "Absurd Shibboleths"?
This morning, over at HOB/D, the observation was made that part of the "massive overreaction" of the Global South to the consecration of Gene Robinson is due to the shift in the perception of Americans from "benevolent brother" to "the principal web of the source of evil." This perception carries over and is inextricably linked to The Episcopal Church.
The quote that caught my eye was this:
"Among Anglicans, "Gene Robinson and George Bush to us are the same," is something that is routinely repeated. Instead of being offended, we ought to figure out why such an absurd shibboleth actually seems logical outside" TEC.
So, I responded:
This is an important point. I'd like to venture a response of my own.
The reason such an absurdity may seem logical outside TEC is perhaps due to the fact that it is convenient so to do. If you are employing a system of thought and reason which is based on outdated, flawed or otherwise incorrect information from medical, psychological and/or social sciences, coupled with a particular "fungelical" interpretation of the scripture, that which is absurd becomes a highly logical, reasonable, plausible reality.
It has ever been thus in the oppression of people of color, women, children, etc.
Another component has to do with political opportunity. Never has the time been more opportune for some of these bishops from the Global South to reverse the colonialism which has been the historic, evil source of their severe oppression and extreme poverty. We're being given "a taste of our own medicine" and it has never been more a more bitter pill to swallow. Never mind about Christianity. Most of the evils of colonialism were perpetrated in the name of Jesus.
That political opportunity also extends to malcontents on this side of the world in TEC. The bishops of the Global South have been very carefully courted for the promotion and success of the goals of political efforts funded by organizations like the IRD and its Episcopal manifestation, the AAC. This is not to insult the intelligence of some of those GS leaders. By no means! Indeed, it has been an important partnership. The IRD and AAC have provided an important, well-funded vehicle to achieve the goals of providing the USA with an experience of "reverse colonialism".
Oh, have the rest of us in TEC failed? You bet. Have we sat on our excuses while the 'fungevangelicals' spread their particular interpretation of the Gospel "far and wide"? Guilty as charged. Did neo-Puritan, conservative evangelical Episcopalians move in exploit these new Christians for their own purposes? Of this there can be no doubt. Did the Global South seize the opportunity for their own gain? With breathtaking cunning and intelligence.
Oh, there is more - much, much more - to the story, but those are the major components of my first blush analysis.
Here's the thing: History - especially the history of religious 'wars' like this - teaches us that whenever "the absurd becomes logic" it is a sure and certain sign that evil is afoot.
I would like to offer another way to look at this. Martin Smith, an Episcopal priest and former superior of the SSJE in Cambridge once offered a retreat in which he provided a marvelous perspective - one that has stayed with me all these years later. It is this: Whenever we look at a situation and scratch our heads in utter confusion and say, "What are we to make of this?" that is a sure and certain sign that God is inviting us into the creation of something new. God is inviting us into a co-creative process which is our vocation.
When I have looked over the situation of the past decade and seen the absurdity mentioned by Bishop Pierre, I have scratched my head and wondered aloud, "What are we to make of this?" And, I have heard God respond with great joy, "Alright! Now we're talking!"
I think that question is being heard and is beginning to find an answer in recent statements by the Windsor Report and the Primate's Communique. It is also finding an answer in the recent statements of the HoB and the EC. I have no doubt that Lambeth 2008 and General Convention 2009 will also provide pieces of answers to the question.
I suppose I should not be surprised that the words of the Great Reformer come to mind. Martin Luther once said, "This life, therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, nor health but healing, nor being but becoming, nor rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished but it is going on, this is not the end but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified."
That is the way of God. What are we flawed, faulted, impatient humans to make of that?