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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Glenn Beck and the Anglican Covenant

It has been announced that Glenn Beck is leaving his Fox News program at the end of the year.

I'm hoping that, by this time next year, the Anglican Covenant will have reached a similar fate.

Let's just say that I'm I'm guardedly optimistic about what I view as an interesting juxtaposition of politics, religion and grace.

Let me to explain first, by talking about Glenn Beck.

Mr. Beck's ratings have reportedly been in decline since January, 2010. In a year, his show had dropped from 2.9 million viewers to 1.8 million in January.

Oh, make no mistake. Mr. Beck won’t be going away completely.  Neither will the impulse for something like an Anglican Covenant.

According to the release, Beck will be developing other projects for the Fox News Channel.
Fox News and Mercury Radio Arts, Glenn Beck’s production company, are proud to announce that they will work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the Fox News Channel as well as content for other platforms including Fox News’ digital properties. Glenn intends to transition off of his daily program, the third highest rated in all of cable news, later this year.
The bottom line, however, is that Mr. Beck has lost his easy access into many American homes - and automobiles - as a way to propagate his extremist right-wing perspective on everything from health care to liberation theology to the authenticity of the birth certificate of the President of the United States.

He'll still have his "fan base", but the "marked share" of that base has eroded by more than a third in the past year - apparently, this is primarily from a younger demographic.

I suspect that, the longer we discuss the Anglican Covenant as a vehicle to "keep us talking to one another", the "fan base" of this document will, similarly, erode.

I trust that we will have discovered that in talking to each other without the Anglican Covenant, we CAN keep talking to each other without it.

Mr. Beck was at the zenith of his popularity in January, 2010, during the health care debate, becoming a leading voice in the shameful, fear-mongering effort to stop legislation that would bring about much needed reform.

Like so many extremists, however, the man always overplays his hand, alienating more people than he was able to persuade. So, too, with those who have insisted on the development of an Anglican Covenant.

For example, Mr. Beck's take on black liberation theology was as laughable as it was disconcerting and, momentarily at least, worrisome.

In the end, however the intellectual abilities of theologian James Cone proved too formidable for Mr. Beck.

Elijah Prewitt-Davis, a master's student at Union Theological Seminary where Dr. Cone teaches, writing for Religion Dispatches in July, 2010, noted:
In a simplistic bifurcation, Beck contrasted liberation theology to his own view of what he called “traditional Christianity.” He claimed that salvation was a strictly personal affair and that there were no “works” we could do to receive the grace of God. Central to his concern was that liberation theology promoted “collective salvation” and resulted in communism and redistribution of wealth. On his infamous chalkboard he drew lines from James Cone to the Black Panthers, then to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, then Marx, then, you guessed it, President Obama and immigrants. Chalk lines, however, are easily erased.
Beck also infamously suggested any church promoting "social justice" or "economic justice" was merely was using code words for Nazism and communism.
"I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church Web site," he said. "If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. ... Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If they're going to Jeremiah Wright's church, yes!
I suspect, however, that it was Beck's "Restoring Honor" March on Washington in August of 2010 that was, ultimately and ironically, his undoing.

He had the audacity to speak on the anniversary of and in the same place from which Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his "I have a dream" speech 47 years earlier.

Beck argued that the focus of the rally - to pay tribute to America's military personnel and others "who embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth and honor" - was never at odds with King's message.

Unfortunately, Mr. Beck's extremist rewriting of history was not only seriously flawed, it was a shameful, transparent attempt to promote his particular brand of xenophobia - which includes racism, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia - while at the same time lining his pockets (and the coffers of Fox Network) with financial gain.

The man has no honor, much less the qualifications to restore honor to this country.

Mr. Beck appealed to some of the most vulnerable and troubling instincts of the human enterprise.

It's an old, old pattern - one we see operative in the Anglican Covenant.

When the world seems to be out of control - wars and rumors of wars, unemployment, an unstable economy with a growing deficit - a base human instinct of fear and anxiety is to stabilize our sense of the world by creating a scapegoat we all can hate so we'll be comforted by the assurance that "we" are the "good guys".

Mr. Beck has a keenly defined sense of how to play to those fears. And, make pots of money for himself and his cronies in the process.

There is no honor in that.

Finally - FINALLY! - some people are beginning to figure this out.

Ultimately, the "Prophets of Grace" are winning over the "Prophets of Doom". They always have. They always will.

That's because just as grace is a very personal theological matter, it is also a very important political construct.

Grace reminds us as individuals that, contrary to Mr. Beck's testosterone infused, muscular virtue of an ethic of individual merit, there is nothing we can do to earn the love of God — that it is simply poured out upon us.

As my Southern friends like to preach: Grace is like grits in a good Southern restaurant. You don't have to order it. It just shows up.

Prophets of Grace remind us that, at a political level, the minute we begin to create political structures we believe to be unambiguously right, we begin to make our own politics into God.

Prophets of Doom, however, not only create false idols, they create the illusion of demons lurking around every cornerstone of freedom.

"The Other" - anyone who is different from them - becomes "the enemy".

For Prophets of Doom like Mr. Beck, anyone who isn't white, male, heterosexual, American-born and his-kinda-Christian is automatically suspect.

For Prophets of Doom like the writers of the Anglican Covenant, anyone who is from the United States, or anyone who is LGBT or a woman in the episcopacy or embraces the inclusion of diversity is an "affront" and can cause "offense" to what they believe is "traditional Anglicanism" for which there are "relational consequences".

The ultimate test of any community or identity, however, is how it manages the border between the familiar and the unknown, what is "inside" and what is "outside", who is "us" and who is "them".

The thing about Prophets of Grace is that they attempt to remove the line altogether and give us a completely different way to think about ourselves and each other as children of God.

In an odd sort of way, this gives me hope for the eventual relegation of the Anglican Covenant to a postscript in the history of this time of schism in the Anglican Communion.

It is a document that would bring a broad smile to Glenn Beck's face.

It's the "Restoring Honor" equivalent of a group of right-wing extremists in the Anglican Communion who have, ironically enough, marched themselves right out of the Communion, declared the very Anglican Covenant they wanted irrelevant, and their own Jerusalem Declaration a far superior document of unity and clarity.

In attempting to give "teeth" to Anglican identity, the Anglican Covenant bites into the very essence of the Spirit of Anglicanism and provides "relational consequences" to anyone who "offends" that identity.

In this way it is prima facia evidence that post-colonialist thoughts of empire and domination are still alive and well - for Mr. Beck as well as The Anglican Covenant.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

I am learning more about post-colonialism in my classes with Patrick Cheng and Kwok Pui-lan - specifically, that post-colonialims is not just about a period of history, or soldiers and war, settlement and exploitation of resources, and the attempts to govern indigenous inhabitants of an occupied land.

Post-colonialism is also about a mindset about power. It's about the power to name and define. It's about domination and, ultimately, oppression - financial, political, psychological, spiritual, and religious.

This is why the proponents of the Anglican Covenant are so keen to ram this document through the provinces as a "final draft" - without possible negotiation or revision or adjustment for the particularities of the indigenous soil into which it is attempted to be planted.

I keep thinking of that little but powerful poem by Edward Markham:
"He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !
Mr. Beck and the Anglican Covenant provide us with evidence of the last gasps of the death rattle of patriarchy and post-colonialism.

Oh, each will continue to have their "fan base" and their "market share". Of this, I have no doubt. But, the popular support for the Prophets and Vehicles of Doom will not have out. This is especially true for "the younger demographic".

The challenge to the Prophets of Grace will be to draw a circle that is large enough to take in the Prophets of Doom, even as they circle the wagons in smaller and tighter and more rigid formation, lamenting that "the sky is falling".

Love has the wit to win.

That's not the question.

The question is: Will we have the courage to love?

UPDATE:  From Huffington Post . I think someone ought to do one on why the Anglican Covenant will ultimately fail.

4 comments:

Mama Tish said...

Preach it, Sister!!

Muthah+ said...

Thanks for the poem. It is very appropriate here in FTW

MarkBrunson said...

It still baffles me, because Beck isn't any kind of "traditional" Christian! He's a Mormon, which, frankly, ranks right up there with Scientology, as far as I'm concerned. A cult; nothing more.

He needs a cigarette, a drink, and a nice cup of coffee to round it off and maybe Beck will regain something approaching sanity.

Tracie Holladay said...

RE: this statement:

Post-colonialism is also about a mindset about power. It's about the power to name and define. It's about domination and, ultimately, oppression - financial, political, psychological, spiritual, and religious.

I can't "amen" this enough. And it's really scary. Has been since...about the 1980s, at least.