Friday, March 19, 2010

On "As the Anglican World Turns": An Epiphany During Lent

It's Friday and I'm catching up on all the "As the Anglican World Turns" news I missed this week getting my actual work done. So here are a few updates and some reflections:

First of all, my email included this "Google Alert"
Central Florida Bishop and Gay Executive Council Member Face Off Over Glasspool
Virtue Online
John W. Howe, and Bruce Garner, a gay Executive Council TEC member, faced off on the Bishops' and Deputies' list over the election of Mary Glasspool, ...
My, my, my -- I thought to myself. I thought there was a confidentiality agreement for those subscribed to that list! So I went and double-checked and -- sure enough -- at the end of every post to the House of Bishops and Deputies list (fondly referred to as "HoB/D") was this pretty clear reminder:
Unless this message is clearly in the public domain, e.g. a press release, it may not be redistributed without its author's permission.
(Remarkably unambiguous statement for Episcopalians, don'cha think? We probably don't even need a Special Committee from the House of Bishops to unpack this one for us!)

All of this prompted what I thought was a "retweetable" response from Colorado Deputy Lilith Zoe Cole -- which I post here with her (of course) permission:
The irony is that some (who paradoxically insist that a covenant would help) refuse to abide by the courtesies to which they have agreed as members of a community.
Which prompted me to say both "Amen" and "So what's up with that?"

And then I had an epiphany. In Lent. (Go figure.) Check out this rather extraordinary post by Kendall Harmon over at Titusonenine:

Kendall Harmon: A Personal Plea to Blog Readers in this Time
Posted by Kendall Harmon

I don't often do this, but it would mean a lot to me if you would not simply read, but read, think and pray about this entry.

"I've always been impressed that we are here, surviving, because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds." ~ On the English people

Of course, said Gandalf. And why should not they prove true? Surely you do not disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all! -- (J.R.R. Tolkien's character) Gandalf

The Lord of the Rings is about how men, including the humblest of men, choose to act in the face of moral urgency and engulfing peril. It is about the power of humility, the wisdom of mercy, the glory of self-sacrificial valor, the false glamour of evil, the workings of grace, and above all, the necessity of faith.

Put more plainly, LOTR screenwriter Phillippa Boyans says it's about goodness -- an idea that leaves many moderns skeptical and confused. "We come from a generation that has never had that question put to us," she said in an interview. "It was put to the generation of World War I. It was put to the generation of World War II. 'What are you prepared to do?' 'Are you going to hold on?' 'Are you going to keep going?' 'Do you have to live?' 'Is this a world worth fighting for?' All of this is in there." --Rod Dreher

I will take comments, but only ones that wrestle with the content here and its call for courage, faith and hope. Many thanks--KSH
So here's the epiphany part. I think this is a genuine window into the worldview of those -- like Kendall Harmon -- who find themselves on the other-side-of-the-aisle on issues of inclusion. For them, it's not about wrestling through differences and finding compromises in order to come to consensus and accommodate as broad a range of perspectives as possible within the container of Anglican comprehensiveness that calls all people into communion with God and with each other.

It's a face off between Good and Evil.

And they're the Good Guys. Up against "Capital E" Evil. And therefore, all bets are off. When you're defending the Alamo of Orthodoxy, the gloves are off, the rules don't apply and what you do or don't do -- the truth you tell or don't tell -- the confidences you breach and the colleagues you betray are all in the service of The Absolute Truth ... which you have and the Bad Guys don't.

Whether it's posting emails from a confidential list to a polemic blog or perpetuating disinformation about the Episcopal Church in the national news media, it's all good ... because it's all FOR the "Capital G" Good they're fighting for.

And that, my brothers and sisters, doesn't just "make the heart sad." It should make the heart, soul and body scared -- because rabid absolutism is as dangerous in South Carolina as it is in South Yemen.

Here endeth the epiphany!


Jim said...

Rev. Elizabeth,

I and others have noted before that the language on the one side is of reconciliation and conversation while the other is of war.

The hate-the-sin sorts are determined to destroy. The little detail that they are talking about people, and indeed fellow believers simply requires some expert lying. So, for instance, you do not believe in God, the Gospel or the Resurrection if you think lesbians are whole humans. No matter how often real women stand up and affirm the quadrilateral and Nicene Creed, they simply lie about them.

Dr. Harmon has no excuse. His rhetoric is not of the God of Peace but of Thor. He is going to lead the war, cheer the warriors and be shocked, shocked(!) when bloodshed in Nigeria or Uganda results. Love the sinner -- hate the sin was the formula of the Inquisition.

Dr. Williams should be a bit more careful. He threatens to show us the door and has not yet figured out how ready many of us are ready to walk through it. Ultimately he won't get war -- peace through justice requires that we be willing to accept exile or other violence. The confirmation votes say that the church is prepared to do exactly that.

No, the church won't again try to send lesbian and gay members to a crucified place -- at last we seem ready. We will go there together.

Does blatant failure to follow copyright law surprise you given the tactic of filing law suits and then complaining about them? After all duplicity is legit in war. Yes it is sad and pathetic but it is also utterly predictable.


Brian R said...

Strange reading the comments over there where many portray TEC as Mordor. I am an avid LOTR fan having read the book about 8 times and seen each movie 3 times but I have always thought of myself, a gay man, as fighting Mordor, the Jensenites who run the Diocese of Sydney. To each his own interpretation :-)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

First of all, it always amazes me that the folks on the Right parse LOTR like scripture. I mean, they quote LONG passages of it - much more so than scripture. What's up with that, anyway?

Second, when I was part of the NCTF, a conservative southern woman looked at me, on day 5, and said, "You are a lovely woman. I believe you love Jesus. But . . . (and you knew there was a 'but' in there somewhere) . . . I will NOT let you take the church of my birth from my grandchildren."

Then, I knew, that this is not about rational thought or reason. This makes absolutely no sense, except to those who think in one dimension, black and white, good vs. evil kinda way.

Makes the heart sad. Not scared. Not me, anyway. I'm in no way scared. Sad. Very, very sad. But not scared.

That's a better way to describe those on the Right.

ronchaplin3 said...

My Lenten meditations this year have turned out to be an audiobook
version of Deeprak Chopra's "The Third Jesus" -- a most interesting
perspective on the gospels by a deeply spiritual man raised in a non-
Christian faith tradition. One of his spiritual exercises which I
have found myself repeating over and over is Jesus' instruction to
"resist not evil".

Chopra encourages us to quell the dualism with is so prevalent within
both our secular and religious cultures. As I understand him, what he
is saying is that to see the world as a clash between good and evil,
is actually to re-inforce the powers of evil, to make the evil bigger
and scarier than it merits -- and thereby releasing all kinds of
malevolent energy in the world.

It's a compelling argument -- for both our religious and our civil

rob said...

Susan, in your more recent blog entry you wrote: "But there's another option -- and that's to help them. Get it."

And here in this entry you write: "And then I had an epiphany.....It's a face off between Good and Evil."

Congratulations you finally do get it, you get where we conservatives are coming from. We think it is evil to proclaim homosexual behavior as good. We believe the incarnation of sin leads to eternal death. And so to say something isn't sin which in fact is, leads people we love (homosexual friends, brothers, children, aunts, etc.) to eternal death.

So yes, you do get it. We conservatives believe we are in a battle with evil, and the Evil One, the Father of Lies, likened to Sauron of Mordor in TLOTR. And we believe that is the force at work behind many of the things that your side is fighting for.

You are also correct when you write: "For them, it's not about wrestling through differences and finding compromises in order to come to consensus and accommodate as broad a range of perspectives as possible within the container of Anglican comprehensiveness that calls all people into communion with God and with each other." Exactly. We think that about things like style of music, not sexual morality. How could we compromise with a force that we think is leading our brothers and sisters to eternal damnation?

Here you are promoting the "listening proces" so we can listen to your experience of God as homosexual Christians and find compromise and we are saying there can be no compromise with experience rooted in sin because it destroy souls.

So congratulations again, you are beginning to actually do what you claim we conservatives refuse to do and that is to listen.

May the Lord bless you in your walk.

In Christ,

MarkBrunson said...

That is why, if given the chance, despite all their P.R.-conscious claims, these . . . people . . . will happily kill each and every one of us as lingeringly and brutally as possible.

They. Are. Savages.


rob -- Oh my dear, I "got it" a VERY long time ago.

Fundamentalism is a cancer that spreads across faith boundaries and unites those with certainty that their way is the "only way" in a shared ability to kill for what they beleve to be Absolute Truth.

The mind boggles at those who can take the message of God's love, compassion and justice made manifest in Jesus of Nazareth who trusted that love even unto death and turn it into a weapon to beat into submission those who deviate from their narrow, literalist constructions.

Bishop Robert Shahan had it right: Faith is what you're willing to die for. Dogma is what you're willing to kill for.

Keep your dogma. I'll keep my faith.

Kyrie eleison.

Jeremy Bonner said...


"Rabid absolutism is as dangerous in South Carolina as it is in South Yemen."

Given the current state of the world, isn't that quite as Manichean a statement as the anything that appears on Stand Firm?

Is the situation of liberal Christians in South Carolina or Central Florida remotely comparable to those in Iraq or Burma? A liberal commentator on T19 recently observed - quite rightly - that no one in TEC or ACNA had the right to use the language of "persecution" since it devalued the very real sufferings of those in more anti-Christian climates.

I, for one, was more than a little struck by the fact that the Diocese of Central New York recently sold off the property recovered in Binghamton to be used as an Islamic Awareness Center. While I don't think there should be an absolute prohibition on the manner in which deconsecrated property is disposed, to date the constant refrain has been that there were dispossessed congregations waiting to return. Evidently this was not the case here, but to make a point against "fundamentalism" it was necessary to refuse even to entertain a bid from the former congregation. So the game of defining darkness and light is now under way on both sides.

I also think it's a little unfair to Kendall (though less so to the comments that follow) to assume what he meant by the quotes listed. I suspect that you could read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the words cited and draw conclusions of your own that don't conflict with your theological principles.

I don't see how your position and those on the other extreme can be reconciled since they're ontological opposites. Either the conservative view of how sexuality ought to be expressed is correct or it isn't and, if the latter, then your understanding ought to prevail. If I understand it correctly, it's analogous to the debate on political civil rights (as opposed to the later debate on economic empowerment, where people could reasonably disagree on the best way forward).

The division is coming whether any of us like it or not. Did people on both sides contribute to this rending of the Body? Yes, probably. Would it have happened anyway? Yes, probably. Are there people of principled conviction on both sides? Unquestionably. The only thing left over which we have some control is the manner in which the breakup will occur. There are those on both sides looking for absolute victory. I wonder if, like Pyrrhus, we will ultimately have cause to wonder: "A few more such victories and I shall be utterly undone."

uffda51 said...

Rob+, your response is so virulent that one would think TEC had just selected an imprisoned serial killer as a bishop. (If we had, there would be no lawful impediment to that person marrying.)

Why do you persist in thinking that homosexuality is a choice? Why would anyone choose to be reviled by the likes of you? Why do you reject the Biblical scholarship of the last several centuries? Why do you reject the scientific insights of the past century, particularly the recent discoveries about epigenetic changes? Why do you reject the witness of the LGBT faithful? Isn’t ignoring the facts the very definition of ignorance? Isn’t bearing false witness a sin?

Since you felt obligated to stop by this blog and lecture us about sin, I wonder if you also felt the need to lecture South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford at his web site, given his well-documented sins and the $74,000 fine he agreed to pay this week.

Life is apparently like a video game, in which conservatives can be both victim and victor, since God has predetermined the ultimate losers before their birth. Boy howdy.

rob said...

Well no, my "fundamentalism" isn't about pointing fingers of hate at others. We conservatives believe the cross tells us that ALL of us are so fundamentally disordered in our affections that Jesus had to die for everyone of us, morally failed politicians included. That is how much he loves all of us, that even in our rebellion and rejection of him and his ways, he died for us -- and especially my gay brothers and sisters. I truly believe Jesus has particular compassion and tenderness for homosexuals. Just as he does the "widow, the orphan and the stranger."

If human kind's affections were ordered rightly, then we would all love God and love one another rightly. But we don't. We all fail at it, many sexually and an infinite variety of other ways as well.

And just as we "fundamentalists" will not accept anyone telling us it is OK to hate anyone, we also won't accept anyone telling us sexual expression is OK outside the boundaries God set for it.

I don't hate gay people, nor that they believe they have no choice about their sexuality. But I do hate the lie (and especially The Liar) that says, "This is who you are. Live with it." This 'truth' has set no one free.

Unfortunately, the gospel is offensive. But I have no shame in admitting my disordered life because it allows me to bost God's grace all the more. We conservatives object to homosexuals denying theirs because it denies them the grace God so lovingly want to bestow.

In Christ,

JCF said...

And just as we "fundamentalists" will not accept anyone telling us it is OK to hate anyone, we also won't accept anyone telling us sexual expression is OK outside the boundaries God set for it.

No, Rob. No.

You insist on having YOUR WAY on what you THINK God says are the boundaries. You claim your interpretation of Scripture is the ONLY correct one (if you admit to having an interpretation at all!), and that anyone who says otherwise MUST be deceived, deceiving or Both.

Jesus emptied himself on the cross. You want to play "King of the Hill" on Mt Bible. Compare and contrast!


Susan, the game was revealed to me some 20+ years ago, when conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer (and he's still around. FOX News, of course!) dismissed Reagan's latest nuclear weapon, or Third World intervention, or death-squad funding w/ the all-purpose cover of "We are Self-Evidently GOOD".

Once you claim that place for yourself (as opposed throwing sinful self on the Mercy of Christ---along w/ ALL the other sinners!), there's NOTHING you can't justify, rationalize, CLAIM (y'know, like possessing an infallible Biblical interpretation, or "the only plain reading of Scripture" or somesuch ;-/).

Under God's Heaven, we ALL see through a glass darkly, and need ($5 word) epistemological humility about what we claim to "know."

"In Christ Rob+" may be absolutely Right, the democratic-majority of TEC may be absolutely Wrong. We'll learn for sure, on Judgment Day. Until then, we can only go w/ Scripture, Tradition and Reason praying that Holy Spirit enlighten us all, evermore---and then TRUST God to uphold us in Infinite Love when we inevitably get it wrong, ANYWAY.

What our friend Rob here seems not to understand, is that I can't turn my conscience off (that place which processes what Scripture, Tradition and Reason is saying) JUST BECAUSE he screams I'm wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

I may be wrong.

I'll take Rob's word "under advisement".

...but my conscience---formed by my 48 years in the Episcopal Church (day-by-day, week-by-week, Sunday-by-Sunday, season-by-season)---is not persuaded that TEC is wrong, and Rob is right.

But God's not done w/ any of us yet. I hope those that see TEC as "Mordor" (++KJS as Sauron?) can comprehend that.


So over on Titusonenine someone named "Sarah" quoted from this blog post in her comment:


RE: “‘I finally get it. They (meaning we reasserters) are not about compromise and reaching consensus but they think this is a fight between good and evil.’


Good ideas and evil destructive ideas.

Of course, the funny part of Russell’s statement is that she and her activist friends aren’t—manifestly—“about compromise and reaching consensus” either. Why? Because for them it’s also about a fight between good and evil too—only of course for them, it’s all about the “bigots”.

Tee hee.

Moving further, though, along the rhetorical trail of Russsell, you’ve got a person who—as it suits her—occasionally admits the whole “battle between good and evil” reality [only of course, with her it’s personal and embittered, and not at all about the ideas], and then on occasion pretends as if—on her side—it’s *not* about good and evil at all, but rather about the Cruel Unkind Conservatives who make it so.

This makes for an interesting psychological analysis.

1) Sometimes she’s willing to admit it’s about good and evil [only *evil* persons, on the conservative side, of course].

2) Sometimes she’s not willing to admit that and instead wishes to imply that it’s the other side that’s about good and evil and her side is about “compromise and reaching consensus” and is only being victimized.

3) The fun thing is to observe when it’s the first option or the second with her rhetoric.

4) And to enjoy noting that on occasions, the progressive activists *fear* acknowledging the good and evil fight that it is and prefer to fall back on the “we leftists are all victims here.”


I can't reply over there -- they "moderate out" my comments now -- but because I think there are some interesting questions I'm going to respond here. (Someone ELSE could try cutting-and-pasting my response on T19 but I wouldn't hold my breath it would stay up.)

Anyway ... here goes [See "PART TWO" below]:


1) In point of fact, I don't believe any person is ontologically evil -- although I know there are readers and commenters on this blog who disagree with me. Believing absolutely everyone is created in the image of God and deserving of respect TOTALLY SUCKS sometimes -- but there is it.

2) If anyone can point me to a place in the now decade-plus I've been holding forth on these matters that I've EVER said everyone shouldn't be welcome at the table I'll eat my mouse pad.

What we -- I -- have said over and over and OVER again is there's an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are.

And the invitation continues to be to build community across differences -- to insist that differences to not HAVE to equal divisions.

3) I guess I should be flattered folks from the other-side-of-the-aisle pay that much attention to my "rhetoric."

4) At the end of the day, straining at gnats doesn't do anybody -- the gnats or the gospel -- any good. But let me try to reduce it to "tweetable" sentences:

There is good and evil in the world.

Good calls us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with the God who created us to love God and each other.

Evil convinces us our way is the only way, the "other" is to be feared rather than loved and that we have both the power and the responsiblity to impose our reality on others.

What I'm writing about here -- in this blog post -- is the cautionary tale of how we can become so blind to our own power and certainty that we have sole possession of the Absolute Truth that we fail to see the humnanity in others and proclaim judgement rather than justice.

In fact, we place ourselves in the place of God ... presuming to judge fellow human beings as evil.

It is absolutely true that all have sinned and fallen short of living up to the full stature of Christ we are called to be as his followers. But we do that by not loving enough -- not by who we love.

In the final analysis, I believe what matters to God is not our sexual orientation but our theological orientation ... and an idol is an idol: whether it's The Bible or A Golden Calf -- it's not God.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled Sunday.