Forgiveness in this model is precisely not a hermetic self-sealing off from the other whom I declare myself to be nothing at all like. On the contrary, forgiveness turns out to be a creative moving towards someone whom I am like in such a way that they will be free from death with me so that together we will be a new 'we'. It is... a living towards running the risk of being killed by the person over time....
As a human, Jesus was allowing himself to become like us. He decided to become like us, which involved not merely physically losing his life so that we might lose our fear of death, but losing his human identity over time, in forgiveness, so that we might be given his identity, and he ours.
If you want another example of this, consider his instruction to his disciples: "behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Rather than this being an instruction about prudence, I suggest this is what acting out firgiveness in the world looks like. It looks like knwoing that you are dealing with dangerous people, who are more than likely to be deeply destabilized by your innocence, and because of that seek to lynch you.
It doesn't take a conservative to admit that one of the big problems in the developing world is the "big man." Obviously there are good things about having a clear authority. But one of the wonderful things about capitalism and democracy is its tendency to undermine ossified traditions and institutions.
There seems to be rumor that Akinola, with the encouragement of various camps in the US, is ready to declare himself head of the southern Anglican church. Let us not be fooled - this is not merely a north/south thing. There are plenty of smart bishops in the South who simply don't buy into Akinola's bad theology. What he requires is ideological uniformity. This is an understandable desire, a part of our Platonic heritage. And on essentials, I'm inclined to agree. But imagine the irony when a reasserting archbishop claims "we're tired about talking about sex." Liberals feel the same. So lets talk about polity and authority instead - where respect and theology get directly engaged.
Akinola is setting himself up as the "big man." Christian behavior is secondary to his hubris and arrogance. He has given himself authority to discern the holy and profane. He has implicitly declared himself a God, by giving himself God's authority. If God Himself had declared homosexuality neutral, Akinola would set up a different religion.
This is ecclesiastical totalitarianism, and finally, the reason I am glad I am in the west, and am proud to be part of the truly evangelical, the truly liberal, the truly catholic church that is able to recognize the image of God in all his peoples, and not merely in the righteous. But he can do as he wishes. We've seen how well the Big Man form of authority of government has done in Africa.
I don't expect it will be much different in the church. If anything, Akinola will create the seeds of civil unrest within his own continent, as a small cadre of African bishops and priests decide to think for themselves. Akinola will insist on ideological purity; he will form inquisitional systems to ensure his continued authority; and he will find ways to hreaten clergy who don't hold his own views. And all this will be done in the name of Christian love.
Akinola will expect compensation from the conservative west, but that will be slow and inconsistent. It will take years for reasserters to harness the expertise and connections ECUSA already has. Individual churches in Africa, and organizations like the Mother's Union will resist the totalitarian impulses of the men running the church, and accept the support of ECUSA, which is given without any litmus test. ECUSA, unlike the conservatives, has the authority not to talk about sexuality. However, is the only thing that truly identifies conservatives.
It's all very sad. The Ugandan and Nigerian priests in my diocese have been cut off from their homes, whether or not they share the same views. It's all pollution by association, an aspect of religion that seems antithetical to Christianity. Of course, perhaps Akinola is a better representative of an old religion with a Christian veil, and we Christian humanists are left watching them enjoy the crucifixion of those who would offer a more humane world, and are more tentative in claiming that a single self-selected man can claim the authority to speak as God does. We already have someone who has spoken, and He is the entire body, not just the genitals.
And when there is confusion, only love prevails and endures. I have no reason to think that Akinola believes that the power of love can manage the tension and challenges in difference that we have between us. For Akinola, love is believing what Akinola says.
No, he's never said this. But his actions speak louder than words.
I was reading through some of the things my mother collected before she died [1994, at 52]. She was several times confused with Sofia Loren on the street, a writer of some regional authority, with a mercurial temperament.
Her theology was quite simple, "God is Love," with the steady blessings and encouragements she'd retained from a life of being Christian. Her funeral service was held in the cathedral, and it was appropriately ecumenical. A presbyterian minister and poet remarked, "she died as a true Christian," and the church bass sang "there is a balm in Gilead. As he service was ending, one of her favorite cousins arrived after a ten hour drive, and began singing a ghazal from the back of the Cahtedral, a hymn about God containing all things, God bringing everything to himself, a god of such deepest love that we cannot comprehend.
She kept this passage by Paul in her Journal.
They call us deceivers
and we tell the truth;
and we are fully acknowledged;
and see, we live;
but not doomed to die;
that rejoice continually;
that bring riches to many;
and the world is ours;
The vatican looks to pry into the secret thoughts of its seminarians. Perhaps they'll find something, although I think there are reasons we say "only God knows" because few people want to know the fleeting, impulsive thoughts of most of humanity.
The vatican is clear that homosexuality is a disorder. One commentator compared this to the very reasonable limits we expect from people who have other disorders - alcoholics should not be bartenders, for example [although, empirically, I do know bartenders who do not drink]. I don't think this logic quite works. If the best way to be a homosexual is to be celibate and in control of their desires, then it seems that the church is the most fitting place for homosexual men.
One archbishop said that we should expect that priests should be rolemodels for masculinity. I think it is an interesting idea. But it seems to me that the Catholic priesthood implies that their clerics are neutered. And I don't know what a desexualized "masculinity" looks like. And it also demonstrates an ignorance about Gay culture, where masculinity is often revered and emulated.
If it is "fatherhood" we're after as the definitive aspect of masculinity, then why would the church divorce sex from this characteristic? This is precisely what gay couples understand. One does not need to be the biological father to be a good father. If anything, the Catholic priesthood demonstrates this.
An all male celibate culture that is antagonistic toward homosexuality will be intrinsically attractive towards repressed homosexuals. If the Catholic church were serious about extricating the intrinsically gay culture of the Catholic priesthood, they would ordain women.
One African bishop demonstrated his ignorance about sexuality by framing Gay persons as predators, going so far as to claim that gay men take other people's children. Although it is true that there are gay predators, because men are often predators. Orientation is not necessarily part of the predatory set.
Maybe it is enough to say that a Chrisitian masculinity is not predatory. This is good news to our culture. We miss the mark when we focus, instead, on homosexual relationships based on fidelity and covenant. We miss the mark when we focus on the genital act, and not on the intention. We miss the mark when we focus on what is outside, and not what is inside. So says the Gospel, at least.
I'm staying in a fellow Episcopalian's house for three days while visiting my alma mater. She's convinced that we have things wrong in the mideast.
don't we know that first they have to change their minds about Jews?
I was a bit caught off guard. She's obviously a progressive in many ways, but she is incredibly passionate about this one issue. She really believes that anti-semitism runs almost ontologically deeper than other forms of racism.
I admit I was a bit confused. I remarked that I thought that most of these states should be secular, without any hint of religion. It was a fantasy, a worthy desire on my part, I thought. Just as muslims freely come into Christian countries, it is entirely reasonable that Christians might expect to worship freely in other countries. And I'm not naive about Arab anti-semitism.
But there comes a point where the accusation of anti-semitism makes it impossible for people to hold Israel to any objective, western standards.
the idea is that when there are two states, Palestinians will realize it is not in their interests to be anti-Semitic, but would work with Israel to further the interests of their own country.
But I could hear the tinge of racism in her voice. It was full of "arabs do this," and "arabs do that" without any examiniation of how individuals make their choices. Instead, she tells me about carefully constructed propaganda pieces prepared by groups who have little interest in human rights, but have more of an interest in their theory about the apocalypse.
I was as gentle as I could possibly be in my opposition, although she was getting quite agitated. She never lost her moral compass, but it was clear that she was buying into the fatalistic generalizations that excuse whatever moral problems there are with occupation.
But if the dutch hate the Germans for WWII, is that legitimate? If the chechens hate the russians? Or the American Indians hate whites, what do we say to them? Well, I'll play it out of both sides of my mouth. We don't succumb to a politics of resentment; nor do we absolve the oppressor of their intrinsic responsibility in the game. Israel oppresses Palestinians. And merely because the palestinians hate their oppressors does not justify their continued oppression. It's a sad case that there is so much anger and resentment. But the power is in the hands of the Israelis to bring peace.
Every other Friday my friend Mary and I go check out a couple museums in the city. I presided over her wedding last year. For those readers who check out this blog often, you'll remember her as the most beautiful woman in the world. I met her in December 2000.
She'd just returned from Hong Kong, where she and her husband completed their family obligations by taking her family out to dinner. She saw all her school friends. One of them was having some trouble. Her husband wasn't a Christian. She didn't know if she could marry him, even if she was in love with him.
Mary wondered why this was important. "Can you imagine being with someone who wasn't a Christian? I mean, do you HAVE to be with one?" She was asking me.
"Well, as long as the person respected my work." I pondered for a second. "The issue is if the husband will support her or not. There are some men who will participate in the community life, but won't attend services."
"You don't think Christians are any different than other people, do you? I mean, you do think we're the same, right?" Mary's spirituality is yoga. Not much about the afterlife.
"Christians should have a different perspective that arises from their faith," I remarked. "But there could be people who were a lot like Christians but didnt call themselves such. But people aren't the same, and I do think there are differences between religions. Perhaps there are more differences within religions than between them." She seemed satisfied with this answer.
"but I have a question." She became very serious.
"What does it mean 'I'll pray for you'?" She hesitated for a second. "Should I feel bad? Am I not a good person?"
"She might just be saying she misses you." I said. I didn't think that was the correct translation, but Im not interested in creating a rift between friends. "or, you're on my mind a lot."
"But is she critiquing the way I live? Is she saying that she thinks I'm going to hell?"
"Well, she might be. Perhaps you are." She laughed at this possibility.
"What should I have said?"
"A simple 'thank you' would have sufficed."
"That's what I did. It just felt odd. I mean, I thought that maybe she thought I was sick, in which case, I should have been thankful. But I wasn't. And Shouldn't I ask for someone's prayer first, before they offer it to me?" In other words, what is the ettiquitte?
"Look, for some Christians, you're going to burn in hell. Your eternal damnation will depress them, especially as they are looking upon your soul in the vast abyss of Satan's kingdom. Thus, they are praying for you, because they love you."
"Shouldn't they be praying for themselves?"
"Translate it into 'have a nice day.'" I'm thinking wittgenstein. Language gone on holiday. "And if you really don't like it, just say, 'I love you too. And I'll pray for you also.' after all, they're just as likely to be damned as you are."
"It is just so weird!" She pauses "Do you really believe in hell?" Could this perfectly structured, full lipped, dark-skinned, english accented, lithe hong-kong beauty possibly be tormented by a loving God? Too bad she doesn't care enough.
"If there's a hell, we're all going to go." I quote. "I wouldn't give up such a useful doctrine. Where would I send people I don't like very much? How could I tell people 'go to hell?' if i didn't believe it? There should be a place for my enemies, including over enthusiastic metermaids, oilmen and reality-tv producers."
"Well, she can pray for me all she wants. I might need it," she decided. And with that, we pay the check and head off to Dia.
Granted, I do think Bush is fundamentally responsible. Look - I'm the ONLY liberal I know who has actually said things like "John Roberts, well, the president has every right to appoint a conservative," or "finally, Bush is the president and not the anti-Christ." But I'm always disappointed when a leader doesn't accept responsibility even for the things he's not directly responsible for. That's what a leader does. Then he fires the people who are incompetent.
but we have all been responsible for ignoring the poverty within our country.
week ago, President George W. Bush was standing against a backdrop of
US warships in San Diego, praising the bravery of his soldiers in the
war on terror and insisting that “we will not rest until victory is
America’s and our freedom is secure”. He mentioned only briefly the
hurricane that had hit New Orleans overnight.
Within hours it became clear, though, that the country faced a
disaster that will almost certainly surpass September 11 2001 in lives
lost, families and businesses ruined and the national economy shaken.
As with September 11, a long introspection is likely on why the most
powerful government in the world was unable to protect its citizens.
and its aftermath have defined Mr Bush’s presidency. When he came to
office in early 2001, he was the untested son of a president, elected
by a minority of the voters after a campaign in which he promised
little in the way of change. His response in rallying the country after
the worst foreign attack on American soil defined him as a war
president. His narrow re-election last year came almost entirely
because voters trusted him to prevent a repetition of that harrowing