Yesterday, after an LEM meeting and before dancing, I saw the video "Choose This Day" which, apparently, is being sent to many Wardens of the Episcopal Church.
"Choose This Day" is a video meant to educate, warn, and inspire the laity to reaffirm their committment to the tradition of orthodox Christianity that believes a central aspect of God's word, as revealed in scripture, firmly separates holiness from same-sex genital activity. Apparently it was not sent to priests, but mainly to wardens. I can understand - Priests have been indoctrinated with a bit too much Bultmann (although, at Chicago it was Betz all the way.) and are untrustworthy fifth columnists due to their fancy M.Div degrees from apostate seminaries filled with PhDs from Union and Yale.
They would have had a bit more sympathy if the video was warning us about the undocumented workers three blocks away. I know that if they take over the church, half the church would leave. But, that's the Gospel. You preach it, and people leave.
I wish I could have met the person responsible for the idea of sending this, so that I could figure out if they really wanted to aggravate the majority of Episcopalians in the church. I admit that the worst part of me wants to show this video to my vestry, if only to help reaffirm their liberality. Not that it was done poorly. I actually enjoyed the video. In fact, when I saw Kendall, I was ready to send money and join.
It was pretty interesting rhetoric. In one of the first images, a
hand is lovingly touching the page, looking at the verse that affirms
scripture is to be used for edification, rebuke and encouragement. It
then tears it out of the holy book, and it drops, along side other
parts of scripture that have been ripped out. I wonder who they paid
to do that to a bible.
Granted, I could quibble. I could mention that "scripture" probably means the Hebrew Scriptures. I could remind everyone that it did not say scripture was inerrant but useful. But what the scripture does not say is as important as what it does say. Is scripture perfect in the way God is perfect? No. It does not say that biblical culture, the culture in which scripture was written, takes priorty over our culture.
These are quibbles.
I believe most Episcopalians have assented to the idea that scripture is often read selectively. They don't think that this is a good or bad thing. It is just the way people work. I think they understand the book as a book important to read and reread, but have a deep suspicion about its relevance and worth.
Was there ever a time the bible formed people? I think so - probably after the printing press; in an environment where the bible was used to answer all life's difficult problems. Have a question? Just drop a bible on the table and see where the page lands. That's God talking. Read scripture and add a healthy drop of superstition, and you have the Christian religion, as practiced during most of church history.
So the first image, I think, will not provoke the desired response. It may frighten a few people about ECUSA. But it may confuse others, and for most just reaffirm that there are a few who think the bible is everything, and others who think the bible is one thing, amongst others, like the BCP, reason, experience, natural law, and Jesus Christ in the body of the church.
But two other ideas jumped out at me. One is the first metaphor - the description of ECUSA as a fake. I wanted to be offended, but it raised other questions for me. The first is to ask, what are fakes for? There have been fakes that, in themselves, have been fairly amazing works of art. Umberto Eco, at one point, described all history as, in fact, a history of fakery - of imitation, and of deception. This all may sound negative, but fakes are what ensure that people tell the truth. And one aspect of fakes is how they tend to idealize reality. In short, sometimes fakes are better than the real thing. Am I saying that ECUSA is, actually a fake and should revel in is deception? Not really. To me it is equally plausible that the reasserters, in their attempt to idealize the tradition, may easily be the "fakes."
The question of "what is fake?" is a corallary to ask, what does it mean to say someone, or something, is "authentic?" So I looked in my library and found an interesting book I'd read about 16 years ago called The Jargon of Authenticity by Theodore Adorno. His argument: "Authenticity" is hopelessly subjective and relativistic. Such a standpoint means there is no way to go beyond the reasserter / reappraiser debate without finally resorting to "he said, she said." Authenticity, as described by Adorno, who whines throughout the book, merely is another way of dividing people in to separate cliques. Perhaps, then, to speak of authenticity is, implicitly, a form of gnosticism, as it creates a false dualism and an inside group of truth-bearers. The rest of us are damned. So I'm not particularly offended at being called a "fake," but I am suspicious of what the descriptions of authenticity represent. But I'm just a parish priest, and we've just raised $14,000 for a new patio. Woo hoo! Jesus is LORD! [fit in praiseworthy psalm-verse here].
The other quibble I have is with the term "alien gospel." I don't personally see the conflict as only a pagan / christian one. I do see a pagan christian conflict, but as long as we decide that unfettered, crony capitalism trumps mutual aid, I think we're all condemned on that accusation. The conflict is between two different traditions. One is a tradition that sees biblical culture, when bounding sex, accurately represents the Word of God. The other argues that the gospel of forgiveness that saves us from the shame of being human, transforming us out of our sin into becoming the sorts of persons that can love. These two traditions are now in conflict.
The term "alien" however, is interesting. It reminds me of the first time I saw my mother's American Passport. It said that she was an "alien." I had always suspected she was, but I didn't quite expect confirmation. So, I guess I do stand accused. I am, after all, half-alien.
It will be very useful proclaiming an "alien gospel." Has anyone ever considered how we would preach to those abducted by our outer-space visitors? After all, there are more abductees than Episcopalians. And eventually, when we want to preach the Word to other planets, an alien Gospel will be exactly what we need.
Last, if via media decides to do another video, please use better music. Arvo Part. Gospel. Or even Reggaeton. Now that would capture my attention.