Relationship trumps vindication

We are called, I believe, to seek relationship with others more than we are called to find vindication of our ideas about others.

Cof orange hexEpiscopal Bishop Jake Owensby (of Western Louisiana) is one of the sharpest people I know. So when he writes something calling for a change in our corporate behavior both in the Church and in our society, I pay attention.

In his recent post on resolutions for the New Year, he ends by sharing the following list which he offers as a way to move us beyond the corrosive partisanship that just about everyone agrees is tearing us apart, but no one seems to be able to escape.

  • Seek the common good, not just your own narrow self-interest.
  • Ask what you can contribute in every situation, not merely what you will get out of it.
  • When we disagree about ideas, assume the good will of those with whom you disagree.
  • Refuse to indulge in contempt for those with whom you disagree.  Look actively for the good in them.
  • Find the one thing you agree upon and commit to working together on that with all your might.
  • Remember that right relationship is more important than being right.

We need a new tone in this country.  We need a positive, cooperative spirit that takes disagreement as a process for finding common solution instead of battles to have our own way all the time.

We are all in this together.

More here. (With graphics and a movie even!)

I added the emphasis on Jake’s last point because I think it’s so important. We need right relationships with each other more than we need to be able to protect God from the errors we fear someone else might be making. God doesn’t need our protection. And for people that might argue that we are trying to protect the person making the error, rather than protecting God, I’d like to be shown proof of how uniformly successful they’ve been in changing the behavior or ideas to which they object…

It seems to me that the opening of John’s Gospel, where we remember the moment that the Word of God literally “pitched a tent and lived among us” points us to the method that God used to finally gain our attention and change our direction. God lived among us in relationship first – our understanding and change takes place as a result of that relationship. Relationship seems to precede amendment of life – at least in most of the biblical narratives. We are called, I believe, to seek relationship with others more than we are called to find vindication of our ideas about others.

I make a further point in the opening chapter of the book “Entangled States” when I argue that the Church has a special charism in creating these sorts of healing relationships in such a moment in our history.

Not one but many: The American Nations

As a person who grew up on the border between the Midlands and Appalachia to essentially Yankee parents, who lived for a while in Tidewater and in El Norte (the US Southwest) and who now lives in Yankeedom, Woodward’s book makes sense of things I’ve noticed but couldn’t explain.

A few months ago a book by Colin Woodward called “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” (on Amazon here) lit up my Facebook and Twitter feeds with many of my friends sharing an analysis of the culture wars in America that could be rationalized by the authors thesis.

The short version is that the “northern” cultures of the US (Yankeedom, New Amsterdam, Midlands and the Left Coast) are locked in a fundamental disagreement with the Dixie cultures (Deep South, Tidewater and Appalachia) over issues like the environment, gay rights, and gun control. The fractures in Washington DC and the increasing conflict that fills the talk shows are all part of a struggle for dominance in the United States that has been going on since before the Revolutionary War.

If you’re interested in current events or politics, you ought to read the book. As a person who grew up on the border between the Midlands and Appalachia to essentially Yankee parents, who lived for a while in Tidewater and in El Norte (the US Southwest) and who now lives in Yankeedom, this book makes sense of things I’ve noticed but couldn’t explain.

For instance, within the Episcopal Church, the one regional grouping of dioceses (called a Province) that is reasonably successful is Province 1 – the New England Province. And according to Woodward, Province 1 is the only Province of the Episcopal Church that I can see which is essentially a single American culture. (The states in Province 1 are all part of Yankeedom – not all of Yankeedom is in Province 1, but it’s the only mono-culture Province.) I wonder if reorganizing the Provinces by culture rather than arbitrary state divisions would make them more effective.

As I’ve been participating in the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, and meeting regularly with leaders from across the Americas (including representatives of the South Pacific culture) I’m more and more convinced that it’s critically important to remember that the Church spans multiple cultures and that what makes sense in one context doesn’t in another. That point that the context matters is something that the Anglican Communion office has been stressing, particularly as Anglicans and Episcopalians struggle to stay in relationship across significant cultural boundaries. As much as context matters in the Anglican Communion, it matters in the Episcopal Church as well.

There’s a lot to think about in the points being made in the book. If you’ve not read it, and you’re thinking about or involved in issues at a national level (whether church or state) I really think it’s worth your time to pick this one up. It’s a fast read – especially if you’re a history buff. Stick with it, the most thought provoking section, for me at least, was the final chapters in which Woodward discusses the Culture Wars of the last century.

Put it in a special drawer…

Yesterday there were a series of rallies at the State Capital. The Latino community joined by the Democratic caucus held a rally complaining about SB1070 and the way it has harmed the state and “poisoned” relationships. The Republicans promised to resist all efforts toward repeal. The new State Senate President is quoted as saying to effect, “Any bill that I receive to repeal SB1070 is going into a special drawer in my desk. And it’s not coming out.”

In other words, the minority can expect no hearing of their concerns by the legislature. They should not expect the government to act in their interest. It will only act in the interest of the majority.

The Arizona State Legislature is about to begin its Spring session. And being Arizona, it means it’s time for some serious political posturing. I suppose we learn by the example set at the moment by the national presidential discourse.

Two years ago Arizona passed Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070). It made being in Arizona without proper immigration documentation a State as opposed to a Federal crime. (The Federal Statutes still apply.) The passage was highly contested but never in doubt. The Republican majority in the State Legislature was pretty much uniformly in support of the measure and with a roughly 2/3rds majority there was nothing the minority party could do except complain in the press.

But the Feds took action after the law was passed and through the courts blocked most of the implementation portions. There have still been some economic repercussions (though mixed admittedly) and we’ve seen a lot of national attention (mostly bad).

The biggest consequence of the passage of SB1070 and the way it was passed was the awful effect it has had on the way people in Arizona talk to each other. The Democrats here have promised to do all in their power to repeal the law. The Republicans who still hold a majority, but have seen their primary sponsor of the bill, who was the President of the State Senate, recalled and defeated in a special election, are insisting fervently that they will defend the law and protect the state against the ILLEGALS. (Note that the rhetoric has reduced the families who were invited to come to the state decades ago to provide cheap non-unionized labor are no longer people or neighbors, they’re illegals.)

Yesterday there were a series of rallies at the State Capital. The Latino community joined by the Democratic caucus held a rally complaining about SB1070 and the way it has harmed the state and “poisoned” relationships. The Republicans promised to resist all efforts toward repeal. The new State Senate President is quoted as saying to effect, “Any bill that I receive to repeal SB1070 is going into a special drawer in my desk. And it’s not coming out.”

In other words, the minority can expect no hearing of their concerns by the legislature. They should not expect the government to act in their interest. It will only act in the interest of the majority.

And thus can die the belief in democratic government. Perhaps that’s why the Founders insisted we were a Republic.

That statement by the new Senate President encapsulates much of what I think is happening here now, and soon to happen across our country. The present majority is refusing to govern for the Common Good, to seek consensus, and instead is using their majority to dismiss voices they disagree with. It’s the learned behavior of the “Echo Chamber“- turing the dial away from a dissenting voice to one we agree with.

The problem for the present majority is that very soon, perhaps in less than a generation, they will cease to be the majority. They are going to become the minority, and I fear the new majority will want revenge. (Unless a saintly voice such as Arcbishop Tutu arises as he did in South Africa after the fall of Apartheid.) The people in the present majority here in this state know this, and I believe, fear it. That’s what leads us to the sort of rhetoric and inflammatory politics we’re hearing and seeing.

Don’t for a moment imagine this fear isn’t present in the Church as well. Much of the anguish felt within the various branches of Christendom here in the United States has to do with the passing of one majority voice for another. Sometimes it’s happening gracefully. Sometimes it’s not. And sometimes the new majority learns from the old majority how to use their new found power to oppress others the same way they were oppressed.

What’s the solution?

I don’t know. But I know that the sort of rhetoric and the unwillingness to seek consensus and broad Common Good is going to make the inevitable demographic transition worse for all. Worse for the new minority. Worse for the souls of the new majority.

I suppose the best we can do is to create small communities of reconciliation anywhere we can. Because knowing each other, recognizing each other’s common humanity is probably the only way to escape.

As one of the Hispanic children here at our Cathedral said unguardedly to his Anglo Sunday School teacher; “I hate white people. But you’re okay.” And then looked at his face with something close to wonderment.

What does Jesus say? “Make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous mammon…”

The need to build bridges

Years and years ago, I was at a clergy retreat at the Antiochian Orthodox Church Center in Western PA. It was the annual clergy retreat for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and it was back in the days that Alden Hathaway was the bishop. There was a growing tension in the diocese, especially between the clergy. There were at least three camps within the clergy, probably more depending how you drew boundaries.

I can’t remember if this took place during the time our youngest daughter was still with us, but I think it must have, because the tension of repeated races to the hospital and the stress her illness was having on the rest of us would probably explain why my emotions were so raw. I mention that because Bishop Alden Hathaway preached a sermon during the retreat that has stuck with me all these years. It brought tears to my eyes at the time and set me thinking for months about what my own particular sort of ministry in the Church might look like.

+Alden reprised for us the story of the Christmas Truce at Ypres in 1914. (It wasn’t until much later when I had a chance to tour the battle field, and Verdun, that I understood the enormity of what had happened and the miraculous nature of the moment.) He ended his sermon with a charge to the divided clergy of his diocese; “Folks, this is the mission of the Church today. To sing carols in the midst of the no-man’s land of the Culture Wars.”

The idea that a congregation could be a place of reconciliation and mutual meeting was something I had always imagined, and worked toward, but never been able to place into larger context. For some odd reason, I’ve generally served in congregations that have had periods of significant conflict in their recent history (though not always at the time I was called) and I suspect that I’ve served in such places because I was instinctively drawn to the work of reconciling people within them to the common work of the Gospel. Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes not so much. But it’s been of fundamental importance to me all along.

You know, the Prayer Book makes the task of reconciliation within the Church explicit, by saying, in the Catechism, that it is the mission of the Church. (Something like; “What is the Mission of the Church: The Mission of the Church is to reconcile God and Creation.) At our best, using the spiritual practice of Common Prayer, we do exactly this, week in and week out. Sometimes quickly, mostly slowly but, by the grace of God, hopefully and inexorably.

I thought of all this today when I saw this quote in an article about the retirement of Robert Gates as Sec. of Defense:

“Mr. Gates is, along with James A. Baker III, perhaps the greatest non-presidential public servant of the post-war age. One more thing. Perhaps better than anyone alive, he knows how the world works.

These days the world isn’t working all that well, and the same can be said about Washington. It’s the latter that preoccupies Mr. Gates, who is to leave office this week. Last Sunday Chris Wallace asked Mr. Gates what was the big lesson he had learned during all that time in the capital. Here’s his answer on Fox News Sunday:

“That when we have been successful in national security and foreign affairs, it has been because there has been bipartisan support. And agreement between the president and the Congress that the fundamental strategy — maybe not all the tactics, maybe not all the specific decisions — but that the fundamental strategy is the correct one. That’s what [happened] through nine presidencies and the Cold War that led to our success, because no major international problem can be solved on one president’s watch. And so, unless it has bipartisan support, unless it can be extended over a period of time, the risks of failure [are] high.””

More here. Hat tip to Kendall Harmon.

Sometimes I think we forget how important the local work of the Church can be to the health of the World. People can’t and won’t be reconciled unless they will talk. They won’t talk unless they build a relationship with one another. That’s what praying together makes happen. That’s a major part of why we do what we do in the Episcopal Church, and I think it’s the reason that diversity and inclusion matters so much to all of us. Without, we can not do the mission we have been given.

Sometimes clarity is impossible

I remember having a conversation years ago with an Episcopal priest who is now part of ACNA. It was just after the action of General Convention in 2003 to consent to the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. He and I chanced to meet each other as we made our way out of chapel one morning.

I asked him what he was thinking about what was going on. “Now we have clarity” he replied.

That’s a pretty common theme with many people in the church right now. We need to have clarity. We can stand no more confusion. Something either is A or it is not A. There’s no middle ground, no matter what people like me keep trying to insist. (That middle ground exists and is important is actually the main theme of this blog. And has been since I began writing it years ago as blog about the contradictions between scientific and religious thought.)

So I’m very excited to read a column in the New York Times today about a new field developing in the area of formal logic: dialetheisms.

The article starts off by positing the ancient liar’s paradox – a local version of which might read: “Everything you read on this blog is a lie”. If that’s true, then everything you read on the blog is a lie, except that statement which is true. Or conversely if the statement is a lie then everything on the blog is true except the statement. The “Liar’s paradox” (known to the ancients) is the classic example of a sort of contradiction that has no clarity.

“According to this theory, some contradictions are actually true, and the conclusion of the Liar Paradox is a paradigm example of one such contradiction. The theory calls a true contradiction a dialetheia (Greek: ‘di’ = two (way); ‘aletheia’ = truth), and the view itself is called dialetheism. One thing that drives the view is that cogent diagnoses of what is wrong with the Liar argument are seemingly impossible to find. Suppose you say, for example, that paradoxical sentences of this kind are simply meaningless (or neither true nor false, or some such). Then what if Professor Greene had written on the board:

Everything written on the board in Room 33 is either false or meaningless.

If this were true or false, we would be in the same bind as before. And if it’s meaningless, then it’s either false or meaningless, so it’s true. We are back with a contradiction. This sort of situation (often called a strengthened paradox) affects virtually all suggested attempts to explain what has gone wrong with the reasoning in the Liar Paradox.

In a way this is the more robust expression of a class of logic that is sometimes called “fuzzy logic” or tri-state logic. There are engineering problems (like the cooking of rice or robotic vacuum cleaner programing) that need to make use of this sort of thinking. It allows one to make an inference that is neither true nor false – more a “maybe” than anything else.

In other words, sometimes there’s no “clarity” to be had. No matter how hard we want to find it. It’s just not possible. The best we can do is to say something is a paradox and leave it at that. Living into the Mystery is what the Theologians call it.

Now science is starting to realize that there might be something to all this. Perhaps it will help us to resolve some of the great problems of science by leaving them as paradoxes.

If dialetheias are pretty rare, and if they appear to be fairly esoteric things like the Liar sentence, you might wonder why we should bother about them at all. Why not just ignore them? One ignores them at great risk. Scientific advances are often triggered by taking oddities seriously. For example, at the end of the 19th century, most physicists thought that their subject was pretty much sewn up, except for a few oddities that no one could account for, such as the phenomenon of black-body radiation. Consideration of this eventually generated quantum theory. Had it been ignored, we would not have had the revolution in physics produced by the theory. Similarly, if Cantor had not taken Galileo’s paradox seriously, one of the most important revolutions in mathematics would never have happened either.

Revolutions in logic (of various kinds) have certainly occurred in the past. Arguably, the greatest of these was around the turn of the 20th century, when traditional Aristotelian logic was overthrown, and the mathematical techniques of contemporary logic were ushered in. Perhaps we are on the brink of another.”

You can, and you should, read the full essay here.

“A Radical Middle Way Beyond “Us and Them”

Ken Howard writing about his new book Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them has lays out the details of his thinking regarding the finding of an alternative way through the conflict that has been raging for decades within the Church. In a blog post this afternoon he points toward a reordering of the Church in a way that we’re not focused on maintaining the bounds between them and us, but rather finding a commonality about which we can all gather:

“In creating Christian community, neither Orthoproxy nor Orthopraxy can avoid creating an ‘Us’ and a ‘Them,’ because neither can conceive of Christian unity without some kind of uniformity. Orthoproxy seeks unity in uniformity of doctrine. Orthopraxy seeks unity in uniformity of practice.

To put it in logical, mathematical terms, community in both Orthoproxy and Orthopraxy is defined as a ‘bounded set.’ Both describe an outer boundary of US, outside of which lies THEM. The difference between the two lies in what constitutes the boundary. Orthoproxy locates the boundary in common doctrine; Orthopraxy in common practice. But Paradoxy defines community in a way that doesn’t depend on boundaries, and so doesn’t require an US and a THEM. As a ‘centered set,’ it finds its unity in the extent to which the people which make up the set are oriented with respect to that which (or rather he who) lies at the center of the set – Jesus Christ – and the extent to which they are in relationship with the One at the center.

This is not to say that Orthoproxy and Orthopraxy do not have Christ at the center, or that communities practicing Paradoxy can totally avoid the human (and fallen) tendency toward thinking in terms of boundaries. It is to say that for communities practicing Incarnational Orthodoxy – or Paradoxy – it is relationship with the incarnate Center is considered the primary source of unity.

Paradoxy comes from the Greek word paradoxos, a near-literal translation of which would be ‘things which, placed in relationship to each other, inspire awe and praise.’ Paradoxy, then, represents an approach to orthodoxy that comes closer to the literal meaning of the word than either the conservative or liberal approach. It means embracing and celebrating relationship with Jesus Christ, realizing and accepting that the incarnate Truth will always be greater than we can understand or imagine. It is centered on being in right relationship with Christ and celebrating, embracing, and living into the power of the paradoxical reality of the Incarnation and all its implications.”

More here.

His ideas here echo some thoughts that Christopher Evans has posted around the web on a number of occasions, and the ideas of the former Archbishop of South Africa (Njongonkulu Ndungane) who writes that Anglicanism is willing to tolerate differences on our fringe because we keep our focus on the center of the Church, Jesus.

“The middle is always evil”

There’s been a resurgence of interest in the objectivist moral philosophy of Ayn Rand. If you listen carefully you can hear much of her thought in the speeches of the extreme libertarians. I’ve wondered for years whether or not Rand is Rush Limbaugh’s primary philosophical influence.

There’s an article on Rand and her thinking in the Globe and Mail today. In the middle of the article, the author points out the shadow side of Rand’s arguments. She connects something I hand’t thought about before. Rand’s hyper positivism argues for an objective truth – and totally rejects any sense of subjectivism. In an perfect world, the disputation of competing claims leads one to determine what is true and what is false. And the false must be rejected and the truth followed.

But casting the Universe into binary terms, while naively useful scientifically, can have deadly consequences in terms of morality:

“In pure form, Ayn Rand’s philosophy would work very well if human beings were never helpless and dependent on others through no fault of their own. Unsurprisingly, many people become infatuated with her philosophy as teenagers only to leave it behind when concerns of family, children, and aging make that fantasy seem more and more implausible. For some, she becomes a conduit to more sensible small-government philosophies.

But Ms. Rand’s work also has a darker, more disturbing aspect – one that, unfortunately, is all too good a fit for this moment in America’s political life. That is her intellectual intolerance and her tendency to demonize her opponents. Speaking through her hero John Galt, Ms. Rand declared, ‘There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.’ She lambasted free-market theorists such as Friedrich A. Hayek for their lack of purity in allowing the government a legitimate role in alleviating poverty and its effects. In her novels, supporters of various forms of collectivism – moochers and looters – are shown as acting by stealth to take over and corrupt society and culture.”

From here. (H/T to Kendall Harmon)

I’ve had any number of conversations lately with folks about the broken legislative processes in Congress, and the parallel inability of even the Church to find ways of allowing people to feel included in its common life. One of the reoccurring themes of modern debate is that the people in the middle are basically weak, timid obstructionists who need to decide one way or the other so that the final decision can be made. You can hear this from both sides in modern debate. The moderates are to be pitied at best and converted one way or the other if at all possible. It’s apparently inconceivable that there can be any value in moderation to many.

Bishop Marshall once remarked of conflicts in the Church that we tend to “learn and then adopt the values of our oppressors”. I wonder if the Episcopal Church in the 20th century, which has been forced again and again to try to justify her existence to people and a society who believe we’ve grown beyond that need, and who have elevated the individuals right to happiness over that of the needs of the broader community, hasn’t fallen into that trap Bishop Marshall describes.

Stanley Hauerwas on the Reformation

Stanley Hauerwas was asked to preach on Reformation Sunday (what some Lutherans and many other protestants call the Sunday of All Saints). Prof. Hauerwas, as you might expect knowing his thinking, not going to choose the obvious path of lauding the reformers who managed to split western Christendom:

“I realize that this perspective on Reformation Sunday is not the usual perspective. The usual perspective is to tell us what a wonderful thing happened at the Reformation. The Reformation struck a blow for freedom. No longer would we be held in medieval captivity to law and arbitrary authority. The Reformation was the beginning of enlightenment, of progressive civilizations, of democracy, that have come to fruition in this wonderful country called America. What a destructive story.

You can tell the destructive character of that narrative by what it has done to the Jews. The way we Protestants read history, and in particular our Bible, has been nothing but disastrous for the Jews. For we turned the Jews into Catholics by suggesting that the Jews had sunk into legalistic and sacramental religion after the prophets and had therefore become moribund and dead. In order to make Jesus explicable (in order to make Jesus look like Luther — at least the Luther of our democratic projections), we had to make Judaism look like our characterization of Catholicism. Yet Jesus did not free us from Israel; rather, he engrafted us into the promise of Israel so that we might be a people called to the same holiness of the law.

I realize that the suggestion that salvation is to be part of a holy people constituted by the law seems to deny the Reformation principle of justification by faith through grace. I do not believe that to be the case, particularly as Calvin understood that Reformation theme. After all, Calvin (and Luther) assumed that justification by faith through grace is a claim about God’s presence in Jesus of Nazareth. So justification by faith through grace is not some general truth about our need for acceptance; but rather justification by faith through grace is a claim about the salvation wrought by God through Jesus to make us a holy people capable of remembering that God’s salvation comes through the Jews. When the church loses that memory, we lose the source of our unity. For unity is finally a matter of memory, of how we tell the story of the Reformation. How can we tell this story of the church truthfully as Protestants and Catholics so that we might look forward to being in union with one another and thus share a common story of our mutual failure?”

Read the full sermon here. I think it would qualify as a sort of mitzvah.

The BCP as Anglican Covenant

People have always asked Episcopalians to describe what sort of Episcopalians they are. That’s because there’s a very diverse lot of us under the Episcopal Church’s umbrella. Gosh, there’s a very diverse group of us under my own Cathedral congregation’s umbrella. There are High Church Anglicans, Ultramontane Anglicans, Calvinists, Low Church, Charismatic, Broad Church, Deists, Theists and cultural Anglicans. To name just a few.

Lately thanks to the writing of folks like Christopher Evans and Derek Olsen (see sidebar) I think I’ve come to understand my own place on the spectrum as being a “Common Prayer Anglican”. Our genius within Anglicanism is our decision to find our unity in prayer, not in a binding Confession or in a Teaching Magisterium. And we find that unity by agreeing to pray the words of Book of Common Prayer with each other.

The wise folks over at Anglican Online have taken this idea a step further than I have in my own thinking, and I like where they’re headed. They suggest that rather than the proposed Covenant for the Anglican Communion, we circle back and look at what we already do have, The Book of Common Prayer:

“At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this concept of BCP-as-covenant as a conceit: really, some will say exasperatedly, the 1662 BCP was book of liturgy, not a covenant. But within a empire that crossed continents and oceans, where postal mail took months and news could be delayed by years, it was theological framework of the 1662 BCP that shaped the understanding of English Christianity. The two great sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist — as well as the lesser sacraments — were defined within an Anglican understanding. Their definition was sufficient for most to read, mark, and inwardly digest. The catechism was the school book for millions of children — and what is the catechism other than a theological FAQ? The rubrics, if not quite canon law, were observed diligently for the most part and provided additional theological guidance. Lex orandi, lex credendi was perhaps truer during the hegemony of the 1662 BCP than it can ever be again.

We might now argue that the use of Elizabethan English in, say, the Sudan was absurd; part of a misguided, wrong-headed attempt to ‘civilise’ the world and produce Victorian gentlemen and ladies rather than promote the spread of Christianity. But English Christianity was spread by Victorian (or Elizabethan, Jacobean, Carolinian, or Regency) gentlemen, by word and sometimes weapon. And the vector* was the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. All these little oases of English Christianity — Elizabethan thees and thous in the Mongolian desert, ‘The Day Thou Gavest’ heartily sung in Delhi, clergy dressing for dinner in Zanzibar — eventually joined together in strangely named dioceses such as Mashonaland and Ruwenzori and became the building blocks of the Anglican Communion. But the ties that bind were pages of the 1662 BCP bound in morocco, cloth, or paper. They held the communion together before any covenant was a glimmer in any disaffected bishop’s eye.”

Read the full article here.

Obviously such an idea isn’t a panacea, and it glosses over the real differences between the prayer books in use in different Provinces. The Book of Common Prayer in Sudan is very very different than the one in use in New Zealand. But at least this idea takes us back to our foundational roots and the fundamental defining characteristic of our polity.

I like this idea very much. Good on ’em.

Abandoning the religion and politics of exclusion

Speaking of human need to figure out which group is “in” and which group is “out” – even to the extent of being willing to kill the “out” group members in a vain attempt to maintain social cohesion…

See this article linked below that describes the arc of biblical revelation in terms of God’s constant call that we must learn to love one another just as God loves us.

Simon Barrow writes:

“In identifying his critics’ hypocrisy, in other words, Jesus was attacking a form of religion which neatly categorized people as good or bad according to whether they were in ‘the right group’ and did or believed ‘the right things’. What he says, again and again, in his healings and in his arguments with the religious authorities, is this: ‘You think God loves you more than these scruffy types – like my followers – who are rendered impure by your increasingly pernickety interpretations of the Law. You couldn’t be more wrong. What you are doing is usurping God, who actually loves us like a perfect parent and therefore wants the best for us all. In fact you’ve got it so wrong, that even prostitutes, whose very existence breaks every rule in the book, are entering God’s realm before you are!’ That’s in St Matthew’s account, by the way. One wonders how it might play out in our contemporary ‘Anglican wars’, and other wrangles among the churches that claim to be Jesus’ body today.

What becomes clear the more we immerse ourselves in these awkward (for us) Gospel narratives is that the way and the life and the truth that is Jesus, in his embodiment of God’s uncontainable love, challenges every method of a priori exclusion we human beings try to set up against one another – especially when it employs a ‘religious’ label. Instead, Jesus invites people into a new community where we recognize each other not as competitors for God’s love, but as fellow citizens in a realm of unfathomable generosity made possible by the kind of love which is truly dispossessing – it doesn’t operate from some secret self-interest, like ours often does. Rather, its redemptive quality is so amazing, so divine, that it even enables us to treat the enemy as a friend.

Elias Chacour, the Melkite Catholic archbishop, has put it like this with regard to one modern example of how Christ’s love could transform us. Palestinians and Jews, he says, presently see each other mostly as a threat that must be contained or eliminated. That is why conflict often seems the only logic. This will only change when the different parties can see each other, instead, as two wounded peoples loved equally and unsparingly by God. In that way they will be able to look each other properly in the eye. And then, instead of wanting to kill, they will want to cry over the hurt they have caused each other. Because by recognizing the wounds of the other, rather than first finding fault, we find ourselves in the presence (whether we name him or not) of the crucified and risen Jesus who makes this possible in his body.”

“Who are you to criticize the servant of another?” (Rom 14:4)

Read the full article here.

Compare this idea to the language of a conservative Episcopalian who writes of the need the orthodox have in the Episcopal Church to withdraw from possible contagion by liberal believers:

“If there was one word spoken more by +MacPherson than any other last night it was some form of the word “differentiate.” Though the Bishop made clear that he was not necessarily calling for us to separate from TEC (in terms of a formal withdrawal), he was clearly advocating that we find ways to make ourselves different, distinct and separate from the agenda being pursued by TEC and The General Convention.

Though I am okay with the concept of patience and not feeling an urgent rush to attempt any sort of formal withdrawal from TEC, I do think it very important to be sure that we do not let ourselves get caught up in rhetoric and merely talk the talk of differentiation. We must walk the walk of differentiation so that what people around us see when they watch us walk is clearly recognizable as church men and church women carrying high the cross of Christ crucified as we unashamedly proclaim to the world our belief in Christ as the Son of the living God and as the only means to salvation and eternal life with God, the Father.

For me, the time has come for orthodox Anglican Episcopalians to be very clear that we have eaten all the fudge that we are going to eat. We do not want our bishops or other church leaders to “throw us a bone” now and then that has the aroma of Christian orthodoxy about it; no, what we want, what we need and what we must have, is the full Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: we can accept no less. We want and we need for the leader of our Anglican Communion to be clear and straightforward in stating what it is that makes us Anglican Christians and how it is that the world is to recognize us. We, and the world, need to understand why it makes a difference for us to be members of the Anglican Communion and, importantly, to be in communion with the See of Canterbury. What we need from the Archbishop of Canterbury is for his yes to be yes, and for his no to be no.”

From here.

(H/T to Kendall Harmon for the second link)

I find the call for the full body and blood of Christ on the part of the second writer to be rather ironic – especially given a Girardian understanding of the meaning of those words.