Monday, February 26, 2007

Anglican Angst

It's a Snow Day here in southern New England - el Universidad es cerrada (closed) which means no clase de espanol hoy. Excelente!

My SO has chastised me for not updating my blog every day. She goes into work early every morning to get a head start on the day and apparently reading my blog (and World of Warcraft message boards) has become part of her daily routine.

I admit that after a three week whirlwind of writing my seminary essay, a sermon, and daily blog entries my writing muscles needed a breather.

I've spent my non-writing time reading everyone else's blogs.
Our Episcopalian friends are buzzing about the Anglican Primates report that came out of Tanzania last week that essentially told the American Episcopal church to stop pushing the gay issue and to just put their fingers in their ears, close their eyes and say "la la la I can't hear you" until the mean evil gay people go away and stop inflicting pain on those on God's Faves list.

Fellow RevGalPal blogger Feminary rightfully questions just who it is experiencing the most pain in this debacle.

During the 2004 presidential election my SO and I were sitting in our living room watching yet another right-wing politician foam at the mouth about how letting gay people marry will weaken the sanctity of marriage, tear apart the family structure upon which our country is built, and end civilization as we know it.

There we were sitting in our living room, lounging in our sweatpants, watching TV, reading, playing with the cat, thinking about what to make for dinner and writing a shopping list, and I turned to my SO and said: "It's amazing that with all the violence, war, terrorist acts, poverty, abuse, oppression, and corruption in this world, that some people actually believe that what you and I are doing right now will be the cause of civilization's downfall." Our being a couple doing ordinary everyday couple things, is so frightening to some people that they put all of their time, energy, and money into fighting any law or institution that dares to recognize our right to live and love like everyone else.

As I read about the Anglican Primates meeting in Tanzania I couldn't help but cringe at the irony of location of a side trip taken by the bishops, some of whom do not recognize the ordination of women let alone gays:

"In between their debates, the leaders took a two-hour ferry ride to the island of Zanzibar. There they worshiped at the historic Anglican cathedral which is built over a former slave market. The service marked 100 years since the last slave was sold on the site, and 200 years since slavery was outlawed in England, thanks in part to the efforts of Anglican Church members."
(Religion and Ethics News Weekly)

Apparently the Bible is infallible when it comes to teachings about women and homosexuals, but that old bugaboo known as slavery, which the Bible condones and promotes, is no longer valid in our time and its demise is rightfully celebrated.
Why is one form of Biblically endorsed bigotry and oppression taken as a God-given directive while another is written off as simply the socio-economical custom of an ancient time that is no longer applicable in the modern world?

Liberal Christians are often accused of picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to believe but conservative Christians are just as guilty of this cafeteria style of faith. It's impossible not to pick and choose.

Yes, Leviticus says "man shall not lie with man as with a woman" but it also says not to touch the skin of a pig, don't wear clothing made of two different fabrics, and do not commit adultery (unless the woman is a slave, then it's ok) - all of these infractions are punishable by banishment or death.

So much for unfaithful politicians and Friday night football in Texas.

Leviticus is full of rules that we as Christians do not follow - rules about haircuts, tattoos, not touching menstruating women, planting crops at certain distances apart, eating kosher - We don't follow these rules because they were not meant for us. They were meant for the ancient Jewish Levite priestly cast, those born into the priesthood through unbroken hereditary lines.

So why is it that the bit about homosexuality is still quoted ad nauseam by conservative Christian leaders in the 21st century?

And while we're on the subject of biblical authority, why is Paul's first century directive that "women remain silent in church" still being plucked out of context and used as an argument against the ordination of women, when Paul, and Jesus himself, seemed to have no problem with women disciples preaching and teaching the word of God?

My favorite quote of late comes from Brian McLaren's book A Generous Orthodoxy:

"Christianity has successfully dethroned Jesus as Lord…we retained Jesus as Savior but promoted the apostle Paul to Lord and Teacher" (pg. 94).

On the issue of women's place in the church, we place a higher authority on the words of Paul, a convert who never knew Jesus and who preached celibacy because he thought the world was going to end in his lifetime, than we do on the teachings and actions of Jesus himself.

Context. Context. Context. A concept that is rarely invoked when one justifies oppression by invoking the argument "The Bible says…"

BTW - the Bible never mentions lesbians, only men who lie with men, so there is no reason why Ellen Degeneres couldn't be Pope.

Anglican Primates…….you are officially ON NOTICE!

Make your own On Notice List Here


Eileen said...

Tell 'em Mo! Holler it!

Leviticus. Ugh. I'd like to see the book excised from the Bible myself, or at least taught strictly from the perspective of "Look how far we have come!"

I also agree with you about Paul, and his teachings.

Paul was a MAN. Not God.

Jesus wrote down nothing.

All written Gospel is Christ as experienced by man and men. Humans cannot be removed from the culture and context in which we live.

Excellent post. I shall link to it!

Mystical Seeker said...

Good point about everyone picking and choosing. The difference is that religious conservatives are so blinded by their dogmatism that they are unwilling to admit it to themselves.

I recently got into a discussion in the comments section of a blog posting about the genocide that is described in the book of Joshua. I've brought this up with religious conservatives on previous occasions, and they always say the same thing--they defend this depiction of divinely mandated ethnic cleansing and the massacre of men, women, children and even animals in Jericho and Ai as being perfectly compatible with their own moral sense of divine will. It is at this point that I begin to get really, really scared about just how dangerously morally bankrupt conservative Christianity really is. Sure, it's all a hypothetical discussion about events in a remote past that might not have even taken place. But there is nothing hypothetical about genocide taking place today.

The same applies to homophobia. It seems to me that a key difference between liberal faith and conservative faith is whether one really believes in God's inclusive, expansive love. I'm not sure which comes firt--all the biblical justifications for intolerance, or the intolerance itself. I was brought up a conservative Christian as a child and just couldn't reconcile it with my values. Do some conservatives just push their moral concerns to some compartmentalized section of their brains and not think about it? What is really going on here? Whence comes the hatred, really?

Mike said...

Wow :)

So did Mr. Colbert really call out the Anglican Primates? or is that a really nice photoshop job?

Name: MoCat said...

Thanks for the link Eileen! :-)
Of course it sounds perfectly logical to us that the Bible could not help but be influenced by the era/culture/prejudices etc. of it's writers.

The fundies would respond that God inspired the entire Bible and the authors wrote it down word for word as God dictated it. God also ensured that no scribal or translational errors occurred in the thousands of years since it was written.

What seems completely illogical to us seems perfectly reasonable to them.

I wouldn't go as far as mystical seeker and call the other side "morally bankrupt" because I believe given their understanding of the Bible, God and Jesus' purpose, their viewpoint is valid. They believe in a judgmental, vindictive God, an infallible book, and a savior who died on a cross to ensure their own personal salvation.

This is not the Bible, God, or Jesus that I believe in, so as far as I'm concerned they're practicing an entirely different religion.
It works for them, it doesn't work for us.
The problem arrises when we try to exist in the same world with two entirely different interpretations of what that world should be.


Name: MoCat said...

I wish I was that talented Mike ;-)
You can make your own Stephen Colbert On Notice list

Eileen said...

I dunno, Mystical. I wonder this myself sometimes, regarding, conscience.

It seems to me, that, back in the day (waaaaaaay back), that these "stories" were told to bolster people. Bad things happened to them because they sinned, so, good things could happen to them if they were true and good. It allayed anxiety.

Same goes for war - if you "deserve" to win, you will win, and you ability to effect a victory is proof of your worthiness. If your opponent loses, it's because they didn't have God on their side - or they weren't chosen. Very tribal. Very primitive, IMO.

I personally feel that fundagelicals have strong psychological needs to allay anxiety - they need definitives and such, to know they are living in the "right" and how to avoid pain and punishment in this life.

I can't live this way - I can't reconcile my own morality with that kind of tribal thinking. But, they can't live with the ambiguity I feel quite comfortable with.

MoCat said...

You hit the nail right on the head's all about being comfortable with ambiguity.

The problem is, our different-strokes-for-different-folks world view allows for their existance (no matter how reprehensible) but their my-way-or-the-highway world view leaves no room for our existance.

Ironically, we probably have more reason to fear them than they have to fear us!

Eileen said...

Yep Mo. And they scare the bejeezus outta me!

Aghaveagh said...

"...some people actually believe that what you and I are doing right now will be the cause of civilization's downfall."

Yeah! As Pig-Pen said in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special: "Sort of makes you want to treat me with more respect, doesn't it?"

I made my own On Notice Board--thanks for the link!