Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blog Review

(Note: I recognize that it is ridiculous to offer a blog review on this unnoticed site. Kinda like pasting up large posters advertising fancy cars in a back alley of an unknown town. But I've just run across a fantastic blog that I've absolutely got to plug. If anyone out there is reading this, please visit Betwixt and Between.)

It is a common complaint of mine that the ideas of academically minded people are both inaccessible and out of touch with reality. It often seems that these men (for some reason they are invariably men) wish to propose absurd abstractions in defense of indefensible ideas, and cover over inadequacy with a lot of very big words.

In college, I nearly gave up studying philosophy and political economy for this very reason. I watched helplessly as fellow students blathered cheap Marxian ideology, prettied up with intelligent sounding words like "teleological" -words which they no doubt couldn't define- as an excuse for not engaging in basic attempts to improve the world around them.

Likewise, it is hurtful and entirely too common to see high minded men (again, the tendency seems to follow gender lines) using complex theological words as a means to exclude and dominate others. Complex sophistry is deployed for the sake of condemning gays, people who use contraception, women called to ordained ministry, and priests who offer open Communion.

If you read some of the arguments floating around in the blogosphere, and find that you come away feeling very confused, take heart: Your confusion is not the result of your inadequacy, but rather the inadequacy of the author. I like to call the experience "getting vocabularied".

It is for this reason that I was surprised and delighted to find Christopher's blog, Betwixt and Between. Not that Christopher's writing is simple; it is just the opposite. In many posts, the language he deploys is full of tightly packed theological words that can be a little inaccessible or difficult to follow for the common lay person. But they are not without practical meaning. Christopher has a strong ability to relate complex theology to lived reality, to make ideas relevant to everyday experience. He seems to understand that sound doctrine shapes real practices, and also that real human experience must contribute to the development of doctrine. He effectively avoids theological legalism while maintaining the value and intention behind sound doctrine (see especially his post CWOB: Communion Without Baptism). He is remarkably progressive, yet avoids the serious pitfalls of progressive faith. Lay people may struggle just a little with Christopher's writing in some posts, but the struggle is well worth the effort.

And if some of Christopher's posts are intensively intellectual, though relevant, others are profoundly tender, intimate, and deeply personal. Christopher can shift quickly from a story line to driving home a world of emotions and thoughts in a single sentence, "Our nation eats 'em up and spits 'em out."

Christopher takes on the most heated, contentious issues in the Anglican Communion, issues that affect him personally as a partnered gay man, with astounding generosity and compassion. He writes, "And I think he is correct in that we tend to fumble change. We Episcopalians tend not to think about providing pastoral care for those struggling with changes we’re making and provide spaces. We ram through something without the thought of care that relationships would suggest so that all can find a place in our comprehensiveness... we don’t think about ways to maintain relationships across differences, about nurturing conversation, finding ways to pray together in brokenness."

He also seems to have, in an Anglican world where discussion on issues of sexuality have become increasingly bitter and vicious, clearly defined and powerful Christian priorities and values: If a same-sex partnered Episcopalian and a Continuing Anglican with apprehensions about such partnership can share a glass of Maker’s Mark over theological discussion and prayer, there’s hope for us all. If he's not a REAL Anglican, than neither am I. We'll sit down together while everyone else is standing up to justify their bona fides; we'll enjoy a glass together while everyone else decides whose REAL and whose an impostor, fake, counterfeit, Marxist, etc.; and we'll love one another in our shabbiness and wounds." (From this post.)

I find great hope in Christopher's writing. We live in a deeply polarized world, a world increasingly prone to ad-hominem attacks, dishonest logic, contentiousness, and bitterness. A world in which the human person is increasingly lost amidst the conflict of impersonal ideas. A world that hates the enemy and crucifies the vulnerable in the name of doctrine, or policy, or ideology. Yet in this world, there are brilliant moments and brilliant people. People like Christopher.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Response to "What is Anglicanism?"

There is a little buzz on the Anglican web about Archbishop Orombi's recent article, "What is Anglicanism?" Please read the entire article here.

(The following was cross posted as a comment at The Episcopal Cafe.)

This is an undeniably beautiful piece from the Archbishop of Uganda. His story of the growth of Christianity in Uganda is moving, the transformation of the people powerful. I think there is a great deal here to challenge us Western Anglicans to be more faithful.

However, I took note of a few particular thoughts in ++Orombi's letter. Orombi's understanding of homosexuality seems to be highlighted in this passage:

Less than a year later, on June 3, 1886, the king of Buganda ordered the killing of twenty-six of his court pages because they refused his homosexual advances and would not recant their belief in King Jesus. They cut and carried the reeds that were then wrapped around them and set on fire in an execution pit. As the flames engulfed them, these young martyrs sang songs of praise.

One is reminded here of the violent sins of Sodom & Gomorrah, of the use of rape as a tool of domination in war, and of the ugly excesses of ancient Rome. This view is entirely different, and evokes entirely different feelings, than the Western stereotypes of the "promiscuous gay". Seen through this lens, homosexuality represents Empire (colonialism?), men driven mad by worldly power, the anti-christ itself.

If this is one's understanding of homosexuality, it is not at all difficult to see how one would believe homosexuality to be absolutely at odds with Scripture.

I would argue that the issue at hand is NOT the authority of scripture (which I think we just might have some common ground on, no?), but rather the issue is the nature of homosexuality itself.

++Orombi clearly has had little exposure to the kind of gentle, committed relationships that so many gays engage in, has not had the opportunity to see them raise children, has not witnessed the persecution they experience as a result of the love they feel. I think we as a Communion could have had an entirely different kind of discussion if he had. Please pray for Archbishop Orombi, for the Ugandan Church, and for the Anglican Communion. May we all some day soon be reconciled.

In the mean time, I am awed at the Ugandan experience of God’s Word, and I continue to be proud to share a common faith with our Ugandan brothers and sisters.

Currently Reading:

  • Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America - Todd Depastino

Recently Finished Reading:

  • Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
  • Utopia of Usurers - GK Chesterton
  • Orthodoxy - GK Chesterton