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.

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