Skip to comments.Orthodox [Episcopalians] Must Summon the Will to Survive
Posted on 05/23/2006 5:07:10 PM PDT by sionnsar
What field is the Church playing on as we approach GC 2006? The question is aimed at identifying common ground, not only to make decisions but, even more, to identify a common language.
In his recent Easter homily the Archbishop of Canterbury made an important observation about the postmodern tendency toward suspicion. A friend of mine summarizes it as follows: "I hear what you said, but what aren't you telling me?" As sharply as the ABC has identified a symptom of current discourse, he has not identified an antidote. Public consciousness has been raised to the inevitable striving for self-interest inherent in human communication. We can't now simply forget. We can't just "go back" to some prior discussion.
Postmodern speech is politicized speech. It is not about the exchange of ideas. Indeed, the postmodern mind disbelieves in ideas. Postmodern speech is about advancing political ends. It is not "about" whatever the subject matter purports to be: peace, justice, freedom, curing HIV, the environment, or relieving third world debt. Contemporary discourse is about power: about the redistribution of power. For the powerless, it is about grabbing for power, perhaps following a detailed plan. For the powerful, dimly aware that the ground is shifting beneath them, it is about recovering equilibrium and whatever vestige of former glory is possible.
The disenfranchised sense that the Top Dog is well past his prime. They can agitate without fear of reprisal. The former power brokers mistakenly feel they can appease the "little people" and pat them on the head like their colonial forbears of another century. But it is the powerless who are doing the appeasing, pretending to be part of the new coalition, presided over by - guess who - the same folks as before. But this will soon change.
This is the "ground" upon which ECUSA now exercises itself. Power has shifted to the left in terms of theological and political dogma. While the two aren't necessarily connected, they are in the present cultural milieu. The new revisionist majority has ridden into power on the wave of contemporary liberal culture. In this milieu the suburban sexual revolution is on the same level as third world political revolutions. What was once called civil rights is discussed in the same breath as second hand smoke, over a frothy latte and a stern expression. What they have in common is their counter-cultural identity within an upper-middleclass cultural mainstream. These movements are not part of the worldwide revolutions they purport to be. American liberals only contribute to these global revolutions to the extent that their misguided efforts weaken themselves and their counterparts across the ideological aisle. The revisionist march is anything but bold and courageous; it is an instinctive grab for survival.
So much for the politics of the left-of-center. What happens when we cross the aisle? What are the political objectives of the orthodox?
The orthodox have been in denial about the political nature of this "debate" until recently, thinking it was something carried over from the post-WWII era. While there has been a great deal of realignment within Anglican jurisdictions in the past decade, the orthodox have been unwilling to accept the reality of postmodernism. They would like to return to theological rationalism and its endless refinement of Reformation doctrine. Something tells them that postmodernism (whatever that is) is a bad thing; that it is the problem.
But postmodernism is not a "thing" or an "idea" that can be rebutted in a classic (modern!) debate between equals. The orthodox have been unwilling to admit that the world has changed, along with their position in it. Orthodoxy must get used to being a minority position, and a despised minority at that. This is a bitter pill for Episcopalians, who still gloat over their forbears who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Here's what orthodoxy has in common with revisionism in the Episcopal Church: each is an instinctive attempt to recover a former position of preeminence.
Here's what it comes down to for the orthodox: let's first take for granted that the orthodox position on doctrine (including sexuality) is correct. How can the orthodox prevail?
First of all, if orthodoxy survives as a minority position within a broader consensus, then it has survived only in name. In reality it has died. Even worse - it has betrayed itself. There can be no "broader truth" under which "Jesus is the only way" can be subsumed.
Revisionists are awakening to the demands of conscience to eradicate orthodoxy, to establish a new orthodoxy that will not tolerate a new heterodoxy. After all, if their belief constitutes Life, then in the interests of their constituents they cannot permit that Life to be diminished or undermined. The revisionists have awakened to the implications of decades of nipping at the heels of a majority. They no longer need to speak the forked tongue of "tolerance". They are themselves the new majority.
Orthodoxy is paying the price of tolerating the toxic whims of a restless, comfortable society. It has not equated its own doctrine with Life, hence it has sewn the seeds of its own death. Now it must come to the table, hat in hand, as a single trembling voice against a chorus of dissent.
Orthodox Episcopalians must be willing to pay a price for their message. Part of that means suffering the abuse of the new majority for refusing to worship the new gods. In no sense does this indicate giving up the will to prevail. It refuses to participate in the living death of the majority. It steadfastly holds the gospel as Life, even at the risk of a lesser death.
There is a certain type of survivalism that has a fundamental moral character. Modern Israel is an example of this. She must summon up the will to survive, or else she won't. The liberal democracies in the west scoff at this and, in the churches, consider it "unspiritual". In truth they themselves have lost the will to survive and only enjoy (for a short time) the illusion that they enjoy their preeminence by some inherent superiority and, hence, by entitlement. Welcome to the liberal White Man's Burden.
The orthodox have an unsteady conscience about their own survival. Anyone who believes in his way of life will not hesitate to "impose" it on someone else. This "imposing" is called "sharing". A robust orthodoxy knows it is serving the interests of others by preaching the word of Life.
The way of the cross is not a way of self-annihilation. Jesus did not go to the cross because he wanted to die. He was willing to accept the cross because it would result in Life for those who believed. He did not appease evil by his cross; he spelled its final end.
Revisionists, on the other hand, have no qualms about imposing their point of view. While it's true that "don't impose your morality or your religion" originated as part of the liberal (Marxist) critique; that was while liberalism was a minority. In classic Marxist fashion, this critique was used only as a weapon against an already weakened majority. Now the new majority has no further need of it.
If the orthodox are to enter the postmodern era - that is, if they are to recover from their huddled position in the illusion of another time and place - then they must summon up the will to survive and to prevail. Spiritualized defeatism is not what Christianity is about. Christianity is about announcing the Kingdom of God, which is at hand.
--The Rev. Gary L'Hommedieu is Canon in charge of Pastoral Care at St. Luke's Cathedral in Orlando, Florida.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.