Skip to comments.Strategery 101: Principle Two [Part I]
Posted on 08/21/2006 6:18:11 PM PDT by sionnsar
I have finally managed to slip the leash of the office and get outdoors again to write. I am sitting by another lake, again, and have just finished eating a wonderful vegetable burrito. In front of me a squirrel has fluffed out a quite magnificent tail and a lizard has crawled over some stones. To my right, I heard an enormous noise of rustling and figured it was some hikers. Instead it was a long and stately line of nine geese making their way to the water. I note that they make much of their dignity as adults -- but I knew them when they were babies and I am afraid that there is nothing more unattractive and gawky than a skinny, pea-green, awkward, skimpy-feathered baby goose! ; > ) It is about six months since their birth and I notice that the larger parents are still bringing up the rear of the line.
Today I want to describe what I believe is the foundation of all political action, of any sort [we've already covered some spiritual work that is important, but this article is about political action]. First -- a reminder/housekeeping detail and a minor side note.
The reminder is this. I want to reiterate that, though there's always a chance, I don't believe that the *national* Episcopal church structure will be reformed. I say that because I don't want any of us to have that sort of imagination or pressure, and because I really believe it. Hence, the Strategery 101 articles are *not* meant to "save the Episcopal church".
I do, however, believe that many regional entities will be renewed and reformed, and I include parishes and dioceses. I get the success stories all the time, by email and phone call. I have been privileged to work with groups within parishes and dioceses all over ECUSA and it is quite a thrill to see the amazing changes that have occurred in those places, through God's grace and the willing instruments of human beings who are committed, thoughtful, informed, and hard-working.
One of the ways that one may discern that God is interested in a place, of course, is by the presence of godly, active, disciplined Christians in that place. That principle applies to parishes and dioceses, cities, organizations, and countries. This is why, I believe, that God was willing to work with Lot in regards to Sodom and patiently answer Abraham's questions regarding just how far God would go to rescue a city. God states, you may recall, that if there are 10 righteous men in the town of Sodom, God will spare the city.
Sadly . . . both Abraham and Lot come to a realization. There were not even ten righteous in the city.
The city was doomed to judgement -- God's allowing us to experience the consequences of our sin. The city was so wicked, corrupt, and lost, that even the righteous were long gone - with the exception of Lot and his family.
That's the "housekeeping" detail. Now here's the side note.
I loved all the comments from the article on repentance and I appreciate them. But for those of you who don't know me [those of you who do will know what I mean] I'm not all that spiritual and I struggle a lot. I have a few good gifts -- some analysis skill and lots of creativity, along with flashes of discernment and a love for words -- but I don't pray well [there are many who pray for me, and thank you!], I'm not particularly contemplative or scripturally meditative, and I don't like to sit still musing great spiritual thoughts for very long [except when I'm writing or reading]. I am a struggling sinner that seems to fall into the pit all the time; I can only throw myself on the mercies of Christ, and that is sufficient.
So what I'm saying is, that any visions of Sarah in spiritual prayer or meditation for hours on end will hopefully not be in anyone's heads. ; > )
I also am not particularly a "people person" -- I'm an introvert and really treasure my quiet time and the outdoors [preferably empty of humans]. I have good friends of a variety of stripes, and a good flotilla of peers and mentors who surround me and generally keep me afloat and moving along in some sort of direction, but generally speaking five years ago I considered myself a "loner" -- and I was. [My how the mighty have fallen!]
This all moves nicely into the second principle of Strategery 101, and it was one that I was slammed upside the head with back in August 2003. You may remember that I pondered who our leaders were, and came to the disturbing conclusion that the "Leaders R Us". At the same time, I wondered if anyone else was "like me" and as appalled as I was by the actions of our church.
And the shattering truth was, that other than my good friends at our local parish, I didn't know anyone in the diocese enough to ask them.
I simply didn't know my allies.
I spent many hours staring at my computer, trying to discern and gather as much information as I could on what I should do. I researched many other church options too. One of the sites that I perused was a certain web site that was called "An Appeal to the Primates of the Anglican Communion." It was a short appeal to them to help us, and every day it gathered more and more names of people signing on to it. In fact . . . thousands of names. Each night -- or rather morning -- I would stagger downstairs at 3 a.m., sleepless and miserable, and hit the refresh button and see more names added. Each name had a city and state next to it. After a while I began to see a whole lot of people who were listing *my state* as their region.
One day I went out to my car, got my atlas, and carefully discerned which cities were in my diocese [and yes, I was that ignorant of my diocese]. Then I scrolled through the thousands of names, writing down each name of the people who were in my diocese.
That list grew and grew.
I wondered what they were thinking. Almost all of them were strangers to me -- we had never met and they were in other parishes.
One day, in violation of all Episcopal and Southern standards of behavior, I looked up each person's number, and dialed it.
At each phone call, I explained who I was, told them I had noticed their name on that web site, and we had conversation.
Needless to say, I met and conversed with many dozens of Episcopalians in my diocese. It was truly wonderful to hear what they were thinking and doing. And I have to say, as I look back over the past three years, that that step of dialing those numbers was one of the most important steps that I have taken in these years.
I am still conversing with nearly every single person that I called. We traded phone numbers and email addresses and did lunch. Many of us began working together from that point onward.
It is this lack that I think holds back most "little stone bridge" fighters of conservative ilk, no matter what battle one is fighting -- the lack of knowledge of our allies.
I suspect that, like most things political, our Worthy Opponents do much better at this than we do. For one thing, "conservatives" of whatever stripe [and you may be a Democrat and conservative in values, so don't think I'm talking secular politics here] don't really do "political" things. They don't really go spend Friday nights at hearings, nor Saturday mornings at conventions, nor Tuesday evenings at vestry meetings. They are doing "conservative" things -- taking their kids to soccer practice, juggling their work obligations with family duties, being the swim league coach, maybe serving on a PTA, and leading an Alpha table at church.
It's a bit like my friend Lisa informing me that she has never met anyone who runs other than me. But -- has Lisa hung out at the track on a Friday night at an informal track meet? Has Lisa bought shoes at a running store? Has Lisa participated in that weird "drinking club with a running problem", the Hash House Harriers, that plays "hare and hounds" over hill, over dale? Has Lisa surfed local web sites and emailed contacts for good cross-country when she travels? Has she run in some races?
The answer would be no -- because Lisa isn't interested in running, and doesn't "hang out" where other runners "hang out".
In the past, our "antennae" simply weren't out for those of like mind -- we didn't hang out where other conservative Episcopalians who were concerned about our church hung out -- and I suspect that that's gonna cost us big time and take us a long, long time to catch up and recover from.
To use a military analogy . . . when a unit is suddenly ambushed, and mortars and grenades explode and smoke and noise fill the air, it's only natural for people to lose sight of their friends and comrades. And when the initial battle is over, one of the first rules for a soldier is to slowly pick himself off the ground, check for safety, then venture onward to *reconnect with his unit*.
That's basically where many of us are these days. The bomb went off, bodies and limbs hurled through the air, chaos ensued . . . and in the lull after battle while we are all thinking and considering our strategies, the primary duty -- the *first* duty after safety -- is to reconnect with as much of our unit as we can find. That unit, when gathered, forms the core of all future activities.
To be sure, those future activities may involve fleeing the battlefield. Or hiding under the trees until dark. Or carefully building an encampment or shelter. Or sketching some outlines in the dirt of Our Worthy Opponents battlelines, and planning our next moves.
But the foundation for activity is the unit -- that 20% that I postulated earlier that are as concerned as you are about the state of the Episcopal church and that share the same values, worldview, and gospel as you. It is that 20% with which you will work through the remainder of Strategery 101.
I need to reiterate that that 20% for which you seek is a bit like the Holy Grail, though. You know they're out there. But the quest for your allies is a lifelong quest, a way of life, and never ends here on earth.
Not only will you work through Strategery 101 with your allies, fellow Roistering Episcopal Adventurers. But you will huddle with them when the worst, whatever that is, happens.
Now let's consider "the worst" for a moment.
"The Worst", to my mind, is the following scenario.
You are in a "moderate" parish in a moderate diocese. You have discovered a few allies in your parish and you are faithfully engaged in strategery. But your parish is in the middle of a search process and you really weren't engaged when the vestry selected its search committee. In the midst of your strategery, your vestry makes a joyful announcement.
They have just hired a fellow who is the son of a famous Episcopal bishop. The new rector's name is John Sotheby Spring. And he is the author of a book called "Rescuing the Episcopal Church from Jesus." He announces at the first parish "introduction meeting" that he is indeed the moderate that the vestry had proclaimed him; he only believes in blessing same sex unions -- and he *doesn't* call them "marriages". He is, he states, firmly opposed to all polyamorous marriages until such time as the government changes the law, and the church decides to be prophetic again.
You and your huddled rabbits, er, allies, realize that your goose is cooked; you really weren't started in time to affect the parish and the die is cast for the next 10-14 years. But you still want to work for the salvation of your diocese, which is also going through a bishop search process. You've heard good things about the lists of bishop candidates.
So you and your cohorts find a parish some 20 minutes away, thankfully. It's really more traditional than your previous parish, and you make many new friends and allies. One of your new friends, who has been long active in the diocese, is even on the bishop search committee! You carefully work through every strategery you read from some strange fellow Episcopalian across the country, Tarah Ley. You are reaping the rewards of that effort, slowly gathering like-minded friends in 10 or more parishes.
But some six months after your arrival at this parish, the bishop search process comes to a close, three worthy candidates are selected for the final list, and the special electing convention has arrived. You haven't really been paying a whole lot of attention to the bishop search process [you haven't gotten that far in your reading of Tarah Ley] but at the end of the day a person by the name of Howard Change-Piranha IV has been elected.
In his first speech to the breathless electing convention he speaks of "my great pleasure in joining my dear friends, Bishops Snarsley and Bishop Venison in the House of Lords, er, Bishops" and states that he looks forward to meeting especially with every single parish to discuss the new Code of Uniformity around which he will structure the diocese; he also mentions that he learned everything he needed to learn about pastoral care from Bishop Venison and Bishop Smythe-Nutmeg. He closes with a prayer seeking "peace, order, Sophia-like wisdom, and a fanatical devotion to the UN Millenium Development Goals". When a few of your hapless allies who are delegates mention that they don't think it's a good idea to pray for Sophia-like wisdom, they are chastised by the delegates at other tables for "not understanding classical Greek literature". Bishop Change-Piranha, they say, is a firm moderate.
The names Bishop Change-Piranha has mentioned as friends and mentors ring a bell to one or two of your group, a feverish web search ensues, and what you discover about Bishops Venison and Smythe-Nutmeg seems ominous to you. Furthermore, you discover in some arcane web blog a transcript of a committee hearing at the most recent General Convention, blogged by a Mr. Slats Lennedy, in which the then priest, Howard Change-Piranha IV, "rises in favor of the Title IV revisions which the committee has so graciously and faithfully worked upon -- these revisions will strengthen the mission and ministry of the Episcopal church, particularly that of the most important aspect of the diocese -- the bishop." [On another note entirely, you note in some newspaper articles that Slats Lennedy's former bishop had developed the first Episcopal "writ of excommunication & burning of the collar" liturgy for Slats's excommunication, which had included the bishop's stamping on an icon of a small computer, grinding it into powder, tossing it into a silver chalice of water, and the Standing Committee each taking a sip from the chalice; in addition, the collar had been burned, and an effigy of Mr. Lennedy had been tarred, feathered, placed on an altar rail made of 18th century blighted chestnut wood, and ridden through the historic cathedral graveyard in "solemn procession", according to the bishop. Mr. Lennedy had live-blogged the entire proceedings from the cathedral bell tower. The blog had crashed at the very moment of the start of the procession, just as the Standing Committee had lifted up the altar rail and mistakenly caught it in the elaborate robe of the bishop, revealing something that the "family newspaper" would not report. The blog had experienced the highest number of users ever recorded on any blog at all, said the blog spokesman, a Mr. Craig Crag.]
Scarcely do you have time to share this information with your network, then your parish is the subject of the bishop's first pastoral care visit. The meeting begins auspiciously enough when he states "I am here to offer pastoral care to whomever might be interested". But it rapidly spirals downhill from there.
Since your parish is the most "blessed financially", Bishop Change-Piranha has determined that all large parishes, say with a membership of 400 or more, will give 20% as a diocesan assessment or have their convention delegations reduced to zero.
Your vestry weakly points out that the parish is the only one in the diocese with a membership of 400 or more, and the bishop beams and smiles and says "yes".
When the bishop sails out of the vestry room, his flotilla of 10 new staff behind him ["we have been re-engineered to support mission and ministry", the canon to the ordinary's ordinary explains], the two wardens both look green around the gills.
The entire vestry, in fact, to a person, denounces the bishop behind his back, but after several more vestry meetings over the coming weeks, they vote 12-2 to increase the parish's pledge. They also eliminate the accounting method that allows parishioners to redirect their money away from the national church. And when confronted about this issue by a group of long-time parishioners, they state, rather oddly, that the title to the parish is in the diocese's name. The property is the diocese's, in fact, and every one of the vestry members has family buried in the ancient graveyard surrounding the parish.
In the meantime, the Noblest Primate of All Anglicania, Bishop Portly Swilling, has announced that the Episcopal church has complied effectively with the requests of the Windsor Report, and in the past month, 10 provinces have departed All Anglicania, leaving Bishop Portly Swilling with a smaller "All Anglicania". 10 more provinces are meeting together in the coming months to determine their course of action. You and your band of cohorts are in an international body consisting of 1) Wales, 2) Canada, 3) the COE, 4) the USA, and various other teensy provinces. You are in a diocese led by a Bishop Howard Change-Piranha. Your former beloved parish called a man named John Sotheby Spring, and your current parish has folded like a cheap deck chair and in a rather spectacular fashion.
In short, my friends, your goose is well and truly cooked.
Charred, in fact.
Your goose is a burnt offering and deader than dead.
I will put it to you that, even at the very worst, none of you will look at one another and throw up your hands and say "well . . . I wish we hadn't wasted so much time getting to know one another! Networking is for the birds."
In fact, it is precisely because of the Very Worst options that confront us that we *do* network. Not only do I believe that many parishes and dioceses will be -- [and currently are] -- renewing and reforming to make good decisions at the culminating moments of decision within the Anglican Communion. But I also believe that simply knowing, learning from, working with, and enjoying one another is vitally important for the future of Anglicanism within the US. If your parish or diocese makes the correct choices for the Anglican Communion and orthodoxy . . . the battle will not be over at all. And if your parish or diocese does *not* make the correct choices for the Anglican Communion and orthodoxy, your battles to build a fresh and renewed Anglicanism within your region will be just beginning.
In either case, discovering the 20% that are your allies is vital.
Here I need to go on a short rabbit trail. Some have postulated that we need to spend our time on convincing the Beloved Moderates to take action. Or on changing our Worthy Opponents' minds.
I frankly do not believe that is the best use of time -- particularly if one has not yet reconnected with one's unit and found one's allies. For one thing, I don't know of many people who are convinced these days through argument and debate. Perhaps one or two people occasionally. But the 60% of people in the Episcopal church who are Beloved Moderates I believe will be changed through a slow accumulation of pressure, knowledge, relationship-building, and transformation rather than the efforts of a single person to argue them into change.
Even more so with our Worthy Opponents. You may have been sucked into argument and debate with a Worthy Opponent, and discovered that pretty much any appeal at all to logic, authority, scripture, tradition, examples, experience, or whatever were "dull and void" in their effect. I've said it before and I'll say it again. In general our Worthy Opponents hold to worldviews, gospels, and values that are simply antithetical to our own. For them to change their minds would involve a total and complete transformation of heart and soul and spirit and will and conscience that would be, frankly, miraculous. *The same is true, by the way, for us!*
It's a bit like a solid Libertarian engaging in conversation and dialogue with another person whom we'll call William. William and The Libertarian know one another vaguely through work. "Water cooler" conversations and the like. But one day during one of those all-day team training exercises, they have a "real conversation". William states that he believes that the Federal government should tax all personal income at the rate of 95%, leaving the remaining 5% for food, water, and shelter; all other human needs are somewhat excessive anyway -- fancy clothes, cars, etc -- and serve as dividers of people. The government, after all, can provide public transportation, public healthcare, and other human "wants" far more evenly and fairly. Furthermore, William explains, with the government providing everything a human being could want, there would be far fewer choices for people to make, and thus far less confusion, chaos, and misery.
The Libertarian is somewhat suprised -- but then, he's had arguments with some Democrats before about the tax rate; perhaps the two can explore the proper limits of taxation and the appropriate boundaries on government action.
He points out that such a practice would take away much of what America values about human freedom and enterprise and that no government bureaucracy could ever provide efficiently for the needs of individuals to that degree. After all, human beings are all so different and seem to have such subtle and unique wants . . .
Hardly has this initial thought come out of The Libertarian's mouth, then William turns on him, red-faced, and denounces the Libertarian's opening response as a vile, immoral belief. The Libertarian is astounded and confused by the ferocity of William's answer, hesitates, then engages William further.
The debate rages on. The Libertarian appeals to the Constitution ["nothing more than a bourgeoisie declaration", says William], the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, judicial decisions, practicality, the morality of stealing from others, the history of fascism, the democratic votes of the American people to represent them, the futility of attempting to control others withouth resort to increasingly draconian violence, and on and on.
Gradually in the conversation, the Libertarian begins to realize something about William's beliefs -- his "credo", so to speak.
William states at one point that "private property is immoral". At another he states "the means of production should never reside with the oppressor". At another he says "the power should reside with the worker" and "the state should own all property". The company at which both William and the Libertarian work is nothing more than "exploitation of the proletariat by those who own the means of production".
And at another point in the conversation, William speaks about how democracy is nothing more than the engine that the powerful use to control and manipulate the peasants. William states that he himself is *not* one of those peasants, and in fact, envisions himself as one of the "revolutionaries" who will someday be in charge of the government. Then, the state will be able to create the right kind of environment for the worker. When pressed about who exactly "the worker" and "the oppressor" actually are, William has a host of criteria, and certainly one of them is "oppressors are anyone who control the means of production" which, by William's definition, means "individuals who own property or capital".
Fnally, when The Libertarian desperately mentions [desperate because The Libertarian has never been "one for church"] that none of this seems to value human beings as who they are, with free choices, and the opportunity for growth, as perhaps even "honored creatures of God", and that to exercise such control over the American people would surely involve a degree of power and control that is excessive . . . William denounces The Libertarian's weak "Christian" statement as "merely the opiate of the masses".
The Libertarian -- ah that quick mind of his -- asks him what he thinks of Karl Marx's theories. And William announces proudly that he is a great admirer of Comrade Karl, Das Kapital is his favorite book, that he is a member of the Marxist Society, that Stalin's industrialization of Siberia was one of the greatest, most noble efforts of the 20th century, and that he, William, longs for the day that the proletariat will come to their senses, rise up and overthrow the manipulative democratic government of America, and people like The Libertarian are stood up against the wall and shot for their crimes against the workers.
The Libertarian recognizes, with an awful feeling, that he has been pursuing a conversation with William based on a false image of Who William Is.
William was born in America, and is thus an American citizen by law. But William doesn't value America's values, flawed or valuable as they may be; he has not imbibed an identity as an "American" -- its system of government, its founding documents, its rule by law, its values of individual rights and limited state power, and on and on. Given American law, William is allowed to say whatever he pleases, as long as his opinions do not devolve into illegal action [although, should William show up at work one day and approach The Libertarian with a blindfold, a cigarette", and a comment or two about "last words", The Libertarian should be Very Concerned].
The LIbertarian has imagined that he is holding a conversation with a man who holds the same basic values, though with a "few quibbles", a man who appreciates and desires a republic as a form of government, one that respects private property and the defense of that property under law, and one that reveres our country's founding documents. Certainly all Americans recognize the flaws in their country -- but all of us can agree hopefully, on a few "core" beliefs and values.
Alas, William is not one of those people. And if The Libertarian chooses to engage William in "graceful conversation and dialogue" it will mean engaging with someone who doesn't share the most basic assumptions, foundational beliefs, and worldview. In other words, though William is also a human made in the image of God, conversation with William about the government, political action, and indeed anything of much importance at all will be fraught with enormous challenges, anger, and disagreements about the essentials.
Indeed, conversation with William will be -- and should be -- approached as very similar to *conversation with an alien being from another planet.* Slowly but surely, over the decades, the alien and The LIbertarian will need to agree on a language, and start with Descartes: "I am".
In a strange sense, once The Libertarian recognizes this fact of the "alienness" of William -- alien beliefs, values, and worldviews that bear little to no resemblance at all with those of The Libertarian's -- then he feels a strange and refreshing sense of relief. The Libertarian is free to love William, though William and he have little in common regarding the important issues and foundational truths of life. The only thing that will change William is, frankly, being "born again", not necessarily in the "spiritual sense" [though that always helps!], but in the sense of *undergoing a radical, miraculous, transformation and conversion of his total being*.
And that, friends, is where it stands for the Roistering Episcopal Adventurers in regards to any fancies we may have about convincing our Worthy Opponents to "change their minds". In general, barring an Act of God, it simply will not happen. The core beliefs are too different, opposed, and antithetical. This recognition of reality is quite respectful of who our Worthy Opponents are as people. In order for them to "agree with us" they'd have to undergo a heart-wrenching, painful reconfiguration of everything that they've come to believe about the world and God and themselves.
And it's just too hard.
In fairness, I might add, the same is true for us. If I were to come to the realization that scripture was, in fact, a human book, made by human hands, with no outside interference by God, and basically and fundamentally flawed in regards to communicating Truth . . . if I were to come to the realization that the key facet of sexual desire in humans is that it should be freely expressed without regard for scriptural boundaries . . . if I were to come to the realization that it is only the sincerity of the love between entities that matters . . . if I were to come to the realization that the past 2000 years of agreement in church tradition regarding human sexuality was developed because of the oppressive male patriarchal system . . . if I were to come to the realization that God has not authoritatively spoken to humans in words that we can understand . . . if I were to come to the realization that Paul was wrong, and that Jesus's use of the word "porneia" to declaim against sexual activity outside of the bonds of Holy Matrimony between two single adults of opposing genders and of the same human species was really not the broad term that I believe it to be but in reality a term that refers to "sexual actions against the sexual nature and identity that I believe and feel that I have and should pursue" . . . if I were to come to the realization that Jesus's gospel was all about recognizing the divine within me, acknowledging that "Christ figure", and accepting and loving "who I am" rather than begging for God's transformation of my sinful self . . .
The earthquake that that would create in my life would be unspeakably painful. I would literally and personally have to start over on every idea that I cherish, every value that I pursue.
And as painful as it would be for me, we have to acknowledge that the same level of pain would come to our Worthy Opponents were their foundational suppositions to be overturned as well.
For the above reasons, and many more, I continue to believe that in a very small way our friendships with Worthy Opponents may be used by God to be transformative and convertive -- but that our relationships with fellow Roistering Episcopal Adventurers will be The Key to our work to reform and renew and fight for Little Stone Bridges throughout our culture.
If you are out there all alone, I urge you to re-connect with your unit, somehow.
That being said, it's not as easy as my saying it, is it? What if "my unit" is hiding? What if they are keeping very very quiet? What if I'm in a parish where the rector won't allow us to speak of "it" in any meetings?
Is there some sort of password that we're supposed to know? Or secret handshake whereby we may recognize each other and meet in catacombs to talk and plan?
Perhaps so -- but it's certainly coded, and those reading this article will need to crack the code.
In the next installment, Part II, I will list 10 or so actions that you can take in order to discover your allies and reconnect with your unit.
He instituted that new percentage rule almost before his miter was settled on his head. And he DID go to Lincoln at Griswold's behest.
He's a good hater, too.
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