Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reflections on a Ring of Steel

It's difficult not to be somewhat amused by the comments about the "ring of steel" around the Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania this week. I recall hearing my first report from a friend who had gone to observe (from a distance) a primates meeting about five years ago. We were having tea in London as he recounted his experience observing this particular Primates meeting (was it in Portugal?) and I remember him explaining watching from a hotel window with binoculars - that was as close as he was going to get. It reminded me of the journalists who covered the election of the new pope - how they too staked out hotels with windows so they could watch when the white smoke appeared and a new pope had been chosen.

Don't know if we'll have white smoke appearing any time soon. We keep hearing of this archbishop flying in and that archbishop flying there and this political activist looking for an archbishop to surprise and that political activist complaining about his hotel room. We hear about this group meeting in one spot and that group meeting in another spot and another group still complaining about their hotel rooms. From the sort of press coverage we've been getting from the London newspapers, we keep wondering if the next person to fly in will be Mary Poppins. Any minute we wonder if the media covering this event is going to throw a group tantrum. Spoon full of sugar, anyone?

One of the other things we find somewhat amusing (especially since it seems to be coming from the more "progressive" commentators) is that horrors - people are organizing! They are having pre-meetings and discussing agendas and strategies and you know, worldly things like that! Where are the cloistered halls and the long robes and folded hands and the nodding and bowing and the murmuring of "Not yet, Grasshopper."

It is just too much because where do we think we learned how to do this? Why of course - from the progressives, who make politics an art form. For years they've talked in the lexicon of "organizing" and "strategies" and "agendas." Remember this?

It is true that evangelicals and politics are not always a happy mix. When it happens we hear the drumbeat of the religious right (and that, my friends, is so last century). We are not always aware that perhaps one of the best Christian workers in politics is this guy. You think he just wakes up in the morning, turns over to Ali and says, "Hey, let's go to Nigeria today!" Do you think he just rings up Oprah and says "Let's paint Chicago red!". No, he thinks about it, has advisers, plans, strategizes, creates agendas, and then makes it happen - even if his friends don't always like it.

One of the extraordinary things about being Anglican - and being free - is that we can engage with one another and make decisions that will impact our church and the world. That is the art of politics. Sometimes it is like watching sausage being made (and we really don't want to think about what goes in to making hamburgers either), but politics is like water. It's what you put in it that makes it good or bad. But sometimes it takes a strong stomach to watch it. And a good sense of humor.

Perhaps we should watch the skies for any sign of the English nanny with the carpetbag and umbrella. She has just the right word for those who do or say too little or too much. And keep an eye to the skies, for it seems the wind is blowing from the south.

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