Wednesday, February 28, 2007

PB Blogfest: With God On Our Side only Nixon Can Go to China

So it starts like a late night interview on PBS. Where is Charlie Rose?

One of the things that the PB keeps wanting to tell us is that there is a whole bunch of primates who are going to retire someday, as though if everyone just puts up their chin and go with the flow the Blue Meanies will be pushing up daisies soon.

She is very skilled at talking in the same monotone and then sneaks in the jabs here and there - saying that the current crisis facing the worldwide Anglican Communion "is represented in some quarters as dire." Now that's an interesting phrase. What she is saying again here - by using the word "represented" - is that you can't trust anyone but her - or the TEC institution. There really should be a wink here. And of course, it's just a laugh that anything is dire - and besides all those Blue Meanies will be dead eventually.

What does she mean by the words "salvation" and "the gospel" we wonder. She doesn't define them and so we are left to use our own imaginations. But leaving it ambiguous is a bit incredulous for (in many ways) these are indeed the paramount issues facing the Anglican Communion and why our situation may not be just represented as dire - but actually is dire (make no mistake about it, though it does, of course, depend on what the definition of the word is is or is was ...). Whatever it does mean, she seems to be implying (which of course, is the crux of her entire talk here - everything is "implied") that the majority of The Episcopal Church holds a different definition of the words "salvation" and "gospel" than the Anglican Communion's orthodox Christian understanding. She hasn't gone far before she tells us that TEC and the AC are divergent on the very heart-issues of the church - salvation and the gospel. Alas.

"While a primate may be a leader of his province, that province also has a diversity of opinion and that diversity is becoming increasingly evident especially in this age of the internet." Again, she is carefully casting doubt over the authority of the primates to truly represent the mind of the Communion since she is maintaining that there is no such thing as truth or authority - just these primates own truth and these primates own authority - but what does that have to do with The Episcopal Church, we have our own truth, our own authority. The Episcopal Church's truth is of the "diversity of opinion" and that is what matters - what matters is for us to do our own thing. But even this is not so - because it does matter, it does matter. It matters to The Episcopal Church - "diversity" is a political word and one would be cautious to go outside the politically-accepted version of "diversity" or risk extreme name-calling. She is very clear in saying who is the "minority" view and who is "the majority" view - and then later turns that upside down by playing the victim card on the oppressed minority, which is not the minority in TEC but in the Anglican Communion. It's these type of theological gymnastics that are at once both frustrating and remarkable. She reminds me of Gumby, that you could pose in any way you want - it didn't matter, he was still Gumby.

"Exceeding exercised" is how she describes our friends in the Global South "who seek to evangelize in their own contexts." And of course, here are more verbal "winks" because "their own contexts" really means "they are not like us." Time to put the kettle on.

"Crossing into the church" she says of the Global South archbishops and that TEC should act in good faith "until we are confronted with evidence to the contrary." This is both untrue and disingenuous. She is not acting in good faith if she's suing hundreds of lay people and their clergy in Virginia and elsewhere. The is not acting in good faith when she ignores the primates urging her to stand down from taking such hostile actions as suing other Christians who are acting in good faith. Either they are acting in good faith or they are not. Schori's actions indicate that she's speaking out of both sides of her mouth (do the progressives realize this too? I wonder, since this "speech chat" is designed to keep them obediently in the fold).

Vehemently. Wow, she makes a bee line from the current crisis to the ordination of women and the prayer book. But there are thousands and thousands of evangelical Episcopalians who came into the Episcopal Church after those events - those events happened over thirty years ago - ordination of women in the 1970s and the prayer book in 1979. By saying this (in that even monotone of course) she ignores everyone under the age of 50 (which again, might tell us something about The Episcopal Church demographics). That's weird. We here at the BabyBlueCafe support women's ordination (because its biblical) and the 1979 Prayer Book (because it's the only one we've ever known). The 1928 Prayer Book might as well be the 16something Prayer Book. It sounds like it's from another century - which of course, it is.

Ah, now we spin the message. This is not about women and not about the prayer book - this is about biblical authority and revelation. Schori seems unable or unwilling to admit this, casting such views as being "vehemently opposed" to something. That's a tactic to regain control of the message in an attempt to hold on to the progressive base. She's got to keep them in the fold or it will be TEC that implodes all on its own.

This is a little weird - she's reading a speech from a teleprompter while sitting in a setting that's supposed to informal. This is like inviting Great Aunt Marge into the living room and asking her about her recent trip to the Antibes and she instead she reads a speech to everyone. The setting is at odds with the medium. She's giving a speech - but perhaps could not find a convinient and assured place where there would be smiles and nodding heads and so "reimagined" the setting as being an informal PBS chat show (without Charlie Rose, who would be helpful at this point) but still gives her formal speech. We don't actually see the audience while she gives her speech - just an occassional glance at Jan.

If she is doing the informal chat show thingy, she should be standing up, moving around, looking at the audience, talking off the cuff and seeming warm and kind, confident and at ease (the Oprah-style). Instead, she's stiff and formal, as though she is like Great Aunt Marge who was actually heading over to the VFW Hall to give a speech, but got lost along the way and wandered into our family's livingroom and gave her speech anyway.

This is so telling about where TEC is right now. TEC wants to be our friend. TEC wants to be loved, admired, respected. TEC wants obidence and acceptance. But TEC is formal and sticks to the script, yes sticks to the script which is off camera "over there" - no, "over there," wait "over there." The hostess, Jan Nunley, just sits there as though wondering when is the tea arriving and will there be crumpets as well?

Notice her convictions pop out when she gets to the part about TEC's innovations that the Anglican Communion has requested be stopped by September 30 (music to the ears of the progressives who have been quite clear about being issued an ultimatum). It's again very clear who this little chat show is aimed at - the progressive base, whom she needs to support her in order to deliver to the Archbishop of Canterbury. She convincd them to them come over to her side at General Convention (leaving Louie Crew speechless at the podium) when she burst onto the floor of the House of Deputies. Now she's at it again - this is an most expressedly an appeal to the rank and file.

Again, she challenges the authority of the primates by questioning whether they have authority (remember, she's the one deciding which questions to raise, she's not sticking to what the Communique said, merely her spin on it to keep the base firmly in tow).

She reminds me of some of the profs I had in college, who would stand up and explain philosophies of writers they could not stand. The point of their pontificating was to get the students to agree with them, by acting as though they were all-knowing, but carefully crafting their language to raise our doubts. When someone works on a BFA (or MFA) in creative writing, the hostility toward classical literature is astonishing. Creative Writing as an area of study concentrates on the modern novel and the contemporary poem, including the themes and subjects that are deemed important now (not the themes and subjects that were important in early eras of literature). From the beginning you are taught to not place your faith in those old works but to discover the new work, the new reality in fiction by casting off those old ideas that hinder one's imagination - or is that reimagination? I could totally see Katharine Jefferts Schori teaching one of those classes in poetry that use to infuriate me because I couldn't for the life of me understand why they were so angry about Jane Austin or Charlotte Bronte or Milton or even Shakespeare - never mind TS Eliot (who inconviniently got the Faith, much like Dylan - traitor!). They had to create a new reality and a new form of fiction and poetry to go along with it. Now we'll have a new theology and a new church - only it turns out that those are quite old indeed.

And she talks in the same tone as they did too. Oh dear, I think I'm having a flashback. Please, someone pass me a butterbeer and a notebook. Where is TS Eliot when we need him?

In this decayed hole
among the mountains
In the faint moonlight,
the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves,
about the chapel
There is the empty chapel,
only the wind's home.
It has no windows,
and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.

"The system we call the Anglican Communion is seemingly unable or unwilling to live with diversity," Schori says, or what she calls "a broader understanding on all sides." It's a system now, easily disgarded or reinvented into a new system. Leave your convictions at home. Didn't CS Lewis call that "men without chests?"

"We are being pushed toward a decision by impatient forces within and outside this church who hunger for clarity. This hunger for clarity at all costs is an anxious response to discomfort in the face of change which characterizes all of life."

Goodness, what a sweeping statement. What are these secret "impatient forces" - is this the same force that Griswold talked about at the primates meeting in Ireland? This is conspiracy type thinking - it's not personal and it's not responsible. Where did we put our tinfoil hat? It's as though there are these Mindless Stupid People who have Messed It All Up just when we Had It Where We Wanted. Then comes Schori's habit of quoting scripture and then stopping before the passage is finished. "This is my beloved," she says and forgets (or does she?) the most important point - Son.

She's talking to the camera rather than to the people who are in the room. Again, this is a mixed message - let's chat but I'm going to read a speech. And now she's calling her nameless "impatient forces" as going after idols. Her inability to say, hey, the Episcopal Church really blew it - this is our mess and we've dragged the entire communion into it, is telling - as telling as it is that she cannot seem to admit that her "fasting" does not extend to taking those "impatient forces" to court.

You know, the fact that she ends on "beloved" and not "beloved Son" is - quite frankly - odd. It substitutes the imagery of God as Father and Son and reimagines their relationship to something more akin to "partners" - by using that word "beloved" without the integral relationship. She's subtly reinventing the biblical imagery to fit the New Imagery of The Episcopal Church. Golly.

"The impatience we are now experiencing is an idol," she says, "a false hope that is unwilling to wait on God for clarity." What she seems to be saying is that the September 30th date is an idol, a false hope and those who hold TEC accountable are "unwilling to wait on God for clarity." Schori wants to wait on God just long enough for all the primates to be pushing up daisies.

So she thinks it all about anxiety - that TEC has boldly gone into the New World and people are anxious about all this new stuff. Patronizing, isn't it?

Then comes the Humdinger of the Day: "God is with us and God will continue to be with us whatever this church decides." And that of course, reminds me of a song:

Her assumption that TEC will not be held accountable for its actions and basically it can justify whatever it does because God is on our side, for why wouldn't He be? We're Episcopalians.

And then she calls again some unknown people "neuralgic" about listening - of course, she's not one of them! Any minute now, BabyBlue is expecting a knock on her door from the sheriff's deputy (or service) any moment now, stopping by to serve papers for a lawsuit by someone who is not neuralgic at all, no not at all.

The so-called "Listening Process" might actually mean mere "political pursuasion" - one way or the other. Listening "in this context" is political, not theological - and again, in light of the changed imagery - the relationship shifts as well. Or does it?

She calls on the progressives to listen to the Neuralgic Blue Meanies. It's the least we can do, she seems to say, with these impatient idol worshippers who don't have God on their side.

Executive Council and the House of Bishops will be having "initiatives" and stuff will be coming from the Deputies and Bishops. What deputies are those - the ones elected for 2006?

Oh good heavens - now she says God is saying to us "Fear not - you are my beloved." Heaven's to Betsy!

So we go from the LORD GOD booming out of heaven that Jesus is "My Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased," except the Schori edition is just "My Beloved" - jump to what God is really saying and that is The Episcopal Church is "My Beloved." This is similar to the reimagining of the word "Christ" to the "Church." First it's Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church - and then Christ = The Church. Here she does it again - she goes from My Beloved (Son), leaves out the word "Son," so it's "My Beloved" and the it become My Beloved - The Church. No wonder God is on their side - TEC has taken the place of Christ, it is the New Christ.

Love this part about fasting from ascribing motives to others - isn't there a word for that?

What does "for in Christ we are all a minority" mean? Aren't we in the majority - we are all sinners and Christ is the minority - He was blameless and was crucified for our sake? He is unique - the only beloved Son of God - or is He?


What was it that was once said - that only Nixon could go to China, Nixon, the fierce anti-communist with impecable credentials could be the only one to negotiate with Red China? It seems that Schori is attempting the same campaign - to remind her listeners, the angry progressives, that she's one of them and if she can wait until the primates are pushing up daisies, well - so can they. Pass the tea and crumpets.


LATER: You can now read the transcript here.


Kevin said...

RE: One of the things that the PB keeps wanting to tell us is that there a bunch of primates who are going to retire someday

It both fact and a announcing strategy. +Lyons made reference in an AnglicanTV interview (11:12 minutes). Also this path is the way WO seemed to happen in the USA (I know a hot button issue, but in the US it was political w/ illegal ordinations then lack of discipline into acceptance and into acceptance of the AC as a practice {notice she really was tying the issues together).

I guess the plan is if they lay low and stead push, maybe not 'soon' but 'later' this will be fully realized, as people retire new blood maybe more accepting logic.

Didn't I allude to Jefferson's 'eternal vigilance' a few days ago?

Thank you for your thoughts on this BB. I agree with the Charlie Rose reference. It really was very nicely staged, professional director of video production as well. Content could have been a lot better, but it was well delivered. "Good for fertilizer with a pungent aroma."


Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

re: It's these type of theological gymnastics that are at once both frustrating and remarkable.

Now you've gone an did it. Comparing ++KJS to such a beautiful sport, demanding skill, strength, agility ... unless you making the comparison to Paulette Huntescu or Paulette Huntinova.

Anonymous said...

I've read her words before but this was the first opportunity I've had to watch PBKJS actually speak, and as I said to my Rector last night, my impression was, "Wow, she's slick. Like a politician or a car salesman." Not a good thing for a Presiding Bishop, and I was very disheartened to hear my views and those of the Orthodox being so marginalized and dismissed out of hand.

Anonymous said...

You've got a knack, BB. We know there can be warmth: but for the kreig lights and therefore the super-cooled studio (and, perhaps, an undercover Anglican custodian who left the back door open for more of a late winter Big Apple breeze), PB might have dressed casually, and loosened up a little, as if she were closer to the sunny hinterlands, much less the audience at hand.

And not tea and crumpets, esteemed Blogmistress. Jan was, I might imagine, hoping for a round of Jim Beam straight up and a swizzle stick to chew on. (Though some ice clinking in her glass would reinforce the heart of the matter).

Unknown said...

I guess I had Lambeth on my mind with the tea and crumpets - but I think Jim Beam is more apt. Bingo.


Anonymous said...

I am almost positive that Jan Nunley was Sister Mary Diocletian in this: