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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

To Kathleen Parker: An Open Letter

Friday, July 14, 2006

I'll try not to duplicate posts too much, but I wanted to put this letter both on religiononastick and here.

Dear Mrs. Parker,

As a blogger, I’m supposed to watch out for you and your ilk in the mainstream media. Folks tell me that the blogosphere functions as a sort of watchdog to the mainstream press of our country, making sure that reporters and columnists have their facts straight, the sources lined up, and their opinions, well, credible.

Consider this my free service to you.

In your column dated July 4 (”‘I Believe in Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe’”), you made a number of assertions that are incorrect. Writing about the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church last month, you state that delegates voted to “receive” a policy paper on gender, which is only partially accurate. First of all, kudos to you for nailing the verb “receive”; that one has proven elusive for others of your colleagues in describing what, exactly, the Assembly did. But I’m afraid it was a theological statement, not a policy paper, and it wasn’t about gender at all, but rather about the Trinity itself (or “himself,” if you must). Indeed, a cursory glance at the document’s title reveals this: “The Trinity: God’s Love Overflowing.”

That’s more than an academic distinction. You and yours (and by yours I include columnist like Charlotte Allen) have been all-too-eager to denounce the recent assembly as just the latest example of liberal Christianity pandering to the sensitivities of modern American culture, particularly when it comes to gender. Yet the theological statement on the Trinity does not have gender as a subject. Further, if you were to search the document (or perhaps, first, read it), you would be unable to find such words as “patriarchal” or “sexist,” words that any reader of yours would expect to see running amok in the statement’s text. Indeed, the closest thing you would get to the church placating feminist-run-amok culture would be the statement, “Only creatures who have bodies can be male or female. But God is Spirit and has no body” (line 351). Or perhaps the suggestion that “Femaile imagery for the Trinity has yet to be adequately explored” (line 362).

Good for you, though; in quoting from line 347 (”Trinitarian language has been used to support the idea that God is male and men are superior to women”), you succesfully exposed one of the statement’s four uses of the word “male,” a full quarter. Only, they’re all in the same paragraph. Further, in employing the “male” designation as often as it does, the statement is a veritable parade of chauvanism; “female” only appears twice (snicker with me, will you, at the realization that these goddess lovers have inadvertently reinforced sexism).

Ahem. Straightening up, then.

This will surely come as a disappointment to you. Lapsed adherents of any religion must have something with which to defend their lapse, and for American conservatives that something is most easily the culturally accomdating liberalism of the mainline denominations. The discovery, then, that the document is a serious work of Trinitarian Christian theology must take the wind out of your sails a bit.

But take hope. Because surely these Presbyterians are not able to discuss theology without stumbling into relativism and cultural minutae. As you say, “Irony seems to have gone missing as we worship our wombs and swoon over lost goddesses.” So, like affected snobs tinkering with dynamite, the drafters of the statement were sure to blow themselves up by yanking the wires of traditional doctrine.

Only, they didn’t do that either. In fact, they buried the wires of traditional doctrine deeper than ever, mandating that the hopelessly patri–oh, you know–”Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is the only acceptable triad for invoking God in the sacrament of Baptism. I would expect that someone who so admires the sturdy immobility of the Catholic Church would appreciate such a move.

I hope this clarification reduces your obvious stress at the perceived flushing of traditional Christianity down the toilet of “whatever.” Unfortunately, if I’ve misread your reaction, if what I take for stress in your prose is actually glibness or self-satisfied piety, then I’m afraid I can’t help you. Only, perhaps, read the document.


Not Prince Hamlet

Blogger, Presbyterian Minister


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 12:21 PM


Hey NPH:

I wanted to point you to Bill Tammeus' column today, if you hadn't seen it yet:

Better to read for yourself.

Money quote: "I often like Parker’s work. I think of her as a sweet version of Ann Coulter — meaning she has brains and a heart. Her commentary this time, however, simply made cheap fun of a document that was solid, thoughtful and, most of all, useful as it offered alternative language to express the inexpressible."
commented by Anonymous kairos, 7:20 AM  

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