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Not Prince Hamlet

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

Revolution or Re-do

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Guardian is reporting today about the launch of a new, breakaway Anglican church centered in the global south. Money quote:
in a statement, [the church] said: "While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury." The rejection of Rowan Williams marks the end of colonial domination of the Anglican communion, shifting the balance of power to developing countries.
The fascinating thing here is the renegotiation of religious identity at work. Anglicanism has always depended for its sense of identity upon the recognition of Canterbury as "an historic see." To be Anglican was to defer to the Archbishop (if that's not putting it too simply).

This new movement places religious conviction, namely conservative conviction (i.e. traditional understandings of sexuality and a literal reading of the Bible) and rigorous personal piety at the center of its Anglican identity.

Of course, what this new communion seeks to do is re-establish Anglicanism in a "more traditional form." For example, it will go back to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and shun subsequent revisions in its worship. All in the name of "Orthodoxy."

Which begs the question: is it a revolution or a re-do? Surely the shift in power from Europe and the western hemisphere to Africa and the global south is one with revolutionary implications. All last week I listened to conservative Presbyterians suggest these implications as they compared the stance of their denomination on sexuality to that of the "global church." There is a powerful recognition of the piety of the South as normative for the worldwide church, especially as a salve to western "secularism" going on. That is truly revolutionary.

Only, I'm afraid it's not at all revolutionary in substance. The whole thing seeks to go back, to return to some previous locus of authority, be that a literal interpretation of the Bible or an "original" prayer book. Revolutions remake things. Re-do's don't. A re-do looks longingly at the past and tries to recreate it, misunderstanding it by romanticizing it. It refuses to engage critically with the challenges of the day and instead retreats back to the safety of the perceived certainty of a previous era.

The effects of this will be far-reaching, well-beyond the bounds of the Anglican communion. I'm no apologist for western hegemony or centralized authority, but this turn concerns me greatly, mostly because of a failure to look critically at the cultural biases of the "southern" orthodoxy that is being embraced by disgruntled conservatives in the west. It's all well and good to critique one's own culture as "secular" and relativist and whatever else, but one needs to adopt that same critical stance toward that "other" culture that one is now so eagerly embracing as a savior.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:21 AM | link | 2 comments |

Rushkoff Keynote at the Personal Democracy Forum

This is a gem, a 20 minute gem.

Money quote: "It's not the network, stupid; it's the people, stupid. The network is just a tool for people to be people again. Hopefully."


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:46 AM | link | 0 comments |

School Daze

Friday, July 04, 2008

I spotted a 9th grader I know at the city's 4th of July festivities this morning. She was volunteering at one of the city's activities, and she said that she was also volunteering at the fireworks display tonight.

"Wow, look at you," I complimented her. "Miss Volunteer: that's great."

Her answer took a little bit of my breath away:

"Yeah, I need to get into a good college, and I have a really bad math score, so . . ."

I just hope she had some fun today and wasn't too preoccupied by the college essay that's due IN THREE YEARS.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:52 PM | link | 0 comments |

This Hurts

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Maybe objectivity is the devil's spade.

That's just a hunch that's grown the last couple of days, after almost a week of reading reaction to the actions of my church's General Assembly (stop here if you're a Not Prince Hamlet reader for whom this subject is uninteresting--but do come back soon, as this will be the last post of its kind).

An objective reading to the fallout wants to balance the expressed commitments and convictions of the respondents in parsing their statements. It's no surprise that a conservative interest group would decry an assembly that voted to clear the way for the ordination of gay clergy. Neither is it surprising that a coalition of churches founded and sustained upon a threat of secession would be again rattling sabers. Objectivity knows all of this and accepts it, just as objectivity knows that the glee coming from interest groups that have long advocated a change in ordination standards has to be taken for what it is, the victory song of a band that has finally won an institutional victory after a long string of losses.

But objectivity doesn't serve friendships very well. Friendship requires bald subjectivity. For affection to flower and for loyalty to grow, something beyond objective analysis of the facts on the ground has to operate. And so you invest in the church as a friend. You make friends with colleagues you don't agree with, because you know that friendship is the sum total of the gospel, because in Jesus the world has been befriended by the God it has sought to deny. So you leave objectivity aside in the faith that we are, after all, friends.

And then they tell you that there can no longer be a "common framework of conversation" between you and them, your friends. They tell you that your church exists in a state of "spiritual jeapordy." Because elected commissioners to a general assembly acted to regard as relative standards of sexual behavior when it comes to ordination to church office, they say that your church has "rejected unequivocally what has long been considered—and still is in the global church-- the biblical standards for sexual practice."

Here's what this is: this is your friends (who's own ordinations involved the taking of vows to be your friend) throwing you under the bus. Objectivity can't grasp that.

Yet objectivity is compelled to correct their inaccuracy. The commissioners to the assembly didn't do what your friends say they did (yes, you continue to call them friends). Nothing was unequivocal, and the action was less of a rejection than a reconsideration. And your friends posit too easily a global consensus regarding "biblical standards for sexual practice."

So much for rebuttal.

What hurts these days in a gnawing loneliness. Your friends are bad mouthing you to their other friends and even to strangers. They're proposing to share space with you but not talk to you (at least not so long as you continue to talk to the rest of the church). It sucks.

You may not have complete confidence in the actions of the general assembly. You may worry if it's the right thing to do. But what you shouldn't be worrying about is your friends, whether they will do like they said they would and remain your friends, or whether their conscience will allow them to take a more expedient route that leads to easier times with different friends with whom they have more in common.

You still call them friends. So you can't help but feel stupid as you watch them search the room for more desirable company.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:34 PM | link | 7 comments |