Sarah Dylan Breuer, and Episocpal priest of “Sarahlaughed.net” fame, started a list a couple days ago of points of agreement between – here is a long list: Conservatives/Liberals, Traditionalists/Progressives, Reappraisers/Reasserters, or whatever terms you want to use. You know, those disparate groups that are yelling at each other and driving the Church into division and possible schism. Go to Dylan’s website and participate. I do believe that if rational minds prevail, we will again realize that within at least Anglicanism that there is far more that we agree on that unites us than divides us. Regrettably, this kind of exercise can degrade into just repeating what one believes and what one demands all others believe, too.
We shall see who happens.
From this morning’s Old Testament Reading: Wisdom 1:16â€”2:11, 21-24 (NRSV)
But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company. For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
â€œShort and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
For we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been,
for the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts;
when it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
Our name will be forgotten in time,
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.
For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.
Here is the problem: Within the youth of this nation there is developing two distinct groups fundamentally different than the way these groups have been construed in the past, primarily due to the influence of adults (parents, youth leaders, the media). I starting thinking about this a bit more while reading an article in Rolling Stone entitled “Teen Holy War” about BattleCry – a radicalized movement focused on Christian youth for the purpose of compelling them be at war (literally) with those forces opposed to their understanding of the Christian faith and American society.
The first group comprises those who are “secular” in the sense that they have not been raised in any faith tradition. I’ve known many parents who claim that they do not want to involved their children in any particular faith tradition when the kids are young because they want their kids to be able to choose for themselves what faith to adhere to when they are adults. (It sounds all altruistic and modern on the surface, but it is a cop-out, generally, for lazy parents. Sorry, but that is my experience.) Then, there are those parents who themselves are “secular” whether due to being atheists or being honest and admitting that they just have no real interest in faith development. I have to say, I have more respect for the second group than the first, but that’s just me and it doesn’t matter who I respect or not.
These “secular” kids grow up not knowing the conceptual frameworks of “faith” in general and religious faith in particular. What they know comes from the media and perhaps some few friends who are able to talk about their own faith experience/expression. (One downside of this way of raising children is that it gives the kids no foundation upon which to make judgments about what is or is not legitimate religious expression, opening them to exploitation and recruitment by cults, which are still quite active on college campuses). Enabling kids to make sound judgments as adults does not mean we do not expose them to something while they are children.
The second group are those who might be called “religionists” and who are the type of youth that are raised within the radicalized segments of American Christianity, BattleCry being the prime example. I went to BattleCry’s website right before the official launch. At the time, I thought this may be an interesting and productive effort, but I think I’m changing my mind. While I don’t think there are any like groups on the radical-left side of the Christian faith, the same way of thinking is certainly evident among many â€œliberalâ€ groups and people.
I understand the primary instincts and emotions of the adults who propagate this way of thinking and being concerning the faith, culture, economics, politics, and other religious expressions outside of Christianity. At the base level, the reasons are good – giving the kids the tools they need to be open and honest about their faith, protecting them from exploitation by unscrupulous marketeers and the like, giving them a sense of self-esteem even when ridiculed within the general culture, exercising their Constitutional freedoms of speech and religion, and passing on the faith to the next generation. All good things, frankly.
The problem is that the adults of groups that include the politicized Religious Right, radicalized leftist groups, and youth ministries such as BattleCry, is that they demand a form of the faith that is confrontational in the extreme, very narrow in its thinking, fundamentalist in its view and practice of the faith, uncompromising with anyone who holds differing viewpoints and beliefs, and then taking the next step of demonizing the other and declaring them “enemies” that must be properly dealt with.
So, in the coming years we will be confronted with the battle between these two groups as they grow into young adults. Of course, numbers of them will moderate their way of thinking and being and some will even crossover to the “other side.” Yet, patterns of understanding, thinking, and behaving will have already been imprinted. If something doesn’t change, and soon, the current “Culture Wars” will seem like a garden party in comparison. Radicalized Secularists vs. Radicalized Religionists. (Or, in the case of BattleCry, radicalized Christian Religionists vs. Everyone else) What will be lost is civility, the ability to live peacefully in a democratic society, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, and a culture that is free and respectful of difference.
What is lost is the middle group of balance and thoughtfulness. What will be/is being lost is the ability of the two extremes – “secular” young people growing into adulthood and the “religionist” young people growing into adulthood – to understand each other, to work together, and the ability to compromise within the over all system so to build a respective and civil society where freedom of thought, speech, and action are still considered inalienable rights.
What must be done, frankly and regrettably, is that the “middle-way” must be asserted forcefully enough to be heard and recognized but not so much as to become a third group within the radicalization. What must be done, too, is support for those forms of the Christian faith that promote intentional maturity into adulthood, intentional faith development and maturation, intentional programs that encourage respect and understanding of differences (without political correctness or identity politics), and those programs that allow students to have a firm foundation build strongly and yet allows them to question and search for themselves. This is readily possible within Conservative Christianity and within Liberal Christianity, but rarely possible in Anti-Liberal Christianity or Anti-Conservative Christianity (and this is where we are in most of American faith-politics right now).
Here is a YouTube video produced by BattleCry, and I think the message itself is important and good – we need to do something to reach our young people.
Here is a Nightline piece on “Teen Mania” and “BattleCry”
So, Reverend Lovejoy and his wife on the Simpsons rekindled their sex life after getting Homer and Marge’s mattress. (To understand how they got the mattress in the first place, you will have had to have watched the episode.)
The Lovejoy’s station wagon pulls up in front of the house. They jump out and run towards the front door. The Rev. Lovejoy says, “You put on the Michael Bolton CD while I put on my eatable vestments.”
Eatable vestments. That’s funny.
Speaking of the Church of England, just a couple new links of the melding of Emergent and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. hOME
“techno-mass” Listen to the Gloria and St. Patrick’s Breastplate in a slightly different way.
Speaking of Lexington, KY (when?) vine+branches
I found this graphic on the Vindicated weblog. I stole it off of the Flickr site. Now, I know this is the mother church, the Church of England, but the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree for us Episcopalians.
We truly know not what our future holds. I do not know.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
If we know what is in store, we may never arrive.
I was talking this morning with Fr. Cullen after Morning Prayer as I walked to the subway and he walked to the gym. We were discussing what to do about the Study Guild provided by the national Church Center to be discussed by the Church concerning the Primate’s Communique. We were lamenting the mess we are in.
Anglicanism is not an organizational structure. Anglicanism is a way of approaching the faith. Anglicanism is realized through organizational structures, but not contained within them. ( “Catholicism” may be applied commonly to the Church of Rome, but Rome cannot contain the faith “Catholic.” Yes, lots of disagreement about whether that is true or not – whether Cranmer was a heretic – yadda, yadda, yadda.) It rests within a notion of “Common Law.” Perhaps, this is becoming more difficult to live into the further we move away from the British understanding of the “Common” – “Common Prayer”
It is a shame when those structures that are supposed to be the embodiment of Anglican Faith tend to no longer act Anglican. Anglicanism will survive, by the grace of God, even if those structures do not.
The following comes from regular e-mail updates I get from Emergent Village (the website for the ongoing Emergent Church conversation). Brian McLeran posted about his experiences this past year traveling all over the world and listening to many different and other voices.
From Brian McLaren:
“I have become convinced of two things in this travel. First, we Christians in the West or North (and especially in the United States) live in an echo-chamber; it’s so hard for us to hear “the voice of the other” over the clamor of our own incessant and redundant broadcasting. Second, we desperately need to hear these voices, for our own good and for the potential of increased partnership in the future. I hope to introduce as many of these voices to as many people as I can in the months and years ahead.
“For example, in a recent trip to Malaysia (arranged by the hospitable and charming master-networker Sivin Kit and friends), I met a young Malaysian theologian named Sherman Kuek. Sherman sent me a piece he wrote recently on contextualization and tradition, from the perspective of someone involved in the emergent conversation in Asia.”
Sherman is an itinerant minister and an Adjunct Lecturer in Christian Theology at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM). He spends much of his time journeying with his friends in reflecting on faith, life, and culture in a profoundly theological and yet simple way. Sherman blogs on www.ShermanKuek.net.
From: Sherman YL Kuek, OSL
In speaking of contextualisation, there are (rather simplistically) two trends of thought:
1) The gospel consists of a “static universal core”, a series of articulations which is time insensitive and perennially unchanging. The contextualisation project is simply about enfleshing this core with a cultural facade for the facilitation of communication and understanding. The core, essentially, does not change.
2) The gospel consists of a “dynamic universal core”, a series of articulations which is time sensitive and perennially changing with the development of our theological understanding. The contextualisation project, whilst being about the cultural expression of this “dynamic universal core”, is also about allowing the enfleshment process to provoke us to re-examine the legitimacy and relevance of the universal core. This means that the universal core, by its sheer dynamic nature, is vulnerable to being modified, changed, eradicated, retained, or reaffirmed in accordance with that deemed necessary.
I suspect that the “emerging” people are those who are more ready to embrace the second of the two approaches, and not anyone is willing to sit well with this methodological vulnerability.
But anyone who is seriously going to engage his/her context authentically would almost immediately see that the second of the two is probably the only way by which one can be authentically contextual in his/her theological methodology.
This section dwells on some further sustained thoughts pertaining to the “dynamic universal core”. If we posit that the dynamic universal core is “time sensitive and perennially changing with the development of our theological understanding”, what reasonable sources possess legitimate ascendancy over the dynamism of the core?
It is open knowledge that the emerging people are serious about engaging with the dominant culture confronting the Christian gospel (in the West the postmodern culture, and in Asia perhaps the postcolonial ethos). First and foremost, this engagement is about the vulnerability of allowing the dominant culture to challenge the Christian gospel with serious questions regarding the adequacy, accuracy, and even the absolute rightness of the latter.
But it is probably a misunderstanding beyond proportions that these people engaging with culture are actually permitting the culture to redefine the core. It is most likely that culture raises questions which shed doubt on the perennial universality of the core, but not necessarily that culture redefines the core.
In my observation, it seems to me that whilst culture is permitted the role of the “interrogator”, the contextual thinkers are going back into the Great Christian Tradition to seek solutions for these problems raised by culture. They do not claim that culture itself provides the answers. They seem to have an implicit understanding that the Great Christian Tradition itself possesses more than a sufficient wealth of wisdom to provide plausible solutions for challenges posed by culture. The Great Christian Tradition causes one to expand and deepen the core such that one realises that his definition and demarcation of the core may have been overly limited and unnecessarily fossilised.
Thus, it is not uncommon for contextual thinkers to move beyond the boundaries of their own limited traditions (i.e. their denominational / traditional boundaries and familiar scope of theological positions) towards other even older traditions in search of responses to the problems posed by culture. This explains the openness of the emerging people towards the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions and their willingness to listen to other ecclesial voices beyond that with which they are familiar. Again, this is not something deemed acceptable to every Christian thinker of every tradition. Some traditions are, by their sheer nature, implicitly closed to conversations which challenge the rudiments of their all-familiar categories.
The Christian faith is more than 500 years old. In fact, the memory of the Christian Church goes back beyond 2,000 years. The contextual thinker holds on to this wealth of ecclesial life and therefore understands that there is no need for theological insecurity, for he has a long, long history – a Great Story of which he is a part – consisting of multiple voices of wisdom who have come before him and who would be able to infuse wisdom and impart solutions in his endeavour to be a relevant voice within the present scheme of life. This is the reservoir of ecclesial jurors for the contextual thinker which many others fail to observe or choose to ignore all together.
For him, the challenges posed by cultural confrontations do not cause him to pander into a state of intimidation and self-preserving defensiveness, for he looks beyond himself and his restrained traditional familiarity; and behold, a world of endless possibilities is open before him as he gleans from the voices of his many Fathers who once treaded the path on which he now finds himself. Someone aptly comments (and the contextual thinker certainly mirrors it well): “It’s not about the old ways, it’s about the much older ways”.
I want to add that, and it is my humble opinion, that Anglicanism provides the medium in which all these things can be realized in a more full and complete way. Why? Because Anglicanism encompasses within itself all these indices – ancient and mysterious faith from its Catholic side going back to the introduction of Catholic Christianity in Britain during the earliest days of the Church, in its Evangelical side with the long, storied history of vibrant personal faith and missionary zeal, and in its Broad Church tradition which pushes the church to question and think diligently.
Yet, we are caught up in pulling ourselves apart because of, what? Oh, lots of reasons. The only thing that matters is that the genius of Anglicanism is being compromised and made ineffectual by those determined to do the unAnglican thing of imposing their perspective on all others. We are missing the door open to us because of our own myopia and selfishness. What a shame! What a tragedy.
On a relatively nice Wed-nes-day, music…
1.’Till Tuesday, What About Love, from ‘Welcome Home’
2. Original Wicked Cast, Something Bad, from ‘Wicked Soundtrack’
3. Rufus Wainwright, Oh What A World, from ‘Want One’
4. Halloween Alaska, Telling Me, from ‘Halloween Alaska
5. Smashing Pumpkins, Zero, from ‘Rotten Apples’
6. Kat Williams, Here’s That Rainy Day, from ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’
7. Anna Nalick, Breath (2AM), from single
8. U2, Rejoince, from ‘October’
9. Sigur Ros, Hoppipolia, from ‘Takk…’
10. Silversun Pickups, Common Reacter, from ‘Carnavas’
11. Snow Patrol, Same, from ‘Final Straw’
The rules, for bloggers who want to play:
Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel!