I don’t think it is fear…

As Lambeth gears up, the Bishop of New Hampshire preached at St. Mary’s Church, Putney, in the south London-based Diocese of Southwark. There were two protestors, and one was a man in the service who attempted to shout down Bishop Robinson as he began his sermon. The following quote begins here from an ENS article entitled: Church need not be afraid, New Hampshire bishop tells Putney gathering.

Two demonstrators were also present, one carrying a placard outside the church and handing out leaflets saying the Bible prohibits homosexuality and one attempting in the church to shout down Robinson as he began his sermon.
Shouting “Repent! Repent!” the demonstrator was eventually drowned out by the congregation, which rose and sang…” He was escorted out by ushers.
“Pray for that man,” resumed Robinson, his voice shaking slightly. “Fear is a terrible thing. How sad that the Anglican Communion would threaten to tear itself apart over two men or two women who choose to make a Christian family together.”
Noting that several times in the New Testament, the words “be not afraid” and “fear not” appear, Robinson said “the Anglican Communion is going to be fine. Will it change? Probably. Is it going to be easy? Probably not.”

Here is the rub in my opinion: For the most part, this is not about fear! For some, yes, but for most I don’t buy it. For most people in this mess who oppose homosexuality it is because they believe it to be wrong – simply contrary to the will of God. If we continue to try to make their beliefs and their actions to be wholly based on fear, we are misunderstanding them.

The African Church, continued

Here is continuing description of Christianity as it is practiced in parts of Africa. I have no clue whether any Anglican Christians in Africa engage in any of this, but as I said before my hunch is that the Anglican Churches and their members in parts of Africa are influenced by these movements and practices, just as Anglicans in the West are influenced by their surrounding culture and by indigenous politics. The point, I guess, is that none of us are free of cultural influences – negatively and positively, conservatives or liberals, Evangelicals or Anglo-Catholics or Broad Church.
Dual Allegiance: Pastor jailed for using human head in occult ceremony.
Laurie Fortunak | posted 7/15/2008 08:44AM Christianity Today Online

Nigerian pastor Benjamin Ojobu and his wife, Patience, were arrested in May for allegedly using a human head in rituals for church members. The practice of using severed body parts to ensure prosperity—whether material, emotional, or spiritual—is not uncommon in West Africa. In a region where voodoo is culturally acceptable, nearly all Christians engage in some form of occult practice, according to some experts.
“One out of 10 self-named Christians in this region practices only Christianity,” says Benjamin-Lee Hegeman, a former missionary in West Africa who now teaches at Houghton College. “Some people call it syncretism, but it may be more like dual religious allegiance, where Christianity is practiced in the daytime and occult [practice] is done at night. Many of the pastors will preach from the pulpit that this type of thing is wrong, but secretly take part in it at night. There is the mentality, especially in African Initiated Churches, where the prosperity gospel is preached, that you do what you’ve got to do to get ahead. You rely on the powers available to you. You are hopeful that Christ will help, but when he can’t come through on Sunday, you may take out a different insurance policy at night.”

Read the rest.
The problem is when one grouping of us decides that the aspects of the prevailing culture that it takes upon itself or within itself (whether recognizing the influence or not) is God’s very way in opposition to other ways other groups of Christians are influenced by the culture. There is not illusion on my part that some influences are bad and contrary to God’s will for humanity and some influences are good, but we wade into troubled waters when we decide that we can definitively know the mind of God on all things right now and without opposing considerations as if we do not see through a glass darkly.
This is exactly the place Anglicanism finds itself, however. Certainly groups within us have determined that there can be no other understanding than theirs – and the group is lead by African Christians. I certainly believe they love Jesus and desire to live Christians lives, but how is the religion in their local context perceived and practiced? I can say the same about the religion of Christianity in the West… We are all wrong in various ways and to different degrees. This should be our first assumption!

They will kill? Really?

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, is afraid for his life. I remember reading a few years ago that due to the homosexual plague he suspended all his single, male priests until they were married in fear that they just might be homosexuals.
Now, it seems, he fears for his life. From an article in New Vision (“Uganda’s Leading Website”) entitled, “Gays want to kill me, says Orambi.”

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi yesterday said he fears for his life because of the campaign he has waged against homosexuals.
“Nowadays, I don’t wear my collar when I am in countries which have supporters of homosexuals,” he said…
“I am forced to dress like a civilian because those people are dangerous. They can harm anybody who is against them. Some of them are killers. They want to close the mouth of anybody who is against them.”
“Homosexuals are agitating that it is a human right. But how can it be a human right for a man to sleep with another man or a woman to marry a woman?” he asked.
“What we need is to wake up and protect our church and children against this practice.”
Orombi noted that homosexuals were trying to take advantage of Africa’s poverty by making donations, building schools and offering scholarships.
“We should not accept any donation that comes our way and has strings attached. Some people have already fallen victims in Uganda and we need to stop it,” the archbishop said.

I really like the line that by giving money to help feed starving people or building schools and the like, that evil gay people are trying to take advantage of poor, and I guess ignorant, Ugandans. And, they are trying to kill the good Archbishop.
Well, there you go.
A commenter to the story over on Thinking Anglicans wrote this:

“Gosh. This is such a difficult question. How many gays have been killed or beaten up by homophobes? And how many Africans have been murdered by gays for criticising Western gay lifestyles?”

I wonder?

End of transmission

I just read today that “Father Jake Stops the World” is going off-line. Here are two reasons he mentioned for his reason to give up the blog:

1. I believe that a constant exposure to some of the toxic rhetoric found on the net has had a negative impact on my spiritual health. I find it more difficult to discern the glory of God. Most likely this is because I’ve become too preoccupied with the depravity of man. I need to take care of myself.
2. I’m no longer sure that our conversations here are helpful to the Episcopal Church. We have become as polarized in our responses as those with whom we disagree. The reality is that we are all children of God. There is no “us” and “them.” There is only “we.” I honestly believe that. Continuing to focus on our divisions deepens them, and provides a poor witness to the hope that is in us.

I really can’t help but agree with him. I know I have to step back from engaging people on the more political Church blogs. It does bring me down. I suspect it can be a downward spiraling endeavor, too.
I’ve witnessed a number of amateur bloggers hang-up-their-hats over the last several years. For whatever reason, the individuals have decided that this medium no longer suits them or meets a greater need – perhaps their individual need for blogging has ended.
More often than not in these extremist and polarizing times, “conversations” are maintained in the blogsphere because of anger and angst, bitterness and bile, and it all feeds upon itself. It is not, as it is currently construed, healthy or ultimately helpful.
I think about why people stop blogging. I guess it depends on why they blogged in the first place or the use they saw for their blogs. For me, I suppose, and as I mention in my disclaimer concerning grammar and spelling, I really do use this “web space” as a place to put things I want to keep track of. Since I am a person who wrestles with stuff by thinking “out loud,” it provides me a place to put down thoughts.
I don’t intend for all this to be “public,” but the medium provides me the best way to keep track of life and of necessity it is public. I appreciate the few who do add comments. I appreciate people who challenge what I write – it helps in my “out loud” process of consideration concerning whatever I’m wrestling with at the time. But, I don’t do any of this to elicit comments. I don’t post to advance an agenda. I just do it for myself. I don’t care how many hits or page-views I get in a day.
Perhaps that’s why after eight years of on-line journaling and then blogging, I don’t feel any need or want to stop at this point. I feel as if to stop would be the same as no longer writing in my paper journal – where I write my more personal stuff.
I think it is kind of sad when a blogger who gathers a regular group of people stops. I perfectly well understand why someone would stop, but it feels like a person who in the tactile world just drops off the face of the earth. I will remove the link in my sidebar for “Father Jakes Stops the World.” The blog was part of the Anglican perspective.

Torture by any name…

What do we make of our government (current administration) when “God fearing” and “God loving” leaders allow such things to happen? This is a betrayal of America, in the name of saving America.
From the New York Times: China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo

WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

This from Andrew Sullivan:

So Reagan’s alleged heir came to follow the moral strictures of Communist totalitarians. And note: the torture methods were designed to elicit false confessions. We have no assurance that the intelligence conjured up by this brutality is anything more than what Dick Cheney wanted it to be. (That’s how he likes his intelligence, of course. Whatever he wants reality to be.)
But one thing is at least clear. The people who committed this form of “enhanced interrogation” knew full well it was torture. And they used that word. It’s a good one. And it means what it says.

Peering Past Lambeth

A good essey written on Anglicans Online by The Rt Revd Pierre W. Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe on what is needed beyond Lambeth. The good bishop provides a good overview of some of the distinctive aspects of Anglicanism that are worthy of preservation, even if under great strain right now.
The essay: Peering Past Lambeth

Radicals, again

I was thinking more about the whole “being a radical” thing. I am obviously fairly conventional in many ways, yet simply being a Christian is a radical departure from American cultural norms from the beginning.
So much of the religion of Christianity has capitulated to the culture – and here the conservatives are as much if not more guilty of this than are the liberals (at least in the West and most notably in America) . Part of the difference between the two equally guilty parties is that the conservatives are often blind to the capitulation or which parts of the culture they have given themselves to – frankly, what often happens is they take a culture norm and sanctify it and call it God’s will, like free-market economics for example. Certainly nothing wrong with free-market economics, but it certain isn’t the dictate of God that this is His divine plan or will for humankind. From my experience, at least liberals don’t make any excuses for being like the surrounding culture. Speaking of excuses, what I like about many conservatives is their honesty about their sense of personal, cultural, ethnic, economic, or “systems” superiority – you know where you stand. My experience suggests that liberals have a hard time admitting to their own sense of superiority, like conservatives have a hard time admitting to their own capitulation to the culture.
Anyway, with even a cursory reading of the New Testament, one can’t come away without realizing that the way Jesus calls us to life and to live is very contrary to the prevailing cultural – religious and secular. Jesus calls us to a peculiar life, a radical departure from the norm. This is the way it is, unless we simply want to justify ourselves and our ways of living.
We are to be in the world, but not of it. We are to let our example be a light to help a lost world find its way, but if our lives simple blend into the context of everything else then there is no distinction, no difference, no different light to recognize and follow. This is why it is so tragic when the Church, Christians, and the religion become indistinguishable from the prevailing culture. We would rather trust the culture than the Way of Christ. Understandable, perhaps, due to fear and insecurity, but lamentable all the same.
Live a radical life, for the sake of the world and the people in it.

The new authoritarianism

John Kampfner of the Guardian (UK) writes about: The new authoritarianism. He asks the question, “Why is it that a growing number of highly educated and well-travelled people are willing to hand over several of their freedoms in return for prosperity or security?”
This question can be asked as well of Americans! From the commentary:

Many countries, including our own [Britain], are entering into new pacts with their rulers. Resurgent autocrats draw strength from the many weaknesses of western leaderships, not just their mistakes in foreign policy, but their failure to rejuvenate their own political systems, or to deal with a business culture that had lost touch with the needs of society.
It was Oswald Spengler who at the turn of the last century predicted that “the masses will accept with resignation the victory of the Caesars, the strong men, and will obey them”.
A modern form of authoritarianism, quite distinct from Soviet Communism, Maoism or Fascism, is being born. It is providing a modicum of a good life, and a quiet life, the ultimate anaesthetic for the brain. (emphasis mine)