A good article in the TimesOnline.com (UK) from Allister McGrath.
Credo: A system of belief should not involve point scoring:
The loss of an external threat often gives rise to an internal crisis, and the need for a new sense of identity
Speaking of the ANC, McGrath notes that the aftermath of this recent election in South Africa saw the ANC majority shrink. One reason, he speculates, is because it was much easier for the ANC to be against something, and negatively against something like Apartheid, but now they have to articulate what they are for.
That challenge seems to be proving more difficult as apartheid recedes in the popular memory. The ANC needs to create a new, positive identity for itself rather than relying on past enemies and battles.
Itâ€™s a familiar point. Purely oppositional movements tend to find themselves in difficulties once their point of reference is removed. The loss of an external threat often gives rise to an internal crisis, and the need for a new sense of identity. This often means that groups justify themselves by condemning others.
This is very true. Here in the U.S. we see this happening all over the place. President Obama presented a positive message of hope (as overworked as that word may have been) and many people voted for him even as they described themselves as “conservatives,” “Evangelicals,” “independents,” and “moderates.” We see now the primary movers and shakers of the Republican Party yelling and screaming about this and that, but all that is being presented loudly and forcefully is negative and for what they are against. Many of the leadership of the Republican Party will jump on just about anything the Obama administration does for no other reason that to try to cut his credibility, popularity, and effectiveness so that come the next election they might regain power and control.
Being the party in power is the goal of any political party, but the methods they are using at this point will only work against them, IMHO. This group of Republicans (Neo-Cons, really) do not understand what happened this past election. They still think shrill, arrogant attack is what is needed to get back into power. I think it is a profound misread of the current situation, and well demonstrates what McGrath is writing about. What is their positive message? Is fear mongering and character assassination all they have? What are their solutions and ideas that are not simply a repackaging of the Bush administrations failed policies? It is, truly, much harder to be a visionary and present a well reasoned and thought out positive message. (In some ways, the Newht Gringwich era “Contract with the American People” did that, but he is not acting in the same manner, now!)
Likewise, we see the political and sectarian goals of the Religious Right as demonstrating McGrath’s point. They talk a lot about protecting the American Family, but it is always in the context of what they are against – particularly their perceptions of the evils of homosexuality. What we see and hear in the media (even more particularly in the religious media) is all negative and victimhood. They fight against everything and everyone that does not line up with their viewpoints and goals. They may try to present in a positive way the fight to save the American Family, but to a growing number of people what they really see is nothing much more than anti-gay everything. Why, if they are so pro-family, do they not focus on the real culprits of the decline of the American family – all heterosexual, like divorce? I think because it is far easier to find a scapegoat rather than deal with the failings of one’s group, and it is easier to be negative. That is why in the longer run, I don’t think they are going to succeed in many of their efforts. Trends don’t look good. They need to re-tool and try to present to the public what they are for without the ranker and negativity and with positive, forward looking ideas.
Finally, we see this, too, in the groups breaking away from the Episcopal Church (TEC). Whether low-church Evangelicals or high-church Anglo-Catholics, their bond rests on their common opposition to the more progressive elements of the Anglican Communion, and particularly TEC. They articulate well what their common hatred is and to whom or what it is focused. They are articulating what they are for, but again in the context of what they are opposed to. It seems to be that for right now, the AMiA is the only group that has come out from under this illness. I just don’t see how Charismatic-Evangelicals claiming Anglicanism and favoring women priests are going to stay with Anglo-Catholics claiming Anglicanism who won’t have women priests. And, it isn’t just about women, but about the theologies they adhere to and the inevitable conflict that those different theologies will cause. Anglicanism has held it all in tension for a long time, but these groups are born out of schism and accusation and negative development (whether they are right or wrong).
Do they really represent anything different than the phenomena McGrath writes of?
This is partly why I am coming closer to simply declaring that I will side-step out of this eddie and quagmire that is now the TEC and Anglicanism, and devote myself to the Christian Disciplines continuing down through time and place and draw closer to God and those who are simply tired of all this negativism and accusation. In no way does that mean I am abandoning TEC or Anglicanism, surely not, but I will remove myself as much as I can from the deleterious effects of our current cultural deterioration (as evidenced in politics and the Church). Who knows…