Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nasty orthodoxy

A few posts earlier I noted the possibility that - in real time living out of Christian belief, behavious, and belonging, as opposed to ideal abstractions - orthodoxy is messy. But observing another aspect of real time orthodoxy, as attested to by comments made on various blogsites which fit within any notion of a messy orthodoxy or a generous orthodoxy, it is difficult not to conclude that there exists a 'nasty orthodoxy', exhibited when people swoop on the latest statement of this or that bishop or theologian, especially in connection with the Cs of Communion, Covenant, Canterbury or Conference, and textually yell 'I told you so' or 'See, X cannot be trusted' or 'Y is the worst incumbent to hold office as the (Arch)bishop of Z'.

Behind these yells lies some biblical basis for unvarnished addressing of false teaching, warnings about hospitality being given to heretics and so on. But the possibility of biblical justification for nasty comments decreases proportionally as teachers of the faith stand close to the centre of orthodoxy. There is no justification, for example, for vitriol being poured out by 'orthodox Anglicans' on (say) theologians/bishops of the calibre of Tom Wright, Rowan Williams, Mouneer Anis, and the like. And, please, or should that be 'puh-lease', do not start swinging the 'Satan disguises himself as an angel of light' sword for brothers and sisters in Christ such as these.

In order not to be misunderstood re justification for vitriol, I am not arguing that vitriol is justified for those who stand some distance from the centre of orthodoxy. There is a difference between plain (but gracious) speech and nasty (and ungracious) speech.

But what puzzles me, in the end, is how nastiness can have crept into orthodoxy? Is it through fear, exasperation, falling for a particularly cunning temptation of the devil?

On a completely different note, but a good example of pleasant-while-being-provocative orthodox writing, check out this piece by Bishop Andrew Proud.

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