Saturday, May 7, 2011

Osama's Weird Legacy: Uniting US Anglicans

Osama bin Laden's death has created some wonderful jokes but discretion advises me to not to repeat them here save to say that some of the best I have heard verbally I have not found yet on the internet. His death has also led, inadvertantly, to a weird legacy in the form of common cause for Anglicans and Episcopalians in the USA: going by internet comments on diverse sites, they are all united in being singularly unimpressed by ++Wright's attempt to suggest that the US acted this week as though it were cowboys in a Hollywood Western (see previous post) and not terrifically impressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury's intervention in media debate either (e.g. here and here).

[Aside: As I think further about the matter I think the mistake ++Williams and ++Wright make their criticism of the USA is that they do not allow for the fact that the USA is involved in a war. It is not a war in the WW1 and WW2 sense of 'war' with formal declarations from one country to another followed up by (or immediately following) invasion by one country of another (or of an ally). But it is a war of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century: an international network of fighters engaged in periodic action against one country in particular and as well as allied countries in a manner which is not readily categorised in terms of "freedom fighting" or "internal rebellion" or "civil war." Rules of engagement are having to be made without precedent. Osama bin Laden was not a terrorist like IRA terrorists once were within Ireland and the United Kingdom, nor was he a mere criminal. His actions did not entitle him to treatment we accord to criminals or to (at least some) terrorists (where their actions occur within the ordinary legal framework of the nation in which they seek revolution). He was a combatant in a war. So, yes, there are questions about whether he was armed at the point when shot, whether he constituted a threat to the Navy Seals and so forth. But there is no question in the minds of US leaders that he was an enemy who needed to be overcome and neutralised if the war on terror is to be won. It is not clear to me that capturing him, treating him to the usual protections afforded by the law when trying criminals etc, would assist the war on terror, since the very fact of his continuing existence, consistently communicated by a relentless media, would constitute greater inspiration to his network than news of his death.]

Meantime life goes on and a sermon awaits tomorrow on the raising from the dead of one genuine fighter for freedom, Jesus Christ our Lord. Any help with this question on John's "third" appearance narrative of Jesus and his disciples would be appreciated (21:1-14): why do the disciples after two previous recognitions of the risen Jesus now not recognise their Lord on the shores of Galilee?

It strikes me that whether we understand John's gospel to be the most historically accurate or the least historically accurate (but theologically deepest in mining the resurrection for meaning), this question is quite a deep one. It might be too difficult to answer or its answer might yield tremendous theological fruit.


liturgy said...

ummm... the lectionary reading is Luke 24:13-35... where are you preaching, Peter?


Peter Carrell said...

Whoops, you are right!
Completely my mistake - didn't have my lectionary at home so looked up p. 702 in NZPB and, wow, got that quite wrong! Year C instead of Year A.

liturgy said...

If you are caught out again, Peter,
the lectionary is available at lots of places:

and, weekly, not only the readings, but also exegesis and other resources:



Peter Carrell said...

You are right!
Sometimes the "book" seems quicker than the "link" :)

Father Ron Smith said...

This, undoubtedly, is why our Bishop in Christchurch insists on diocesan clergy using the Lectionary. In this way - at least the basic teaching tends to be the same throughout the diocese (and Church).

Anonymous said...

Re the idea that lectionary use means "the basic teaching tends to be the same".

All it means is the same passage is read.

James said...

Is this perhaps a sign that what unites us is a common political vision, more than our faith in God? We are generally agreed upon:

- Jesus helped the poor, as should we
- mass killing is wrong
- our love should extend to all people

The "who" or "what" with regards to Jesus is what divides us more profoundly.

A) Is it mostly a "Jesus myth" - a collection of edifying (but largely fictional) stories, with "meanings" and "ideas" which are somehow sacred, which the church is tasked to follow and protect at all costs? In this case it's mostly what Dawkins would call a "meme," Husserl and "ideal object" - something "abstract" (albeit with very concrete consequences)? This seems to me more or less the view being defended by the leadership of TEC in rejecting the Covenant - the necessity of provinces being allowed to have bishops who teach that the creeds are metaphors pointing toward, primarily, ethical and political action or "works."

B) Is it about a man who is also God, who asks us to turn to Him in recognizing Him - to whom we are also entreated to turn in prayer, whose followers and closest observers also report that His teachings imply that we must beware of teachings amongst ourselves which replace His grace with ethical admonitions, and that His followers doing such are condemned in terms beyond what polite language generally permits?


Marcus Borg (being vigorously promoted by many in TEC, +KJS being one of the followers) teaches us that, generally, doctrine isn't very important - that we need to be focused on doing and helping - that this is the real "faith." Amongst some (especially in the Sea of Faith and in Progressive Christianity): a major obstacle toward progress is this teaching that God is "real" in a sense beyond existing in our imaginations. We live with church structures of communities which are largely still tied to these very old teachings. They are capable of doing a great deal of good ... but need to learn better to achieve these ethical and political aims. Frequently, these issues of "doctrine" stand in the way.

The Communion should perhaps change its name to something like "Union of Advocacy Organizations for Ethical Action." Those churches that predominantly teach A: They can simply "grow up" and adopt the more "adult" way of speaking of ethical problems, without what they regard as mythical trappings. Continually employing "God talk" insults the intelligence and ethical virtues of those who do not believe in God, or think that such belief is detrimental to society. It is profoundly "exclusive" and fails at inclusivity - its divisive character is even more prominent in the radical opposition amongst groups A and B. In dropping the claim to be Trinitarian Christian churches, they will no longer be exposed to the objections of bringing "another gospel" into the church.

Those churches that teach B: can continue to do so in good conscience; without having to worry that they are bringing into the church "another gospel" and thereby "eternally condemned."

Maybe we are most properly united in ethical and political advocacy. This seems a very logical consequence of Marcus Borg and the more "progressive" side of TEC, and would probably also be widely accepted by the "other side" of churches in Africa who seem they may be considering leaving the Communion.

After all, it seems virtually impossible to speak of matters of pastoral theology as it occurs inside the Communion without appealing exclusively to ad hominems, with all matters of fact ignored. When we say, "Our center is Christ" - we may really be speaking of two very different centers. The general symptomatology of the Communion might be pointing to this type of condition.

James said...

Thinking more, I see that my post above is inappropriate because, I'm sure, Marcus Borg and +KJS would claim that they have a profound belief in "God." I suppose that part of this question is what to make of this signifier, the last word of that sentence.

My own posting came from profound inability to comprehend what it is that they are speaking of, when claiming such belief. They are members of a church claiming to be Trinitarian; yet both tend to brush aside the divinity of Christ, and "metaphorize" Jesus into their chosen ethical systems.

As a Trinitarian Christians, Jesus is our "way" to the Father. As non-pelagians, this is most definitely by anything we do, or by following any ethical laws.

We understand God only because, in some way, we understand Jesus.

When Jesus is no longer God - we have simply entered a different world of religion - with different meanings, though it may share the same words and outward symbols.

My apologies if the above posting sounds too snarky. I believe the question, however, does provide some indication as to where we "are" as a Communion. We, "A" and "B" are, in a certain sense, dedicated to the destruction of each other's central views of Christian belief and practice - albeit primarily by means of persuasion and not legal force. I don't think that with an honest, "secular" association of the views of A and B, that this conclusion can be avoided.

I should add for clarification: with B, stipulating not only, e.g., that we believe in the divinity of Christ; but that we also believe that this is central to our faith, and not replaceable with a metaphor regarding the general betterment of mankind (in any of its variants).

Is it not utterly tragic that politics unites us more than Christ Himself?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi James,
Thanks for commenting, with honesty and insight!

There are some challenging issues around what (in the end) unites us and what (in the end) divides us as Anglicans ...

James said...

Peter, thank you for your kind words.

And again, apologies: lots of typos in above post, some words missing and a few extra words that don't belong - from hastily done edits. I was posting late at night and getting rather emotional about this issue, it's something that sometimes causes me profound anxiety I must be more careful in re-reading my posts.