Friday, August 4, 2017

You have been warned

Understanding the state of things where people are involved is a very tricky business. That is an eternal truth and a global truth!

For Christians there is the added challenge of understanding who we are as Christian people, who we are in the midst of the society in which God has planted us, and what, if any, is the role we might play in the transformation of that society, or, indeed, ourselves as God's people.(An alternative being that we apathetically leave all change in the hands of God, or, only engage with the possibility of change via a strict life of active prayer and non-engagement with any other activism).

Into such musing we might read Ross Douthat (H/T Bowman Walton) who is a remarkable NYT columnist, never not worth reading!

This column focuses on American Catholicism and the Vatican's understanding of it. But it is not rocket science to make a translation into the Australian and New Zealand Down Under contexts. Especially in this week of the remarkable phenomenon of religion creeping into our Kiwi politics ... I refer to the various scapegoats roundabouts and to the extraordinary exercise in hagiography which our media embarked on when the Labour Party elected a new leader on Tuesday!

Thus Ross Douthat warns us to sharpen our thinking, to accurately discern the signs of the times and to do our research so that we can speak truthfully about the state of things where people are involved.


Andrei said...

There is nothing new here Peter

Consider Thomas à Becket (who incidentally fired FBI Director James Comey compared himself to a few days ago which made me laugh out loud) - King Henry II's go to man for putting out fires until Henry had him installed as Archbishop of Canterbury whereupon he put the interests of the Church first and paid the price

Or Saint Philip of Moscow who stood up to Ivan Grozny (the Ivan the Terrible to you) over the horrors his Oprichniki were inflicting on the people and paid the ultimate price

And Anglicans explicitly have Archbishop Laud who may have, had he been permitted, reconciled the English Church to the East, Constantinople and Moscow but instead lost his head literally (i.e. it was amputated by axe)

In our time we have seen Archbishop Romero murdered at the altar while celebrating Mass and other martyrs besides

For me I struggle with this at times - is my Faith a political/cultural identity the way race and sexual orientation are in contemporary times or is it something far more (I hope the later)

And all readers should ask the same question of themselves

When Peter ponders what it is to be Anglican, and perhaps the raison d'étre of this blog is actually Peter working through this issue in a personal sense at a time where Anglicanism is submitting to the secular ethos of the times and what he may compromise as a result or where the line is crossed and he must make a hard choice as how best to serve the Lord and his Church with a capital "C"

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Andrei, I am working through my "personal issues"!

Though the fact the some engage - thank you all - suggests that whatever I am doing strikes a chord with others, even though very few commenting here chime in with me precisely.

However, I would like to make one thing clear: on the days when I do make a stand about not-to-be-crossed-lines, on or off the blog, I do not see myself in the same league as the heroes of the faith whom you name above.

Anonymous said...

Rod Dreher pitches the Benedict Option to readers of the New York Times.


Anonymous said...

In arguing *against* gay sex, one is credible if one is oneself celibate. Then, whatever the appeal of one's argument, one's way of life does not undercut it.

In arguing *for gay sex*, one can be persuasive even if one is enjoying a happy bourgeois life that one is eager to share with all. Here too, whatever the appeal of one's argument, one's way of life does not undercut it.

This may not be logical or fair, but it is very interesting.


Andrei said...

Why is everything about "gay sex" BW?

Why are we not focussing more on how to bring up our children and grandchildren in the Faith in a world increasingly hostile to it?

Father Ron Smith said...

One shouold not have to struggle with the 'problem'of bringing up our children and grandchildren in The Faith, Andrei. One should be living into the obvious consequences of our own faith - in the hope that our young ones will draw inspiration and strength from our witness. Simple psychology tells us that The Faith is caught, rather then taught, but WE have to be the agency of their 'conversion'. If our witness to the God of Love is questionable or incomplete, our children are not foolish; they make their own minds up about what is right and wrong. The individual conscience is paramount in our witness. Also, they have their own experience of being human. If they are gay, they naturally want to bear testimony to their trye nature - not to hide it because of their parents'prejudices.
"Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

Because, Andrei,

When we are talking about ways of life we have to embody what we believe to credibly advocate for it. Conversely, Father Ron is right that what we are embodying is what we are in fact advocating. But first context.

A certain *is this all there is?* impatience prevails among the millennials I know who read altconservative books (eg Julius Evola), follow Breitbart, and adore Steve Bannon. I had that impatience myself when I was their age, and across the decades my cohort would have agreed with them on little besides this-- industrialised materialism is the culprit. But I was practically alone in thinking that Christianity was in any way opposed to all that. In the springtime of the New Left, most saw pastors as its drill sergeants, shaping up each new generation of recruits to serve the factories and armies of the rich. I met abbots and abbesses inducting novices into another spiritual civilisation where people read the scriptures in earnest, the fathers and doctors for light, and Thomas Merton for fun. Other adventurous children of congregations-- Christian and Jewish-- looked farther to the East and settled on an Americanised Buddhism which deflated false values as illusions and taught a simple practise that enabled a saner life.

So before taking up Evola myself, I was thinking of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, David Bentley Hart's God's Rabble, Soren Kierkegaard's Attack Upon Christendom, and the de Young Museum's show on the Summer of Love (1967). Taylor explains how a good life, rich in experiences, became the culture's criterial value; Hart explains how far that is from the New Testament that he has just translated; Kierkegaard early saw the absurdity of comfortable clergy in Copenhagen preaching on such texts as "seek ye first the kingdom of heaven"; and the Summer of Love was a youthful critique of the same bourgeois materialism. Whether this will shed light on Evola, I cannot yet say; it does explain the impasse that we have reached with That Topic.

Let's look back at Father Ron's psychology of contagion.

If you happen to be a Christian whose inner fire for the Lord burns too hot for anything but celibacy, then you are almost certainly influencing many around you. Seeing the way you live makes sudden sense of a life that is not based on sexuality, and so many you influence are gay. But although monastics are wonderfully frugal, a celibate life is a non-materialistic one: you may not spend much money, and you may even run a small business, but you will make almost no money.

If you happen to be a Christian who is grateful to the Lord for all the good things of this life, then you too have your influence on others. Seeing the way you live, people learn to be the wisest materialists that they can be in every sphere of life, including sexuality. And verily, this is not without its reward! A good education, a well-managed career, prudent finance, and devoted monogamy all work together wonderfully in the habitus of the bourgeoisie. But the homosexuals in your circle of influence will be trying to replicate your success in sexual spheres of their own, whether their natures truly permit this or not. Your love for the Lord is presumably genuine, but what others are catching from you is your judicious materialism.

Nobody would go to a monk for advice on how to manage a hedge fund. Nobody would accept advice on celibacy from a devoted spouse and parent. And not to put too fine a point on it, Father Ron is right: neither a celibate nor a m/patriarch in any position to disavow the testimony of-- the values that are "caught" from-- their actual lives.

Anonymous said...


On That Topic, our impasse is this: the contented materialists on both sides are plank-eyed about their embodiment of a materialistic way that is far from the Way. Not a few would seem to believe that broad is the way and open the gate that leads from bourgeois prosperity to the kingdom. Some, following the piety that makes them such contented materialists, want to stick to the scriptural text by advising gay folk to be celibate. But since by their very sexy way of life, they unintentionally advocate sex for all, they are not very convincing. Others, following the contented materialism for which their piety is so useful, intentionally advocate sex for all, including homosexuals. But by their utilitarian way of life, they unintentionally disparage the sacrificial way of Jesus, and so undermine belief in anything distinctly Christian. Thus, present company politely excluded, the biblicists and the utilitarians are equally self-contradictory plank-eyed mote-pickers when they speak to That Topic.

The mean-spirited tone of their disagreement comes of this: happy warriors have bad consciences about the inner contradictions of their respective sides, and so they struggle to clear them through tireless reaffirmation of what they believe in the face of their opposition. For them, it all comes down to a test of will, and they refuse to give up before the other side does. But because both sides are caught in the same illusion, their real opposition is never at the table. The everlasting duel cannot lead to anything but the rage of Sigmund Freud's narcissism of small differences. This explains why people who are not convincing anyone continue to make the same unsuccessful arguments-- or else to blame the other side for not being convinced by them. In comparison, the old C19 dispute over an Anglican bishop for Jerusalem was fascinating and well-argued on both sides.

I believe in God's governing providence. So I look at the interminable quarrel, not like a fool to try to win it, but to ask what God is doing with it. Why now, O God? My best conjecture is that he is prodding the Church, not to be bad at materialism, but to retrieve a transformational asceticism that will be the next face of Christ to the West.

If so, we must begin where we are. Biblicists should keep reading their bibles, of course, but they should stop pitting the text against "subjectivity," for this is an anxious hiding in the bushes from the Spirit's demands for deep inner work. Utilitarians should not embrace poor judgment, but they need a deeper telos for life than mere utility, progress, or comfort, and even their humanitarianism needs an anthropology more open to God. (In that respect, the planks in their respective eyes are similar, as Bryden has been saying all year.) Professional Anglicans, by the way, should acknowledge that the Communion's Protestant identity is bound up with both Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and the steady retrieval of spirituality and community life-- including that of missionaries-- among Anglicans and other Protestants that continues that reform.

And if any reading this happen to be gay, I have no testimony to bear, and will not annoy you with advice. What I cannot avoid saying is this: since neither side is speaking to your spiritual condition, whatever they may say about your social status, you will have to move past both to something else, perhaps new but probably unrecognised or forgotten. To find-- or catch-- that most Christians would need to widen their circles well beyond their comfort zones. The happiest gay folk that I have known have eventually been monastics, so I would not ignore them, but a little rain falls into every life.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Bowman, I, for one, appreciate your wisdom in this matter. Agape!