The War of Northern Aggression
In the effort to see ECUSA's current travail as a pastoral problem, rather than primarily as an occasion for theological debate, how far should one go back into history? At least to the time of Reconstruction following the American Civil War. Having spent time growing up in rural western Massachusetts, I have some sense of the old Union: I went to HS at Gateway Regional, named for its place on the Underground Railroad; I've seen secret rooms for hiding fugitive slaves in old houses in Northampton; I've heard the old folks sing old songs about Sherman marching through Georgia and trampling the grapes of wrath; pages missing from Boothe's diary were supposedly found in an attic in my hometown of Worthington. Still, I suspect my experience was nothing like the experience of the presence of the Civil War in the life of a young man growing up in the South, black or white.
I propose the analogy: the Global South is to the West as the American South is to the North. As with any analogy, the comparison breaks down--for instance, the Global South has no ideology that I am aware of that can compare with the American South's "southern agrarianism". But my hope is to illuminate facts that might have been lost otherwise.
Namely: both the global and American south were crushed in violent conflict by force from a technologically and economically superior opponent; both were subsequently exploited by those who crushed them; both lost contact with what was an older, native way of life. That is not to say that their older ways were permissible or preferable to what came after, nota bene. I'm not here to pull a "Genovese." And for both, the tables recently have turned somewhat. The American South, which as a cultural entity extends almost to Philly and out into CA, has become a seat of economic and political power--likewise for our global confreres. Their narratives have some overlap, perhaps enough for a common understanding:
"the North and the West are the enemies, a wicked Other which must be reigned in, an Other whose defeat is unfinished business left by ancestors as a duty to posterity. Surely the victories of that Other should not be read as springing from God's favor-that simply could not be. The North/West is decadent, wealthy, parasitic, casuistic, skeptical, sophisticated and inscrutable. We in the souths are Other to the North/West, and so are not complicit in their immoral culture." The analogy makes some sense of why the two souths so readily joined as of late in common cause within the AC; they have discovered, perhaps without fully conscious awareness, that their stories run into the same stream.
And there is truth to their stories. The North/West really did bring with its hegemony an exploitative socio-economic order; each south might well have experienced the imposition of that alien order as colonialism. For some in the American south, even the civil rights movement of the '60s may smack of a kind of colonialist imposition, the Other from the outside stepping in univited to exercise Power.
But irony of ironies: the new found power of the souths springs from the old North/West. The old, exploitative North/West grew tired of the tension with its own people, and sought out more subservient laborers in the souths: a condition of the souths becoming seats of economic power. And furthermore, the souths use the power, received from the North/West, to undermine those within the North/West who struggle against the North/West's exploitation. I.e. the global south makes common cause with southern conservatives to undermine northern liberals., leaving liberals wondering "What? We liberals and the global south have so many common interests; why attack us for differences over women and homosexuality? Why make common cause with those who have no serious interest in the interests we share?"
Surely theological conviction explains this unlikely common cause in part, at least. Left wing North/West theology comes bearing an offensive stamp, the face of affluence and leisure, exhibiting the skepticism and sophistication the souths came to distrust. The souths have had no time to think under such conditions of affluent leisure--common cause with the Anglican left comes with a steep price: accepting an imposed second-class status (e.g. think of the believers' reaction to the Scopes Monkey Trial, a reaction that birthed a forceful American fundamentalism--also a reaction that typified Hegel's Unhappy Consciousness, if you recall the fundies' Darbyism).
Perhaps the Snopeses have taken over in the souths--explaining why the North/West's economic interests found such fertile soil there. Anyhow, I infer:
(1) More theology in the North/West style will not move enough southern hearts.
(2) The underlying problem is one of justice; one should not expect church region Y to cooperate with church region X, when X exploits Y. Or: injustice pollutes worship. And: justice requires more than equalizing the place of gays in ECUSA's ministry.
(3) Therapy-style solutions, addressing southern anger at exploitation, which smack of North/West-speak, will not get far (as w/ (1)). Again, therapy alone may leave the underlying injustice unaddressed.
(4) We are dealing with a kind of false-consciousness in the souths, a la Thrasymachus in Republic I. Southern Anglicans believe they are being just by obeying the rules, when in fact they are merely serving ruling interests.
There is enormous potential for destruction here. The souths, operating from within a false consciousness about biblical interpretation et al are ready to go into schism, while neither therapy nor theology can dislodge the false consciousness. What to do?