Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thanks, Tom Wright

Here's a tasty morsel thrown our way by the Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright:

In particular (references are to paragraphs of the Report), there is a strong note of sorrow for the way in which ECUSA has 'contributed to division in the Body of Christ' (7) and followed the pattern of America's imperial actions in the world.

Oh well.

The Bishop of Durham’s ill-advised parallel between America’s re-invasion of Iraq and GC2003 is plain dumb—but it is very, very important nonetheless. In spite of himself, he shows his moral judgment on GC2003 is not to be trusted. In a way, that is a shame: ECUSA could use a wise, circumspect voice with a firm hold on the realities around the debate over GC2003, and we should rue Wright’s spectacular self-decapitation.

Wright’s comparison could only make sense from within a warped world view. I presume any sound world view would retain the clear difference between what the horrors of the Iraq War Wright alludes to and gay couples who would be candidates for Christian blessing. Compare the deliberate use of white phosphorus on civilian-occupied areas in the current Iraq War on the one hand, and lifelong gay unions characterized by Christian piety, love, affection, and virtue on the other. Even if one found such gay unions somehow essentially unfit by sheer divine command, the chasm between them and the horrors of the Iraq War can hardly be seriously questioned.

Does the Christian evangelical world view in which Wright and others are steeped really and truly teach the moral equivalence of these? Do we really want to raise our children in Wright’s warped environment? I would be ready to chalk it all up to a terrible slip of the pen, a proposition per accidens as it were, if only the Dean of TESM, another Christian evangelical by the name of Paul Zahl, had not said similar things. He had the naked audacity to draw a moral parallel between ordaining a gay bishop and a terrorist setting off a bomb.

Somehow—as if to compensate for the glaring lack of demonstrable harm in lifelong gay unions that would be serious candidates for Christian blessing—evangelical Christianity in Zahl and Wright has elevated the moral danger of such unions to preposterous extremes. They are victims, poor things, not merely of moral blindness, but outright moral hallucination, seeing bloodshed, atrocity, the horrors of terror and war where there is affection and love. Demonization is detrimental to the debate we on the right and left over homosexuality are obliged to perform--the Anglican right has a moral responsibility to fulfill the obligations of discourse, and such apparent abdications of that responsibility as these are morally reprehensible. It would be ludicrous if human lives were not at stake.

But make no mistake—human lives are at stake. Gays are being used and marginalized not only in Nigeria, but here in America. They are repeatedly being used in American politics as objects to instill moral panic and ensure votes; they are marginalized in repeated attempts to amend the US Constitution make damn sure they never attain equal civil rights; they are marginalized when people on the Anglican right throw around conspiratorial terms like “liberal gay agenda”; they are marginalized and used by the Anglican right when, saying sexuality is not the issue, they see gays as tools to achieve a re-alignment of American Anglicanism—a re-alignment the AAC’s David Anderson openly admitted as a goal on CNN. We might well dwell on Archbishop Akinola’s comments, including his breathtaking insinuation that gays are sub-human. This subjugation of human persons by the Anglican right is of the very essence of immorality.

But the flagrant immorality of treating gays as means, as things like tools, this repeated marginalization and demonization—what else can you call the words of Akinola, Zahl, and Wright?—is not seen for what it is; it is seen for what it isn’t. It is as if their moral perception has been warped by the void of privation they have entered by being parties to such deeds, as if they were nearing some black hole to nowhere whose gravity warped the God-given light around them such that they just could not see things aright. A few days ago I drew a parallel between the treatment of gays on the Anglican right and Christianity’s filthy history of anti-Semitism; I see that parallel here confirmed.


At 9:55 PM, Blogger Talitha Koum said...

I think I love you.

At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over on Fr. Jake's, I put it down to +Wright taking a page out of Zahl's Compendium of Obscene Comparisons. >:-/

Zahl is just hopeless. But Dear +Tom: how the heck does this man live w/ himself???

(God defend the LGBT Anglicans of Durham!)

At 10:09 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I have begun to think a type of mass hysteria is gripping the Anglican Wright wing. Their manifest fury and cynicism--visible all over Anglican winger blogs--is completely out of proportion to the reality to which they refer.

Here's a bit from Marc Feldman:
"The cause of mass hysteria is often a baseless belief that begins small but, like a hurricane, travels and becomes more devastating as it picks up speed."

And more from the same guy: "Mass hysteria is best countered through prevention or very early intervention. The most powerful tool is for a calm authority figure to give clear and accurate information repeatedly, and to remain visible and available to provide updates and reassurance. In contrast, a message that is dramatic and menacing, as in the Florida case, is guaranteed to have a catastrophic result."

And from Wikipedia: "A moral panic is a mass movement based on the false or exaggerated perception that some cultural behavior or group of people, frequently a minority group or a subculture, is dangerously deviant and poses a menace to society. It has also been more broadly defined as an "episode, condition, person or group of persons" that has in recent times been "defined as a threat to societal values and interests." [1]

A key component of moral panic is the Deviancy Amplification Spiral:
"According to theory, the spiral starts with some "deviant" act. Usually the deviance is criminal but it can also involve legal acts considered morally repugnant. The mass media report what they consider to be newsworthy, but the new focus on issue uncovers hidden or borderline examples which themselves would not have been newsworthy except in as much as they confirm the "pattern". For a variety of reasons, what is not frightening and would help the public keep a rational perspective (such as statistics showing that the behavior or event is actually less common or harmful than generally believed) tends to be ignored.

As a result, minor problems begin to look serious and rare events begin to seem common. Members of the public are motivated to keep informed on these events. The resulting publicity has potential to increase deviant behaviour by glamourising it or making it seem common or acceptable.

In the next stage, supporters of the theory contend, public concern about crime typically forces the police and the whole law enforcement system to focus more resources on dealing with the specific deviancy than it warrants. Judges and magistrates under public pressure pass stiffer sentences. Politicians under pressure pass new laws to deal with the perceived threat. All this tends to convince the public that any fear was justified while the media continue to profit by reporting police and other law enforcement activity."


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