Thursday, May 01, 2008

Just an accident? Or a conscious shift to the ad hominem style?

An observer to our Anglican unpleasantness might well have thought--since around the last HoB meeting in New Orleans--that the various Separatist factions had "overplayed their hands," fracturing among themselves along various lines, losing wider sympathy in the Communion and in our modest province with repeated border-crossing, squandering the prima facie good-will initiatives of Rowan Williams, pursuing the Realignment Agenda at the expense of the Windsor Process, presenting a chaotic spectacle while trying to drag out dioceses, etc.

All that remained was a long, cold burn-out: the sickening vision of expensive court cases going on and on, more finger-pointing and mean-spirited, hyperbolic accusations of apostasy, attempts by very unhappy right-wing radicals to poach congregations, more creative alphabet soup from Asia, Africa, South America, and the UK, etc etc. More of the same, getting more and more boring, more and more tedious.

But now maybe the venomous ad hominem attacks on PB Schori by Dean Turner and the memo now circulating the HoB--aimed at bringing Schori to trial--herald something new, something rather more exotic, something needed to ratchet excitement back up among the jaded Colosseum crowd of the right-wing echo-chamber, hungry for more blood sport.

It seems Bishop Robinson is still Rowan Williams' favorite scapegoat. When the cohesion of the Anglican Communion is at risk, and it falls on Rowan to say something, you can count on him shifting attention to Bishop Robinson being made to pay as an object of blame somewhere in the speech or document. So it comes as no surprise to see Williams trot out the scapegoat mechanism again. Of course, trading in sacrificial gestures can be dangerous--people given over to literalism might get caught up and take that type of thing too seriously; so it is reassuring (I'm being sarcastic) to hear from Williams that literal sacrifices of active gays are not called for; symbolic sacrifices are quite enough. This sort of thing passes for episcopal ministry--no wonder he has to go out and make a case for the mere relevance of the church: golly, don't mention ethical relevance to Dean Turner: who knows what he'd say next? Anyhow, the problem of relevance is rooted pretty close to home; his text does not show much awareness of the bitter irony. Is laughter appropriate?

How many times can Robinson get scapegoated before the scapegoating loses the desired cathartic effect? It doesn't turn the head and catch the ear like it used to, perhaps. A new scapegoat is needed; certainly the right needs a more attractive lamb. This is where PB Schori comes in.

If she doesn't start looking out, they'll make damn sure she gets...a shearing.

Make no mistake: for Wingers of all persuasions pushing this crap, millions of dollars in assets are involved on top of millions already throne in, careers are on the line, an awful lot of face is at stake given the rather dark means employed--without a shouting throng in the Colisseum willing to pony up for these hucksters, it will all dribble down the toilet, circling the tidy bowl with exquisite slowness at ten year, supersized Lambeth-style intervals.

What better sacrifice, what better scapegoat than PB Schori? And in a year where Senator Clinton has a high profile too, it seems to me the prospect of leading her to the Altar must promise the right wing quite a strong measure of cathartic release from strife, anxiety, infighting. Surely, and this is the true measure of its effect, the right wing, having failed to unite around Christ, can at least unite around Schori.

Maybe it is so; I could well be wrong. It could be intentional right now, or it might still just be coincidence, something taking shape, a new message, a new promise of unity, a new hope for the disaffected, a new focus and context for old Scripture:

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Do you, dear reader, really think Dean Turner and the rest of the throng will relent--much less repent or apologize--when they read this from PB Schori? In her Pentecost letter she seems to go out of her way to reassure anxious conservatives. That is the right thing for her to do. Even so, I can't help, suspecting Turner's "black is white, white is black" style as indicative of what's typical, to fear the worst.


At 6:15 PM, Blogger bls said...

Scotist, it looks to me as if the so-called "orthodox" think that ad hominem and "guilt-by-association" is a legitimate form of argument these days - and not just Anglicans.

Listen to this mp3 (if you can stand it). A commenter on this thread pointed to it as a "good argument" against the ordination of women); it's a talk by a university professor, if you can imagine, apparently.

This seems to be just what people do, now. Maybe it indicates that they know they just don't have very good arguments?

At 6:21 PM, Blogger bls said...

(But I do think that one of the "perks," if you will, of this whole thing for the Wingers/Secessionists/so-called "orthodox," has been the possibility of wasting millions of dollars of TEC assets on these legal actions.

I've personally watched people get gleeful talking about this aspect of it, anyway; the theory is that even if they lose, they can at least bring down the church.

Really, I've seen this.)

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Beryl Simkins said...

Do we have to succumb to those who wish to destroy the Episcopal Church?

I keep saying that I believe there are more reasonable people than unreasonable people among Episcopalians, and there are more mature people than immature people.

I tried for a while to listen to the "conservative/orthodox", as they call themselves, and tried for a while to reason on various blogs. It is futile.

Episcopalians need to move on in the work and Love of the Lord.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Mercy; it does not surprise me that some Separatists would take glee at having TEC spend as much time and energy on their project as possible. Such glee has a nihilistic ring to it.

Thanks for the link to Kreeft--at least this seems to be him. It's one thing to read sophists at arm's length, but quite another to hear the real thing.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger bls said...

"In her Pentecost letter she seems to go out of her way to reassure anxious conservatives. That is the right thing for her to do."

The apparently don't like that one, either, Scotist. Check this out, and here's an excerpt:

"Bonnie Anderson's assertions (in her message to the House of Deputies this past week) that there is a theology behind TEC's polity, and that such polity is the vehicle for Divine revelation are among the signs of the ongoing mutation. The Presiding Bishop's Pentecost message that speaks not of the Holy Spirit, but simply of "Holy Spirit" is another. "

Unbelievable, eh? There's no pleasing these folks; none. They never cease bellyaching about everything TEC and KJS; I've stopped listening at this point. Who cares anymore? People who continually do this have zero credibility after awhile.

(BTW, she does, indeed, speak of the Spirit; see the last paragraph.)

At 12:49 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


I don't know what to say.

What sort of approach is called for? It looks like even if she's right, she's wrong. As if a priori, whatever she utters simply must be heretical; therefore facts can be bent accordingly.

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scotist, I think you have put your finger on it. "As if a priori, whatever she utters simply must be heretical ... " Similarly, whatever action she takes must, in the very nature of things, be unChristian, uncanonical, illegal, unscriptural, vicious, wrongheaded, irresponsible, and so forth. Since in their minds, it has already been established that she is the devil's instrument, we know we must not trust anything she says or does, "therefore facts can be bent accordingly".

At 1:19 PM, Blogger bls said...

Somehow I messed up that link above, Scotist. Here's the right one.


At 2:27 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Thanks bls; Dan just seems to stretch too far.

It seems his word here is unreliable, as she does in fact use the definite article, saying "the Spirit."

Moreover, substitute "Jesus" for "holy Spirit" and it should be clear she is treating "Holy Spirit" as one would "Jesus"--as a proper name. That is odd, perhaps, but not heretical by any means I can fathom. One might well argue using "the" in front of "Holy Spirit" is what's odd, as it depersonalizes.

It just seems Dan's throwing around truly lousy, mean-spirited theology.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger bls said...

The PB has, from the beginning, used atypical forms of Christian terms when writing and speaking. She used "Jesus our Mother," remember - a well-known and well-used metaphor from the medieval period and perhaps even earlier - and the so-called "orthodox" (hereafter referred to as the SCO) had a cow about that, too.

Garry Wills does the very same thing in his writing, BTW. In one recent book, he consistently refers not to "Jesus Christ" but to "Jesus Messiah" - I think basically to get people out of the habit of thinking that Jesus' last name was "Christ."

In the first year at Christmas, the PB sent out her letter containting this "Celtic Rune of Hospitality":

I saw a stranger yesterday;
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place;
and in the sacred name of the Triune God
he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones,
and the lark said in her song:
Oft, Oft, Oft,
goes Christ in the stranger's guise.

That was derided, too. It seems that anything that speaks to the desire to love the neighbor is derided, no matter how "orthodox" it may be otherwise.

The PB obviously likes to draw from parts of the Tradition that people likely aren't familiar with - and often from a mystical viewpoint. And she likes to show love of God and neighbor are closely related.

And the response from the SCO is, consistently, "Shame on her!" and "She's no Christian."

Really, it's sad.

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