A Show Stopper for Everyone in the Marriage Debate

The sudden "revelation" by the California Governor and Attorney General, who say marriage can be eliminated in the future is only news to those who have not thought the issue out very carefully.

Before Christians in California go off and begin a quest for a constitutional amendment, they need to think about a few things.

First, without going into a long theological dissertation, marriage for the Christian is an institution of God.  Allowing the state to dictate the terms and conditions of that institution as blithely as American Christians do is a mistake.  We’ve already seen that many of those terms and conditions have been changed at law.  The opinions of both the Governor and Jr. Brown confirm the obvious: with marriage, what the state gives, the state can take away.  (The phrase "rational legislative purpose" is absurd; legislatures do all kind of things for all kinds of reasons, rational and irrational.)  The "rights" of civil marriage are in reality very ephemeral, which makes one wonder why some are fighting so hard to obtain them.

Second, in order for a constitutional amendment to be meaningful, it would have to enumerate each and every one of the rights that its proponents wish to preserve, which would make quite an amendment to write, let alone get through the referendum process.

Third, preserving the rights at the state level doesn’t do anything at the federal level.  What I specifically have in mind are the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, which have the stability of Burnham Wood.  An example of this is the back and forth on estate and gift taxes, documented here.

Finally, ending civil marriage ends the quest for same-sex civil marriage.  This is why proponents of same generally oppose the abolition of civil marriage.  It will be interesting to see how advocates of same-sex civil marriage react to this.

TEC Considers Its Legal Options

David Trimble’s analysis of Bishop/Attorney Stacy Sauls’ role and possible analysis in the Episcopal Church’s legal options re its property is a very sensible one.

Much of what’s written about this reflects spiritual angst and a naive view of the legal system.  While spiritual angst is understandable, when the legal system gets involved it’s necessary to take a more calculating view, otherwise the pain is increased, frequently without improvement of the results.

It’s also interesting to see how TEC will use the long arm of the law to effectively enforce its liberal theology.  It still boggles me that an American church can get away with that in the 21st century, especially one with an upscale demographic like the TEC.

Note: the David Trimble who wrote this is a Kentucky attorney and not the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner and former First Minister of Northern Ireland.  They are doubtless cousins; some of Lord Trimble’s relatives came across the water, as did many from Ulster.  The Trimbles are well established in places such as Kentucky and Tennessee (I’ve gone to church with a few) and I think that, in the mess that Northern Ireland has been, Lord Trimble sometimes wished that his own ancestors had joined the rest of the Trimbles in the New World.

Why Our Government Is In Trouble

In CIA: The perils of being a good citizen, Dmitry Shlapentokh tells us why we missed the coming of 9/11:

It also means that naive folks who look for "truth" and "efficiency" usually do not exist in real life. They are mostly characters from Hollywood movies where the good guys finally triumph over the bad guys. Those who work in the CIA, as well as in any big US organization, understand that real life is a far different story and that their behaviour as "good citizens" should produce endless paperwork, meticulously following all rules, attending all prescribed meetings and, above all, being nice to colleagues.

As to bin Laden and other similar chaps, it would, of course, be nice if they would be caught or eliminated; but it is hardly a priority. Or to be precise, the catching of bin Laden, the "final product" of the CIA, is the last priority. And it becomes important only when the agency, as happens with other US institutions, from universities to medical establishments, asks for public money.

This kind of problem isn’t unique to the CIA.  It explains, for example, many of the woes we experienced with Katrina, especially at the federal level.

Perhaps the Smashmouth Approach Would Have Been Best

The resignation of Alberto Gonzales is sad, but could have been avoided if Gonzales had taken more of a "Clintonesque" approach with the U.S. Attorneys firing.

U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President and the Attorney General.  There’s no reason why Gonzales needed to go through a long justification of their termination.  The Clintons didn’t when they terminated all of them at the beginning of their term.  The more Gonzales tried to justify the termination, the more he eroded the "at-will" nature of the position of U.S. Attorney, and the weaker his case looked.  And, as any employer will tell you, the last thing you need to do is to erode at-will employment.

I’ve said before that blind legalism was an Ashcroft trait that held him in good stead as Attorney General.  But that cuts both ways; if you have an advantage, it’s unwise to throw it away the way Gonzales did.

The Sad End of Randy and Paula White

Randy and Paula White’s breakup is a very sad business, not only for them and the Without Walls Church but for American Christianity in general.

The really sad thing is that this is with precedent.  Randy was the evangelism director of the National Church of God outside of Washington, DC when he met and married Paula.  The fact that he had been married before soured the Church of God on Randy.  Unfortunately, in this day and age. denominations which react adversely to the problems of the "anointed" are called "judgemental" (and not just by liberals either!) and in the way of real ministry.  Pressure such as this–plus his success at the Without Walls Church–has led to a softening of this position.

Unfortunately the original assessment turned out to be true.  As noted before, the problem with prosperity Charismatic Christianity is that it’s quick to tell people how to succeed and absent when it’s time to know how to live after the success.  Randy and Paula White are yet more victims of this lacuna.

Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith

The revelation of Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith needs to be understood in light of her emphasis on the Passion in Roman Catholic spirituality.

She wrote in 1951 that the Passion was the only aspect of Jesus’ life that she was interested in sharing: “I want to … drink ONLY [her emphasis] from His chalice of pain.” And so she did, although by all indications not in a way she had expected.

As everyone who saw The Passion of the Christ will know, the Passion is more heavily emphasised in Roman Catholic spirituality than elsewhere.  That’s one reason why crucifixes appear in Catholic churches.  Earlier this year I featured the end of Bossuet’s Meditations on the Gospel; the last paragraph is as follows:

After this prayer, let us go with Jesus Christ to the sacrifice, and let us advance with Him to the two mountains; that is, to the Mount of Olives, and to that of Calvary. Let us go, I say, to these two mountains, and let us pass from one to the other: from that of the Mount of Olives, which is the one of agony, to that of Calvary, which is that of death; from the Mount of Olives, which is that of combat, to that of Calvary, where, in dying, one triumphs with Jesus Christ; from the Mount of Olives, which is the mountain of resignation, to that of Calvary, which is the mountain of actual sacrifice; and, finally, from the one where we say: Not my will but Thine be done, to the one where we say: Into Thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke xxii. 42; xxiii. 46); that is, from the one where we prepare ourselves for all things, to the one where we die to everything with Jesus Christ, to Whom be rendered honor and glory, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is magnificent, and inspiring in the hands of an optimist like Bossuet.  The Passion is very important for taking away our sins, but by itself it only ends in death.  It is only validated by Jesus’ Resurrection, when he triumphs over death.

I think that Mother Teresa’s narrow focus on the Passion certainly steeled her for her work in Calcutta, but for her personally it was a disaster, and one that her Lord had already advanced beyond.

There are, of course, opposite tendencies.  One is an equal neglect of the Passion and a boresightedness on the Resurrection, where Christian life is an endless victory here and hereafter.  But we must remember the following:

It is true that we have our full share of the sufferings of the Christ, but through the Christ we have also our full share of consolation. If we meet with trouble, it is for the sake of your consolation and salvation; and, if we find consolation, it is for the sake of the consolation that you will experience when you are called to endure the very sufferings that we ourselves are enduring; And our hope for you remains unshaken. We know that, as you are sharing our sufferings, you will also share our consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)

Then, of course, we have ninnies like Christopher Hitchens:

In 1948, Hitchens ventures, Teresa finally woke up, although she could not admit it. He likens her to die-hard Western communists late in the cold war: “There was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance,” he says. “They thought, ‘Jesus, the Soviet Union is a failure, [but] I’m not supposed to think that. It means my life is meaningless.’ They carried on somehow, but the mainspring was gone. And I think once the mainspring is gone, it cannot be repaired.” That, he says, was Teresa.

Atheists like Hitchens are ill advised to disparage their scientific socialist predecessors.  They, too, will end up in the same boat.

To Mind a Generation Gap You Have to Find It

Brad Drell has opened an interesting topic of discussion in Minding The Generation Gap In The Anglican Blogosphere.  But two comments are in order.

  1. I’ve always thought that the break between the Boomers and Generation X was in 1965.  But dividing lines like this are a tricky business, and there are "variations on a theme" within generations, as is certainly the case with the Boomers.
  2. If there are more liberal Anglican/Episcopal bloggers amongst the Boomers, it’s probably due to the fact that many of those who would have been conservative ones bailed out on the Episcopal Church in the membership contraction of the 1970’s, as is the case with me.  That may explain many things that has happened in TEC in the last three decades.