The Revolution of the Gospel

From John McKenzie’s The Power and the Wisdom:

Yet the gospel is in some ways revolutionary, and no other word seems to do it justice.  Efforts to conventionalise the gospel and to curb its dynamism take away much of its effect…The world, we said, both of men at large and the individual person, is irreparably altered by the Christian event.  This suggests revolution. The old man of sin dies, and his world dies; this also suggets revolution…The Christian event occurs when the situation has become intolerable, with the difference that the situation has never been tolerable.

But the Christian event is not itself violent; and its effects are not felt through vulgar power.  Jesus himself spoke of its power in the parables of the leaven and the mustard.  It arouses no hot passions, and it does not divide except when rejected; Jesus said he came to bring not peace but a sword.  Man’s resistance to the inbreak of God creates a situation compared to which most revolutions are playful.  Man resists it because he cannot grasp the direction of the Christian revolution.  It moves to give man something, not to take anything away; and man is so incredulous in the presence of such a paradoxical event that he resists it with all of his strength.  Man is not yet ready for love.  He never has been.

The essential note of the Christian revolution is that it is perpetually new.  It is no less a challenge to the old world of sin and death now than it was at the beginning of the Christian era.  Its demands are no less, and the total commitment which the Christian must make has not been diminished.  The reflective reader of the New Testament comes to sense that what he reads is thoroughly contemporary, and that the tension between history and eschatology is resolved in him.  And when it is resolved in him, he knows that it is resolved in the Church.  Jesus lives–yesterday, today, and the same forever.  History has not changed him at all, nor has it changed his meaning for human existence.  By union with him the Christian is released from the prison of history; and this is eschatology by definition.  We end where we began, with an event which is more than historical.  It is the one enduring reality in the created world, and in it man achieves enduring reality and value.

A Problem of America: For what fills the heart will rise to the lips, and Is Charismatic Culture African?

Some interesting tidbits from Lambeth.

Let’s start with the following comment from the Rt Rev Catherine Roskam, Suffragan Bishop of New York:

She said some of the 670 Anglican bishops gathered in Canterbury for the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference probably beat their wives, and added that it is difficult to discuss it with them because they do not believe it is wrong.

To which Chris Sugden’s reply is apropos:

He said her comments add to the fears of many Anglicans in Africa that they are “on trial” and “are not Anglican enough” for the liberal Western churches.

“It’s done in such a way as you can’t question it – nobody condones violence against women. But it’s put in a way as if it’s what ‘those people’ do.

“This is a further emergence of an approach that links Anglicanism with Western civilisation and a civilising mission, which is very unfortunate.”

On my Ten Weeks novel website, there’s a French Christian album whose title translates For what fills the heart will rise to the lips, the title from the words of Jesus himself (Matthew 12:34.)  It’s a cool album, and I’ll podcast it in due course, but that’s pretty much what Bishop Roskam has done here.  Given the fact that the U.S. has extensive domestic violence and the incarceration rate to prove it, if I were her I’d remember the following words of Jesus:

And why do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, while you pay no attention at all to the beam in yours? How will you say to your brother ‘Let me take out the straw from your eye,’ when all the time there is a beam in your own? Hypocrite! Take out the beam from your own eye first, and then you will see clearly how to take out the straw from your brother’s. (Matthew 7:3-5)

And that leads to this observation from The Living Church:

Bishop K.D. Daniel of East Kerala in the Church of South India (United) never wavered in his determination to the Lambeth Conference, but that does not mean he is happy with the situation in the Anglican Communion.

“The problem we are basically facing is a problem of America,” he said. “They want to push their problems on to other nations.”

Reappraisers in TEC are, in their swelling triumphalism, doing what they have spent the last half century accusing their conservative opponents of: spreading the image of “the ugly American.”  What they are doing is turning the whole conflict over human sexuality into a contest of national dominance.  But then again, elitist snobs are always best at one thing: making everyone else angry.

On a completely different subject, this from The Sola Panel:

And what has all this to do with GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures CONference?) Well, as I stood (and sang) shoulder to shoulder with charismatically inclined Anglicans from many different parts of the world, I couldn’t help noticing how naturally the African bishop next to me wore the ‘charismatic vibe’. He swayed and waved and sang with a huge smile on his face, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Then there was the white charismatic guy in the row in front of me. He still looked like a goose.

The obvious but somewhat politically incorrect thought struck me: is it possible that classic ‘charismatic’ culture really is African culture? That the late 19th-century black holiness churches which gave birth to pentecostalism passed on to the 20th-century charismatic movement some of its cultural flavour? And that one of the reasons it all feels so strange to Aussies, and maybe less so to Americans, and probably even more so to Brits, is that it is just not us? We have our own ways of rejoicing and celebrating and expressing sincere gratitude. They are no less real or heartfelt or sincere. But they don’t usually involve repetitive singing, swaying, dancing and waving.

Maybe this is what we should learn from our joyous, uninhibited African brothers. Maybe we should feel free to be ourselves. And love it.

Davis Mac-Iyalla: Living What He Advocates

Just when I thought I’d seen everything on the Internet, we have this:

I am pleased to note that the United Kingdom has granted the asylum petition of Davis Mac-Iyalla, the Nigerian Anglican Gay activist, with whom I’ve had frequent dealings…

I know Mr. Mac-Iyalla better than anyone else in the United States, having served as sponsor of his six-week, coast-to-coast American tour last year. We spent every day and evening together, living in the same hotels and homes, sometimes in the same room…

I do not like Davis Mac-Iyalla, nor do I trust him. But I believe him…

I found his private behavior over the six weeks we were together to be rude, manipulative, arrogant, spendthrifty and destructive. He was continually sexually predatory, in ways both disgusting and laughable.

There’s one thing you can say for Mac-Iyalla: his life is consistent with his advocacy of LGBT people and their idea.  The fact that his host Josh Indiana found him in bad taste doesn’t change that.

But that illustrates something important: the Africans, from Akinola to Mac-Iyalla, are in this for keeps.  One of the central problems with the Episcopal Church is they present their religion as more of a pleasant game than as the life or death–on both sides of eternity–matter that belief in Christ really is.  That’s one reason, for example, why Washington Bishop John Chane can have cordial relations with the Iranian leadership–a country where homosexuality is a capital offence–and yet attack Akinola and his allies.

The one thing that took TEC past a game was the property issue.  At this point it became reality.  Losing members is something that TEC has been doing routinely for forty years now.  Property is another matter altogether.

And there’s one larger question: the long term objective of the whole LGBT movement is to get people at large to love them, voluntarily or otherwise.  But if people like Josh Indiana, who is sympathetic to his cause, can’t bring themselves to like or trust him, what can they expect of the rest of us?

Beating Lenders at Their Own Shell Game

Lance Wiggs has hit up on yet another twist in the debt crisis:

It turns out that because of the mortgages being sold and sliced and sold, the ownership of the original mortgage is often in doubt. It took Mamie Ruth Palmer in Atlanta, Georgia to bust this one open, in a court case that has just ended a six year saga.

Her bank tried to foreclose on her, but couldn’t prove that they actually owned the mortgage. The bank ended up in the humiliating situation of losing on pretty much all fronts:

Last month she received a settlement from the Bank of New York, the trustee for a vast pool of mortgages that included hers. Under the terms of the deal, the bank reduced Ms. Palmer’s loan balance to $59,000 from about $100,000 and has agreed to accept the proceeds of a reverse mortgage in full satisfaction of her obligation.

The practice of reselling mortgages is perhaps the most insidious part of this debt crisis, because, when the dominoes started to fall, no one knew where they would end up because of the byzantine resale of debt.  But few anticipated that injury would be added to insult for the lenders when the ownership of the debt came into question.

Obama Redefines Patriotism

The Politico’s piece on the attempt–and the risk–of John McCain’s campaign to paint Barack Obama as “unpatriotic” needs a little clarification.

I’ve taken heat for demonstrating that Obama’s relationship with the U.S. is not in sync with what many Americans regard as “patriotic.”  But that begs the obvious question: what is patriotism?

I’ve noted before that this country was founded on an ideal, not an ethnic identity or a prince/subject relationship.  Patriotism as most commonly understood is probably best (if a little overblown) expressed by Jack Kennedy in his “ask not what your country can do for you/ask what you can do for your country” challenge he gave at his inaugural.  We give of ourselves selflessly for our country which in turn gives us the chance to succeed in an atmosphere (and hopefully a legal environment) of freedom and opportunity.

It’s tempting–and it’s John McCain’s challenge to make it stick–to put Barack Obama, with his exotic background and elitist snob demeanour, in isolation.  But Obama’s liberalism is of a piece with an extended attempt to redefine Americans’ relationship with their country, and by extension what patriotism means.

For liberals, loyalty to country centres on government.  Ideally they would like to turn this country into another Europe.  But the U.S. lacks the ethnic homogeniety to bond a nationalist state together such as the Europeans have done, and to undermine things further the left has done more than its share to riddle our national life with identity politics, turning us into a land of racists, sexists and homophobes.  (That almost backfired on them with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but I digress…)

So we must turn to a social contract approach: our government provides us with a battery of social services (education, health care, employment or the dole) and we in turn respond by putting up with any and all of the restrictions our government cares to throw at us and the occasional demand for corvée such as national service (yes, that’s coming with these people, too.)

There are two related problems with this.

The first is that to change a successful formula such as the one we have had in this country is risky.  There’s no guarantee that the U.S. would make a graceful change to a European style social contract, and I’m inclined to think that it wouldn’t.

The second is much simpler to grasp: we are too far in the hole to afford such an experiment.  Like it or not, we are a debtor nation, and the receding of dollar hegemony only will make that worse.  We need the economic growth that a relatively unfettered economy can bring to enable us to meet our obligations.  Larding our system with a new, expensive social contract will hinder our way out of debt, producing a perpetually sluggish economy with reduced living standards and a larger foreign domination of our national life.   It will ultimately defeat its own purpose.

And, if you think that foreign domination is what we “provincial” Americans need, just ask any liberal Episcopalian prelate about what they think of the Africans moving in on their turf.  You can’t always choose your new foreign masters!

Internationalisation with a Vengeance

From this piece on Virtue Online:

While the members of St. Timothy’s originally joined AMiA as what Hassett describe as “a lifeboat” away from an Episcopal Church they perceived to be increasingly errant in its leftward drift while still maintaining their connection to the larger Anglican Communion through the archbishop of Rwanda, she found that the new relationship had a profound impact on both parish and parishioners that went far beyond canonical formalities to forge “a transnational relationship of significant local meaning.” Describing the congregation’s efforts to “think more seriously about what their connection to Rwanda might mean”–which ranged from a display and sale of African handicrafts to assisting an African priest raising money for AIDS orphans to a trip to visit their new provincial see by several congregants–Hassett notes that the “congregation’s experience of finding an alliance with an African church first thinkable, then desirable, involved more and more members’ coming to see African Christianity as a positive model.” As a result, members of St. Timothy’s “were coming not only to think about Africa in new and positive ways but also to look more critically on their own way of life as Americans.”

If “conservative dissidents point to the orthodoxy, zeal, and other desirable traits they perceive as characterizing the churches of the global South, and seek to bring that moral force to bear in transforming the Episcopal Church,” the Anglicans Hassett encountered in Uganda–the heirs of a colonial church if ever there was one, as Danish Africanist Holger Bernt Hansen’s monumental study Mission, Church, and State in a Colonial Setting: Uganda, 1890-1925, authoritatively documented–have been excited by the discovery that “Africans have something to teach American Christians.” According to Hassett, African Christians see this as an exchange not unlike that of economic globalization whereby “each region is envisioned exporting what it has in plenty, trading those goods for what another region can readily provide”–in this case, spiritual aid in return for material assistance.

IMHO, the whole movement towards African oversight of American Anglican parishes and now dioceses is one of the greatest unfolding events in Christianity today.  It overturns just about everything in the classical Western missions model: the parallel flow of money and inspiration/expertise, the assumed primacy of a Western “home front,” and the rest.

Although Evangelical churches don’t (yet) have the doctrinal and moral imperative to do what conserative North American Anglicans have done, this kind of “inversion” can and should come.  Just as the shekinah bailed out of the temple,  so also the centre of gravity of Christianity has departed from the West.  Besides, if “big bucks running the church” is unBiblical on a local level, isn’t that true on a global scale?

Making Each Day Count

From David Trimble’s Still on Patrol:

What I came out of this ordeal (nearly dying of pancreatitis) with were three things:  (1) a renewed faith in God and in the power of prayer; (2) a renewed appreciation and love for my wife, my sister and my parents, who stood with me through all the darkest hours; and (3) a determination to some day reach the end of my life with no regrets for having not tried to do the things of which I had always dreamed.  Number 3 is why, at my age, I have taken up writing with a vengeance, started Civil War reenacting, taken my cooking to a higher level, and am wholly determined to squeeze the juice out of life to the extent I can do so.

Evidently hanging tough runs in the family.  I have a cousin who is also into Civil War re-enacting, and he informed me that an ancestor of David’s “…was quite a guy and one of the older combat generals around.  Amazing that a 60yr old would be wounded several times, captured at Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, have a leg amputated at 61 – and survive until 1888.  He’s regarded as “perhaps Maryland’s most distinguished soldier in the War” according to Warner’s “Generals in Gray.””

That never hurts, but even at that our time here is very short.  We must make it count.  As Antoine Arnauld would say, we’ll have eternity to rest (no, I’m not one of those who thinks heaven will be a workhouse!)  “We must do the work of him who sent me, while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”  (John 9:4)

The TAC and Rome: Millimetring Towards Union?

This story has intrigued me for a long time and actually seems to have some forward movement, according to Ruth Gledhill:

Rome is taking seriously the prospect of ‘corporate unity’ with traditional Anglicans but the message is: ‘Not yet.’ So says Cardinal Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in this letter. The Traditional Anglican Communion’s Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, is rumoured to be heading to Lambeth this week. Read Hepworth’s response to his flock here.

There are several aspects of this to be considered.

The first is that the Vatican’s own bureaucracies aren’t of one mind on this issues.  Those which deal with ecumenical relationships obviously worry that such a move would alienate the rest of the Anglican Communion.

But that leads to the second problem: the AC is unravelling in a number of ways, it’s hard to know whom to alienate and what it means.  I think the Vatican was hoping for some clarity with Lambeth but “clarity” and “Lambeth” is almost an oxymoron.

Most of the action in the “Tiber swimming” competition has been in the US up to now, but with the approval of women bishops in the UK the centre of attention will probably move across the pond.  The UK’s more liberal RCC doesn’t look at the influx of Anglo-Catholics with unalloyed satisfaction; the Vatican will have to find a way to work around that.  (The American RCC is so much larger than its TEC counterpart that American Catholics have a hard time noticing the change.)

So this drama continues.  It’s hard to know where it’s going, but it’s gone further than I would have thought.