Justin Welby’s “Drunk Man” Needs to Sober Up. So Does Justin Welby.

It may come as a surprise to some of my Anglican friends, but I actually made one attempt to formally return to the Episcopal Church.  That took place about thirty-five years ago.  I attended and moved my membership to a small Episcopal church.  One Sunday the selection from the Psalter was Psalm 69, which includes the following:

Those who sit at the gate gossip about me, and drunkards make up songs about me. (Psalms 69:12 GW)

In the homily, the rector thought the idea of drunkards making songs about someone was silly.  Having come from a family where alcoholism was frequent and dislike of my spiritual inclinations equally frequent, I knew otherwise, although putting their sentiments to music was beyond their talent set.  (They preferred letters and sharp-tongued speech).  This and other strange unrealities about the rector and his church led me to seek pastures elsewhere.

Today the newly minted Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, sits atop of what he thinks is a “drunk man”:

“I sometimes worry that as Anglicans we are drifting back in that direction,” he said. “Not consciously, of course, but in an unconscious way that is more dangerous. Like a drunk man walking near the edge of a cliff, we trip and totter and slip and wander, ever nearer to the edge of the precipice.

“It is a dangerous place, a narrow path we walk as Anglicans at present.

“On one side is the steep fall into an absence of any core beliefs, a chasm where we lose touch with God, and thus we rely only on ourselves and our own message. On the other side there is a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion. It is for those who claim all truth, and exclude any who question.”

Jokes aside about Anglicans and drinking going together, like my last rector Welby needs a reality check on several levels.

Let’s start with his dichotomy.  As a businessperson Welby is well familiar with people who self-reliance is a religion to them.  But that’s not what generally goes on at the “reappraiser” side these days; what the church is really competing with is reliance on the State as opposed to God.  That reliance is expressed in several ways, from the vastness of the dole to the proliferation of thought control expressed as anti-discrimination legislation.  It’s the latter that’s got the CoE in such a pickle these days about same-sex civil marriage.

On the other side are those “many small churches” which supposedly embody the narrow-minded thinking Welby decries.  That may have some traction in the CoE itself (and then again maybe not; conservative churches have always done better on both sides of the Atlantic, which is why TEC is so zealous in fighting for the property) but looking at the Anglican Communion as a whole it’s ridiculous.  Both the numbers and the poverty of the membership–and if you can’t endure the idea of being in a church with the poor, you can’t really make a fuss about helping them–are with the very conservative churches.

Welby’s response to date has been what any good businessman would do: he’s trying to induce the two sides to cut a deal, not only with each other but with the state which is breathing down his neck.  Rowan Williams tried to gum the two sides into doing the same thing, although to his credit Williams didn’t seem to have as much zeal to please his masters in Whitehall as Welby does.  But that too won’t work.

What you’ve got here are two sides whose differences are irreconcilable.  On the one hand the Christian sexual ethic is a part of the package, whether anyone likes it or not.  Trying to edge it with “beauty pageant Christianity” the way Evangelicals have tried to do will only make the situation worse.  Also trying to paper over things by extolling the virtues of committed relationships won’t help either, as Deborah Pitt attempted to explain to Welby’s predecessor.  Both of these have helped as much as anything to deepen the mess that Western Christianity is in these days.

On the other hand you have the LGBT people, whose well-financed take-no-prisoners strategy has made a successful end run around human rights enshrined in the Anglophone world at least for centuries, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  They’re the ones with the least incentive to cut a deal, and they know it.

Welby’s strategy (such as it is) is a loser.  If anyone needs to “sober up” here, it’s Welby.  He needs to either do it God’s way or become the pliant servant of a secularly minded state bought and paid for by well-moneyed and powerful interests.  If he chooses the latter, though, he may need some asbestos underwear on the other side.

If not, he can continue in Psalm 69:

May my prayer come to you at an acceptable time, O LORD. O God, out of the greatness of your mercy, answer me with the truth of your salvation. (Psalms 69:13 GW)

19 thoughts on “Justin Welby’s “Drunk Man” Needs to Sober Up. So Does Justin Welby.”

  1. ” That reliance is expressed in several ways, from the vastness of the dole to the proliferation of thought control expressed as anti-discrimination legislation. ”

    I don’t know of any anti-discrimination legislation that controls thought or even tries to. All the anti-discrimination legislation legislation I have ever seen hopes and strives to control actions, typically hostile discriminatory actions.

    “What you’ve got here are two sides whose differences are irreconcilable. On the one hand the Christian sexual ethic is a part of the package, whether anyone likes it or not.”

    Reconciliation is difficult with people who confuse their own tastes and genetic endowments with some single “Christian sexual ethic.” Leaving side the ethics of soi disant Christians, even in the ideal it is unlikely that the writer here has a very good handle on even Scripture.

    The main text used to sanctify anti-gay discrimination is usually Leviticus 18:22, which can be interpreted in several ways. Does it forbid homosexual rape Plausibly. Does it confine homosexual activity to people who are in fact homosexual? This is the usual interpretation today. My own view is that Leviticus was an angry conservative reformer of his time, and the pamphlet he cobbled up and then hid in the ruins of the First Temple, proclaiming it to be a newly discovered piece of work by Moses, included a lot of good sound criticism of the times, and included his personal biases as well. This is pretty much what serious scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures think, though the “personal biases” is perhaps my ow rather bald way of putting it.

    Stupid people also make up a bunch of other interpretations, and I respect the Roman Catholic Doctrine that it is a venial sin to interfere with the faith of the simple. For that reason I don’t bother getting into arguments with them.

    -dlj.

    1. There was a time when anti-discrimination legislation had the stated purpose. These days, combined with same-sex civil marriage, it is being used as a club to attack religious freedom, and this will only get worse in the forseeable future.

      The hermeneutic described above is too clever by a half. I discussed this issue in a more general context here.

      FWIW, I think that civil marriage should be abolished. As one gay commenter put it years ago, “Marriage was originally a religious institution and, as such, deserves no legal recognition. Marriage should be more akin to baptism, which may very well be important in the personal lives of Christians, but which is completely irrelevant in the context of civil law.” Had the UK chosen to do that instead of what it did, Welby’s position would be a great deal simpler than it is. As it stands, the CoE as the state church cannot realistically do what, for example, the Sikhs are advising their temples to do.

      1. Dan,

        Sorry, I don’t get it. How does extending the legal duties and protections of nation-state marriage to gays limit any religion’s freedoms, or any person’s religious freedoms? And which?

        For that matter, who in this whole brou-ha-ha do you think has picked up a club to attack religious freedom. I see the continual whine of infantile agnosticism frequently on the net, but I don’t think it has become any more frequent recently.

        I’ve seen that claim two or three times in the last few months, but no explanation has ever been faintly coherent. Perhaps you can do better.

        Regards,

        -dlj.

        1. Well, I’ll try.

          When the LGBT community’s leadership set out to obtain some kind of parity of relationship recognition between themselves and the heterosexual community, they had basically three options:

          1) Abolish civil marriage altogether and either have nothing in its place (by contract) or allow for only civil unions. The latter is the position of conservative gay blogger Kevin DuJan. The former is mine.
          2) Diminish the marriage “rights” (how beneficial they are depends on many things, incl. income, net worth and other factors).
          3) Same-sex civil marriage, which has been kicked around since the early 1970’s.

          Although many in the LGBT community have no interest in civil marriage, the leadership decided to opt to push for (3). The idea behind it is that not only would the state allow same sex relationships (which was achieved by the end of anti-sodomy laws with Lawrence vs. Texas) but also give a positive approval to same. Accompanying that positive approval would be the denigration of their opponents, many of whom are motivated by their faith.

          The course towards SSCM (same-sex civil marriage) is of course well documented. Now that they have this in some states, they are able to act against (mainly in civil courts) against wedding related vendors who object to SSCM on religious grounds via the anti-discrimination laws. We’ve even seen this in states which currently do not have SSCM (NM comes to mind). There is also the “public accommodations” issue re churches and use of the facilities, another anti-discrimination side-effect. There are cases currently wending their way through the judicial system in this country on these subjects.

          The big catch, however, comes with officiation. In this country ministers are allowed to officiate civil marriages. Sooner or later, in spite of all of the exemptions written into laws (assuming, of course, that it was by legislation and not judicial decree that SSCM was legalised) a minister refusing to officiate a SSCM will be sued for discrimination. Why? Because, when any minister officiates a civil marriage, he or she is an agent of the state. And an agent of the state cannot discriminate. Given the favourable view our judiciary takes towards the LGBT community (one which was exemplified by SCOTUS’ decision in the Proposition 8 case) churches will probably start losing these cases.

          To be sure, much of this has been brought on by the opponents of SSCM. They failed to recognise the difference between civil marriage and marriage under God, and didn’t have the imagination to call for the abolition of civil marriage. They characterised “defending marriage” as keeping SSCM out of the system. Now that our elites have decided otherwise, their best hope (as is the case with the Sikhs in the UK) is for churches to get out of the business of officiating civil marriage, and use the same system we see in places like France. If they don’t, and they get stuck with successful lawsuits regarding their ministers officiating marriages, they’ll not only open themselves to being forced to officiate SSCM’s, they’ll probably lose their tax-exempt status if they don’t.

          1. Dan,

            I think I understand your explanation, and can only quibble with your three choices of things the gay activists could do. They are not magicians, the could not “do” and of those three, they could only advocate that others do them,, and my recollection is that different people went after different aims.

            I think your LGT “leadership” deciding on which of the three to choose is utterly imaginary, and verges on being a conspiracy fantasy.

            As for the possibility of ministers being prosecute for discrimination in the civil sphere, you don’t mention any religious issue here. My question remains the same: what religious discrimination by the state, not by the ministers, do you claim?

            And you still haven’t answered my question about the club being raised against whoever it’s supposed to be directed at.

            Cheers,

            -dlj.

          2. As far as the choices of the LGBT leadership, some people think ahead and some don’t. I happen to have a very strong opinion about who does and who doesn’t in this situation.

            And that leads to the next point: it’s no secret that most of the organised (?) opposition to them comes from the Christian community. Neutralising or eliminating that opposition is obviously desirable from their standpoint. To force churches to either a) perform SSCM against their will or b) make them de facto second class churches (unable to officiate civil marriages, perhaps losing tax-exempt status) would be a desirable result from the LGBT standpoint. To achieve the latter especially is a result of discrimination.

            One thing that you may be overlooking is that, in the U.S., operating freely in civil society has traditionally been a part of religious freedom.

            As far as the “club” question is concerned, my general position is that the left in our society is in “proactive” mode while the right is in “reactive” mode. The only time this was reversed in a meaningful way was during Ronald Reagan’s time.

          3. Dan,

            I’d be interested in any evidence you have for the existence of a “the leadership” of the LGBT community. Indeed I’d be interested in any evidence you have for the existence of any “LGBT community.” I think you’re extrapolating wildly from a very few well organized lobbyists. Of course they are energetic: it’s their real lives.

            As for “the Christians,” surely this is a typographical error, or perhaps a slip of the mind. You must mean some, or perhaps a few Christians. As I’m sure you can guess, I would have used the word Christianists, identifying them by their visible and visible, to avoid the use of the word rabid, political activism; their religion neither I nor you know anything about.

            Best,

            -dlj.

          4. The LGBT community has recognisable leadership with organisations such as HRC, GLAAD, GLSTN, etc. And one of their goals is to make themselves a “protected group” in the same way that race and gender are. I think that’s sufficient justification to designate them as a “community”.

            Whether these and other organisations are really representative of LGBT people, their actual needs or desires or even their best interests, is debatable. But then again that’s always problematic with any group of people.

          5. Dan,

            You claim “The LGBT community has recognisable leadership with organisations such as HRC, GLAAD, GLSTN, etc. And one of their goals is to make themselves a “protected group” in the same way that race and gender are. I think that’s sufficient justification to designate them as a “community”.”

            I’ve never heard of any of this alphabet soup, although I read three newspapers and several blogs and watch the Sunday morning news shows.

            My guess is that they are obscure but frenzied little groups who are glad to see themselves reported in the diligently digging Christianist press.

            Gays surely want to be protected from arbitrary discrimination and violence just like any other human beings — and I think you must agree that sex, like color, is on of the things that discriminators act on.

            I think there are a number of individual gay spokesman, of great wealth, intelligence and achievement who have made impressions on the public. It has also been legislatively important, imho, that a number of right-wing extremists, e.g. that Sludge Report guy, are gay. This has rather shut the gobs of the soi disant libertarians on gay issues.

            On top of this every family has a gay uncle or aunt or, and the temper of the times has allowed people to humanize themselves about this fact, it seems to me. Blame it on the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll,if you like, but I think it’s good for every family’s gay uncles and aunts. America at its best.

            Cheers,

            -dlj.

          6. “This has rather shut the gobs of the soi disant libertarians on gay issues.”

            What are you talking about? Am I talking with you or the martinis? (And you’re not talking with “Dan” either). If the real libertarians had their way, we wouldn’t have civil marriage, period, and a lot of this brouhaha would go away.

            The think that triggers discrimination is being different. Who gets discriminated against depends on how “different” is defined. Redefine different and you can define who gets discriminated against. It’s that simple.

          7. Anonymous,

            ““This has rather shut the gobs of the soi disant libertarians on gay issues.”

            “What are you talking about? Am I talking with you or the martinis? (And you’re not talking with “Dan” either). If the real libertarians had their way, we wouldn’t have civil marriage, period, and a lot of this brouhaha would go away.”

            The gay right-wing extremist I had in mind is Matt Drudge, but there are a number of others as well.

            I don’t drink.

            The click-though above says “Leave a Reply to me ” and you say I was wrong to assume that meant Dan, the apparent owner of the page. Perhaps you should sign your posts.

            -dlj.

          8. Dan,

            You have changed your claims radically from your previous post. Before you had explained to me that prelates were sometimes authorised to perform civil marriages.

            Now suddenly you are claiming something quite different, that churches are forced to perform, again something quite different, marriages.

            Please don’t do this sort of silly stuff. I’m sometimes amused by card tricks, but I don’t think you have the prestidigital training to fob off elephants as fleas.

            -dlj.

          9. No I haven’t.

            The fact that ministers can officiate at civil marriages is a fact, in the US at least. (It’s also one in the UK at least). I don’t know how you do it up in Canada. The difference between the US and UK is that, in the latter, houses of worship are required to register with the government before doing this.

            I claimed that anti-discrimination legislation is being used against wedding service providers who cannot, for reasons of conscience, furnish goods and services for same sex civil marriages (and in some cases blessings outside of civil marriage). This is ongoing. The public accommodation issue is also ongoing.

            I then claim that, eventually, same sex couples will sue ministers who officiate civil marriages and refuse to do so for same sex couples on that basis. They will do this based on the fact that, when a minister officiates a civil marriage, he is doing so as an agent of the state. Given the current disposition of the judiciary, I think they will win this. If they do, churches will have one or two choices: either to perform same sex civil marriages against their will, or opt out of officiating civil marriages altogether. In most of the world, that isn’t a problem since ministers aren’t allowed to officiate civil marriages. In this country, it is because it has been the custom since the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

            One thing you may be overlooking is that I make a very neat distinction between civil marriage and Christian marriage. You may not, and think that is sophistry. You’re in good company; both sides of the marriage debate in the US don’t make that distinction either, which is why this issue is the mess it is.

          10. Dan

            “I claimed that anti-discrimination legislation is being used against wedding service providers who cannot, for reasons of conscience, furnish goods and services for same sex civil marriages (and in some cases blessings outside of civil marriage). This is ongoing. The public accommodation issue is also ongoing.”

            What’s your claim, that selling flowers and renting tuxedoes are religious sacraments protected by the First Amendment?

            “Chik-fil-a is a good example of where the debate has been going in this country for some time. There is no evidence that the company discriminates against LGBT people on a company-wide, systematic basis. (You always have local managers who may do differently, but that’s always a problem with business). Yet, when its principal stated his conviction re SSCM, a good portion of the chattering class got into a tiswas about it. Fortunately they do have a fan club which came out in force.”

            I don’t see any big problem here. The individual managers you mention will spend their time shovelling their profits, if any, to their lawyers: eating fried chicken, at least, is not yet a First Amendment protected activity.

            The capital markets will, as I said, punish the parent company if it does not punish these managers’ bad manners.

            As for their fan club, diabetes will get the ones Alzheimers doesn’t.

            Cheers,

            -dlj.

          11. “What’s your claim, that selling flowers and renting tuxedoes are religious sacraments protected by the First Amendment?”

            That’s what the defendants have claimed in court.

            “The individual managers you mention will spend their time shovelling their profits, if any, to their lawyers: eating fried chicken, at least, is not yet a First Amendment protected activity.”

            I am confident that those under you never did anything amiss. 😉

            “As for their fan club, diabetes will get the ones Alzheimers doesn’t.”

            Chik-fil-a food has been found to be some of the healthiest fast food out there.

      2. Dan,

        In today’s press I find:

        “A group of strange bedfellows in Indiana is fighting a push by state lawmakers to tighten the already strict gay marriage ban there.

        The group, Freedom Indiana, is run by a Republican operative and includes two corporate giants headquartered in Indiana: the Eli Lilly Company, the pharmaceutical concern, and Cummins, Inc., the diesel engine manufacturer.

        “We’ve understood that embracing diverse backgrounds makes our company more competitive,” Jon Mills, external communications director for Cummins, told TPM on Wednesday. “We think it just creates a stronger and more competitive work environment.”

        “Strange bedfellows” is their editorializing, and I think quite wrong. If I had to name three or four conspicuously religious companies in the United States my first choices would be Cummins, PPG, Corning, and the Koch brothers’ Dixiecups. All four of them are conspicuously Republican, and all of them are major forces, both financially and through personal involvement, in the Civil Rights Movement. It doesn’t surprise me at all to see at least one of them backing gay marriage rights. (If you see a company using “Peanuts” cartoons in their advertising, you can guess that they fit this mould, too The Charles Schultz estate’s very large profits go to civil rights and to the building of Manhattan’s Cathedral of St. John The Divine, at least largely.)

        Now if you asked me to name conspicuous Bible-thumping corporations, by contrast, 4-D and Coors would spring to mind. 4-D have moved themselves to Bermuda to escape America’s taxes, and while I don’t know at all it would not surprise me at all if Coors’s latest comprehensive corporate shuffles are to get it out of its beloved America tax-free.

        -dlj.

        1. I have no problem with corporations taking advantage of the tax laws of various countries if our government and others allow it.

          The great social democracies of Europe managed to build their welfare systems while corporations took advantage of the tax laws of places such as Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein. If we can’t do likewise, we have no business building a welfare system of our own.

          My first choices for “conspicuously religious” U.S. companies would be Chik-fil-a and Hobby Lobby. The LGBT community has made an issue of the former and the DHS has done so with the latter.

          1. Dan,

            As a tax-payer you might prefer that corporations be defined as they are in Canada. Canadian corporations cannot flit from place to place at will, and are located where their decision making centre is. My grandchildren have never been in Canada, but their various small corporate holdings, though the assets are physically in Japan, are Canadian.

            4-D’s present, and Coors’s hypothetical escape from American taxes means that, e.g. you get stuck paying for the clean-up of the water table polluted by their rocket war-head factory. (Coors make very good beer, so I grant them some sympathy: it is a frisson of fear to think about the years when they were secretly trucking water up to Golden, Colorado, where they had destroyed the formerly excellent supply of brewers water. That it stayed secret I think shows the very great value of giving your workers a six-pack of good beer every day. Sadly the road up, and down, the hill is very windy, and so the beer has been discontinued…)

            We’ll just have to differ on Chik-Fil-A. I see nothing religious in their bad manners. There may be Bible thumping going on, but I haven’t heard it.

            The good news is that the market will see to it that, when some Asian conglomerate comes looking for a restaurant chain, the potential profits of Chik-Fil-A’s owners will be much less than those of, e.g. St. Hubert’s.

            I know nothing about Hooby Lobby, so thank you. I’ll keep my eyes open.

            Best,

            -dlj.

          2. Chik-fil-a is a good example of where the debate has been going in this country for some time. There is no evidence that the company discriminates against LGBT people on a company-wide, systematic basis. (You always have local managers who may do differently, but that’s always a problem with business). Yet, when its principal stated his conviction re SSCM, a good portion of the chattering class got into a tiswas about it. Fortunately they do have a fan club which came out in force.

            When you separate real discrimination from spouting a “politically correct” line, what you’ll eventually get is people using the latter to conceal the former.

            As for St. Hubert…my wife and I ate at one in Hull many years ago. Excellent chicken, and on top of that one of the rare places in the latitude where you could get Southern style sweet tea.

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