Wednesday, 6 August 2008

US Virus — Global Sneeze

As a different world order unfolds, I was intrigued at Lambeth by the way US dissidents have been driving heavy contention in the Anglican Communion — not only content, but style. 30 years ago, it is said, the then TEC Presiding Bishop realised the domestic argument over women’s ordination was a gone coon, but worked to boost the primates’ process to build reinforcements from the rest of the world to relieve the fort back home in the end. That is exactly the modus operandi we have been observing consistently since the mid nineties over gay issues. An open-source, non-Imperialistic, loosely structured organization is terrifyingly vulnerable to entryism and manipulation. Et voilà!

Pinocchio can swear blind that there ain’t no strings on him, perhaps he actually believes it, but, oh boy, just look at the length of his nose. The style, as much as anything else, is the real give-away. To triangulate this observation beyond the Anglican world, I noticed a comment by Brian MacLaren about US Evangelicals and the neocon Religious Right, and how they made exactly the nexus that the Barna Group has observed to be so disastrous for the image of US Evangelicals among Mosaics, even those in Evangelical Churches:
A lot of us feel that we’ve watched large sectors of our Christian community in the U.S. engage in several decades of divisive, ineffective, and downright counterproductive political engagement. At best, many attempts at engagement have been superficial, simplistic, and subject to binary thinking where one or two wedge issues easily distinguish the “good guys” from the bad. At worst, we’ve watched too many of our fellow Christians slip into a “culture war” mindset where neighbors became enemies to be defeated and silenced, not loved as we love ourselves. In addition, we’ve watched too many members of our faith communities be manipulated by cynical politicians who knew what tune to play to get people of faith marching obediently in their parade.


Anonymous said...

Would you please 'unpack' your first paragraph in this entry. I am not sure what you mean by your examples/illustrations.

(It does confirm Churchill's observation that we are two nations divided by a common language)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Yes, sorry if I am being obscure — brains slightly fried from travel and late nights, no doubt. The whole liberals/conservatives row under the surface at Lambeth had huge personal input from the sidelines, and sometimes directly, by US dissidents — people who believe passionately that TEC has gone astray, correctly or not, and are building alliances abroad along the lines described by Miranda K. Hassett's book The Anglican Communion in Crisis. I was told, among many similar examples, by African brothers about a global South meeting that was generally good natured until two of the North Americans present pitched in. Global South is plainly a state of mind (like New York was for Billy Joel), rather than a place. I was intrigued to hear direct testimony of a similar response to advancing liberalism from a presiding bishop 30 years ago. In fairness to the people whose activities I'm desribing, the other world shrinker that stokes the row up and is nothing to do with them or their tactics, is the advent of satelite TV pretty all over the two-thirds world. Not sure I've explained much, but that's what I had in mind...

Steve Hearn said...

But you get a fantastic steak in the USA, much better to chomp on and fill the belly....!

Anonymous said...

If you want to understand what the realignment crowd is up to, carefully observe how the Bush machine does its work: same people, same rhetoric, same strategies.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ah, yes. I'm also aware of not having unpcked my slightly gnomic comment about a different world order. All I mean is that other world powers (China, India, e.g.) will have larger economies than the US before too long, and the US voice is inevitably going to be one among many rather than a sole superpower one, albeit armed with excellent steaks.

Nlnh, many thanks for tip off about the parallel with the Bush machine, which I will watch out for. Is there a really good idiot's intro to GWB's political methods (or even those of the wabbit that apparently works the controls in his head...)?

Anonymous said...

Alan, that's an excellent question. I don't know of a good overall guide to Bushevik strategy. I can point to a few things to look at and think about, though.

One excellent resource on right wing funding was published by the Diocese of Washington D.C. It lays out who is footing the bill for the "realignment," and surprise! surprise!, it's the same people who have paid for just about every other piece of right wing wickedness to grace the U.S. these past thirty years or so, including some tied to such movements as Christian Reconstructionism and Dominionism. You will find it here (PDF). Every bishop in the communion should read this.

Pay special attention to the info in the piece about the Institute for Religion and Democracy. Keep in mind that Ephraim Radner, who is helping to write the Covenant, was for some time on the IRD's board of directors. That is why most of us here in TEC do not trust him at all. (Well, there are other reasons, too, but that's the big one.)

As for info on right wing rhetoric and strategy, I will look for something and post it here/ "Following the Money" is a great start, though, in understanding the "realignment." Some of it might sound like conspiracy theorizing at times, but then, hey, America has become a very weird place these past few years. It's no longer the country I grew up in--that's for sure.

Have a great time in Chicago!

Ren said...

Well, you've managed to get it right. The same thing is happening to the Methodist Church in the US (you can ask some of your friends in Chicago about it), and I think the group in question has been working to ensure that a reactionary, ultra-conservative Christianity is resurgent within the Churches.

Of course, this is a movement which has its own sets of periodicals. First Things is one, and Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity is another. (My old friend, a "reasserter", subscribes to them.) An article on First Things recently lamented the loss of mainstream Protestantism as the "organizing religion" of American society, and said that the Episcopal Church, once the Republican Party at prayer, was now the National Organization of Women at prayer.

In any case, your final quote speaks volumes about what is so tragic about this. It does not help mission at all. The same thing is happening in my country: it's either you're Catholic or you're Christian. Binaries, again.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ren, thanks for pointers on the Methodist situation. I wonder what the appeal is of binary thnking, apart from a kind of "stop the world I want to get off" whining. We all know God has made of one blood peoples of thousands of identities, and potentials, and longings and fears. Reducing this mosaic to simple black and white is wildly destructive and dishonouring to God's purpose.

I have downloaded the following the money document, and will attempt to read it on the plan on the way back. I will also take a quick browse in a Chicago bookshop at the weekend, and will value any further wisdom.

Anonymous said...

While you're in the bookstore, pick up a copy of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, an exploration of culture war politics in contemporary America. It will cast some light on, among other things, the obsession of American reactionaries with homosexuality, an issue that they have used to great effect in gaining power not only in government but also in the churches.

As Jerry Falwell once observed, if homosexuals didn't already exist, he would have had to invent them.

Anonymous said...

Heh -- nice to see the left-wingers wheeling out their conspiracy theories on "why the binary thinking" . . . and "why is there a conservative wing at all in *our* church". ; > )

But then . . . Integrity/ClaimingtheBlessing/ViaMedia/Oasis/RemainEpiscopal have to have a counter-foil, Bishop Alan.

Otherwise, it'd be just them driving the boat.

Rightwing to your leftwing, Bishop Alan,


Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Sarah. Are not people entitled to be any wing they choose, and to be respected as children of God, however things stack up for them? We all formulate our own big pictures in sutbly and not-so-subtly different ways. The grace of God is manifold, and so are the works of the Devil — we need to test the spirits and try and be walk as wise, not fools.

The truth is there are many wings to be. The old Marxist style dialectic approach, right or left, sounds clever, but what sand to build a house on. God is so much more real than our ideas about him, and we can use this space to overcome our anger and fear, and try and respect others, reaching out for the way God sees them.

And, as Gregory of Nyssa pointed out years ago, Concepts create idols. Only wonder understands.

Anonymous said...

Sarah would do well to learn the difference between conservatives and reactionaries.

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