December 27, 2006

The Old Taboos Are Dead. Long Live the New Taboos!

Harold Meyerson is a leftist columnist, I'd say a sort of Social Democrat, who writes for the L.A. Weekly and now has moved up to the Washington Post. I don't know Meyerson's religious affiliation, or even if he has one, but based on his tone and his politics, my guess is he's an secular ethnic Jew, although he might give a nod in the direction of Michael Lerner or Arthur Waskow, two left-wing soi-disant rabbis.

In the WaPo, Meyerson nevertheless writes about the current travails of the Episcopal Church, where a minority of traditionally Christian churches are struggling with the fact that their church has consecrated a practicing homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, and elected as its head a bishopess, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who endorses Robinson's consecration and the performance by Episcopal priests and priestesses of blessings on homosexual unions. The struggle of the traditionalists has led to some leaving the Anglican communion, others separating themselves from the American church and putting themselves under African bishops who follow a traditional Christianity.

Meyerson, referring to the old Falls Church in Fairfax, Virginia, a dissenting congregation that has voted to pull out of the Episcopal Church, has invented an inversion of the old canard of the International Jewish Conspiracy, the "Orthodox International":
The alliance of the Fairfax Phobics with Archbishop Restaurant Monitor [a Nigerian bishop, Peter Akinola, who allegedly advocated legislation to restrict gay restaurants] is just the latest chapter in the global revolt against modernity and equality and, more specifically, in the formation of the Orthodox International. The OI unites frequently fundamentalist believers of often opposed faiths in common fear and loathing of challenges to ancient tribal norms. It has featured such moving tableaus as the coming together in the spring of 2005 of Israel's chief rabbis, the deputy mufti of Jerusalem, and leaders of Catholic and Armenian churches, burying ancient enmities to jointly condemn a gay pride festival. The OI's founding father was none other than Pope John Paul II, who spent much time and energy endeavoring to reconcile various orthodox Christian religions and whose ecumenism prompted him to warn the Anglicans not to ordain gay priests.

John Paul also sought to build his church in nations of the developing world where traditional morality and bigotry, most especially on matters sexual, were in greater supply than in secular Europe and the increasingly egalitarian United States, and more in sync with the Catholic Church's inimitable backwardness. Now America's schismatic Episcopalians are following in his footsteps -- traditionalists of the two great Western hierarchical Christian churches searching the globe for sufficiently benighted bishops.

In recent years Anglican churches have experienced their greatest growth in the developing world, which could tilt the entire global Anglican Communion toward more traditionalist norms. Only 13 of the 38 national churches within the communion ordain women as priests; only three -- the United States, New Zealand and Canada -- ordain women as bishops.

The American church, by contrast, has largely paralleled the transformation of Rockefeller Republicans into liberal, Democratic secularists. The old joke of New York politicos was that Jews had the incomes of Episcopalians but voted like Puerto Ricans. Now it's the Episcopal prelates who are voting like Puerto Ricans, or, more precisely, like liberal Jews. Some traditionalists fear the church isn't really theistic anymore. The comforting middle ground of the church of yore -- affirming the equality of some, not discussing the equality of others -- has eroded as the demands of women and gays and lesbians could no longer be dismissed.
It is not enough for the Meyersons of the world to be free to believe or not to believe, or to consecrate the homosexual agenda as a litmus test for admission into their supposedly enlightened circles. What is new is that they feel free, in the most Establishment of journals, to denounce followers of traditional religious ideas that have been the norm for centuries.

One would think that Meyerson, having no horse in the Episcopal Derby, would feel a bit sheepish about adopting a tone of hostile sarcasm against dissenters in a church he obviously cares nothing about.

Apparently not.


I n g e r said...

It's such an interesting time! I think the minute we agree not to read the Bible literally--to interpret for contemporary context--we lose the right to balk at a host of other evolutions a church might make to retain relevance to and resonance with its community. How is a faith message--a faith attitude--suitable for Christian tribals in Bengal (much less conservative Republicans in Falls Church) going to resonate with me? Why does it have to? Pray global, preach local, I says.

Grumpy Old Man said...

There are two different issues here. One is the question of authority. Which (if any) does one acknowledge? Protestants say "Scripture only," but they can't agree on what a single line means. Catholics say "The Pope, when speaking ex cathedra," but doesn't he make stuff up? Orthodox Christians say "The Church, collectively," which may be a more satisfactory answer, if you can pick the right one.

I've been dodging the first question.

The second one is to notice that a hue and cry, in the Establishment Press, against traditional religious views, by one who appears to be entirely disconnected from it, is now de rigeur. It is this this phenomenon, about which I was ruminating, that I find curious and somewhat alarming.