Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

The love that passes understanding -no really, I cannot understand how they call this love.

The split in the Anglican church is about a lot of things it is in part about the legacy of colonialism and the feeling of many African churchmen that the time has come that the active vibrant Christianity of Africa should dominate the wishy-washy Christmas and Harvest Festival Christianity of England. Which might be all very well and good, and not even slightly of concern to those of us who are not, or never were, Christian, were it not for language like this:

""We totally rejected and renounce this obnoxious attitude and behaviour [homosexuality], it is devilish and satanic. It comes directly from the pit of hell. It is an idea sponsored by Satan himself and being executed by his followers and adherents who have infiltrated the church. The blood and power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth will flush them out with disgrace and great pains."

This statement of the Nigerian bishops in 2003 goes along with efforts on their part to encourage the Nigerian state to ever more vehement persecution of LGBT people. It also goes along with a belief that those parts of the Anglican communion which do not share their views are literally possessed by demons; it is also, let us be clear, a considerably stronger view of the evils of homosexuality than that held even by St. Paul. You might think that war, slavery, exploitation, genocide, apartheid, rape and the mutilation of your enemies might, to Christians, be rather greater evils, evils that various Christians been especially anxious about but no! it is homosexuality that is Satan's special treat.

Language like this has consequences - see here and here.
Confronted at a press conference during the meeting of Anglican conservatives, the African bishops present claimed no knowledge of such incidents, refused to take any responsibility for them and refused to condemn them. The Nigerian Archbishop Akinola went so far as to say that people could not contravene cultural norms without consequences - that, in other words, when Poppy Kakooza was tortured, abused and threatened with death by her family and the Ugandan police, she was asking for it.

Far too much credit has been given to Peter Jensen, the Australian archbishop who condemned all violence against everyone everywhere, and proceeded to put those words in the mouths of his colleagues. A general condemnation of violence is simply not enough - this is specific violence against specific targets and he needed to condemn it specifically.

But of course he could not, because he is probably going to be the front man for the shiny new schism and his ambition means that he cannot properly disagree with the merchants of hatred. I am not a Christian, and I am under no obligation to love and forgive such a creep, though I will try for the sake of my inner calm.

One of the things that does not seem from press reports to have come up at Jerusalem was the Zimbabwe election, in spite (?) of the fact that the Archbishop of Harare is an enthusiastic supporter of anti-gay schism and also of Robert Mugabe, himself a homophobe of some major standing. I would say 'by their fruits shall ye know them' were it not for the inadvertent pun.
It remains to be seen what will become of those English bishops who attended Jerusalem and will be boycotting the Lambeth conference - Rochester, Birkenhead and the rest. They have declared themselves in solidarity with bishops who clearly implicitly regard their colleagues, notably the Archbishop of Canterbury, as apostates and demoniacs. I do find myself wondering just how, in such circumstances, such bishops can turn up and sit with their former colleagues on the bench of bishops; if ever there were a case for turfing the bishops root and branch out of the House of Lords, this would be it. Because either this minority of bishops are right, and the others are possessed, or they are wrong, and in clear breach of collegiality and fellowship, let alone Christian charity, and should resign their sees.

The Jerusalem conference was about other things as well - picking a fight with Islam being one of them. In the present state of the world, that sort of proselytizing which is all about telling the other religion that it is a Satanic heresy is something we don't need. Those of us who have no faith are, let us be clear, entitled to say this, because we have to live with the consequences of believers' hatred for each other. Nor is it a justification of angry Christian trouble-making funded in part by the usual US nutjobs to point to the angry Islamic trouble-making that is funded by the nutjobs and royal tyrants of Saudi Arabia.

Jesus said a lot of things, some of them crazy and some of them angry. What he made very clear though was that a feeling of spiritual security was probably a symptom of something very bad - this is what the parable of the Pharisee and the publican is all about. The Pharisee prays by telling God how wonderfully and fully the Pharisee obeys God's law; the publican merely acknowledges that he is a sinner and asks for forgiveness. According to the press reports of the Jerusalem conference's ending:"the reading of the statement was greeted with standing ovations, spontaneous singing, hugging and tears of joy. One of those present said he thought the skies were about to open so the delegates could ascend to heaven."

When Christians who have just agreed to smash a world-wide communion largely so that they can go on hating a minority feel so happy and full of virtue that they are about to undergo the Rapture, you just know that the sin of spiritual pride is hovering somewhere in the mix.

One of the reasons I have waited so long to post about this is that I felt I ought to read an awful lot before I do. I have looked at a lot of websites, including the sorts of chatrooms where rightwing Christians express their virtue through hatred. If I am vexed, it is because I care enough, as heir to an intellectual tradition that includes Christianity and its dissenters, that mickey-mouse thuggish hypocrisy not tarnish forever the good things about Christianity in general and Anglicanism in particular. There are things here too valuable to be the province of believers alone.

Also, I know this much. The Jerusalem conference was about people promoting their own ambitions and desires in the sure and certain knowledge that somewhere out in the world people would be raped, tortured and killed because their abusers could be certain, after listening to their bishops, that to do so was God's will. The Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount, the Paul who spoke of charity - they would weep at what is done in their name and under the cover of following their words. Jesus and Paul are not just the property of Christians; they are the property of all humanity and we are entitled to defend their reputations, as we are that of those other flawed men Mohammed and Gautama in whose names evil is done as well as good.
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