Friday, July 4, 2008

The Tug of War for God

The doings around the Anglican Communion for the last few years certainly have been drawn-out and painful all the way around. Conservatives vs. progressives, literalists vs. non-literalists, anti- vs pro-, north vs. south, Anglo-Catholics vs. Calvinistic Anglicans and both Anglo-Cathoics and Calvinistic Anglicans against the vast majority in between. Those who lie along the continuum between the two regardless of with which end they find themselves more closely aligned are left to try to figure out how to continue to do what they feel is needed to answer the challenge of being Christian in a world where being Christian can be a defnite perceptual negative if not downright deadly.

Parts of the Anglican Communion argue about whether women can be bishops (they apparently have half a gene too many and a plumbing system lacking a few parts), others disagree whether GLBT folk can be considered able to answer the call of God to service in the clergy and episcopate or while a third group wrangles over whether the Bible should be read with an eye to "what it says is what it means" or more critically and in a it-meant-this-then-but-can-translate-to-this-now. Meanwhile there is a deafening silence in most quarters about the death and serious injury of Anglican worshippers in Zimbabwe. Darfur and its environs are still locked in mortal combat. Women are being raped as spoils of war and children pressed into armies where the guns are almost as big as the children who are forced to carry them. Famine is rampant in parts of the world while earthquake and flood damages in other parts are costing millions of lives, Christian and non-Christian alike. Earthquake and flood claim thousands upon thousands of lives in one quarter while famine reigns unchecked in another with the same result. In Jerusalem a group of disaffected Anglicans met and decided to form a church within a church in order to maintain a purity code that seems incredible to many of their fellow religionists and seemingly with more interestin keeping the Anglican Communion a male heterosexual bastion with a decided Calvinist bent than with listening to the cries of the poor and truly oppressed. Something seems out of whack here.

What seems missing in all this is where is God? It seems God is the fulcrum of the tug-of-war going on about what God expects of us, what God wants from us and what we must do to please God and live as God's people. A person's gender, orientation or Biblical literacy seems more important than whether they even have the minimum number of things that create any kind of quality of life -- food, clean water, clean air, sanitation, education, affordable and decent housing, uncorrupted governments and churches and a chance to live and work in safety and freedom. Seems too much to ask, if you ask me, but danged if it isn't what God seems to want if I read the Bible correctly. There seems to be quite a lot about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting the prisoners, caring for the widows and orphans, living righteously (not rigidly), etc., but very little about creating a greater gap between rich and poor, expecting blessings for people who cry "Lord! Lord!" on Sunday but who go out to screw their neighbors on Monday or cutting off members of the family with whom one disagrees on doctrine. There's a lot more about loving one's neighbor than there is about "loving the sinner but hating the sin" especially if it's a "sin" most aren't likely to commit (being homosexual). Jesus said to let the tares and wheat grow together until the harvest; he didn't say to go out and try to uproot the weeds while the crops were still unripe. In fact, he said that that the separating the two was specifically God's job, so why are so many humans so anxious to take care of it for God?. Either God is big enough to do it or God isn't who we claim God is.

In my opinion, God seems to want to be the center of our lives and actions, not the center of a tug-of-war with two sides pulling this way and that away from the center. When we cannot share an altar rail as fellow Anglicans much less as fellow human beings and fellow sinners, God loses and so do we. God created diversity; we should celebrate that, not fight it. Each has something to bring TO the table; let ALL sides listen and ALL sides speak.

I think that is the aim of the indaba studies proposed for Lambeth. May there be as much listening to ALL sides as there is preaching on the "one true way". Take God out of the tug-of-war and let God be the center of the circle of humanity all working together for good.

It would be lovely.