Monday, December 11, 2006

Big smile, everybody's happy

I always loved that line from 'The Simpsons', where Smithers is holding a gun to Tom Jones's back, and ordering him to wave and act normal. It's how I felt when reading this article in the Calgary Herald. It's a pure puff piece on how Anglicans are "celebrating" 30 years of female priests. No downside at all, just a little nod in the first line about some piffling "tempest" at the time. You'd never know from this article that the church has been haemorrhaging souls since then, to the point where it's about half the size it was in the 60s. Or that the warnings of those who said this would just start the downhill tumble to more and more fanciful inventions in the church turned out to be right.

The women interviewed are all happy because they've been able to fulfill themselves doing something they wanted to do, and that's nice for them, but it hasn't benefited anyone else nearly as much. And problems with relating to other churches? Huh? ARE there other churches? Who knew?

One quote just has to be highlighted, because it's so weird:
Debate raged within the Anglican community, ranging from theological principles to what Tucker calls the "intuition" of that mid-1970s timeframe in North American society.
I can't speak to how much "debate" went on; this was just before my time, but people who were there still complain that there was very little "debate". And this quote seems to illustrate it - a theological objection is joined to an unthinking prejudice, as if one is as spurious as the other, and there's no indication of just how the "debate" ever resolved the matter. All we know is that there are women priests now. Were the opponents convinced? What was the clinching argument that proved to them that their theological objections were groundless? Or were they just trampled down, as would be fitting for prejudiced bigots?

I started going to the Anglican church in about 1976 - I didn't know what I was joining an illusion. It LOOKED real enough, but it was just about to dissipate. Chesterton has a nice quote about what happens to a church when it loses its soul; for a while, it looks just the same, but it's like an animal lying in the road that's just been killed. Soon it starts to change, because it can't help it.
There is one historical human fact which now seems to me so plain and solid, that I think that even if I were to lose the Faith, I could not lose sight of the fact. It has rather the character of a fact of chemistry or geology; though from another side it is mysterious enough, like many other manifest and unmistakable facts. It is this: that at the moment when Religion lost touch with Rome, it changed instantly and internally, from top to bottom, in its very substance and the stuff of which it was made. It changed in substance; it did not necessarily change in form or features or externals. It might do the same things; but it could not be the same thing. It might go on saying the same things; but it was not the same thing that was saying them. At the very beginning, indeed, the situation was almost exactly like that. Henry VIII was a Catholic in everything except that he was not a Catholic. He observed everything down to the last bead and candle; he accepted everything down to the last deduction from a definition; he accepted everything except Rome. And in that instant of refusal, his religion became a different religion; a different sort of religion; a different sort of thing. In that instant it began to change; and it has not stopped changing yet. We are all somewhat wearily aware that some Modern Churchmen call such continuous change progress; as when we remark that a corpse crawling with worms has an increased vitality; or that a snow-man, slowly turning into a puddle, is purifying itself of its accretions. But I am not concerned with this argument here. The point is that a dead man may look like a sleeping man a moment after he is dead; but decomposition has actually begun.

6 Comments:

Blogger Peter said...

Um, all due respect and all, but "at the moment when Religion lost touch with Rome" comes across as little more than idolatry.

I would love to see a reunification. However there is plenty in the Roman church that I would find more than a bit troubling, so to my mind it would need to be more than a one-way street.

3:08 pm  
Blogger Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

So that's a no, then, on the whole "winning you back" thing?

3:10 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

NBS - Sorry I didn't answer on the last thread! No, I don't think I'll be going back. You don't know how much worse the Anglican Church is up here in Canada; it's only survived this long because Canada was historically a more Anglican country than the U.S. ever was (except in its very early stages). We had most of our immigration from Britain, and I think the church has been coasting on that heritage for many decades. I don't think there will be anything to go back to in a few more years.

3:15 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

peter - Chesterton wasn't talking about "Religion" in general, he was referring to the specific case of the Anglican Church. And he wouldn't be surprised by what's happening today - it's just a continuation of the trend that occurred at the very beginning. The church couldn't remain Catholic even if it wanted to, (and at first it did), because to do that you have to remain part of the Roman Catholic Church. Anglo-Catholics like me spent years explaining away to ourselves how we could have it both ways; I finally realized that we couldn't, and I left for Rome, because being Catholic was always what was important to me, not being Anglican.

3:20 pm  
Blogger Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

Oh, I was just trying to be funny. The decomposing animal next the road metaphor made it pretty clear you weren't likely to sign back up with the Anglicans.

Also, it's too funny that you point to Smithers as the guy who's holding the gun to someone's back, and compare that to the Anglican Church--given what we know about Smithers!

3:28 pm  
Blogger Allen Lewis said...

You ask:Or were they just trampled down, as would be fitting for prejudiced bigots?

I am afraid that the question above is true. The "moderates" - bless their accomodating hearts! - were sold because the innovators promised that they would respect those who could not ordain women because of conscience. That lasted until 1997.

So, no, there was no theology, just "justice" and "inclusion" and "empowerment of an oppressed minority," the usual TEC jingle.
:: sigh ::

12:10 am  

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