Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why bother?

Min asked me a question in an earlier post:
If you left the Anglican/Episcopal church, why are you still so obsessed with it?

I mean, there is plenty of scandal, un-Godly behavior, malfeasance, and sexual deviance in certain areas of your beloved Catholic church to keep you busy and posting for years, right? So, if you left the other church, why are you still pining away for it?
I think this is a fair question, and it's nicely asked, so I thought I'd think it out and post an honest answer.

First of all, it's something I know about. I was an Anglican for almost 30 years, and I converted myself to Anglicanism at 16 from the religious nothing in which I was brought up. I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about it. So even though I'm now a Roman Catholic, I still have all this knowledge sitting around, and I can't help using it. I know the lingo and the history, and a lot of the personalities and controversies on the stage right now. And quite by chance, I've been following this story, not from the *beginning*, but long enough to be able to understand where the arguments come from and where they lead. This isn't quite the case with the Roman Catholic Church - that's a much bigger field, with many more people and stories involved, and I'm comparatively ignorant. (I mean, I'd never even HEARD of Archbishop Milingo until a month or so ago.) My interests there have to be more parochial, because I don't really know much more beyond my own experience, although sometimes I'll branch out and mention some Catholic controvery. It's not that I don't know ANYTHING, but I feel inadequate to talk about issues I haven't really studied from the beginning - other people do it better, so I just go and read their stuff.

Secondly, I find what's going on in the Western Division of the Anglican Communion very entertaining. If you'll look at my blogroll, you'll see that I favour humorous writers, and I tend to write in that vein myself. I take great delight in collecting examples of absurdity, and TEC is a rich vein to mine. Hardly a day goes by without some overwrought declamation or illogical argument; it's getting better all the time. I remember a line from M*A*S*H* - "But Frank invites abuse. It would be rude not to provide it." To be sure, there's garbage going on in the Catholic Church, and if it's something like liturgical stupidity, I'm glad to laugh at it too. But when it comes to ugly crimes and horror stories - I really don't have anything to say about those except "Isn't it awful?" just like everyone else.

(I'll point out, just in passing, that I'm an equal-opportunity offender. I was living in Boston when the whole scandal about predatory Catholic priests broke, and, like pretty much everyone else in the whole world, I was quite free with my comments about it, even though I didn't belong to that church then, either.)

Finally, it's true that I've left the Anglican Church, but there are different ways of leaving something, which can affect one's later attitude. A woman fleeing from a violent marriage, or a refugee escaping his homeland to save his life, are both naturally eager to put the terrible experience behind them. We'd think it was unhealthy if a person in that situation kept returning to what had been so dangerous. But I'm not in that situation. I wasn't chased out of Anglicanism, I have no traumatic past to recall or scars that won't heal. I thought and studied my way out of Anglicanism, through a kind of slow, growing dismay and finally a contempt for what it had become. Newman writes:
Thus it is that students of the Fathers, antiquaries, and poets, begin by assuming that the body to which they belong is that of which they read in times past, and then proceed to decorate it with that majesty and beauty of which history tells, or which their genius creates. Nor is it by an easy process or a light effort that their minds are disabused of this error. It is an error for many reasons too dear to them to be readily relinquished. But at length, either the force of circumstances or some unexpected accident dissipates it; and, as in fairy tales, the magic castle vanishes when the spell is broken, and nothing is seen but the wild heath, the barren rock, and the forlorn sheep-walk, so is it with us as regards the Church of England, when we look in amazement on that we thought so unearthly, and find so commonplace or worthless.

It was like that for me. And I'm sorry to say that it's even spoiled my memories of the years when I was happy in the Anglican Church - I can think of the people I knew with the same affection as ever, but I can't go back and re-experience what I felt for the ceremonies that used to mean so much.

This leaves me where I am today, and I don't think it's so unusual that I should still be watching and talking about Anglicanism. After all, everyone knows of former smokers and reformed drinkers who become the most stringent crusaders against their old indulgences. In a way, I feel like someone who's seen through a con (Penn and Teller have left their mark!) and I am determined that the con artists aren't going to get away with their fraud. I can't stop them, but I can laugh at them, and I hope I make other people laugh at them too.


Blogger Ellie M said...

Why is Min so obsessed with your obsession?

10:42 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

That, I don't know. But as obsessions go, these are pretty harmless. It's not like we can ruin a church or anything.

11:05 am  
Blogger Christopher Johnson said...

I have no objections to non-Anglicans commenting on Anglican affairs. My own site would be a lot poorer without the ex-Anglicans who stop by and leave comments. My view and site policy is that we Christians, wherever in the Body of Christ we happen to find ourselves, are supposed to share a common set of assumptions and that whenever you see the Anglicans violating those assumptions, you are perfectly free to call them on it whether you've ever set foot in an Anglican church or not.

3:55 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Chris: I think that's fair. And I'm suspicious of someone who tries to run off anyone who isn't "one of us" - I think it's less because they feel an outsider can't understand, and more because they just want an easy life, without uncomfortable demands and questions.

9:48 am  
Blogger Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

So it looks like we won't be winning you back.

What a shame!

10:35 am  
Blogger Allen Lewis said...

Dr Mabuse says:
It was like that for me. And I'm sorry to say that it's even spoiled my memories of the years when I was happy in the Anglican Church - I can think of the people I knew with the same affection as ever, but I can't go back and re-experience what I felt for the ceremonies that used to mean so much.

I can relate to this. I was a "cradle" Episcopalian for 50+ years but finally had to leave my parish when our resident lesbian advocate got up in the adult Suncay School class and stated that the Bible was "just a document that is subject to interpretation."

It was not that remark which drove me out; it was that our priest - supposedly orthodox - simply said "Yes." He did not do confrontation very well, I am afraid. At that moment I felt a hand shoving me out the door, though no one was nearby. My wife and I left right after that class. While I still love the Episcopal Church, I will never feel the same about it. To me it is dead. Perhaps I will be able to participate in a renewed Anglcan entity, but it will never be the same.

12:13 pm  

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