Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Building a church that is half-slave, half-free

I read this article by Doug LeBlanc in Episcopal Life, and immediately thought of a scene in The Mahabharata. Perhaps it's not so odd that I've been seeing parallels between the Episcopal Church and various "end of the world" stories recently - what we are witnessing IS a small world ending, and these things seem to move in an almost choreographed way.

The article is typical of the well-meaning, honest, earnest conservative who is convinced that the innocence and transparency of his belief will naturally be rewarded by similar good faith on the part of liberals. They're the words of a person who hasn't yet realized that he's at war. The wistful hope still persists that somehow conservatives can negotiate a little safe space for themselves. Like dogs that roll over and show their bellies, they think that such a display of helplessness will convince the other side that they have nothing to fear, and so will treat them humanely. This misunderstands the relationship between left and right, and good and evil in the Episcopal Church.

The Mahabharata is a very interesting tale about a power struggle between two sets of royal cousins for control of the kingdom. They have a very complex family tree, so I won't explain just how they are related; all you need to know is that the family is divided into two sides -- the 5 Pandava brothers, who are half-human, half-god, and the Kurus, the 100 sons of the blind king, Dhritarashtra. The Pandavas are the true heirs to the kingdom - they not only have the best legal claim, they are by far the most worthy, being the embodiment of all the virtues. However, their uncle Dhritarashtra wants HIS son, the evil Duryodhan, to inherit the throne.

The Pandavas may be semi-divine, but they are not perfect. Partly due to their own flaws, they are swindled out of the kingdom by Duryodhan. They agree to temporarily give up the kingdom, and endure 13 years of exile and penance (thus, incidentally, further proving their fitness to rule). After 13 years they return, and now Duryodhan has to pay the piper; after 13 years of usurping their kingdom, he has to give it back. Naturally, he refuses, and war seems inevitable.

Then Krishna comes to court as a peace ambassador on behalf of the Pandavas. He has a proposal: Duryodhan can keep the kingdom, but give the Pandavas just 5 villages, and they will be satisfied. War will be averted. Duryodhan angrily declares that he will not give them 5 villages, or even one grain of sand. With that, Krishna's peace mission fails and everyone prepares for war.

The first time I saw this, I thought that Duryodhan's refusal to give just a paltry 5 villages proved how selfish and evil he was, but after thinking about it, I realized that he was behaving logically. Evil CANNOT endure the presence of good alongside it. Evil is destructive, and what it wants to destroy is goodness. If Duryodhan had give the Pandavas the 5 villages, in time they would have grown strong again, and they would eventually have conquered him. Goodness will live and grow, and so evil will try to kill it wherever it finds it.

The sterile evil that now controls the Episcopal Church will never willingly allow Christian belief to remain unmolested. Conservatives who think that they can negotiate some sort of truce, or even a ghetto existence within the larger, demon-possessed church, are deluding themselves. As C.S. Lewis wrote, the sort of "agreement" these people come up with consists of saying "Oh, you can believe what you want, as long as you do it alone," and then they mutter under their breath, "and we'll see to it that you're NEVER alone." It's in their nature to try to eradicate every voice that answers their lies with the truth, because they rightly sense that it is the only way that they can survive.

Anglicanism has staked its entire 400-year existence on a dice game, and a bet that they CAN serve God and Mammon, they CAN build a church that is half-slave and half-free, and a house divided against itself CAN stand. Conservatives should not be putting themselves up as half of the stake.


Blogger muerk said...

I think Anglicanism has built it's house upon sand. Henry VIII didn't have a religious motive for separating from Rome, it was purely political and then economic as they stole the land and treasures of the religious houses.

There has always been wonderful Christians in the Anglican Communion, but in the end it's come back full circle, to being about the political and the economic.

10:29 pm  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Wow! What a beautiful, elegant connection that you made between the story of The Mahabharata and some appropriate C.S. Lewis thoughts in response to the la-la dreaminess by the doe-eyed Doug LeBlanc.

Well done, Dr. Mabuse!

1:27 am  
Blogger Andy said...

First time visitor here by way of SF...
Your essay was quite insightful on the conditions that be, on both sides of the St. Lawrence River. The existence of a orthodox enclave would only serve to show the abject moral poverty of the hetrodox majority.


10:43 am  
Blogger Allen Lewis said...

Good one, my gracious host!

As I pointed out on a thread on MCJ, the revisionists will not allow orthodoxy to survive. With the changes in the disciplinary canons which will probably be enacted at the 2009 General Convention, the laity will be under discipline. Wardens and Vestries will be removed. Bishops who do not toe the revisionist lines will be deposed and only revisionist candidates will be allowed to stand for election to replace the previous reasserter bishop. Once the new bishop is in place, it will not be long that resserter priests are deposed for not bowing down to the General Convention's demands.

In short, there will be no safe space left. Anyone who thinks so is deluding themselves, as the Diocese of South Carolina will soon find out.

Well, they were warned. The Continuing Churches will be there for them if they choose to come.

12:08 pm  
Blogger Alice C. Linsley said...

Dr. Mabuse, you have draw a fascinating parallel. You explain that "family is divided into two sides..."

It seems all conflicts start here. When you have a moment, please read "The Biblical Theme of Two Sons" and "The Theme of Hidden Sons" here:

The conflict does has an eschatological resolution. It is also true that God's blessings extend to Christ's enemies.

3:13 pm  
Blogger Don said...

Brilliant post. My response is here.

11:05 am  

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