Sunday, July 30, 2006

Content-free Episcopalianism

Titusonenine has posted an article from The Orlando Sentinel which paints an inadvertently hilarious portrait of the utter vacuity of the modern Episcopal church. The most telling part comes right at the beginning, in this quote from the leader of this group of Episcopalians who don't want their bishop to establish ties with an overseas primate.

"We take no position on Scripture or theology or morals," said Donna Bott, a leader of a group called Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, which sponsored the meeting. "We are just Episcopalians."
Now, you do have to be wary of stories like this. True, this is a quote, so I've no doubt the lady actually said it. But you have to bear in mind that a reporter chose this phrase out of who knows how many others, and news people don't always choose the most representative quote, especially if there's a more exciting one available. But there is nothing else in the article to hint that there is any deeper thinking going on, and one should be able to expect that a "former member of the diocesan board" should be able to articulate an intelligible position on a subject that, presumably, is of some importance to her.

This sort of nullity seems to me to be the natural result of decades of "non-judgmentalism". All these people want to do is be Episcopalian, without having to ever explain what an Episcopalian is. The answer, obviously, is "Whatever I am." Any attempt to establish a rule or even state a belief is frowned upon, because that implies some sort of "test", and wherever there is a test, there is "pass" or "fail" lurking.

Hence, we have people proudly announcing that they don't know and don't care what their church believes or is supposed to believe. Those who do are resented as meddlers and trouble-makers, needlessly upsetting people who just want to float along serenely doing what they like, and calling it "Episcopalianism".

I'm reminded of a passage from G.K. Chesterton's "The Thing: Why I Am A Catholic":
In other words, it is exactly as if somebody were to say about the science of medicine: "All I ask is Health; what could be simpler than the beautiful gift of Health? Why not be content to enjoy forever the glow of youth and the fresh enjoyment of being fit? Why study dry and dismal sciences of anatomy and physiology; why inquire about the whereabouts of obscure organs of the human body? Why pedantically distinguish between what is labelled a poison and what is labelled an antidote, when it is so simple to enjoy Health? Why worry with a minute exactitude about the number of drops of laudanum or the strength of a dose of chloral, when it is so nice to be healthy? Away with your priestly apparatus of stethoscopes and clinical thermometers; with your ritualistic mummery of feeling pulses, putting out tongues, examining teeth, and the rest!..."


Blogger Tom Roberts said...

Actually, the Bott comment was judgemental. In order to be an Episcopalian you have to pledge annually, on a formal basis. So she is simply asserting what any private club does when confronted by separatists who wish to start a competing club next door. Tennis, golf, pewsitting; they are all the same game.

6:11 pm  

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