29 August 2007

Disproportionate response?

I try to be empathetic as I relate to other people, especially those with whom I disagree. Most of the time, I can manage to see things from another's perspective. It doesn't always help me agree with someone else, but I can usually find some common ground.

In the present "crisis" in the Anglican Communion, I am finding this increasingly difficult. I can understand that there are people who believe that sexual orientations (other than heterosexual) are choices. I can understand that there are people who believe that the church should not ordain GLBT people, nor should we bless GLBT relationships. Much of the time, I can understand the reason, whether it's cultural context, biblical hermeneutic, change resistance, or some other factor.

What I cannot understand is the increasingly shrill tone coming from the right. I do not see rampant persecution of conservatives in the US, though you would think so from various blogs. While some progressives (and a few progressive bishops) have behaved badly toward conservatives, I think most progressives would like to find a way to coexist with those of diverse points of view. It does not help to achieve reconciliation when describe a reality that does not seem to exist. (I keep saying this, and I'll say it here again: correct me if I'm wrong about the real absence of persecution.)

Lately we have reached new heights in rhetorical extremism.
  • We have countdown clocks to the September 30 primates' deadline. One commenter on that blog puts that angle in perspective, I think: "Q. What will happen after September 30? A. October 1"
  • +Peter Akinola has written about his "agonizing journey" to Lambeth. I can understand "unpleasant" or "irritating" but "agonizing?" Really?
  • +Bob Duncan says that "this is our Good Friday." That's an exaggeration, if ever I heard one. Who is suffering death because of this crisis? Good Friday, as this "orthodox" bishop should know, was a one-time event, part of God's saving work for the world. We are not redeemers, and our sacrifices are not to be compared with those of Christ. On further reflection, this comparison is more than an exaggeration, it's quite probably heretical. (I use that word advisedly; this is not an attack on Duncan, but a theological critique of this particular speech. I do not think Bob Duncan is, generally, a heretic.)
  • Now Peter Ould has produced a frightening video. It implies, I guess, that if things don't go well for conservatives, people will be burned at the stake, like the Reformation bishops of the 1550s? Ironically, it is only GLBT people who risk death these days. Mark Harris has some things to say about this video.
Let's all take a deep breath. For a time, liberals were the ones using rhetorical license, talking about people "being sacrificed on the altar of unity." Inflammatory language is not helpful as we seek reconciliation, whether it comes from right or left. Let's be careful with our words, and let's acknowledge that those with whom we disagree are generally acting in good faith, most often because they care about the church and about the salvation of the world.

Members of ECUSA take baptismal promises to "respect the dignity of every human being." Any Christian should know that all people are created in God's image. Whatever the reason, we should respect others, and that means being respectful. This suggests that our messages and our words matter. It's not just what we say, it's how we say it.

No comments: