16 August 2007

Of demons and decorum

Bishop John Rucahana of the Shyira Diocese in Rwanda has achieved some blogospheric notoriety for his recent comments about the Anglican Communion. The most widely quoted line was this one, just to give you a flavor:
the Anglican Church in Rwanda will not be pushed into adopting the satanic behaviour of the "whites because they are whites."
Clearly the legacy of colonialism is still real, because the evil things that white imperialists did will linger for generations. While not every white person is tied directly to these forces, plenty of us still are. Anger at whites is then, if not always rational, at least comprehensible. I am more concerned about labeling things as Satanic, and the general tone of +John's remarks.

We are getting good, in Anglican debate, of shouting about one another, rather than listening and speaking. There's another way of being, as Richard Helmer+ reminds us:
So how can we best respond? The examples are already out there to behold: in our Presiding Bishop, amongst a number of the Primates, amongst many in our House of Bishops and many of their sisters and brothers elsewhere in the Communion, and amongst ordained and lay members of the church engaging with our Rwandan and other Anglican sisters and brothers around the world directly, in person, on the ground:
  • To such rhetoric, silence can often be the most charitable response.
  • When necessary, we need to allow people to find the door. We should never be in the business of shutting people in or taking hostages for any cause, even the most noble we can imagine, and that includes preserving unity.
  • Simple charity for those in deepest need: those scapegoated by the present rhetoric as well as the uncountable hungry and suffering around the world who are forgotten in the midst of a caustic in-house fight over red herrings.
Poisonous rhetoric screams for nothing short of a Divine response -- the true judgment and justice of compassion, the strength of the cross, the forbearance of Joseph, Job, and Jesus -- and a continuing patient calling forth of the struggling and pained humanity that is masked and hidden by vehemence and the truly demonic.
Much of that advice works just as well for the extremes on the left as on the right. We would do well to begin with empathy and live in charity. It's not only the Gospel way, it's just plain old good manners.

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