Monday, August 11, 2014

Good Grief

I wrote last week about the death of old habits.  What I had in mind was that I was already seeing, already feeling the tug-of-war between the past and the future in me.  I also had in mind that others among us were experiencing similar tensions.  I also hoped to indicate that these tensions were not all bad or to be avoided as much as acknowledged, examined, learned from and appreciated.   In short, the tension is a good thing.  And it is a good thing that it is a good thing, because it is not likely to end quickly. 
At this point I need to say something I learned from another time in my life.  It is that all change brings loss and all loss brings grief. As good as our future looks, there is still some -- or something very much like -- grieving going on.  
For me grieving has a half-life of residual effect.  As an example, I remember my divorce in 1982 and how I thought of my “ex” every minute that first week, then every hour that next week, then every day the next and so on.  Re-exposure to the “radiation” would trigger a relapse to a previous level of pain and longing.   I knew I was getting better when I noticed that my recovery back to a more normal rate of “decay” improved, too.   Feelings for something that happened 30 years can still be triggered.  Really I just want my LP’s back.  But now I am not afraid to feel those feelings, to hurt just the little that I still do. 
“My becoming Rector to Advent, Madison” is a huge -- and for me unique -- transition.  It’s less like a divorce and more like a marriage.  Still remembering that change>loss>grief applies, I assume the incumbent grief here will have something unique or new about it.  I can only hope to acknowledge, examine, learn from and appreciate it. 
Regardless, it is better for me to say before I forget: I am grieving, in lots of ways and sizes.  Even when I reflect in an engaging and whimsical way, part of me is grieving.  Even when I’m too busy to stop, part of me is grieving.  Even when I am happy to be here and enjoying the new rhythms and moments of 338 Academy St., part of me is grieving.  My smiles and laughter are not fake or superficial or in denial.  They are part of the tension of living in two places, in two moments, with at least two emotions.  And I believe this tension for now is a good thing. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

“Old habits die hard”

History gives no one in particular credit for originating this truth.  It must be too true.  That is to say no one is immune to its truth.  We are implicated, each and every one of us, one way or another, not always but at least once.  
For me it is the old habit of calling Athens home and of suffering its gravitational pull each evening.  I’ll just have to be patient and let the new pull of the Mason’s guest house and my computer in the rector’s office and walking up and down Dixie Avenue work their way into my bones and blood.  Until then I’m a creature of US 441 or Price Mill Road, pick your poison.
But gravity is not the only force acting through me.  I should admit to a little fear of what the future holds.  Okay . . . more than a little, sometimes.  Please understand that I am comforted by knowing I am not alone in this venture.  We have chosen to covenant together toward a new way of being and doing and growing what is already and is not yet the Church of the Advent, Madison, GA.  That’s how the realm of God works.  
My fears, apprehensions, doubts, seem to rise out of the mystery, the unknown, the experimental nature of our learning new habits.  But learn I must, the patterns need time to seep into the roots, to carve themselves into the foundation. 
“Old habits die hard,” is true . . . right now.  But it is true because a new set of habits are emerging, marking their territory, coming home to place they’ve not yet called home.

The Southern Baptist Gift to America

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee wrote “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”  Instead of "whiskey" you could say gun or constitution or so many other "fundamentals" that spring from fear and selfishness.  
I remember the first time that I saw the fundamentalism of the conservatives in my old Southern Baptist life. Friends of my father visited our cabin at Ridgecrest and talked about their congregation's love of old-time hymnody and how tiring it was always contending with a board of deacons about the value of a gym née "family life center," or a seminary trained assistant minister.  
Some of my Furman classmates changed their majors so as not contaminate their already certified beliefs.  My most vivid memory was hearing "Fun-DAMN-mentalism," as my mom would call it. "They've made the Bible matter more than Jesus himself." 
After the Pressler-Patterson takeover, a new fundamentalism practiced from inside the renovated walls of the SBC was more sophistry than theology.  Think of the boycott of Disneyworld, called in response to an official day in the park to welcome gay and lesbian patrons.  All the while Disney movies spewed pagan and heretical themes without a peep from Al Mohler and his minions, as if a pharisaical purity was the better definition of the denomination than any coherent discussable theological position.  
What is happening now is worse because it has grown outside the confines of the SBC into a national attack on thinking Christians, really just thinking itself. 
Since Fundamentalism is NOT a theology but a way of (not) doing theology, it is easy to replicate and apply to other areas. Some of those same Furman friends are now just as fundie about the US Constitution. Their attacks on President Obama mimic the ones used against my dad in the sixties. They say things like, "I don't think he loves my Jesus/country enough."
The response to fundamentalism in my current Christian community is two-fold: first is to be honest about the effects of fear and power. Then following from that honesty to approach scripture with our own version of Paul Ricouer's second naiveté.  
I think the same understandings can be used toward this emerging breed of Constitutional fundamentalism.  It takes a fuller and less fear-based exegesis to read the second amendment as a necessary provision for the arming of citizens joined in militias in contrast to that of fundamentalism's open carry and arming oneself for protection against imagined tyrannies.  
Neither Holy Scripture nor the Constitution require or deserve the reading my fundie friends have rendered.  But in the end fundamentalists are not doing theology, they are not refining their citizenship and participation in a government of, by, and for the people.  They are instead reacting in fear and in being so worried "about the next world they've never learned to live in this one."  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lawrence Contracts Dangerous Disease

One of the chronic ailments of so many "Angricans" is a poorly developed sacramental theology.  Many of them near Charleston -- apparently suffering a dual diagnosis -- are also infected with what I call Mons Presunzionus. A disease North Carolinian scholars tell us was first identified by Mary Oates Spratt Van Landingham.  Whether or not I agree with the scholars, having myself lived in both South Carolina and Virginia I agree with Ms. Van Landingham, and also believe the condition has worsened since her turn of the century.  The disease apparently now produces or exacerbates a conceit or blindness to one's own reality or is a delusion that allows those infected to act as if volume or style of utterance or repetition can make something true or factual that previously was not. 
The example in the case of ex-bishop Mark Lawrence is his most recent calling Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori's accepting of his November 17th statement as a resignation and further her announcing his canonical removal from office -- thus ex-bishop -- "superfluous." Mind you, it will do no good to attempt a logical or historic recounting of events in this matter.  Beside the circularity of his logic, Mons presunzionus prevents any constructive dialogue when facts are in question.   
But the sacramental problem matters more to me in this case because of how, bless his heart, the ex-bishop continues to claim and even worse to believe he is a Bishop.  Somehow -- and I have posited Mons Presunzionus as a possible and perhaps best defense -- he believes:  
“Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ — But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church,” Lawrence said in a letter posted on the diocese’s website after the presiding bishop’s announcement. “We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous.”
Did he "take action" equal to renunciation "long before" the BP's acceptance of it or not?  How can he on the one hand say that he is still a bishop and on the other hand admit to his November 17th presiding over the -- his words -- "legally and canonically" accomplished withdrawal of his diocese from TEC.  You can't have it both ways.   You can't be baptized and not baptized at the same time.  Find me the sacramental theology that allows you to spit out the host and still call it communion. 
Not only does a good sacramental theology prevent such duplicity it also protects against the gross idiosyncrasy Lawrence and his minions require to keep meeting as if they are the Diocese of South Carolina and that he needs only their assent to be a Bishop.  Either the action of the church that ordains you carries the force of an authority to which you have publicly consented and submitted and promised to uphold and vowed to obey with God's help or it doesn't.  In other words, you do not get to declare yourself a bishop, especially when the body that ordained you says you are not.  You do not get to declare yourselves as a diocese when that is not your status to grant.
Granted, in this part of the country we let people slide more than a little as long as they mean well.  But the ex-bishop's statement is not sincere, it is delusional.  He can't have it both ways,  He can't leave and stay.  His followers can't claim a membership status from a body they have quit. Those are conceits that have already lost one war of secession and look to be on their way to losing another.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bishop Lawrence's Minorities

The expiration date on victim/minority status for DioSC’s Angricans ran out as soon as Lawrence presided over the wrongly deciding diocesan conventions and wrote those quitclaim letters. Granted, TEC contains no Supreme Court as a protection for the minorities the decisions GenCon "creates."  The impact of change being moderated by meeting triennially and requiring two readings for enforceable matters of canon or liturgy is some protection. But as far as the minorities Lawrence's decisions create, I think the inhibition should have happened much earlier. 
Maybe the solution then is to cast lots when decisions like TEC’s A049 AND DioSC's “Corporation” are made. Until Lawrence is willing to protect the minorities his votes create then I guess we’ll just have to pray for mercy and a consistent application of the standing TEC canons.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reckless Mormonism

Spiritually, I have a lot in common with Frank Schaeffer. So I offer this link less to make a pretty much unavoidably partisan statement and more to encourage some thoughts on the role of religion in politics and even more importantly on the relationship of our Episcopal version of Christian faith -- carefully practiced -- as it hopes to provide some of the benefits to a civil society our first amendment intended. I know what I mean by the euphemism "carefully practiced." The shortest way to explain my use of the phrase in this context is to say that Mormonism is mostly a reckless (read "not carefully practiced") and outlandish "midrash" imagined by Joseph Smith in upstate New York whose thinking was accelerated by the same kind of "Great Awakening" ego that empowered Mary Baker Eddy, William Miller, and more lately L. Ron Hubbard. Read Harold Bloom's The American Religion for more on where this opinion gets it's start. Regardless, I think Schaeffer is onto something important about how religion ought to inform citizenship and ultimately the Presidency.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Invocation for UGA Summer Commencement 2012

We are gathered here
and to make our gathering proper we must give thanks

We give thanks
for the air we breathe
and in breathing share in the spirit of all living things

for the rain and water we drink
and in drinking are joined to the very beginnings of life

for the light we see
and in seeing . . . know and are known

for the earth, this fragile earth our island home,
where we live and move and have our being.

We give thanks
for the generations before us
for this generation around us
for the generations who will follow us

We give thanks
for bestowed on them is
a wisdom that is awesome
It protects us and astounds us
an imagination that is powerful
It excites us and moves us
a hope that is everlasting
It inspires us and does not disappoint us.
a love that is transcendent
It nurtures us and embraces us
a calling to sacrifice that is holy
It honors us and sets us free.

We give thanks
and pray in celebration
for our colleagues
for our professors
for our regents, administrators and staff
for our family and friends
for taxpayers and lottery players
for all those who have supported our studies

We pray in celebration and we sing a new song
for Classrooms and labs,
with their loud boiling test tubes,
for Athletes and bands
with crowds of cheering people

We sing a new song
but it is not only we who sing.

our hymn is joined to the praises heard in
the hum of background radiation as old as the universe
the buzz of insects skipping from plant to plant
the whirr of hard drives backing up our data
the squeak of sneakers on a gymnasium floor
the honk and grind of gameday traffic
the shouts and applause of a stadium in victory
the very words spoken from this podium today

We sing a new song
We pray in celebration
and we give thanks.