Monday, January 7, 2013

"Time ... To Die"

I've been following the arguments on Thinking Anglicans over the Church of England's latest tone deaf blunder as it finds itself more and more out of step, and alienated from, its own countrymen over the gay issue.  Its position as any kind of moral conscience for the nation becomes ever more untenable as the larger public, especially its younger part, discards the condemnations of homosexuality as but another archaic ancient superstition that cannot survive the tests of evidence, experience, reason, or justice.  Demonization of same sexuality belongs in the dust bin along with slavery, the subjugation of women, and the Ptolemaic cosmos (all of those things once defended by the churches as necessary for salvation).

Christ famously said to Peter that "upon this rock I shall build my church."  Homophobia is the stone that the builders should have rejected, and has now been made the chief cornerstone of Christianity.  And upon this rock, the Church will wreck itself.  Christianity is now all about policing sex lives.  All of the other issues such as social justice, hospitality, generosity, charity (in the fullest sense of that word), and trying to live life consistent with the concept of an all loving self sacrificial God simply fall by the wayside.
Christianity is now all about trying to rationalize and impose legal order on that one part of life that most successfully resists all rationality and law.  "Love conquers all" said the ancient classical poets, including law and reason.  The best and only rule we could possible impose on our animal ids is "Do No Harm."  The absolute best thing we could possibly do is to sublimate our selfish animal passions into selfless spiritual ones, as the best saints in Christianity and all other religions have done before, but few people are really capable of that.  All of us, even the best of us, live life as we can, and not as we should.  Indeed, to try to excise that passionate part of us that causes us so much harm and grief in life is to cut out the very force of life itself.  As the poet WH Auden reminds us in his homage to Sigmund Freud, Eros the same god who brings grief and humiliation to both gods and mortals also builds our cities.
The Christian faith denies any body versus spirit dualism.  We don't believe in spirits trapped in fleshly prisons or in any "shedding of this mortal coil."  The animal that plays host to our souls, the same one that always fears for its own safety, the same one that eats and shits and drools and lusts and pukes and eventually decays, dies, and rots, will see salvation along with us.  "If only my soul is saved, then I am not saved for I am more than my soul" said someone I can't remember.  "I am the dust and ashes of the Temple of the Holy Ghost, and what marble is so precious," said John Donne.

Historic institutional Christianity will die over the gay issue.  Those who cling to the Clobber Verses as central articles of the Christian Faith up there with belief in the Incarnation and the Resurrection will find themselves  marginalized in wilderness compounds along with the last true believers in racial supremacy.  By that point, historic institutional Christianity will have lost all credibility and will effectively be dead.   On the one hand, as someone who loves that whole spiritual and cultural legacy, the prospect of that death fills me with grief.  On the other hand, as someone aware that at the heart of the whole religion is a person who willingly chooses to die so that others might live, I accept that dying as necessary.

Perhaps it is necessary and even welcome for institutional Christianity to die.  Historically it did a lot of harm to humankind as all movements and institutions founded upon the impossible demand for absolute certainty always do.  The Great Commandment to spread the Gospel became a license to conquer both individual souls and nations.  Christianity became, together with Islam, an imperial religion.

That faith that says that Love is stronger than death, and that our dying may be an end but not a conclusion, may survive the demise of the institutional framework that sustains (and inhibits) it.  It must survive if those of us who identify as Christian really believe that the God of Love is too great to be contained by any religion or any institutional framework, and that same God keeps His promises and keeps faith with us.
We are a Resurrection people.  It is necessary to die to be reborn. 

Nothing is forever.  Only God endures (if we believe in Him).

William Blake, "Albion Worshiping Christ" from Jerusalem, 1804


it's margaret said...

"In my body I shall see him who is my friend, and not a stranger."

Yes, there is no soul separate from the body.

I think this is one of your best posts ever. Thank you.

dave smith said...

This is an excellent critique of the weaknesses of an institutional religion. Are all christian religions opposed to homosexuality? I don't recall Jesus saying anything about homosexuals. He was sympathetic with Mary Magdalene and might have had a similar position with gays.

Maybe it's time for the more tolerant Christian sects to speak up and remind us that Jesus was "neutral" on the issue of homosexuality.

Counterlight said...

There are a lot of Christians, and Christian churches, that reject and oppose homophobia, from the Quakers to the Episcopalians to Jay Bakker.

Murdoch Matthew said...

Thinking Anglicans quotes an African bishop who says that, to his knowledge, there are no homosexuals in Uganda. In his context, he may be right. There are no homosexuals in the Bible. The possibility is not contemplated, no models are offered. There are only behaviors done by individuals, repulsive behaviors dealt with in private.

The institutional church has had difficulties enough with Galileo and Darwin and the new demand for evidence to back up narratives. Freud and Kinsey have brought matters the elders dislike contemplating into the social sphere. We now have individual gay people living productive and fulfilling lives, and thousands of same-sex couples evincing that gay leads to relationship, not (just) sex.

The Western myth was imposed by imperial power, and is fading as the religious and secular empires tracing back to the Romans fragment. Any belief is plausible if you hear it from all sides. The walls of the Christian echo chamber are falling. So are social and financial structures. Something different must follow.

MarkBrunson said...

I'm with you: CofE should die and the affiliates who subscribe to its evil with it.

I am sickened by supposed christians, like David Shepherd on TA, who speak the Devil's word, enjoying the soul-murder they do. Such a church, a church that engenders those people, is evil, an abomination. Let it die in its own cancerous rot.