Friday, February 3, 2012

"If God Loves Everyone, Why Can't The Church?"

Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, appears to have put his foot in it.

Protesters showed up outside York Cathedral with one 18 year old handcuffing himself to a light post. It wasn't the usual "Occupy" protest. Instead it was to protest the Archbishop's remarks in an interview with the Daily Telegraph about Tony Cameron's government considering the legalization of gay marriage (British conservatives really are different from American conservatives). Here's local coverage of the protest.
The offending words in the interview focus upon these sentences:
“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.

“We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.

“It’s almost like somebody telling you that the Church, whose job is to worship God [will be] an arm of the Armed Forces. They must take arms and fight. You’re completely changing tradition.”

This is the same Archbishop Sentamu who, with his fellow Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, thoroughly alienated Episcopalians in the USA by lecturing at them like an irritated head master. How dare they be themselves and follow the dictates of their own consciences informed by their own experiences!

Thinking Anglicans is full of informed, passionate, and erudite rebuttal of the Archbishop's remarks. I note the controversy here because this is the only time that I can think of that members of the public showed up outside an Anglican Archbishop's cathedral to protest his pronouncements.

In Britain, and increasingly in the USA, the writing is on the wall for Christian hierarchs. The public, including the pew sitters in their own churches, is not with them on this issue. As I've said over and over again, the issue is not one of permission as the right always frames it. The issue is morality. The prohibitions and penalties placed on the same sex oriented appear ever more arbitrary and unjust as lgbts become more visible and more people claim them as family and friends. The churches' discrimination against gays and lesbians offends not people's sense of permission, but their deepest moral sense of what is fair and right. If the churches won't stand up for what is fair, then who will? "If God loves everyone, why can't the Church?" read a sign held by a protester outside York Cathedral. Why indeed. The churches coming unhinged over a half dozen ambiguous passages in Scripture makes a sorry spectacle for the rest of the world. It doesn't do much for the credibility of the central message of social justice in Scripture, that no one should prosper off the exploitation and degradation of others, if a whole population of people is excluded from that claim for no reason other than "tradition." Indeed, I think the intransigence of churches on this issue has very badly damaged the moral authority and credibility Christianity once enjoyed outside of its own membership. It really didn't help that Archbishop Sentamu gave this interview in Jamaica, one of the most homophobic countries in the Caribbean, at the very same time that the Jamaican prime minister is trying to open that country up on the gay issue.

The enemies of gays and lesbians continue to do us great service by being so repulsive and ridiculous.


Tristan Alexander said...

Simple answer to the question is, because Religion is about power and control! So the church has always done everything it can to fight ANY change because it takes away their power to control when people see that they do NOT have the answers! Oh and the quote about it being like redefining the Church as being part of the armed forces...Do these peopel NOT know their own history? That is NOT a redefinition, that is a large part of church history!!

Counterlight said...

Religion IS about power and control. Good reasons to get rid of it.

Counterlight said...

Actually, I agree with Tristan on this one.

Might previous comment is not ironic.

Chris Sissons said...

I'm afaid I must point out there is no such place as York Cathedral. It is called York Minster (check your link!). It is a Cathedral but not called a Cathedral. There are not many Minsters about. Beverley in North Yorks has one and I don't think it is a Cathedral. Rotherham Parish Church has recently been promoted (?) to Minster status. It is definitely not a Cathedral.

I appreciate you will not be particularly interested in this but there are standards to be maintained.

And don't let me put you off the main point of your post!

JCF said...

Religion IS about power and control. Good reasons to get rid of it.

Unpack, please?

I find it so easy to bash religion: either its "cultured despisers" (the bog-standard JMG anti-theists) *OR* hipster Christian(ists?), who try to pretend Christianity isn't a religion.

re-ligio means to "bind together". Those bound by a belief-system, or life-practices. That's all.

Good belief-systems.

Or Bad ones.

I think it's better to COUNTER(light? ;-)) Bad belief-systems w/ Good'uns.

For an example of Bad: the shite Sentamu is pushing (worst possible way, worst possible time, WORST possible place). If y'all join me in opposing him, then we'll have a Good religion, see?


JCF said...

Oh, and lovely, loverly York Minster!

[One of the few beautiful places you've shown on this blog that I've actually been to. Lo, those Many Years Ago. It's preserved better than I am, a this point... ;-p]

Murdoch Matthew said...

Westminster Abbey.

I've heard that soldiers weren't permitted to join the early Christian community -- it was Constantine who made church a department of state, like the army.

The Archbishop does seem weak on history. You pointed out below that marriage was until recently a matter of handing over property (including the bride) from one family to another. Now it's a contract between two equals. NOT the same thing.

Religion is about power and control to the overseers; at the bottom it's about community and making meaning in life. Lots of cognitive dissonance between the levels.

Counterlight said...

Re-ligio also means "to tie back."

Perhaps my inner anarchist slip is showing, but I remember one of my all time favorite sermons by Paul Tillich who argued that the burden Christ came to lift from our shoulders is not the burden of life, but the burden of religion.

Institutions are the sad but necessary concession our shining vision of The Beloved Community must make to selfish human nature, and that's true even of sacred institutions.