What's At Stake

Here is a lengthy quote from a new star troll over at Thinking Anglicans. This is so wrong-headed and wrong-hearted on so many levels that I don't know where to begin.

Marriage does not come into the sphere or ecclesiology but moral theology; the first is confined to Church order. All of the conditions defined by the Prayer Book lead to the ultimate aim of creating new life, of increaing and multiplying, of stabilising society. Homosexuality does not enter the questions. Barrenness has never been a ground for nullity; failure to consummate a marriage has. But I believe that fertile couples who want to marry without the intention of having children should question their reasons. In the Catholic Church this provides grounds for annulment.

Patriarchy does not enter homosexual relationships unless they are trying to perpetrate a parody of the norm. For illumination on the woman as chattel myth, read Ephesians which defines marriage as a state founded on equality and complementarity. What radical homosexuals of the past resented was the imposition of a social norm on a condition that was inimical to the applied model. Why, they asked, should we be pressured into adopting a heterosexual lifestyle when we are not heterosexuals? Marriage was seen, rightly I believe, as the heart of the heterosexual norm.

I am sorry that Nat has only heard of heterosexual life, rather than actually knowing it. The watershed for heterosexual physical relations was the availability of the contraceptive pill which for the first time put women on an equal basis for promiscuity as men.
This led to the present sexual turmoil. The pill does not affect homosexuals because they are incapable of creating life. But look at the results of excessive promiscuity in the 1970s, the era when the concept of gay 'marriage' was derided by many homosexuals. That lay in AIDS which has been responsible for millions of deaths on a universal scale and has spread into heterosexual life with devastating consequences. I support a charity set up to help children infected by AIDS in the womb and I have seen personally the devastation it has caused. Nat may, or may not, know that AIDS was once known as the gay plague, not least among homosexuals themselves.
Posted by: John Bowles on Sunday, 4 December 2011 at 10:25am GMT

As I said, there is so much wrong that I don't know where to begin, so I won't.

Instead, I'll take this whole argument out of the realm of abstraction with this:

Dropping Out of Church

According to a report I heard on the radio, The drop out rate from Christianity, all of it from fundamentalist to liberal, among people aged 15 to 29 is 60%. That's right, sixty percent. If that was a school district, entire schools would be closing down and mayors would be declaring martial law.

There are a lot of very existential issues behind this statistic for us to ponder.

Why is this? The radio report cites a number of reasons, but the primary reason is one I've thought about for a long time. Kids live in a world dominated by radical changes in science and technology that affect all of us personally. Christianity carries with it a huge amount of supernatural content that becomes more and more of a problem, if not an outright liability, in an age where mechanical explanations for natural phenomena continue to have dramatic success.

Another big reason is cultural and social changes. The younger generations are comfortable in a much more cosmopolitan world than the rest of us older folks are. I've observed this myself. They move through a world of myriad cultural differences with an easy unselfconsciousness that I find astonishing (I was born in Civil Rights era Texas where EVERYONE was very anxiously self conscious about all kinds of differences). Teh Gay, which is tearing churches apart, is not an issue at all for most of the kids, even for those who consider themselves to be conservative (a difference I've also noted over the years teaching).

Apparently, most younger people's experience of church is one of constraint, backwardness, and superstition.

Do we think this whole Christian thing is worth keeping? Is there a distinction between the Christian faith and the Christian religion? Most churches would say "no," but are they right? I think not. I don't think what could be called Christendom, that whole spectrum of cultural and institutional identities around the Christian Evangel, has much of a future. I can foresee a near future in which the historic and not-so-historic churches will be as past as the religion of ancient Egypt. Will Christianity survive the loss of its institutions? Should it survive? Maybe, but it may continue in forms that might be hard for us to recognize as Christian or even as religious. What's worth saving and what's worth discarding? Yes, God is eternal, but we of a more universalist bent proclaim a God who is beyond any one religion, and beyond religion itself. Does God worry about Christianity surviving? Should He? Should we?

Do we Christian progressives have a future? Perhaps, but only as small mammals in a world dominated by huge flesh-eating dinosaurs. The right and the fundamentalists seem to have successfully copyrighted Christianity. It is their terms that dominate all of the public debate about the faith these days. It seems we shall have to make our way between a throwback to 19th century Positivism that's far more zealous today, or a throwback to late Medieval Christianity that's become more legalistic and crazier.

I love my Episcopal parish with its 1821 Federal style church and its high church liturgy. I love the heavy silver Victorian processional cross in the sacristy. I love our magnificent choir singing Mass settings by Palestrina and Monteverdi. I love the Book of Common Prayer. I love what all the congregations I've belonged to have done for their larger communities. I love all the remarkable and generous people I've known through the Church for decades. And yet, I cannot help but feel that our days are numbered.

I think our future will ultimately be in house-churches, and even in small lefty churches that meet in the back of a bar like this one near where I live.

So, what do you think?


Speaking of small mammals in a world dominated by huge flesh-eating dinosaurs, our parish is getting threats from a far-right terrorist group (apparently it's one of those groups that murders abortion providers). We haven't exactly been singled out, but we are one of a number of gay-friendly congregations getting hate mail and threats to our staff and to some of our parishoners (not me, I get enough hate and abuse from the trolls on Thinking Anglicans and Fr. Harris' blog). The FBI has been contacted.

Economic Thoughts For The Day

**Considering all the recent revelations about the 2008 bank bailout, it would have been cheaper, and more productive, just to write a $25000 check to everyone with a Social Security number, a point Atrios (among others) has been making for a long time now.

**I'm sure that Spain, Greece, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Ireland will be delighted to cede a significant portion of their sovereignty to a central European bank dominated by Germany. Why let a few really bad memories stand between them and more austerity? What could possibly go wrong?
The idea of impoverishing for prosperity makes about as much sense to me as fucking for chastity (to paraphrase an old joke from the Vietnam War).
Maybe it would be cheaper and more productive to write a check for 15000 Euros to everyone in the Eurozone with a Social Security number.

All the world seems to be ruled by a mean stingy rich uncle in the Mafia (or by the ghost of Leona Helmsley who disinherited her kids and left all her fortune to her dog).


... and very dark Mahler. Symphony #10, the Adagio

Jamiel Terry

Randall Terry's adopted son Jamiel, who came out as gay about 5 years ago, died yesterday in a car crash in Georgia.

In case some of you don't remember, Terry publicly disowned his son, and said this about him to beliefnet:

For me, the issue is that there has been an unbelievable lack of honesty. For me the breach is that I cannot have him in my home while I know that at any point, he could take pictures and sell them. I'm not going to have that kind of intrusion into my home.

And here's more from the beliefnet interview with Randall Terry about his son:

You regard homosexuality not as something in a person's nature but a behavior one falls into. Is that correct?

Behaviors are a choice. I do not contend that they ask for the feelings anymore than any of us ask for feelings. Feelings are sometimes out of our control. Behavior has to do with choices.

Have your views shifted at all since you found out Jamiel is gay?

No. There are three options when you find out a family member is homosexual. One is accept them and their lifestyle as if it's normal. Two is to reject them and sever your relationship. Three is to love them unconditionally, but to tell them you do not accept their behavior as normal, and to tell them the truth. If I love my son, I can't say to him, "Hey, you're committing suicide on the installment plan. This is a great lifestyle." I have to be honest with him. Take out the word homosexuality and put in alcoholism or put in drug addiction. Would you tell a drug addict, "I accept you. This is your choice, this is your life and I will stand by you"? The average death age of a male homosexual is 42 years old because of disease, because of suicide, because of alcoholism, because of drugs, because of violence. It's just not a good world. It's a self-abusive, self-destructive sexual addiction.

As imperfect as my parents were, thank God I didn't have Randall Terry for a father, adopted or otherwise.

May Jamiel find the love his father denied him in this life.

Who Is Occupy Wall Street?

Ray Kachel in Liberty Plaza/ Zuccotti Park a few weeks ago.

George Packer wrote an outstanding article in The New Yorker on a handful of the occupiers just before Liberty Plaza was cleared out by the cops. The article focuses on 53 year old Ray Kachel from Seattle, whose story before Occupy is very compelling and illustrative of what happened to a lot of highly skilled and educated professionals over the past 3 years. Mr. Kachel, a former high tech jack of all trades from Seattle, once did quite well and prospered doing odd jobs and freelance work in the once broadly tolerant culture of Seattle's tech industry. His opportunities all dried up over the last 2 years. He spent his last $250 on a bus ticket from Seattle to New York to join Occupy, and is now officially homeless on the streets of New York.

Packer concentrates on Kachel, but uses him as a means of getting to know a number of other people in and around the encampment, all of whom have their own remarkable stories. Kachel, and a number of others in the encampment, found friendship and community for the first time in their lives in Liberty Plaza.

I must admit that I had similar experiences in political activity from various gay causes to union organizing. There is that rapturous experience of discovering fellow travelers, and the pleasant surprise of finding them in unexpected places. And there is the thrilling experience of waking up from the usual dull resignation we all live in to discover that together, we might actually be able to move that huge inert tonnage called history even a fraction of an inch. These experiences could be described as "pentecostal."

I still keep in contact with friends I made during an effort to unionize a Borders Books store. That was more than 12 years ago.

What does it say about me, or about church, that I've had far more of these experiences outside of church, or even the bounds of what could be called "religious?"

Something that the article touches on is institutional failure. A defining feature of our day is the across-the-board failure of institutions to do their jobs; from governments to businesses to academies to churches. Economist Duncan Black yearns for a "well-functioning and trustworthy banking system, and not one built on a foundation of crime and fraud." I yearn for a government answerable to the people who are supposed to be its source of legitimacy. I yearn for churches that are more about binding up the wounds of a bleeding world and sewing hope and love where there are none than about enforcement of social and cultural norms. More often than not, institutions betrayed their charters, their founding principles, for the sake of self-serving and self-preservation. Small wonder Anarchism, once the common enemy of communist and capitalist , enjoys a resurgence these days.

I'm not an Anarchist. I believe in the rule of law and in the necessity of institutions to make life bearable for everyone. But I definitely have my Anarchist sympathies.


What I meant by "pentecostal" is the experience described in these 2 paragraphs from George Packer's article:

The sense of togetherness in the park that night was like nothing he’d ever felt. Garofalo still found the drummers annoying, and the activists who dreamed of an alternate world of pure democracy, without rules, were not for him. Still, he now felt responsible for keeping Occupy Wall Street going. He wanted others to make the pilgrimage: “If you bring someone down here for a day, they’ll attach so much emotion to being here that it will have an effect next year, even if this isn’t here the day before the election.”

A period in Garofalo’s life had ended—the period when being amusing was the highest goal because being serious felt futile. He was now ready to carry a sign on the sidewalk along Broadway. He stayed up nights trying to think of the right one: “I have a job, but I think being here is important”; “You’re cynical, lazy, and would be ashamed to tell your kids you did nothing.” Finally, one morning, he went down to Zuccotti Park with a signboard that said, in red block letters, “I Don’t Have a Lobbyist, Can I Still Have 3/5 of a Vote?” Garofalo was split, seventy-thirty, on his own sign: he thought that it was witty, but the reference to slavery was only a few steps away from invoking the Nazis. Yet he stood on the sidewalk for more than an hour and held the sign aloft while people paused to read it.

Read the article folks. It's definitely worth the time.