The earlier post entitled “Happier news for gay-friendly Anglicans” was a re-blog of the Reverend Lesley Crawley’s, from the Diocese of Guildford in England. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.
For quite sometime now, I have felt that the homosexual issue has not been addressed in any substantial way by local clergy, certainly not to my satisfaction. As an Anglican from way across the pond, in a still very intolerant island, I am heartened by her post. My hope is that as goes the Church “in” England so goes the Church here, where unfortunately I find the debate about homosexuality to be a reflexive one, rather than intellectual and certainly not spiritual.
Having said that, perhaps the divisiveness of the Homosexual issue and all it variant conversations (homophobia, gay marriage, equal rights, hospital visitations, adoption,etc) has served to cover an even more dire problem within the religious community. I would suggest we take these reflexive positions – we are right / they are wrong, because the intention is flawed. We do not seek individual or singular spiritual growth through the collective expression of our faith i.e. congregational worship, but rather we seek salvation – through promised truths.
Our churches, mosques and synagogues are a one stop shop for all life’s ailments. Not because it is state sanctioned or because the only persons with access to the holy “texts” live in these holy houses, but because the act of investigating, not just the writings of a text, but the deeper truths buried within, is both seemingly overwhelming and terrifying. And so, the rub is we find comfort in dogma, in saying we are part of a larger institution which, has all the answers, and these are what they are; we dare not defy them.
In giving up that freedom, that agency which allows us to investigate, to discover, to question things, which we hold fundamental to our sense of self, and proximity to that which is greater than us we have destroyed any ability to have a conversation without demagoguery. Instead, we cower under the rigid social construct of religious practice and alliance to a text, rather than enabling ourselves the possibility for growth. In the name of faith we have unknowingly created an intellectual vacuum within which even the most precious spiritual endevours are bound to suffocate. And so, faith which is ephemeral in its beauty and substantiated by belief, now becomes a concretisation of dogma surrounding religious constructs. It is no longer a philosophical discourse within self or amongst fellow believers.
As a christian community in general, and the Anglican community specifically, we are terrified of wrestling with our faith put into practice, and the possibility that some older beliefs could be wrong or at least anachronistic. I have always found the story of Jacob to be a remarkable one, for he wrestled with God. There is comfort in this and, I believe it my birthright to grapple with my faith and the complexities of being human. Otherwise how can I claim, take ownership of, or walk confidently knowing that I believe these things I defend? Faith put into action was the slogan of our church Synod in recent years (I’ve forgotten what year) but what does that mean? Christians are often heard saying: the new testament is the old struck down. They say too: Christ distilled the ten commandments to their quintessence: Love the lord thy God above all else and Your neighbour as yourself. Again, what does it mean?
Some years ago a friend of mine, who is loathed to attend any kind of religious service asked me about the inconsistencies of those statements with the intolerance and bigotry she saw prevalent in many churches. I had no real answer and still carry with me some shame, though perhaps not for the reason you may think. I do find it inconsistent and I do believe many of the prohibitions found in the bible are anachronisms, written by the most learned men of the time, struggling as Jacob had, doing the best they could in the world as they knew it. My shame lies in the fact, that I can make no guarantees, that the most learned members of the clergy are today engaged in the same struggle – given all they know, in the world as they know it today.
It seems to me whatever side you fall on, a much more honest conversation/dialogue is needed. In any case, as is rightly pointed out in the reply to Reverend Crawley’s post, there is an entire constituency waiting “outside the church… eager to jump in.