Center bombing, the hard right continues to control the conversation, both
political and religious. More so,
in my view, is that those we call liberal and moderate acquiesce, sometimes
playing the role of enabler. Consider
the despicable and unforgivable race-tinged exploitation of Shirley Sherrod,
and the rush to unjust judgment by President Obama and the NAACP, both of whom
should have known better. To be
sure, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart
grabbed a snippet of text that distorted and miscast Sherrod’s long and
thoughtful speech, but ultimately the consequential damage was done not by him,
but by respected progressive leaders all too willing, it would seem, to take
prisoners without asking questions.
What was it that FDR said about fear? Well more than Islamist terrorists have instilled in us the
kind of fear that, if unchecked, is bound to help us destroy ourselves.
And perhaps it was the same phenomenon that drove the Archbishop of
Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the Anglican Church, to seek a cynical and
hypocritical compromise with principal in the ongoing saga of female bishops. In a new twist on the charade of don’t ask, don’t tell, he and his
colleagues essentially proposed
that those who did not want to recognize her legitimacy could bypass their duly
appointed local female bishop and look instead to a so-called nominated bishop who, working in
parallel, would derive his power and authority directly from them. In other words, transform that impertinent
woman usurper into an impotent potted-palm. The proposal, just as had that Sherrod rush to judgment,
blew up in his face, deservedly undermining Williams’ own leadership.
Of course what happened in the Anglican General Synod some weeks ago
has to be seen in the context of the ongoing internal battle that began with
the elevation of Gene Robinson as bishop.
Since that time, Williams and others have been exerting a huge effort aimed
at avoiding an irreparable schism — their objective to save the church. The question one could fairly ask is to
what, beyond a lot of real estate and honorific titles, purpose? Or more to the point, where does
conviction and moral behavior — keeping your word — come into these
Perhaps the Anglicans don’t see (as do their Roman brethren) the
ordination of women as a crime, certainly not on a par with pedophilia, but their
actions suggest that they don’t consider men and women serving in the same
positions with any equivalency. Just
imagine bypassing a male bishop just because some in his flock don’t like the
fact that he wears pants and not a skirt.
I am reminded of when women were reluctantly admitted to the all boys
club of the corporate boardroom.
That happened under duress and the board chairmen who anointed them, patted themselves on the back as models of
enlightenment — full court press coverage. There seemed to be two qualifications for female membership:
being (or representing) a significantly large stockholder or having zero
business credentials for the job. Having them would have spelled trouble for the movers and shakers in the club. So what we saw on those board lists
were the names (often the same name showing up across the board network) of academics,
so long as they weren’t from the business school. Let them sit here, but God forbid, don’t let them make any
informed independent judgment. No
doubt, we’ve made some progress since then, including a few female CEO’s, even
(which I guess is itself a sign of progress) poorly performing ones like Carly
What’s most bothersome about the Williams compromise is that it
demonstrates once again how clueless religious leaders can be relative to the
world around them. They still
haven’t gotten it that tokenism no longer plays and that you can’t, based on
either gender or color, have different criteria for authority. A bishop once appointed, it would seem,
is a bishop. The attempted
Williams compromise only suggests that Anglicans haven’t ordained women or
elevated some to being bishop out of conviction, but only because the
combination of their more liberal membership pressure and a growing shortage of
male clergy across the board forced a viscerally unwilling hand.
Looking at this situation, along with those cited in my most recent
post, is it any wonder that a growing number of the faithful have become disillusioned with their individual churches,
not to mention with religion altogether? If you can’t look to an unencumbered sense of moral behavior
and keeping one's word from those who claim to speak for God, what kind of
demands can you place on anyone else — ourselves included.