I remember the beauty of Anglican worship when I first encountered it, and I used to attend an Episcopalian church, so like others I’ve been watching with horrified fascination the continuing devolution of the Episcopal Church. So here are some comments on Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori’s investiture sermon as presiding bishop of what is now TEC (“The Episcopal Church”):
- From the sermon and other statements it appears that putting aside poetic language Dr. Schori’s religion is a matter of working together to eliminate social divisions and gross material evils like poverty and disease. Today, it seems, that means signing on to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. So far as I can tell there’s nothing else there. Creeds and so on from her standpoint are just distractions in comparison with “mission”, which means development goals.
- Her religion is therefore in substance a matter of (i) setting up a management structure for the whole world, which will ensure order, stability, prosperity, economic redistribution and egalitarian social reform, and (ii) inducing people to accept and support the structure, and give up loyalties, aversions and expectations that interfere with it. The latter point strikes me as totalitarian, since it involves comprehensive suppression of basic qualities that put us in touch with things outside any possible management structure and so make us human.
- Apart from PC, religion seems to have nothing to do with the substance of people’s lives. The ideal, which “today … there is a concrete possibility of making … reality,” is a “community” in which “everyone is invited to a seat at the groaning board … that will take us in, with all our warts and quirks and petty meannesses … where no one is sick or in prison because all sorts of disease have been healed.” The point seems to be that nobody has to change in any basic way or indeed do much of anything, it would be intolerant and exclusive to expect such a thing, as long as they’re PC. Since the community has be truly global, it must include and fully accept all modes of life, all religions and all infidelties, at least to the extent they accept and support community ideals of prosperity, security, equality and mutual acceptance. From an individual point of view it all works automatically, so what the individual treats as the point of life is irrelevant to Christian mission except as an object of automatic approbation.
- Sounds like a lobotomized socialist hellhole to me. Even if I’m wrong about that, and it’s going to be as wonderful as Dr. Schori thinks, it’s not clear to me why it’s going to make anyone get up and go to church on Sunday or indeed do much of anything. The active factor in the system is going to be the universal administrative structure rather than the individual soul. So why not just pursue my own private amusements, as long as I’m properly shocked by bigotry and vote correctly?
- A pet peeve: like others, Dr. Schori repeatedly uses words from the Biblical languages in public addresses. One of the words she used in her sermon (hodos, Greek for “way”) is extremely obscure and was used gratuitously and without explanation. So far as I can tell, the general point of the obtrusive learning is that no one has understood any of this stuff since antiquity if then, and the meaning is inaccessible except to modern scholars, so ordinary people have to be told what it’s really all about and should accept what’s said and be grateful for it, especially when it contradicts everything they’ve always believed. It’s a great maneuver for someone who wants to rewrite spiritual and moral reality, and that’s the way it’s used. I remember one Bible study class I used to go to years ago in which the guy running the class always insisted our interpretations were wrong, because the verb was in the aorist tense, so it meant something else that only he knew about. It turned out he was preying on teenaged boys in the congregation. Q.E.D.
It’s worth noting that there’s doesn’t seem to be anything particularly bad about Dr. Schori personally. The only thing bad I know about her, apart from her views, is a bit of resume padding. Her religious views are the problem. They are the self-deification of our ruling classes—salvation through expertise and public administration, with the people doing as they’re told and liking it—and as such are completely natural for anyone who identifies with those classes once transcendent faith has been abandoned. If the Catholics didn’t have an international organization and a Pope they’d be the same way, at least in the West, and a lot of them are that way anyway.