Quoting the Chinese proverb, “we live in interesting times” for Christianity in the West. The Catholic Church is preparing to celebrate the largest public mass (500, 000) in Australian history at World Youth Day in Sydney. This will be conducted by one of the most conservative Popes of modern times. For example, one of his first acts as Pontiff was to reaffirm that all non Roman Catholic Churches are essentially invalid, relegating them to communions, not churches. This includes the Orthodox and Anglican Churches. Each and everyone. With a single stroke this put ecumenicalism back decades.
Meanwhile the Anglican Communion is preparing to tear itself apart over (ostensibly) an incredibly important theological question: whether people who fuck other people of the same sex can be Priests and Bishops.
All this at a time when the overall level of belief and spirituality in western countries is rising, but membership and participation at Christian Churches is plummeting like the stocks of Acme Chlorofluorocarbon Supply Company.
This is very sad, and from my liberal, modern mindset pretty stupid. Two of the most powerful currents of modernity are that of communion and the value of difference. In the modern world we seek to come together, to unite and share, even in diversity. We also find value in knowing and respecting people who are different from us. Even if they may (occasionally) stick it up each other’s bum.
Now there are many blogs out there expressing the arguments for more inclusive and tolerant versions of Christianity than I can ever manage. But I cannot sit idly by and watch the Anglican Church destroy itself and the gains made by Vatican II be flushed down the gurgler without much sorrow and some attempt at trying to inject some sanity into the world.
Of course, the gay issue at the heart of the current Anglican crisis can be viewed as but a representation of a deeper problem. The real issue is how should the Bible be read? Is it to be considered literal truth, the Word of God with fixed and specific meanings? Or is it a guide to hearing God’s word that may present different solutions at different times and in different places? Certainly the history of the various Christian churches shows the latter, though many Churches simply write off other interpretations as invalid or wrong.
The American Anglican Church is about to be cut off from a large segment of other Anglican Communions around the world. The gay issue is only one concern the more conservative churches have. They are also concerned that pluralism, the acceptance of other paths to God as equally valid – a position held at least by the Presiding Bishop in America – will undermine a vital essence of Christianity, that of sharing the Gospels and conversion to the True faith.
From a modern esoteric perspective there are eternal verities; truth never changes. However, it is found beyond the temporal and mundane world, and at each moment we must try and live and make the world reflect this eternal truth. Being beyond our temporal and limited understanding, we can only ever bounce against the Truth. Each tradition and each religion is founded on Truth and each at end promotes the same mundane values – love, compassion, tolerance, respect and peace. We can envision this graphically:
The difficulty lies when we get stuck in the centre, the place of doctrine and interpretation of eternal truth. This is a natural thing to do, as it is the largest ‘target’ for our meaning seeking mind, which above all else looks for stability and security. However, since we are imperfect we can never, even reading the Bible, know the eternal truth. We can never know if God hates, loves or is indifferent to homosexuals, or heterosexuals for that matter. Because the knowledge of God;’s ‘mind’ is way beyond us. Any glimpse we have of it is lost in translation as we try to put it into words or doctrine. All we can do is to live our lives based on the eternal truth of love. I mean, heck even a pot smoking, hippy Beatle knew that Truth 🙂