Thursday, March 09, 2006

"... the fear of upsetting those on the same side ..."

Another excellent post at Thinking Anglicans by Stephen Bates of the Guardian (March 3, Church of England Newspaper). Quote:
Scarcely a week seems to pass without some new scandal, some outrageous statement or appalling behaviour coming out not of sundry [African] regimes, militias, or armed factions, but from an institution that is fast becoming equally corrupt, the Anglican Church itself.

These are not just any old Anglicans but bishops and archbishops, with scarcely a peep coming out of anyone, least of all their allies in the evangelical constituency, with only a few honourable exceptions. For the rest it is almost as if embarrassment, political correctness and maybe even the fear of upsetting those on the same side in the gay row causes a reticence that is close to cowardice.



Daniel said...

For a Christian leader, like Archbishop Akinola, to publicly oppose homosexuality is a matter of religious conscience and his right, and some might even say his obligation. But for a Christian leader to endorse restricting basic freedoms like banning any speech, assembly or press supporting or defending gay marriage, or "homosexual practices" of any kind (like public displays of affection) is inexcusable and borders on religious Dominionism or Recontructionism.

I say it is inexcusable, but of course, you won’t find many conservative Christians condemning it, whether they favor the restrictions or not you won’t catch them criticizing a fellow conservative.

Bishop Chane of the Episcopal Church gave a sermon last Christmas, in which he arguably stretched his interpretation of scripture too far, and was called a “heretic” by Dr. Albert Mohler and other conservative Christian leaders. I consider myself a moderate and Bishop Chane is a little too liberal for me, but a heretic? That’s going a little too far for me, and I agree with them that his interpretation was flawed, but for honorable reasons. He was making the argument that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God and “that as children of the same God, we are now called to cooperatively work together to make the world a haven for harmony, peace, equality, and justice for the greatest and least among us."

For this he is called a heretic by conservative Christians. I don’t know exactly what Muslims believe but I checked with a Muslim I know and he says they are taught that technically we do believe in the same God, we just follow different teachings from different prophets. And, of course, they think they’re right and we’re wrong.

Archbishop Akinola broadcast a statement with phrases which seem intended to incite violent retaliation against Muslims, and succeeded, like:

"From all indications, it is very clear now that the sacrifices of the Christians in this country for peaceful co-existence with people of other faiths has been sadly misunderstood to be weakness”

“It is sad to note that all acts of hostility meted against Christians by Muslims in the past have remained unaddressed…”

“We may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue.”

“May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly on violence in this nation."

Did liberals call him a heretic? No. They called for him to renounce his support of the proposed laws and to call for peace instead of retaliation. Some called him intolerant, a homophobe, or even a hate-monger, but I didn’t anyone questioning his Christianity.

Now, I’m all for people defending themselves, and I’m not going to condemn the people involved for their reaction to violence against them. But, we should not have Christian leaders inciting the violence; let’s leave that to the Muslim clerics. And when a conservative Christian leader is wrong, conservatives should say so. Would Jesus have advocated violence in retaliation for violence against Christians in Nigeria? NO! And anyone who does advocate violence is NOT being a good disciple of Christ.

Conservative Christians like to use phrases like; walking outside of Christianity, corrupting the Word of God, and perverting the teachings of Christ, when talking about liberals, but most of them would not dare to criticize a fellow conservative no matter what the issue. Conservative Christian leadership needs to call a sin a sin and when someone is wrong, anyone, they need to condemn it, not just when a Liberal is wrong.

John said...

First I cannot find any "liberal" Christian criticizing their "liberal" Bishops either - this is a question of closing ranks and is done by all groups - Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccan etc.

On the question of Bishop Chane and the "god" of Muslims, the "conservative" Catholic Church has the same position as Bishop Chane and teaches it in their catechism. The "evangelical" Christians have roundly criticized the Catholic Church for this position.

In many societies, the rights of the individuals are protected by the government and the law enforcement agencies. In societies with volatile faultlines, the security personnel themselves may become the perpetrators. When the government fails to protect the citizens what are the citizens to do? If they are Christians, should they just turn the other cheek and wait for the next blow like they have been doing for years?

Abp Akinola was stating that even if he wanted no violence, it was impossible to contain the "restive youth of CAN", in other words they would not be pacified by his arguments for non-violence when the Northern Muslim-majority states are killing Christians.

But, we should not have Christian leaders inciting the violence...Would Jesus have advocated violence in retaliation for violence against Christians in Nigeria? NO! And anyone who does advocate violence is NOT being a good disciple of Christ.

The theory of "just war" was proposed by a Christian saint and has been the basis of Christian and Western military intervention in many wars and crusades. Regrettably, a primal response may be necessary in certain situations as has been demonstrated by nations even in the 21st century.

“May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly on violence in this nation. Nigeria belongs to all of us – Christians, Muslims and members of other faiths. No amount of intimidation can Change this time-honoured arrangement in this nation. C.A.N. may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue."

Taken with the first point of Abp Akinola's communique, this is more an entreaty to the Muslims to stop killing the Christians in the North. There were no cries of horror from "liberal Christians" regarding this killing. Many reports BBC, indicate that the violence started when the Muslims demonstrated against the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. "Free speech without limits" has certainly a lot to answer for.

John said...

Sorry did not get the next para in the prev post..contd

Personally, I think this point and the entire communique could have been better worded (or translated). Either way, I would agree with Daniel that Christian leaders cannot be inciting violence.

Matt said...

Right, we're all agreed, then? (smile)

I think a good place to "re-start" in our discussion of this issue is that we will all agree that "Christian leaders cannot be inciting violence."

I want to believe that Akinola had no intention of unleashing hordes of angry youths in Onitsha (hundreds of miles from the Muslim north, such that the Onitsha mobs could not be justified in terms of self defense). However, the language "may no longer be able to restrain" is the language of threat. And while that language may have been an accident of phrasing, its usage leaves us with only two options, neither of which is particularly flattering to the Archbishop: (1) the Archbishop has a terrible press office (which doesn't seem at all improbable given the Gay Marriage Legislation), or (2) he really intended it as a threat, or a true incitement to violence. Because no one in the Western media saw the statement (which they wrote was very well publicized and timed just before the violence in Onitsha commenced) as anything other than inflammatory.

As for liberals criticizing liberal bishops, I've talked to lots of liberal Anglicans (by which I mean "soft" on gay rights) who are not happy with the non-evangelical message their bishops are putting forward. I think Ed Little of Northern Indiana (I've known him since I was a kid) would be an excellent example of a liberal ECUSA bishop, who, were he not a bishop, would be criticizing many bishops on issues of Gospel orthodoxy.