25 April 2011

Free Speech and Respect

On his self-titled blog, Mr.Frank Schaeffer (whom I do not alas know personally) has an insightful piece (Blog Frank Scaeffer) that takes the ignorance offered so often as "faith" to well deserved task. He observes that if a person can believe or claim to believe that sexual identity is a "life style;" that Sarah Palin has the intellectual ability and background to be president or that "creationism" is a meaningful explanation of cosmology then we can delude ourselves into believing anything.

I am a devotee of the Jeffersonian era idea of the marketplace of ideas. The marketplace is a very simple concept: given exposure to rigorous examination and open discussion, good ideas prosper and bad ones fail. Those givens however are required. When we stop examining ideas seriously, when we deliberately delude ourselves in the name of "respect" and when we stop looking seriously at evidence the whole marketplace stops working.

Which is why what is going on in England at the moment is disturbing. The single worst reason to enter a treaty relationship like the so-called "Anglican Covenant" is "respect for the archbishop." In American plain speech this is a "cop out." It is a major affront to the marketplace of ideas. It is also of course, sin. The principal is that "under orders" does not remove moral accountability. That principal applies to bishops in the Church of England as well as soldiers in battle.

By any rational standard the "Ridly Draft" is a deeply flawed document. It would were it implemented (if that is even possible) create a model of dysfunction and call it a "church." The world dose not need that -- the Westboro Baptists already fulfill that role.

Tory Lightcap has done a remarkable job of proving that in a thought experiment he calls a Test Driving the Anglican Covenant – Part 1. In it he walks the reader through the "process" of Section 4. The so-called "Covenant" simply won't work.

The document is internally inconsistent. If we are to believe the convoluted and poorly written affirmations in the first three sections, the document affirms the authority and autonomy of the individual member churches. We call that their "Autocephaly." That is, the hierarchy of the individual churches (Church of England, AC of Canada, Episcopal Church of Sudan et al) is within its space the highest human authority. Yet section four allows almost anyone to initiate a process designed to force a church to either override its own autocephalous standing and reverse itself when some vague claim of "un-Anglican" error is affirmed or face "relational consequences."

That last phrase is my favorite. Savor it for a moment: "relational consequences" is somehow not the same as "penalty" so the defenders of this thing claim it is not punitive or juridical. One wonders if a felon being executed is happy knowing that this merely a "relational consequence?"

England is a literate country. Its bishops are often academics of considerable standing. They know the document won't work. Either that or they have not read it. Why then do so many support the "covenant?"
  • Blind ambition cannot be ruled out. If a bishop wants a shot at an archbishop's job, really annoying the Archbishop of Canterbury is not a good plan.
  • Something of the same may be true of priests who have been voting for this thing -- want to be a bishop?
  • We also hear of anti-Americanism. It appears from here that Canada gets included in that. Canadians are surely appalled.
Over and over again we hear of "respect" for the Archbishop.

Surrendering one's judgement does real violence to the marketplace and to moral judgement. It is not what Americans expect of Englishmen. We sort of think they use their brains unlike our indigenous fundamentalists. "Respect" creates a great degree of disappointment and very very bad decisions.
  • If we can suspend our judgement for "Bible belief"
  • if we can claim to believe in creationism, or "homosexual lifestyles"
  • If we can vote away the claim of autocephaly in the 39 Articles and other historical publications of the church
  • If we surrendor up 400 years of independence and liberty for "respect"
Then for "respect" we can vote away anything. Even a "president Palin" becomes possible. To suggest the "Covenant" will "hold us together" in the face of outright rejection from both progressive and conservative churches requires that we decide to believe anything for "respect."

Increasingly it is clear that England will go there if indeed it does, alone. While there is great good will for the Church of England and desire to respect its archbishops, America, New Zealand, Canada, I suspect Brazil, South Africa and even Scotland, are not going to "respect" away their autocephalous liberty. Among Central Africans and other GafCon "orthodox," "respect" is not going to move anyone.

So there will be England, "respecting" itself into irrelevance. It is time for the English to ask themselves if they really want to look like American Fundamentalists denying reality on their doorstep.



Christal said...

So, how do you think American fundamentalists deny reality?

JimB said...

1) Biblical Inerrancy
2) Creationism
3) Theocracy
4) The "homosexual agenda"
5) The Choice to be gay
6) Ex-gay "Therapy"

Give me a minute I can come up with the rest of a top ten.



Frank Schaeffer said...

Jim: thanks for the mention,no need to lament the fact we do not know one another personally. I'm on Facebook and we can use that fake "friendship" forum, to create a real one.
Best, Frank

JimB said...


Thanks! I thought your article particularly insightful. I am on Facebook too (isn't everyone?) and I will send you a friend request.


Leonard said...

The not-so-flattering face of jealousy!

How come Frank Schaeffer commented here and never comes to my blog where I LINK LOTS? Oh well, humility is a virtue so I think I´ll exhibit a truckload of it for you now.

Happy Days/Daze with NO ANGLICAN COVENANT!


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