Ash Wednesday, Fasting, and the Needs of Others

February 21, 2007

This post goes on a bit, without making its point very precisely.  I suppose it might be called “stream of conciousness” or something.

Because following it the whole way through can leave one with the impression I have a position I don’t, let me put the short version right here up top:

In ethics class today, we talked about “Kantian ethics,”  and how for Kant, if a murderer came to your door looking for someone you knew was in your house you would have to tell him he was inside, because it is never ok to lie.  What the murderer does with the information is his responsibility, and you cannot predict the outcome of the situation.

It seems to me like the ethics of staying unified in order to preserve the concern of those who come after us can learn from this ridiculous example– it supposes a goal which we cannot prove to be true, or know if it will happen.

Keeping the church together in order to preserve the unity of the church for the future, then, is no different than telling the truth to the murderer at the door.  The proper ethical thing to do in that situation is to lie in order to prevent an injustice from being done to the potential victim in your house.

Just as the proper thing to do here is to do what must be done in order to protect the injustice that is occurring in the Church.  ++Katharine has already said, and repeated yesterday, that the goal is justice and inclusion for GLBT people.  To do it by letting the oppressor of GLBT people in the door doesn’t work.   That means we have to stand up now and let it be known that we are an inclusive church, and that GLBT people are welcome here; waiting for others in the Communion to come along won’t work.

The other major point in this point is to “be still and know that I am God.”

j 

I went to Ash Wednesday services on campus at the seminary today.

The professor delivering the sermon today preached on the judgmental God.  Not my cup of tea, this judgmental God where love takes a back seat to judgment.  I’m sure there was something redemptive in there somewhere– I think he went on to talk about how important the resurrection was or something.

At any rate, I was sitting there, praying in chapel during some of the penitential silence.  I think I was supposed to be ripping my heart open for God, thinking about what a horrible person I am or something.  That ++Katharine asked us yesterday to fast from inclusion of GLBT people was also heavy on my heart.

And I starting praying, “God, what is the deal?  This isn’t what I believe about you.  I don’t believe this is what you want me to do.  Haven’t we gotten past this yet?  This language about being so evil and awful?  We’re not perfect but I got rid of my self-loathing years ago.  Isn’t there something else I can do during Lent?  If I’m supposed to sit here and fast and think about how evil I am– we all are– so that somebody somewhere else can have ‘freedom’, let me know.  But that’s not what I believe.  I’m open to changing, but that view– this fasting so that we can be in communion– goes against everything you have taught me so far.  Teach me, Lord, I am open.”

And what came to mind was this:  “Be still, and know that I am God.”

And I thought, that is what I’m supposed to do this Lent.  Not fast, not rend my heart, but be still.  Listen.

And I think that is where I am today.

The only other interesting thing that came to my mind was this thought:

In the Book of Common Prayer, in the Ash Wednesday Liturgy, on page 268: “For…our lack of concern for those who come after us, accept our repentance, Lord.”

It is intended and used specifically in the context of environmental concerns.  But I thought about it in the context of ++Katharine’s comments to us yesterday.

Now, I know that people need a few days to be angry before we will be ready to move forward, and I am still angry myself.  So don’t go ballistic on me here.  Just bear with me through the end.

In thinking of those who come after us, it seems to me like we all tend to be very “us” focused.  We tend to focus on our location in time– right here, right now.  That means that perhaps we are unable to see the effects of our actions on future generations.

If, for example, ++Katharine had gone in and demanded our equality right this minute, and the church broke down into schism immediately, the church might be less able over the next ages to minister to GLBT people.

Another way to say the same thing:  if taking another six months (even another year or two) to move slowly towards the goal of inclusion for GLBT people means that the church as a whole Communion will better adopt it, then what will that say to the ministry of GLBT people 200 years from now?

Will a church that has not splintered but taken 50 years to work through the issues together be better able to serve them in 200 years? in 500 years?

Will a church that works quickly to work through the issues so that it ministers effectively to us now, but splinters into several different groups be as coherent and consistent in its mission in 200 years?  in 50 years?  How will they most effectively minister to GLBT people in that time period?

Are we being selfish for our own needs in this time by forcing the change to happen more quickly than the church can take it?  Are we, in fact, having a lack of concern for those who come after us?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  And I don’t think anyone can.  But I think that ++Katharine thinks so.

In ethics class today, we talked about “Kantian ethics,”  and how for Kant, if a murderer came to your door looking for someone you knew was in your house you would have to tell him he was inside, because it is never ok to lie.  What he does with the information is his responsibility, and you cannot predict the outcome of the situation.

It seems to me like the ethics of staying unified in order to preserve the concern of those who come after us is Kantian in the same way– it supposes a goal which we cannot prove to be true.

How do we know that ++Akinola won’t leave anyway?  That the AAC won’t leave anyway?  That any number of other things won’t happen anyway?

Keeping the church together in order to preserve the unity of the church for the future, then, is no different than telling the truth to the murderer at the door.  The proper ethical thing to do in that situation is to lie in order to prevent an injustice from being done to the potential victim in your house.

Just as the proper thing to do here is to do what must be done in order to protect the injustice that is occurring in the Church.  ++Katharine has already said, and repeated yesterday, that the goal is justice and inclusion for GLBT people.  To do it by letting the oppressor of GLBT people in the door doesn’t work.

Time for me to go be still.

j

Advertisements

4 Responses to “Ash Wednesday, Fasting, and the Needs of Others”

  1. Roger Olien Says:

    If freeing Blacks had been left to the Anglican communion, slavery would still abound in this country and elsewhere. For every Wilberforce in England, there was a Bible-quoting pro-slavery bishop in the American South. In the interests of not offending anybody and keeping together, shackles would still be commonplace. Having repented for slavery, the Primates are trying to slap the chains back on gays and lesbians. The advice from our Presiding Bishop seems to be “make peace with oppression,” if only for a few years, or more. No deal! The suggestion that I should grit my teeth so that I can stay in the same church as the Nigerian primate, who supported repression and death for gays and lesbians in his country, is repellant. If that’s the path of TEC, it will suffer the same lack of moral credibility and cultural relevance that has diminished the C of E. The secessionists will leave anyway, and I suspect that a significant number of gays and lesbians will find more supportive communities.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Exactly.

    That is why the argument of unity for the future doesn’t work.

    Only acting in the protection of the interests for those currently suffering injustice works.

    It is the Christian ethical imperative.

    Anything else is a betrayal of all that we hold dear.

    To hold up Communion as a false choice in juxtaposition to justice doesn’t work.

    j

  3. Michael Says:

    I agree with Number One : I personally dont TEC will make a deal with the Devil. If we cant stand up now as a church and say that all of God’s children are fully included in the life of the church then we need to shake the dust off our feet and move on.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Amen. That is precisely the point– there is no disagreement here.

    j


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: