Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Kincade of the Baroque

My attention was directed today to something called the "The Young Messiah", which was an arrangement of Handel's oratorio trimmed for length and then expanded to include rock instruments, specifically a trap set, a keyboard, an an electric guitar. The various arias are sung in pop styles, often in different ranges from what Handel specified, and with backing vocalists.

Now I'm not in any way a musical purist. "Proper" baroque practice is interesting, but hardly obligatory, and there's nothing wrong with reinterpreting classical music, or pretty much any thing else, in some other style. As it happens, this project originated from the same guy who took "Jesus Joy of Man's Desiring" and sped it up with a rock beat to create "Joy", which was a minor hit in 1972. A fellow named Jonathan Aigner took it upon himself to savage this thing, citing it with clips from some performance done sometime in the 1990s. For this he was roundly savaged himself, a bit unfairly, but we'll get to that in a minute.

The performance itself is, well, mostly dreadful. As far as Messiah itself is concerned, I grew up on the highly controversial Bernstein recording, with its substantial omissions, its extreme tempo changes, and most of all, the rearrangement from three sections into two. He apparently anticipated this, because it came with a lengthy justification of the changes. Be that as it may, I have tended to prefer "maestro" recordings (such as the Dorati version recorded at WNC, with its spectacular and reverberating choruses) and find a lot of the original instrument versions a bit dry. And surely one has to believe that if Handel had had wailing electric guitars at his disposal, there would have been "b-tchin' guitar solos": baroque music, and especially Handel, is dramatic in the extreme and full of showy virtuosity.

And yet... The thing was remounted in 1999 in a production funded in part by the Irish government (recalling that the original 1742 performance was in Dublin), about which one of the producers had this to say: "By re-interpreting the music in a modern idiom, with popular artists, this new version will, in our view, be immediately accessible to a much wider audience." Yeah, well, I don't see that happening, except in the way that some people can't take the full strength version of something and have to have it diluted. The thing we have here is simultaneously undercut and overblown, so that for some reason we can't have a soprano singing the brilliant aria preceding "Glory to God in the Highest" (and indeed, peculiarly, we seem to have no women soloists at all), and the flourishes in the choruses have to be simplified. The rock band is slathered uniformly across everything like the "light" in a Thomas Kinkade Christmas card scene, adding little to nothing beyond blurring Handel's sharp rhythms. It's not really a reinterpretation: Handel is all still there, but diminished and weakened. Perhaps it is more accessible to someone, but really there is no getting around that it is a lesser thing.

The comments on Aigner's rant mostly center around the inference that he is attributing the badness of the thing to the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene, when the original version came from Irish/British musicians whose link to CCM is perhaps tenuous. The version he criticises, though, is full of CCM people, and the style is straight out of American CCM productions. It owes essentially nothing to the very English-influenced Pretentious Art Rock of ELP and their compatriots, who, on either side of the pond, were heavily influenced by classical technique and style and whose renditions of classical pieces were transforming, not diminishing. That's not what we get here: Handel is debased, and it is debased because, apparently, American evangelicals can't take the real thing.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Yet Another Novel Rite, and the Problem With the Whole Idea

So, on Facebook my attention was directed to this Advent-specific Eucharist rite from Trinity Wall Street, which the Episcopal cognoscenti are likely to recognize as one of the go-to places in the church for liturgical trendiness. So let's just say the service time explanation is not promising to this visitor, given that exactly one service time (the Sunday crack-o'-dawn said liturgy) admits to using a BCP liturgy. This leaflet is for a weekday service, so at least it wouldn't figure in my weekend planning But let me move on to its text.

These days I can save myself a lot of trouble by skipping ahead to the institution narrative and looking for the pro omnis error, and sure enough, there it is. And I could go over a bunch of other faults, and places where it's different but OK. And at least they use the Creed, straight up (which is not required for such a service, as it happens). But here's the point: it was proffered withe the question, Is it legit? Well, surely it could be, because the Bishop of New York can authorize nearly anything, and supposedly the Eucharistic prayer comes from the 1982 Scottish book (which seems to be mostly accurate, though I didn't do a line-by-line comparison). And the problem is that, even with this double layer of presumed authority, I am placed, as a potential visitor, in the position of having to work out whether I can bring myself to say the words, which are on top of the theological considerations leaning towards precious, lacking either 16th century flourish or 20th century directness (though they aren't completely terrible). There are too many "legitimate" liturgies out there with serious problems, and too many bishops who turn a blind eye to the theological shenanigans in their dioceses or engage in such themselves.

I know about Trinity Wall Street, and so I already know to look elsewhere should I find myself in NYC, just as in Boston I hie myself to Advent instead of Trinity Copley Square. But the unwary Episcopalian who isn't already with the Program is in for a surprise. A couple of years back it was pleasantly shocking to go to a noon Eucharist at WNC, because again one went there not knowing what to expect, and getting a straight-up Rite II service; my relief was almost palpable. It was easy to choose an ACNA parish while travelling because I knew they weren't going to do anything too weird. The truth of it all is that, really, you have to give up on any caring about the theology of what is being said to be totally comfortable travelling through this denomination, and in the mid-Atlantic you are likely to show up at a famous church and get something which would throw any theologian before Bultmann into a rage.

For a church whose only binding principle is supposedly its liturgy, the fact that there is increasingly less adherence to that liturgy, and where its most prominent parishes are increasingly known for not using those liturgies, means that this principle is increasingly paid nothing but lip service. In fact it appears that the one unifying principle, such as it is, is ownership of church properties. But be that it may, the state of high-end Episcopal liturgy is more like unitarian free-form "worship", but with higher production values.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Latest Trend in the Episcopate

A Living Church observing the recent spate of episcopal elections in which the entire slate was composed of women has prompted an outburst of sarcasm at the Episcopal Cafe, utterly missing the point. Sarah Condon, meanwhile, basically nails the problem: "I grow nervous when people are overly excited about women in ministry. I am here to do the work of the gospel, not to be the church’s latest project. I am here to pastor people, not to be Jesus. And when I see a line of all-women candidates I begin to wonder if the collective church has decided that lady bishops are a good way to fix everything."

The original article is, as it turns out, inaccurate on one point. Four and a half years ago, Maryland had an election for a suffragan bishop in which there were four candidates, all of them women. At the time the novelty of a all-female slate didn't register on me so much as the details of the particular candidates, one of whom, it seemed to me, plainly preferable; instead, the diocese elected a woman who, it turned out, had a major drinking problem which was known to her previous diocese, and which led in the end first to the death of a passing bicyclist and second to her deposition and jailing.

And that's rather the point. Back towards the beginning of the decade there was a run of elections in liberal dioceses with a standard pattern of a bald white guy with a goatee, a patrician white woman, a lesbian, a black person of either gender (or better still, one of each), and one white guy with good hair. It looked diverse, and if you included that last guy (who was usually not elected) it might have had some real (that is theological) diversity, but I cannot say it produced great bishops. And then there were the others, such as Forrester's apparent self-appointment and the whole SC mess.

Four such elections in a few months looks like a fad, and while Susan Snook as a one-person slate is probably saving some trouble, the other three suggest an abandonment of apparent diversity in favor of a sort of episcopal affirmative action. As Condon observes, it does not suggest attention to those matters that really, greatly matter.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Once and for All

Preached for Proper 28, Year B. The lessons read were Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-25, and Mark 13:1-8.

“Such large stone, and such large buildings!” If you go to Jerusalem today, you can still see many of the stones, and they are indeed big: those at the Western Wall are about four feet high and six wide, and some are quite a lot bigger. Those stones were put there as part of Herod's project to enlarge the Temple Mount precinct, which began around 20 BC and continued almost up to the the destruction of the city in the year 70. Of course, the great buildings are gone, razed by Titus's legions. The timeframe of this leads to some curious conclusions: given that Jesus was probably born in 5 BC (the year before Herod's death), it would seem that his mother Mary was born about the time that the temple reconstruction commenced, and that Zachariah, John the Baptist's father, had already taken up his duties in the temple at the time.

The enlarged temple was not the only product of Herod's pride. On the southern side of the temple platform, he had a huge stoa built, where the Sanhedrin met and where the money changing we hear of was conducted. Josephus, the historian of the final Jewish revolt, acclaimed it as deserving “to be mentioned better than any other under the sun.” It also is utterly gone, burned in the revolts and eventually replaced by the Al-Aqsa Mosque hundreds of years later. The second temple itself, erected in the reign of Darius I, stood for five hundred years before Herod's work, and almost another century before its obliteration by the Romans. But it is all gone. If the the retaining walls remain, nothing that once stood upon them is left: not one stone is left here upon another; all were thrown down. In those days, the massive splendor of those walls, the golden stone shining in the middle eastern sun, surely seemed, if not eternal, certainly destined to stand for ages to come, but as Jesus foretold, they had less than forty years left.

The temple destroyed, the focus of Jewish worship shifted, perforce, to the synagogues. But these are houses of prayer, not places of sacrifice. Even in modern Jerusalem, there are no more sacrifices. And for us, the members of the church, the sacrifices we make are transformed. The priests made offerings for sin, so that the height of the sacrificial year was that made on Yom Kippur, when a bull, two rams, and two goats were sacrificed in atonement, both for the high priest's own sins and for those of the people. We make offerings for remembrance: the eucharistic sacrifice we do for the remembrance of he who is our salvation. So why the change? Well, the Jews do not sacrifice because there is no place for them to do so, for their temple is no more. But we are Christ's temple on earth, as Paul states over and over, we in our own bodies comprise the body of Christ and temple of our God, with Jesus simultaneously the head of this body and the foundation of this temple. And it is no longer a place where the blood of animals is shed in our place, for the blood of our savior which was shed on Calvary is enough for eternity. Jesus was and is the perfected sacrifice, the perfect God and perfect Humanity which atones once and for all. We are reunited with God through Christ, and so the curtain in the temple was torn at the culmination of the passion; and thus our sacrifices are of remembrance and thanksgiving, and not for our own atonement. “It is finished,” Jesus said on the cross; redemption is won, and is eternal.

Therefore, at the Eucharist, we proclaim the Mystery of Faith, and note well the tense of each verb: “Christ has died,” for his sacrifice for us is done, over, complete, a matter of history; “Christ is risen,” for the new life is now and redemption is present, not in some future, but here and now; “Christ will come again,” for the final union of heaven and earth and the death of the old is not yet accomplished, but we are promised it, and one day the harvest will be completed and the old life will end forever.

Of course the disciples wanted to know when this would be accomplished; who would not? And Jesus gave them an answer, which has turned out over the many centuries to be completely useless thus far. For he gave another answer, than no person would know the date—not even the Son of God Himself. Thus we have seen wars and famine and murder and violence and apostasy and plainly false religion, over and over, and yet, Jesus has not returned. Perhaps when the time comes, the signs will be more clear, but the point, after all, is the readiness. The day will come like a thief in the night, and shall we find ourselves fit to face our God?

For we will face him: that we are also promised. We will all be called to judgement, against which our only advocate, our only savior, will place his sacrifice, that we, in faith, may claim it and live. And so living, the new Jerusalem, we are told, will have no temple. We, the temple of the body of Christ, shall no longer need a place to represent the dwelling of God, for all that exists will be that dwelling, where sin and alienation and sorrow and loss will find no more a place to live.

So, my brothers and sisters, gathered together in this place, remember that one sacrifice, and have faith; you are saved. And remember that faith to others, that they too may come, and be baptized, and join in the temple of Jesus the Christ, through whose one sacrifice is all redemption.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sex, Drugs, and Nominations

So there I was, at 17, newly ensconced in a dorm room in Caroline Hall on the southwest corner of the University of Maryland College Park campus, and all I could think was "good god, these people are immature." A bit over four years later, I was the recipient of a fresh diploma, having moved, for various reasons, to the opposite end of campus, where I had a room on the first floor of Cambridge Hall, where, with only four rooms, it was possible for us to control our roommates reasonably well, once we got rid of mine. Mark, whose last name I will elide, was, not too put to fine a point on it, a complete jerk. He had peed out the window at the end of the corridor, I seem to recall him puking on the floor of the room from drink (although this happened enough different places that they tend to blur together), and on his departure smashed an entire bottle of peppermint schnapps on the floor, which he did not clean up. His peak jackassitude came when, as a relief from dining hall food, the fellows in the next room prepared spaghetti and meat sauce over a hot plate. Mark had somehow managed to talk someone at the dining hall into giving him an institutional sized can of oregano, and as the sauce about to be complete, he abruptly poured about a cup of the herb into the sauce. We managed to choke down the bitter result, and yet.

But he was exceptional only in the effort he put into offensiveness. I mentioned drink: well, back in those days, when it was still legal to drink at college age, the amount of beer consumed was very frequently herculean, as if my dorm mates were to swallow a sea of beer, like the first of the five Chinese brothers. Unfortunately, like him, they apparently could not keep it down forever, leading to the aforementioned messes. Nonetheless the "40 Keg Beer Bash" was a regular, ordinary occurrence, and I recall one evening when there was a keg on the corridor, and one fellow put away three iced tea glasses of its contents, and then went across campus for the then-standard three beers for a dollar, and somehow managed to make it home and sleep it off without further event. Those events included the water fountain across from my room being torn off the wall twice, and a fire in the trash chute in another dorm, this latter event being common enough that they shortly thereafter sealed them all off. At the southeast corner of campus stood the Rendezvous Inn, a dive notorious as a supplier of campus drunkenness, so that regulars kept a pair of "'Vous shoes" which could be allowed to be ruined by the scum of spilled beer. Of course, marijuana was also everywhere, and while I could associate with my fellows without drinking myself insensate, it proved impossible not to avoid the occasional contact high.

And as to the sex: earlier in the year, I wrote of my experience sharing a room with my roommate's girlfriend, not that she lived there, but that the two of them coupled every night. I was chaste for a variety of reasons, ranging from the moral to the practical to the simple dearth of women with whom I wanted to go beyond simple friendship, but there were plenty of cautionary stories being acted out all around me. And around of all of this, the constant noise: in my first years I tended to spend a lot of time in the undergraduate library (which had an all-night study area) simply because it was quiet.

I say all this as a preface to an examination of Kavanaugh's testimony, for the contested event would have happened the year after I graduated from this carnival. I had arrived there from one of those high-end Protestant boarding schools whose prestige Georgetown Prep could only aspire to but not achieve, and where, for various reasons (chief among them its isolation), extracurricular drinking and the like were limited (and at the time dealt with harshly), though one of my 9th grade classmates managed to get expelled by drinking himself into a coma. Said surroundings, in any case, apparently pushed me to a sort-of adulthood against which the antics of my fellow collegians were not cast in a favorable light. Rumors eventually reached me, though, of a huge drunken party held off campus the year after I graduated, and I am given to understand that the school has had to relax some of its rigidity. But I knew none of this at the time, and managed to muddle through without any significant disciplinary blots, or for that matter much temptation to risk getting them.

Thus, when I see "BEACH WEEK" heavily written in on an old calendar of the period, it takes no great imagination to work out what was involved: a drunken debauch accompanied by casual sexual interactions of all sorts, many of which could only be called consensual in the sense that two blotto youngsters in the same room allowed their uninhibited gonads to take the reins of the encounter. I was not invited to any such party back in the day. In the first place, I didn't travel in that kind of social circle, nor was I that terribly interested in spending time in such a disorderly crowd; also, my impression is that the institution of a week-long parent-free beach party was a few years in the future. Ironically, my best friend's family did have a beach house, to whose premises I venture every year for a weekend party whose riotousness cannot compare to those more youthful efforts; I did visit it a few times in my salad days, but even then we were a sedate, family-friendly crowd-- perhaps because the whole family was present.

Or to put it another way: I was, by and large, the sort of person that Kavanaugh has tried to paint himself as having been at the time. I was temperate and chaste and apt to be something of a wallflower at parties, and certainly not a threat to the women around me, which perhaps explains why I retain so many among my closest friends. On campus I eventually settled in with the medievalists and avoided the frats, whose reputation has not changed one whit over the decades. Every document of his youthful life puts him as a perfect candidate for their "lifestyle", if you will pardon the euphemism, just as it emphasizes how out of step he was with the way I lived. And it puts a certain color on his presumed vote should Roe v. Wade or its ilk come up for consideration. I was a co-op student in college, working as a programmer at a local navy lab, and one of my various office mates was a Catholic fellow, old enough to be my father; and when we discussed the subject at one point, he opined that the typical American RC position was "I am absolutely opposed to abortion, and if my daughter needs one, she's damn well going to get one." If Kavanaugh did not hold to that position, having not yet been presented with the moral dilemma, he certainly lived in a wealthy suburban milieu in which knocked-up daughters damn well did get their abortions, and I have to imagine that the sort of restrictions that will try to get the court's approval would not have much an impact on wealthy suburbanites today, and that when his daughters are old enough, their unlucky classmates will have their lapses dealt with discretely and without difficulty.

All this is to say that it isn't so much that I do not believe Kavanaugh's denials, but that everything about him argues that he was the sort of guy who could have done such a thing, and that he hung around the the kind of guys that did do such things, and that he comes across not such as reformed as in denial, at best. His is the world of Risky Business (which was released one year after the alleged incident), and if he was not the Joel Goodsen of that paean to adolescent probity, well, his friends were Goodsen's friends. And if the promiscuity of the age has been dampened by AIDS if nothing else, society of all sorts is not about to try to put the randy genie back into the bottle of pre-1960's dating rituals, and never mind Dad with the shotgun. With Trump as its flag bearer, the Republican Party of the present is, increasingly, the party of flagrant amorality, and the concerns which supposedly drove the selection of Kavanaugh are not in the least convincing.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Bread and Word

Preached for Proper 15, Year B. The lessons read were Proverbs 9:1-6, Ephesians 5:15-20, and John 6:51-58.

Jesus is talking about bread again this week, and, well, we had bread in the gospel last week, and the week before that, and the week before that, and it looks like we're going to have bread again next week. Why so much bread? The reason is this: at the end of July we started a series of readings from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, and there are seventeen mentions of bread in that chapter, beginning with the feeding of the five thousand and ending with the verse which ended this week's reading and which will appear again in next week's text.

This week Jesus is talking about communion, which is curious since the narrative of its institution in the last supper does not appear in John, but only in the three synoptic gospels, and in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. But the words are are plain: we must eat his flesh and drink his blood, and the bread he provides is that flesh, and those words are consonant with the institution narrative which we repeat, week after week: “this is my body” shall be said of the bread, “and this is my Blood of the New Covenant” of the wine, as Jesus said that holy night. Paul says that we do this to remember, but we understand from the words here that it it is not just a memorial, but that we are fed in the Eucharist, not materially, but spiritually.

Now bread in the gospels, it signifies feeding, all right, and more specifically feeding as something we need in order to live. In recounting the last days, there is not a single mention of bread: perhaps it may be part of the marriage supper of the Lamb, but that feast is about something other than base nourishment. Bread, in the gospels, is connected to hunger, and thus it is that the very first mention of bread in the bible comes not out of the mouth of Jesus, but from Satan: “command these stones to become loaves of bread.” And Jesus' reply is interesting in light of his words in this week's lesson, for he says to Satan, “it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The passage he is quoting is from Deuteronomy, wherein Moses says, “He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Jesus also refers to the manna, the bread which came down from heaven, the bread of angels as the psalmist says, but Jesus says that the new bread, his bread, is not like that old manna, which nourished the body, and yet, the Israelites grew old and died.

But in the end, we are promised, we shall not die. Oh, in the short run, in the passing of the years, we shall age or shall succumb to accident or violence or disease, but in the end, the end of days, we shall be raised: that is Jesus' promise. And while we work this earth, we are fed by him: his flesh and his blood. I do not think it profitable to choose from among the various theories about how the elements of communion can be said to be Jesus, but one thing is plain: in some sense, He is becoming part of us as we eat and drink, week by week. We, as the church, are the body of Christ, but we see in Jesus' words that this is not merely a way of talking about how we carry out His will, but also, in a way, a statement of literal truth.

And in this, I want to go back to another point which comes from Jesus' rejoinder to Satan. He says that man, that is, the people of God, is nourished by the divine word. One's first impulse here is to understand this as meaning the word of scripture, but we know also that Jesus is that Word as well; we have that in the first chapter of John. Thus we can say that truly are nourished by word and sacrament, for in a sense, they are the same thing: we of the new creation are fed, literally and spiritually, by what we partake, both in our eyes and ears, and in our mouths: Jesus, the bread of heaven, the word of God.

But enough of bread: I would like to turn from mere bread, to the feast of our first lesson. The proverbs do not appear often in the Sunday lessons, and each of the three times is an address by Holy Wisdom, calling all people to heed her. But in this case, the cry is a summons to a feast. There is bread here, but beyond that, meat and wine. This is not just to satisfy the hungry, but to feed richly and abundantly; not just to live, but to grow and be strong.

And thus, with wisdom, we are back to the Word. Wisdom in the Hebrew carries a different sense than it does in English, and the same with foolishness. The “simple” who are invited are to become wise not only in judgement but in plain learning; here it is the eyes and ears which are the conduits by which God enters in. But it is still the Word; it is still Jesus, and scripture again uses the idea of feeding to convey its effects upon us. We hear the word of scripture, and if I and other preachers and spiritual writers minister effectively in the Spirit, we and you are all instructed so as to be graced with the fruits of the Spirit. Therefore Paul, preaching to the Ephesians, counsels them, and us, to live wisely, that is, to heed scripture and to understand it, and to live it out—for it is in such a life that we have life, we the members, the limbs and organs of the body of Christ, working in the world. And we do so not just in repeating what we have been taught, but in every loving act me make in the world, for it is by that love that we show the Jesus in us: it is in that love that we show what we are made of: Jesus, the bread of the world, come down from heaven, the Son of God, whom with the Father and the Spirit we worship and adore with every feeding from his flesh and blood, the holy food and drink of new and unending life.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Prayer Book Revision Happened, and the Result Was Not Pretty

It was apparent within the first few days of General Convention that revision of some sort was going to be pushed through. And though the bishops balked to a degree, we not only got revision, but we got revision now. First, the permission to use Enriching Our Worship was not only extended, and not only given no end date, but regulation by the ordinary of the diocese was removed. Any rector may now use it and their discretion, without having to consult with their bishop.

On top of that, we were given a revised Rite II, reworded to reduce usage of "Father", "Lord", "kingdom", and of course supressing any use of the male personal pronoun for God. Again, this thing has no expiration date and no regulation by the bishop. And it has the exactly the same issue that both Matthew Olver and I remarked upon in EOW: the avoidance of "Father" makes for a rather lopsided trinity.

It's all the more obvious here given that one has the 1979 rite as a standard against which to measure the changes. The biggest is that the eucharistic prayer proper is no longer addressed to the Father, but to "God" as a whole. This breaks the preface "of the Father" because they changed not a word of that, but since it is said in the context of speaking to the Father in the first place, it is no longer of the Father at all. Now, I do not know why eucharistic prayers are address to the Father, but older examples all are. Thus we have a potentially substantial change sprung on us, with little discussion. Indeed, the hasty nature of this was evident as two changes had to be backpedaled, and Prayer C was taken out of consideration entirely. Never minding my problems with the whole project: I would have objected to the substitution of "reign" for "kingdom", if only because Elizabeth II reigns over the United Kingdom. To me the substitution is too alienating from scripture, a problem which also besets the many suppressions of the word "Lord", which after all means specifically the Name of God.

But then, it seems that I don't get to object, the convenient grounds being that I am male and old enough to be dismissed if I'm not with the program. On one level one cannot object to an all-female committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation, but their report has some major problems, not the least of which is that their resolution pushing "expansive" language essentially puts it in opposition to theological consideration. I don't believe their problems are something that can be fixed that way anyway, but they persist in a narrative of theological history that has some serious faults, not to say untruths. For example, they say that "In the 1928 BCP and Hymnal 1940, the generic use of masculine nouns and pronouns to encompass all human beings established a concept of maleness as normative and femaleness as the exception or “other.” Decisions at the 1970 and 1973 General Conventions made clear that such generic use was not actually inclusive: the masculine-gender nouns in the canons were interpreted to exclude women from ordination to the priesthood." I doubt that anyone on the committee was actually there in those years to relate the discussion that ensued on the floor, but it is a very safe bet that nobody relied on the legalism of the wording of the canons, and that they went straight to the traditional arguments from Paul and from the symbolism of representing the person of Christ. And the further reality was that in '74 there were enough men on their side to defy the canons. While one may argue how much the use of the male as the default 3rd person singular pronoun creates a bias, this attempt at mind-reading is flatly unconvincing to me.

Beyond that, the pushback against trying to erase the maleness of Jesus has been strong enough to protect "Son"; moreover, attempts to push "Mother" have largely failed, again perhaps because the theological problems are too severe for a younger generation to swallow. Thus it is conspicuous that we see here, in the end, a rejection of the divine parental in general. And that's a really huge problem, because it is there, after all, that we find the locus of sin. At any rate, as Benjamin Guyer points out, the aim of a purified liturgy is unachievable. The tension between the language of scripture and the language of feminist activism tends to be resolved by abandoning not only the scriptural text, but by substituting the old Enlightenment illusion of a liberalized humanity redeemed through right thinking. And it doesn't matter, it seems to me, how much that thinking turns out to be wrong; it doesn't matter how likely it is that the theories of the present will fail the test of time. The point, after all, of scripture is that we cannot achieve such redemption, not in that way.

But meanwhile, we have a serious problem here: revision has already happened, and even if the 1979 book is not rejected or replaced, it is pretty likely right-thinking rectors and deans will largely suppress its use.