Friday, April 28, 2006

A Right-Wing Conspiracy, Of Course

So, here we have Fr. Jake and his cheering section talking about Daniel J. Webster's review in The Witness of Hard Ball on Holy Ground by Stephen Swecker. The thesis in all of this? Let's go to Webster:
"In the end, the IRD is not a program grounded in faith but, rather, in fear -- both fear of change in general and fear of loss by those who benefit most from the status quo, i.e., the wealthy and the powerful," writes Swecker in his closing article.

In other words the IRD has little to do with religion, except for control and contempt of it, and everything to do with democracy and demagoguery.
OK, let's deconstruct this for a bit. Webster, is actually Fr. Webster, "most recently the director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah". He's a member of the church establishment, a person accustomed to the use of ecclessial power and resources.

And that seems to be a running theme in all of this. The whole point of IRD's supposed campaign to seize control of ECUSA and other churches (and thus return us, I presume, to being "the Republican Party at prayer") presupposes that ECUSA is a locus of power. And of course, it is-- far more powerful than IRD could hope to be on its own. And Frs. Jake and Webster are officers at different levels within this structure, so right away they are subject to the suspicion that their ox is being gored.

So let's go back to Fr. Webster's earlier article on the subject. At that time, he said:
But this article started with power and control. Liberation theology, feminist theology, inclusivity of all whether they be homosexuals, people of color, the poor, have all threatened the "power holders" throughout church history.
I shall be blunt: this is all so much bullshit. Liberation theology has been accused, in my opinion with utter justification, of being upper middle class dabbling in leftist politics. Feminist theology is likewise an upper middle movement, straight out of the academy, which is ensconced in the power structures of ECUSA in the form of the Office of Women's Ministry: an organization seemingly impregnable in spite of numerous incidents of dabbling in non- and anti-Christian religion. Homosexuals in the church are not, by and large, powerless people. Black bishops in ECUSA are commonplace and unremarkable, reflecting their ascent into the gentry decades ago. Black bishops in the communion are of course the norm now-- but that seems to have become a problem. All in all, the liberals are borrowing the grievances of the downtrodden, but without the actuality of oppression or poverty.

The "power holders" are people like Webster, people like the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, people like the Rev. Margaret Rose, people like the Rt. Rev. Otis Charles, people like the Rt. Rev. Jane Dixon.... I could go on. These people are the establishment, and a lot of them always were even before they were ordained. And now, they speak for Jesus, just as did their supposedly Republican forefathers. When Jimmy Carter, former Chief Power Holder of the United States of America, complains about this, I can only conclude that there is a sense of entitlement to power, of being accustomed to power, and of annoyance that this sense of privilege and authority is being challenged.

Given the actuality of strictly religious arguments about sexuality and femininity (race having, in practice, passed entirely out of the discussion in these latter days) I must conclude that the Real Agenda of the Wealthy Right Wingers is to protect their position and their pocketbooks. I've already discussed how they and the liberal powerful share position, so let's move on to money. To a great degree, they share that too. Oh, the lawyer's wives (and ex-lawyers) may not be living on trust funds, but the Ordination Process that prevails in the big, urban, liberal dioceses largely guarantees that only the comfortably well-off can afford to pursue ordination. It's already clear that the powerful in ECUSA are not going to give up their bishop's palaces and their beautiful old rectories and their handsome faux-gothic churches. They will not move into apartments and walk-ups and storefronts, but they expect the opposition to do so.

IRD's supposed conduit as a vehicle for control of the Africans is reminscent of the shameful "chicken dinner" remarks made by some of those powerful bishops in their fancy digs at the last Lambeth conference. But even then, the desire for control need not translate into actual control, and especially not when it comes to the church. Clerics are legendary as biters of the hands that feed them. I suspect that the backers of IRD are no more likely to get what they want out of the deal than Henry II was when he had Becket appointed to Canterbury's throne.

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