Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 19, 2009

The chief exercise of privilege

Privilege: an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks. (Unpacking the invisible knapsack – the original, on race privilege, straight privilege, class privilege, male privilege, cisgender privilege.)

The chief exercise of privilege is to ensure that people who do not have your privilege are ridiculed or condemned for speaking up, when the privileged can speak up on their behalf so much better.

I am thinking in part of the silencing of Gene Robinson, whose last-minute invite was supposed to symbolically content LGBT people for the center-stage honor of Rick Warren, but who was never to appear on the HBO broadcast of the event, nor even (apparently) on stage at the same time as Barack Obama himself. Obama will, we have been told, speak up for LGBT people: we needn’t worry our little heads about the silencing of our own. (Pam Spaulding confirms that silencing Bishop Robinson was planned by the Inauguration Committee, who specifically told HBO that the “pre-show” wasn’t part of the broadcast.)

And of other circumstances, other times, other exercises of privilege, which all amount to: Let me silence you. For your own good. You don’t frame the discussion right. I know what ought to be said, and you don’t.
(For the current example I was thinking of: the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM.)

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January 13, 2009

Two days separation makes it safe

I don’t know whether it disturbed me worse: whether Rick Warren’s invitation was a classic mistake on the lines of “we’re BFF, I don’t need to vet him” or if Obama had Warren vetted and either didn’t care or approved of Warren’s beliefs about effective AIDS work, torture, and same-sex marriage.

For example: this interview in which Warren compares same-sex marriage to child molestation, incest, and polygamy; or Warren’s championing of Martin Ssempa, whose notion of fighting AIDS in Uganda is to burn condoms and preach abstinence – either of which should have been enough to eliminate Warren as a choice for this honour.

As Michelle Goldberg notes, same-sex marriage isn’t the only thing that one hopes Warren and Obama don’t agree on:

Meanwhile, while Warren says he opposes torture, he doesn’t treat the subject with anything like the zeal he accords gay marriage and abortion. As he recently told Beliefnet.com, he never even brought up the subject with the Bush administration, where he had considerable access. Just before the 2004 election, he sent out an e-mail to his congregation outlining the five issues that he considered “non-negotiable”. “In order to live a purpose-driven life – to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates – we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly,” he wrote. The issues were abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, cloning and euthanasia. Torture, apparently, is something that decent Christians can disagree on.

Was Obama genuinely ignorant of this? Was Warren’s selection just the first failure of the Obama administration to vet candidates?

Or did Obama know that Warren opposes effective AIDS campaigning in Africa, thinks torture is an issue that Christians can agree-to-disagree on, and that Warren is the kind of Christian homophobe decent people should want sidelined as a radical, not given this kind of central honour – and just not care?
(more…)

August 6, 2008

You cannot invite someone halfway in

This is (I hope) going to be the last post I write about Lambeth for a while. This one is inspired by an article, written by Henry Orombi (Archbishop of Uganda), published in Friday’s Times as Lambeth was drawing to a close. You can read the whole letter for yourself at the link.

Henry Orombi in The Times: “In every case, homosexual practice is considered sinful – something that breaks our relationship with God and harms our wellbeing. It is something for which one should repent and seek forgiveness and healing, which God is ever ready to do. Not only is Scripture to be taken seriously, but it is to be obeyed, because God intends for us things far better than we could ask or imagine.” “The Church cannot heal this crisis of betrayal”, 1st August 2008

MCC Manchester about a Ugandan refugee: “Prossy had been forced into an engagement when her family discovered her relationship with the girlfriend she met at university. Both women were marched two miles naked to the police station, where they were locked up.” – Prossy Kakooza Must Stay!

Henry Orombi about Prossy Kakooza: “Simply saying that the Christian faith that we practice, which was brought from the West, by the way, taught us what biblically sexuality is. We’ve embraced that faith, we are practicing that faith, and moving away from that faith would be a contradiction to what we have inherited. First of all our communities will not accept them because they will want to let them know that if that is your orientation you can come back to life.” GAFCON, 23rd June 2008

Jesus Christ: ” ‘I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ – ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’ – Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most assuredly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’” – Matthew 25, 43-45
(more…)

August 4, 2008

All Are Welcome – except for queers

Gene Robinson in Glasgow: “There was an open service at Lambeth and my picture was put up at every security checkpoint so I could be recognised and ejected if I turned up. Yet one of the hymns sung was called All Are Welcome.”

Let us build a house
where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
except for queers.
A place where
saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive.
all but queers.

(more…)

July 23, 2008

Call at Lambeth for black bishop to resign post

If the first black bishop in the Anglican Communion were being treated like Gene Robinson:

Hostilities over the Rt Rev Daniel Deng resumed yesterday in Canterbury, as a white primate urged the black Archbishop of Sudan to resign and save the Anglican Communion.

The Rt Rev Simon Legree, Archbishop of Bob Jones, and white colleagues, accused the African Episcopal church of exposing Anglicans to ridicule, and issued a rejection of black bishops. “This has not only caused deep divisions within the communion, but it has seriously harmed the church’s witness, opening the church to ridicule and damaging its credibility in a multi-religious environment.”

The statement is endorsed by more than 150 bishops attending the 10-yearly Lambeth gathering, who between them represent 17 of the 38 provinces in the communion. At a press conference, Legree said: “He [Deng] should resign for the sake of the church. The people who consecrated him should confess to the conference because they created an outcry in the whole Anglican world.”

Around 230 bishops are boycotting the conference because of Deng’s election and the people who consecrated him, said Legree. “Can he not resign to allow the 300 bishops to come back to the house? The norms of the communion have been violated. We’re asking them as Christians to keep the Anglican world intact.”

Though the subject of discussion, Deng himself is not a participant in the gathering, having not been invited by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. This decision angered the Episcopal church, which until 48 hours ago was lobbying to have him brought back into the fold; white African bishops in a closed meeting expressed anger and hurt over his exclusion. However, the leadership declined to take up the issue, and a growing number of bishops are said to wish to avoid conflict with conference organisers.

Written in reaction to the news that a black archbishop believes the proper reaction to bigotry is to give the bigots what they want: remove the person who offends them. Call at Lambeth for gay bishop to resign post, Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent, The Guardian, Wednesday July 23, 2008

June 23, 2008

“With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship”

These are the words that Peter Cowell and David Lord used to wed each other at the Church of St Bartholomew in London, on Saturday 31st May 2008:

I N take thee M as my partner, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, and thereto I pledge thee my troth.

With this ring, I thee bind, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Reverend Martin Dudley married them, and says he did nothing wrong and would do it again. This is by far from being the first time that two Anglican priests have wed in church, but two things make this different.

Before 5th December 2005, there was no legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the UK. Civil partnership is legally different from marriage (primarily, it has a different name: but there are some small legal differences, too). But the differences are not big enough to make the legal recognition comfortable to the Church – indeed, it’s hard to see what differences would be. In common parlance, civil partnership is regarded as gay marriage.

The other difference: past ceremonies were carried out in secret. The Church of England has never objected to having gay bishops and gay priests so long as they lie about their sexual orientation to the laity: but honest priests who make no secret of their sexual orientation are distrusted, and honest bishops are very nearly anathema. Secrecy, shame, and concealment make being gay or bisexual all right: honesty, openness, and unashamed love are what the Anglican Communion cannot bear.

Giles Fraser spoke in the BBC Thought for the Day on 18th June:

So what, then, is the Church of England’s theology of marriage?

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the Book of Common Prayer was being put together, marriage was said to be for three purposes:

First, it was ordained for the procreation of children. Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication. Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

As Fraser notes, the Church of England does not bar mixed-sex couples from marrying who cannot have children, and makes no intensive inquiry into whether couples wed in church intend to “procreate”.

Why, then, does the Church of England object to same-sex couples marrying? (The argument “marriage is about procreation” can only be taken seriously when consistently applied: when it is used to ban mixed-sex couples who cannot have children together.)

The Bishop of London takes the Rev Dudley’s action very seriously: he has issued a public rebuke where he says:

The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

In short: Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, says the problem is not that God is homophobic; is not that Chartres himself is homophobic (Chartes claims that “homophobia is not tolerated” in his dioscese): the problem is “the discipline of the Church”.

The problem is that 300 homophobic bishops are declaring that if the Anglican Communion continues to tolerate openly gay bishops and priests, instead of requiring a gay person who is ordained to be dishonest and live in the closet, they can no longer be part of the Anglican Communion: they will walk away from it.

As Haaretz reports:

Some 300 bishops – a third of the Anglican bishops in the world – arrived in Jerusalem this week to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference, organized by the traditionalist wing of the church, which is opposed to ordaining homosexual bishops. GAFCON is being staged as a rival to next month’s Lambeth Conference in London, the Anglican Communion’s main event held every 10 years.

GAFCON has drawn some 1,000 participants: bishops, clergymen, and activists from Anglican congregations in 28 countries, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.

These people believe that God hates queers, and that the Episcopalian Church ought to enforce celibacy and lies on gay clergy. When an openly-gay priest was appointed to a bishopric in 2003, they went mad: when civil partnerships became law in the UK, and gay priests who had been living together for years or decades began cautiously to wed, they screamed. They know God hates where they hate, and they can’t understand why the rest of the Communion can’t see it.

I’m an atheist, and before I was an atheist I was a Quaker, which is fairly far removed from the angst and ceremony of the Anglican Communion. (In the UK, Quakers decided some years before civil partnership that if a same-sex couple wanted to marry in a Meeting for Worship, they should make application to their local Monthly Meeting, just as a mixed-sex couple would, and it would be up to that Monthly Meeting to say yes or no. This is a very Quakerly solution: unlike most other Christian sects, the Religious Society of Friends doesn’t just say they believe in freedom of conscience, they work to ensure that all Friends do have freedom of conscience. There is no hierarchy, and there can be no demand for ritual obedience.)

So why do I care about the Anglican Communion? Well, in 1986, I made a friend whose friendship I still treasure, though he died nearly 16 years ago. For his sake, in his memory, I still go to the church where he was ordained a deacon, for midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and other times when it occurs to me. I even take communion, though I never did when he was alive: I used to tell him that as I had never been baptised, and had never been a communicant member of any Christian congregation (Quakers don’t do baptism and don’t do Holy Communion) I could not possibly take communion as part of a Church of England service. I wish he were still alive to argue with me about it. But he died, and so I eat the bread and drink the wine and remember my friend, who unfairly won the argument by leaving it. He had a partner: they were never married, of course, but “for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity” they were an admirable couple.

So I care. In a sense, of course, as an atheist and a believer in religious freedom, if Peter Akinola and his homophobic cohort wish to uphold their belief that God hates where they hate, I see no reason why they shouldn’t – I would wish it otherwise, but Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa where gays are actively persecuted, and an Archbishop who believes that Christians ought to persecute and humiliate gays is simply going along with mainstream opinion in his country. It would take enormous courage and steadfast principle to oppose the violent mainstream even if Akinola believed that God is love, but there’s no indication that Akinola is anything but sincere in his belief, shared with many other Christians, that God hates and the Church should enforce God’s hatred.

In the UK, Christians arguing that they have a right to incite hatred are mainly arguing they should have the right to abuse and intimidate schoolchildren, not for a right to incite lynch mobs. It’s easy for me, living in the UK, not a schoolchild, to say “This is a matter of religious freedom” because it is not my life or my wellbeing on the line.

Nevertheless, in a detached kind of way, if you don’t look at or care about the homophobic violence (and the Archbishop of Canterbury prefers not to) the situation becomes:

One third of the Anglican Communion has decided it cannot tolerate the majority. They are threatening to leave, if the majority won’t support their homophobic beliefs and persecute lesbians and gays as the minority believes we should be persecuted.

The Anglican Communion survives on tolerance – on accepting, however reluctantly, that within the Church of England there can be a diversity of belief and opinion. If a significant minority of that Communion now finds the tolerance of the majority intolerable, they should leave.

What they shouldn’t do is blame the objects of their bigotry for their leaving. Akinola’s complaints are chiefly directed at the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: because Williams has failed to persecute the openly-gay priests and bishops of the Anglican Communion with the rigour that Akinola believes God wants. Williams and others like him seem to blame the victims for being there – for being open and honest and in love.

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Update: Archbishops fail to condemn violence against lesbians and gays (Ekklesia)

At the press conference [for GAFCON] Iain Baxter of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) from the UK asked the Archbishops how they reconciled their faith with their support for jailing lesbian and gay people, which had led to cases of rape and torture.

He also asked why they had refused to speak out against such incidents which had taken place in their respective countries.

In response Archbishop Peter Akinola said that he was not aware of any such incidents anywhere in Africa. He also said he was unaware that anyone had been imprisoned for being gay or lesbian.

When given the example of a lesbian women from Uganda [Prossy Kakooza] who had applied for asylum in the UK after being jailed, raped in the police station, and marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, Archbishop Akinola said: “That’s one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don’t need to argue.”

“If the practice (homosexuality) is now found to be in our society” he continued, “it is of service to be against it. All right, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life.”

It’s quite clear: for Akinola, God is hate. More on this later.

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