Beyond Justice to Mercy

This morning, I decided to catch up on some blogs, when I noticed this graphic at Episcopal Cafe. In the Lectionary, I've been concentrating on the Jeremiah/Lamentations passages in my sermons, and I couldn't help thinking how scary justice is. Justice is the setting of things right, the rectifying of wrongs. And as much as justice is necessary, by itself it destroys relationships because it sets an absolutist view of fairness as a priority over and above reconciliation. The Christian message has always proclaimed that justice has been ultimately taken care of by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

Thus efforts to minimize (or worse, abandon) a theology of the cross as necessary to how we relate to God and to others leaves open the clamoring of voices who won't be silenced until some human perception of "justice desserts" has been achieved--even at the expense of those things that make life worth living. But grace, with its attending dependence upon what Jesus did at Calvary, gives us the room to start over, to not be tied to mere human standards of right and wrong, and to enjoy both the time and growing strength of the Holy Spirit to be able to make amends in a way that flows from a place of love. As the old Susan Ashton song says, "We must reach out beyond justice to mercy."


Anne Rice and Hubris

Anne Rice's recent denunciation of the Church has brought to the fore, once again, Western culture's disaffection with organized religion. Any quick Google search on the effects of organized religion will produce a plethora of negative, even vindictive sites to wade through. And I will be the first to lament the tragic associations of religion with all sorts of vile evils throughout history.

Yet, there is an odd hubris in Rice's actions, and many others' like hers. In the quest for a pure spirituality, "organized religion" is cast away, as though the problem is an impersonal structural impediment. Yet the difficulty is not that religions have structure, teaching, norms of practice, rules, and so on. All collective human endeavors have those marks.

The real difficulty is that, even the most saintly of us, struggles with a broken human nature addicted to the tendency to sin. Ms. Rice's attack on the perceived injustices within the Church of her recent rejection ends up becoming an attack upon her own self. Is she so pure that she is immune to the inclination to think, feel, and do things contrary to God's will? This is not a criticism but a concern--for there is not a human being on this planet who can make such a claim.

The best spiritual practices always have a communal/corporate dimension to them. We need each other. And as a followers of Jesus, who placed top priority on loving God and neighbor, Rice cannot easily dodge the importance of having companions on any pilgrimage. Alas, that is where the proposition to discard "organized religion" breaks down. Because when we get together to share, worship, pray, serve, think, create, and mark milestones we do so after an inherited or improvised order. We develop structures, basic agreed upon teachings and wise practices, appoint leaders who are responsible for various aspects of the spiritual community's life. Thus, our sins become amplified through these necessary communal structures--yet, so does the good that results.

I could make all sorts of other arguments to defend the necessity of organized religion, but at its most simple is the proposition that "no man (or woman) is an island" (Donne). And while it can be the case that "hell is other people" (Sartre), Jesus does not give us the option to love only God. We need to love other people, too. And it is impossible to love without a community in which that love can be put into practice.


Glasspool Happened, and No Apocalypse Yet

Well, it's happened--the Episcopal Church once again acted upon its Communion-dismantling trajectory and did not hinder Mary Glasspool from being consecrated. Not that anyone expected it not to happen. And the whole thing went by with little attention, as noted in a less-than-charitable entry from Matt Kennedy. I've been combing to see if there are any official statements in reaction so far, and the only one I have thus encountered is from Anglican Mainstream. And while there may and should be consequences, I doubt they will look much like the three we see here. Let's address them in turn...and add my own prognostications.

Regarding recommended consequence #1, it will be a mixed bag. Rowan will likely say something. He may indicate that American bishops might be disinvited from Lambeth if he feels like being a hard-ass that day. But that's quite a few years away, and he will not do anything that violates the jurisdictional integrity of American Province, which is TEC. The Primates Meeting will have the strongest reaction and will be sure to unseat Katherine from their counsels. They will issue a strong statement and use whatever weight they have to have America publicly reprimanded, and most the Anglican Communion will officially cut ties with TEC (if they haven't already). The ACC will wobble. The American delegation will show up, the Global South delegations will move to have them excluded, but like last time (when section 4 of the Covenant was sliced off from the 2nd Draft) some political maneuvering will occur, causing the Global South to walk out--leaving the ACC, as an official instrument of the Anglican Communion, still "in Communion" with TEC. In short, it will be a mess, and likely halt the Covenant process.

Regarding consequence #2, the Primates meeting will probably give a nod to Communion Partners, not as though that will accomplish much. Many like me are sympathetic to the aims of Communion Partners, but they're not exactly batting down the doors to join. Unless it is seen as the clear Communion response for maintaining ties with the rest of the Communion, it will be seen as ineffectual, political, or some combination of the two. Rowan might push to create some new structure with Communion Partners as its base. But without the support of the ACC (as essentially a TEC "colony" within the Anglican Communion) and the antagonism the Primates' Meeting is likely to cause, it will be a long slog to come up with something functional. Again, look for no help from afar.

Regarding consequence #3, the Primates will heartily endorse the ACNA as the "new Province" in North America. Rowan will reject this and uphold TEC as the official American Province, as will the ACC. And no one from TEC or ACNA will be invited to Lambeth, punishing us both as the errant children we are.

Of course, miracles do happen...Maranatha!