McCarthyism in Church Politics

Last summer, when I was visiting the Church in Nigeria, some of my blog posts got picked up by the American Anglican Council. I was accused of preaching “deviant theology” (especially for this post about a diocese trying to educate girls). I didn’t think much about the comment but I did start keeping an eye on some of the more polemical Anglican web sites out there, both conservative and not.

At the same time, you might remember, Congress was consumed by a conversation (a generous word, perhaps) about raising the federal debt ceiling. As I listened to that debate and read Anglican commentary, I was struck by the similarity in the rhetoric: scorched-earth, difference-equals-wrong, the-apocalypse-is-around-the-corner-if-the-other-side-gets-their-way, etc., etc. You know how it is.

I still keep an occasional eye on the American Anglican Council and was recently perusing their quarterly newsletter. There’s coverage in there of a recent meeting in South Africa that was—gasp!—not polemically opposed to same-gender marriage. On the face of it, this article is not awful. In fact, it’s more coverage than many other Anglican news organizations mustered about the event.

What’s chilling about it, however, is the inclusion of a list of participants—sometimes quite vague; someone “who spoke about oppression of women,” for instance—with the clear indication that participating in such a conversation was somehow an indictable offense. Forget, indictment, actually. The tone of it is that they are already guilty. It seems a clear case of judging people by whom they chose to meet and interact with.

You know who else was judged for exactly that? A Galilean carpenter. That same Galilean carpenter who once stopped at a well in Samaria of all places for a drink, a place where no one expected him to be, and talked with a woman, someone he wasn’t supposed to be talking to. And the result? Transformation, for the woman and her town, as she became the gospel’s first evangelist.

My travels in the world church have repeatedly prompted one question in me: what would happen if Anglicans, modeling themselves on Jesus, started showing up in places where no one expects us to be and listening to people who are different to us?

I don’t know for sure but I do know we’ll never get there if we keep terrorizing people who try to do exactly that.

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2 thoughts on “McCarthyism in Church Politics

  1. Lee Cheek

    Thank you, Jesse. You seem to know what Bonhoeffer has already said: “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer. The only profitable relationship to others–and especially to our weaker brethern–is one of love, and that means the will to hold fellowship with them. God himself did not despise humanity, but became man for men’s sake.” (Letters & Papers from Prison, p. 10)

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