January 7, 2011

Anglican Fighting

In the following I speak for no one but myself.

I was a string bean adolescent who did his best to keep out of fights. The few I got into did not go well; even just the thought of violence being visited upon my skinny frame would make me cringe and sway inside, no matter how bravely fixed I may have set my jaw. Suffice to say: I didn't go looking for trouble, but when it found me as a ready target, it tended to pounce.

Fights did break out, though, and particularly as I recall in junior high. If you were close by, you could stand in a distant circle and watch the combatants strut and preen and wail and stomp the asphalt like kabuki warriors. Actual fisticuffs were limited, though a certain number of rudimentary wrestling holds were often employed to simulate violence.

The main thing I remember about fights is that they never lasted for very long. Some administrator or teacher got wind and stepped in quickly, leaving the proclamation of victory not to the strongest but usually to the swiftest -- whoever could manage that one well-aimed punch. But then it was generally over, and we were dispersed to some less malign activity.

In other words, what I associate with fighting as an act of pure physical violence or aggression is something that starts spontaneously and ends in an instant. Insults are traded, the ante is upped, someone gets off a kick or a punch; then it's over.

I suppose that's all by way of contrast, because the protracted nature of the fight currently consuming the Anglican Communion has broken all my inner referents about what a fight is and what it looks like and, mostly importantly, how long it's supposed to take.

Teenagers spit and hiss and lock arms, and then a teacher runs out and it's done. We who call ourselves adults have been arguing with one another for so long that it's virtually exhausted us.

In the run-up to the fight, we had years to intellectualize, theorize, theologize. We didn't know it, but we were cutting out trenches and strategically connecting them.

Then, when precipitating factors landed (about seven years ago in my time), we had objects of scorn -- individuals and organizations we could point to that externalized and concretized what the fight was going to be about. And we were ready.

I cannot imagine how dreadful it would be to watch a thing as simple as a cloud wind itself into a hurricane, but this is what has happened.

I speak about, and to, virtually each and every one of us.

This fight is killing us. We are bone-weary. Why can't we see that?

How I long for this to be done and the consequences pronounced and the combatants made to come to some form of peace. I'm aware that I say this as one who's found himself aligned, as one with passionately held opinions who's doing his best to keep it together.

But you can't fight with one hand and make peace with the other. Not if you expect to keep your nose intact.

Meanwhile, we trench further down and think through the logistics of the battle. No one is coming to break this up. From here there is no end in sight. The unique gift of Anglicans within the body of "that wonderful and sacred mystery" called the church withers, its gifts and witness retracted. Those with no stake in the fight can't look away; they've encircled us; yet we mistake their interest in our looming disaster for something else -- something we call witness.

Whither charity? Where is the other cheek? Walking a mile in the other guy's shoes? Just how far did we have to come -- on either side of the Anglican fence -- for us to not be able to flinch or at least (at least?) recognize Christ in the other?

For that matter, whither the wisdom of truly visionary global leadership? Do we really think that administration and procedure are going to make things better? We counted on an intervention from cooler heads, and instead of throwing themselves between us, they showed up in a referee's shirt and read us the rules for how to destroy each other. (If Anglicans are anything, it's orderly.) Is that helping?

Meanwhile, wretches that we are, who will save us from this body of death?


WSJM said...

I have to admit, Torey, that I think you are right, and I have been one of the kids standing in the surrounding circle and cheering for The Good Guy. (Pick your Good Guy.) And I think you are right that You-Know-Who needs to take off his referee's jersey, put his master's gown back on, tell us all to knock it off and sit down and talk with each other. ("Indaba," he calls it. Good idea.)

WSJM said...

Following up on my own comment: I see that You-Know-Who has still not responded to Dr. Fellows' excellent letter. "Indaba" indeed.