Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Traditional morality = bigotry?

Renowned WaPo theologian Harold Meyerson likes Episcopalians just fine, so long as they don’t pose any inconveniently Biblical challenges to liberal orthodoxy. Of course, the real problem with those pesky conservative Episcopalians is the even peskier (though now deceased) Pope John Paul II:

John Paul also sought to build his church in nations of the developing world where traditional morality and bigotry, most especially on matters sexual, were in greater supply than in secular Europe and the increasingly egalitarian United States, and more in sync with the Catholic Church’s inimitable backwardness. Now America’s schismatic Episcopalians are following in his footsteps -- traditionalists of the two great Western hierarchical Christian churches searching the globe for sufficiently benighted bishops.


Discussions - 8 Comments

He has a point. It is odd that religious conservatives must turn to the most primitive parts of the world (in terms of literacy, economic development, educational infrastructure, and just about everything else that the West has historically used as a measure of civilization) to gain support for their ideas, yet this does not cause them to pause and rethink their assumptions and reevaluate their beliefs. One might also note the rampant polygamy in the African churches (including both Anglican and Roman bishops), but I suspect the parishes in question were more interested in thumbing their noses at Western modernity than in consistency.

It is odd that religious conservatives must turn to the most primitive parts of the world (in terms of literacy, economic development, educational infrastructure, and just about everything else that the West has historically used as a measure of civilization)

Rudyard Kipling was more concise.

In 1935, Germany was among the world’s most literate, economically developed, and educated of nations. You could have called it ’civilized’ as well, provided that the term was given a footnote and a properly circumscribed definition of said term was supplied.

In 1935 Germany was also filled with fairly traditional Christians (and the fairly traditional Christian vice of antisemitism). The reductio ad Hitlerum (to use Strauss’ phrase) is a fairly useless rhetorical device that evinces a fundamental desire to evade the problem. Besides, the Nazi Volk und Reich notion could actually more plausibly be viewed more as a revolt of primitive impulses against modernity and the liberalism of the Weimar Republic, and thus as a repudiation of the very literacy and economic development you cite. Indeed, the libel that the Nazi’s used to the greatest effect was that the jews--who were conspicuously well-educated and economically successful--secretly had disenfranchised the average German and were undermining the legitimate dominance of the old German cultural heritage.

Your definition of ’civilization’ was deficient.

I am evading no problems.

Encoded in your initial point was the idea that technological development or education can be identified with moral progress. It cannot.

Not necessarily, but given that ethics is and must be a field of rational inquiry (as a corrollary to the proposition that the trait that distinguishes man from the lower animals is logos), those societies (or segments of society) that value reasoned inquiry and have an infrastructure supporting it are more likely to make accurate ethical assessments than those that do not. And I maintain that the Germany example is an example of rebellion against modernity and civilization, not embrace of it.

Or more likely to construct sophisticated justifications for their appetites

Please note that in assessing the internal affairs of Anglican dioceses, what we are comparing are not ’societies’ but the moral understandings of paritular ecclesiastics. My own sour experience in that confession may be unrepresentative, but I found the bulk of the clergy therein ordained after about 1955 differentiated themselves from ordinary people primarily in their facility with techniques of interpersonal manipulation and/or evasive maneuver. Very educated people, though.

Oh, for what it’s worth, this, from Richard John Neuhaus:

To the joy of some and the distress of others, the last Lambeth Conference, the decennial gathering of the worldwide Anglican communion, strongly reaffirmed biblical and traditional teaching on a number of subjects, including sexual morality. American bishops were in the lead in promoting the acceptance of homosexual acts and unions. African bishops took the lead in opposing such changes. When their plans were thwarted, some Americans explained in a none too subtle way that Africans did not understand the issues and, as one American bishop suggested, were but one generation away from the jungle. Canon George Conger, editor of Lambeth Directory, offers some pertinent data. In Nigeria, for instance, there are sixty–two dioceses for 17.5 million Anglicans. In the U.S., there are more than twice as many bishops (139) for about one–eighth as many Episcopalians (2.4 million). Put differently, in Nigeria there is a bishop for every 282,000 people, and in the U.S. a bishop for every 17,000. African bishops, he notes, are, by and large, better educated than their Western counterparts in the U.S., Canada, England, et al. Of the forty–three Nigerian bishops for whom educational information is available, six hold a research degree (Ph.D.) and two hold doctorates of ministry (D.Min.). Of the 139 American bishops, three have research degrees and fifteen have a D.Min., which is not a research degree but a professional degree awarded by seminaries. At least 14 percent of Nigerian bishops and 22 percent of Indian bishops hold research degrees, compared with 2 percent of American bishops. The lowest level of academic qualifications is found among American female bishops. Barbara Harris of Massachusetts, for but one example, did not graduate from college or attend seminary. Of course a degree does not a bishop make, but this helps put into perspective the condescending contention—some think not untouched by racism—that bishops from Africa and other developing nations are not equipped to understand the questions in dispute.

Daniel might consider this: in 1914, Germany was absolutely the best educated and most cultured, and by progressive standards, the most advanced country in the world. They has social insurance before ANYBODY. They had an elected Parliament with vigorous debate.

And they still gave us WWI, and its inevitable rematch given Versailles.

Hitler was a pagan rationalist. Scientifically advanced; cruise missles, jets, Zyklon-B and eugenics. Morally regressive; tribalism & death-cultism. Thus rationality without faith.

As a theologian, Meyerson is a good politician. If you tell a man he has an Iron-Clad God-Given "Right" to his sin, you are killing that man. If you make him a leader in your church specifically because of his sin, you are killing your church and telling God that you know better than He. Sexual issues are not the center of Christian morality--Pride and Humility are.

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