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POLITICS AS USUAL

Those of you who know me, one way or another, realize that I love words and hate to surrender them when they are misused. Of course its a dangerous vocation because there’s always someone around who wants to catch one out. It is in this vein that I write about politics. It’s amusing, all right, annoying when a politician accuses a foe of “playing politics.” Politics is (are) necessary and unavoidable. What is avoidable, one hopes for Christians, is the use of political methods and habits which are not “holy”. “All’s fair in love and war” and religion it would seem.

I was thinking of this when I read about the Bishop of New Hampshire’s plans, and date for entering into a “civil partnership”. when I read the Minns/Akinola missive and mulled over the agenda adopted by the ACN Oh yes and the coy letter from the Sydney bishops to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The problem is that when one suggests that political methods are inappropriate as tools in the Christian arsenal, one is accused of being a pacifist. I should think that any Christian worth her or his salt has gone back to the issue of pacifism over and over again and felt uneasy. But I don’t think I am a pacifist in a precise sense. On the other hand I do take our Lord’s words about cheek turning, “until seventy times seven”, walking the extra mile, disposing of clothing and cross-bearing as an important area in which I should be earnest if seldom successful.

I don’t blame the Archbishop of Canterbury’s taking a sabbatical at this time. Perhaps he is reminding us all that a season of prayer and study, even in, or perhaps more vitally in times of crisis is splendidly Christian and a true mark of leadership. I do hope that the Archbishop hasn’t read the threats, promises and insults aimed at him by liberals and conservatives alike. In the world of politics, character assassination is fair game, particularly in America. So are brinkmanship, seeking to force someone’s hand, threatening a withdrawal of funds or help, law suits, and the whole arsenal of “in your face tactics” about which there emanates the smell of sulphur. Certainly it is more difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the other Instruments of Unity in the Communion, even our own bishops to address calmly and dispassionately the extraordinary problems they face when all and sundry do their best to beat the drums of war.

I would not blame the archbishop at all if he flew to New Orleans, met the bishops and then said to us all, “Cool it” or however that is expressed in academic English. I would not blame him if he urged the primates to invite all to Lambeth and then locked them all in the University of Kent on a diet of shepherds’ pie and Bishop’s Finger ale, provided only with the 1549 BCP in its original English, and perhaps the Britches Bible until they emerge saying, “It seems good the Holy Spirit and to us.”

Why was +Rowan Williams appointed Archbishop of Canterbury? That we can’t know for sure. If one compares him with the long line of archbishops who have occupied the throne of St. Augustine he stands out and is numbered in a very small and select company of them for his holiness, scholarship, humility and brilliance. I wouldn’t say that he is a brilliant strategist or politician or even an ordinary one. There are plenty around on all sides who one might fit into such a category. Indeed his reputation suffers in the media and among his peers because he is extraordinary and people, yes even bishops, don’t really like extraordinary people. They tend to make one feel inadequate, not a sensation beloved among purple personages liberal or conservative.

I believe that +Rowan’s gifts are for such a time as this. The answer to our present dilemma is not to be found in politics, the triumphalism (or defeatism) of the Cause-champions, in strategies, calculations, threats and counter-threats, but in patience, long-suffering, humility, love, empathy, in loving even those who despitefully use us, in speaking the truth in self-sacrificing love. In such a context all “sides”, “parties”, factions, theological positions and most of all the practice of true religon among us come under judgement and no one may cast the first stone.

There can be no solution to the things that so grievously beset us until we abandon politics as usual and return to a humble waiting on God. We all need to repent, we all need to seek reconciliation, we all need to cool it.

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