07 December 2008

The schism - a reporter finally gets it right

I am breaking the Lord's Day rest for the first time since I began this blog.

An article appeared 7 December in the Huffington Post. It is by Logan Nakyanzi Pollard. When I saw the headline, I thought, in a sarcastic manner, "Oh, great, this out to be good." But in her article, Who will be the History Makers, Pollard demonstrates that she really understands the real issue, not the rally point.

Pollard had interviewed both Bishop Lamb and Mr. Schofield for a radio programme. She cuts to the heart of the matter, rather quickly:

But in actuality the breaking of the union is over a battle over a literal versus non-literal read of The Bible. As breakaway "Anglican" [Mr] John-David Schofield and (non-breakaway) Episcopalian Bishop Jerry Lamb agreed (both interviewed on a radio show I produced this week, both from the same San Joaquin region in California) this is really about scripture, namely who has the power to interpret words: present day 'you' (says the Anglican Communion) or the 'you' (say the breakaway folks) who wrote the words in the past. It's about a fundamentalist reading of The Bible.

Schofield and his minority followers want to stick with the old ways; they've been agitated about gays (and ordained women) for a while. By contrast, the majority of the Anglican Communion is willing to live-and-let live and change with the times.

She then nail the schismatic movement

So the question is this - when do you know when the agitating is wrong or right? Is the breakaway church really proposing "new" thinking or is it re-packaging old ideas? And why now?

Uganda was colonized by the British and most of my father's side of the family grew up with the teachings of the Church of England. These days, some of my relatives have turned to a different shade of religion. They're born-again Christians. This brand has a ghoulish strain of piety, some think that AIDS is cured by faith (so you die of AIDS for lack of devotion) others believe that anyone who is not "saved" is damned... [it]is not especially funny. Nor is it stupidity...It's years of ... all sorts of deprivations that make them feel afraid, hopeless, lacking. (Sound familiar? Sure it does, this cycle repeats itself other places).

My relatives are looking for stability in a shifting environment and they've found it in this brand of fundamentalism. It's also precisely because of this pain that that their ill-conceived beliefs cannot be underestimated. I do not underrate how strongly they will hold onto their ideas, nor what they will do to "defend" them. There's hardly a thing I could say or do to snap them out of it.

I'm telling you this to underline a point. We might laugh at the ignorant or the intolerant, but there are consequences to disregarding them both.

Case in point: In 2001, a cult which grew out of a quasi-Roman Catholic sect in Uganda killed most of its followers, some 1,000 men, women and children. When I was in Uganda in 2001, reporting on this story for ABCNEWS, my base question was, how could this happen?

It was a regular day and all these people died at the hands of folks they were literally praying with the day before. It was banal and easy. Even more disturbing, I remember speaking with followers from other thriving fundamentalist Christian churches and coming home to the relatives I staying with and hearing the same views parroted back. It wouldn't take much for the 2001 tragedy repeat, if only for the prevalence of these views.

As my granny used to say, "And that's how the cows eat the cabbage, kids." That is the danger in the fundamentalist movement.

It seems to me, we have to be vigilantly aware of the power we have to make history. I'm not saying the breakaway Anglicans are suicidal cultists, but I am saying that both groups do converge at some point.

And I think it comes together here: Fundamentalists, cultists ... and what I'm calling old thinkers are about trying to find comfort in things that cannot protect anyone.

The breakaway Anglicans, for example, claim they are unifiers in order to disguise their actions: dividing the community and excluding gays and sometimes women from leadership positions. As the breakaway group advertises:

"Some of us have been praying for this for decades. Instead of focusing on things that divide us, we as orthodox Anglicans are focusing on the things that unite us."
And then she nails the coffin closed:
But the truly terrible and crazy among us are happy to make history. They see the power of the individual and they become the history makers because their individual influence delights them.
It's nice to see a reporter finally "get it" for a change.