January 11, 2010

Unity at what cost?

Those who built the tower of Babel did so as a means to promote their unity and prevent their dispersal. The problem was that God was not at the heart of their plan, but a handmade "door to heaven." Those who sought a comprehensive unity ended with mutual incomprehension.

Meanwhile, in the Great White North it seems a Girardian game of "Scape the Goat" is under way. This is a familiar scene in tea-shop and schoolyard, where a cozy feeling of fellowship and commonality (and I dare say, communion) is engendered between two parties by tut-tutting about an absent third party. Sometimes a similar dialogue takes place between a self-acknowledged sinner and her God, "I thank you, God, that I am not as bad as _______." None of these is a very pretty sight. When, after all, does community become conspiracy?

I am growing weary of the manners and morals of the schoolyard.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Wormwood's Doxy said...

Dear Friend is a big fan of the work of Edwin Friedman, who developed "family systems" theory. Friedman talked about the "identified patient" (i.e., the one who is seen as "the problem") and the dangers of "triangling" (where A has a problem with C, but goes to B to complain about it).

Apparently, the Anglican Communion is nothing more than a big ol' dysfunctional family, and TEC has been labeled as the identified patient. So the Lambeth Lackeys (A) and the Canadian bishops (B) have gotten together to slag on TEC (C).

Where's an Anglican Friedman when you need him?


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Sad to say, the bishops should be exercising the Friedman-like function of wise pastors, but for the most part they are the nub of the dysfunction, particularly from the See of Canterbury. It started with G Carey's inappropriate manipulation of Lambeth 1998, and many hoped R Williams would set that right; but he got triangulated over Jeffrey John and it has been downhill ever since.

Briefly to speak in his favor, even if it is damning with faint praise, I think Rowan actually critiques us because he thinks we will listen and engage -- he knows that anything he says about the Globular South is wasted air. But that is also an example of the dysfunction. A real pastor knows that sometimes you have to speak to all sides even if there is only hope for attentive listening from one. Rowan has appeared to take the side of the Gafconites even thought that is precisely what he doesn't want to do! As a pastor, he makes a good academic... ;-(

PS. speaking of dysfunction, did you note the link to the Codependency site? It is all part of the same picture.

June Butler said...

I am growing weary of the manners and morals of the schoolyard.

Thee and me. Besides, I thought comparisons were odious.

Erika Baker said...

You say over on TA that you're not a Girardian but it all has the hallmarks of Girard's community building through scapegoating.
That's very very true and it's getting worse.

The real questions is why? And I'm afraid that Christians, who should be more tuned in to the danger of scapegoating than people who don't follow the example of Jesus, are even more subceptible because they always manage to have God on their side, whatever view they hold. And that gives you an added layer of certainty, you can abdicate your personal responsibility by pointing at God's will, and you can feel incredibly virtuous about your actions.

It's almost as if the natural flip-side of faith is the increased likelyhood of behaving selfishly without even being aware of it.

The question is what can be done about it? I reckon James Alison ought to be required reading for everyone.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Mimi, I think some are building an Odeon!

Erika, when I say I'm not a Girardian, what I mean is that I accept a good many of his observations, but I don't necessarily buy his theory, that is, his explanation of how it all hangs together. But I think it is an observable fact that people build solidarity on their critique of those outside their in-group, and I see that happening here.

As to escaping the syndrome, it is pernicious, this whole "judgment" thing -- which is no doubt why Jesus said, "Don't do it." For any of us even to repeat that (which is what I hope I am doing) opens the danger of, "I'm so glad I'm not one of those people who says, 'I'm so glad I'm not one of those people who _______.'" and so on in an infinite regression into the pit of Hell! Someone has to just say, "Stop! That's not the way" not so much in judgment as in warning; which is what I am trying to do.

And yes, J Alison is a good resource in this....

Erika Baker said...

what has been occupying my mind is Alison's thought that the only way to escape this predicament is avoid engaging in a conversation framed in those parameters.
It's a bit like a conversation about the bible gets nowhere if we simply counter a "it says this" with a "oh no it doesn't, it says that". What we should do is to refuse to engage at that level altogether and move the conversation to a broader level that's not concerned with an easy right or wrong.

Too much of our Covenant conversation has been about “you don’t meet the criteria” - “oh yes we do”. Or to end up sulking and saying “in that case, we no longer want to play with you!” At that level of engagement it’s very difficult for us not to fall into the trap of becoming judgemental and of simply wanting to win over the ones we perceive to be our opponents. And so the playground mentality grows and feeds off the reactions of each other.

I don’t quite know what a genuine opting out of this framework could look like. I rather think your idea of considering signing the Covenant while declaring openly that you will not abandon your integrity with respect to lgbt people may just be one such step towards shifting the conversation to a different level.

If I think of it in terms of transactional analysis, we have degenerated from speaking to each other on an adult to adult level but are shouting child to child level across the divide. It’s very hard to remain an adult if someone else is determined to drag you down to child level, but it’s worth the effort.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Erika, this, in general, is what I've been trying to do -- forgetting about people's motives (or the motives of the Covenant) and seriously looking at what it says, and if we can sign it, signing it. Then we'll see what happens. All the talk-talk-talk has been reactive instead of proactive.

I'm reminded of what Jesus did when the Nazarenes wanted to throw him from the cliff: "passing through the midst of them, he went on his way."

Americans have a deep need to be "liked" and this whole process has been pushing our buttons and "hooking our child" (to use the TA phrase). We need to act as adults, look at the Covenant for what it actually says, and then reach an informed decision about signing it or not.

Unknown said...

Indeed it is like a tea-shop where extra servings of the bread of anxiety are served to all.

Too, another dialogue comes to mind, one between the newly freed Hebrew people and Moses where they pined, "Oh, that we were back in Egypt!" This is the cry of those who would have the bad old days back rather than learning to be a pilgrim people.

Anglocat said...

For what it's worth, I say don't sign it. It's a trap, a fix, a request for us to submit to the "reasserters" jurisdiction and their process--and thus a tacit admission that absent such a submission, they have no grounds to expel us. Let them "intensify their relationships" with GAFCON.

Do I sound paranoid? Perhaps; but I've been a litigator for almost 20years. Sniffing out legalistic traps is what I do.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

James, and Anglocat, as I just posted on another thread, I think we need to approach this as not a fait accompli but as contract negotiation. We should spell out what we can agree to in the Covenanr, and what not, and let that be known. We have been grovelling at the feet of the idol of unity and have forgotten that the unity of differences means nothing is those differences are subsumed into a mass of undifferentiated soup. We do not want a Blancmange Communion! We need tough negotiation and honesty, and standing up to bullies.

Marshall Scott said...

Considering the comments of the Pastoral Visitors, perhaps we can commend to them the "mosaic diversity" they so admire in Canadian life as an appropriate model of for the Communion. ;-)