June 17, 2006

More Episcopalian Talk

Fr. Manning's an openly celibate priest

Still hyp-mo-tized by the Episcopalians in town. Heard some of the protagonists and antagonists on Larry King’s show. Three were pro-homosexual sex (including Andrew Sullivan and Bishop Gene Robinson) and three anti-. The anti- folks seemed to track well with their respective religious groups. The Baptist emphasized Scripture (though surprisingly he said that we look to tradition for help in interpreting Scripture). He insinuated gays need not be gay; they can be transformed by the power of grace. Which seemed a Cross-less Christianity though at the same time is indicative of an adamnant faith that refuses to sell God’s power short. The Catholic priest emphasized the positive side: you can be gay and have deep friendships and love – but it just can’t be physical. No sex; a definite cross. He argued from a natural law perspective, how we have to track as closely as we can to the true purpose of sex. Men are made for women and vice-versa. And the third fellow, an Episcopalian priest, basically argued that 2,000 years of Christian tradition can’t be wrong and that Scripture should be the standard against which we measure ourselves rather than the other way around. Sullivan kept insisting that he can’t bear false witness and to deny that he’s gay would be to bear false witness. Absurd, because the priest had that covered. You can be gay, you just can’t make it about sex. And the fact that that is never taken seriously means that despite protestations to the contrary, being gay is about sex. Duh. But that doesn't make their situation less pitiable; they are called to be saints and that many are resisting is not exactly an unfamiliar situation, gay or straight.

A commenter on a blog thread about the King show said that the big elephant in the room that went unmentioned was the Fall and how things aren’t the way they should be after that. It’s interesting that the priest (Fr. Manning) argued from nearly the opposite perspective. That nature is good and that nature intends men be with women for the positive purpose of children.

Sullivan's attitude is symptomatic of modern Christianity in the West, which is the attitude that we’ve already seemingly errored on the side of too much rigor so why not error on the side of too little rigor for awhile? From "masturbation will cause insanity" and "the death penalty for sodomites" to "gay sex is God's will" in one easy ...er...stroke. Reading about Presybterians of the 18th and 19th centuries is illuminating as they are the anti-Sullivans. Back then God took all “ties” – in other words, any doubt about something was settled in favor of the more rigorous fashion. Now not only does man take all ties but more often than not man is taking even what is clearly God’s. The head of the Episcopalian church – the one who promoted Gene Robinson to bishop - argued that we’ve learned so much in the past centuries in the fields of medicine and physics then why not sexuality? But is it really that we have learned so much about sexuality or that we have made it our god because it’s tough enough getting through life without forgoeing pleasures that modern man has come to expect?

The Episcopalian prelate was asked by Larry King to sympathize with Sullivan but surprisingly he tried to one-up Sullivan's victimhood and play one too. He said that he wishes he and other orthodox folk weren’t being marginalized and isolated in the present Episcopalian church. Can we buy that Episcopalianism is as important to the prelate as sex is to Andrew? Maybe we could if we lived in a different age?

CNN kept showing the graphic beneath Gene Robinson referring to him as an “openly gay bishop”. I thought a possible parody be to have a graphic under Fr. Manning that said “openly celibate priest”. It seems in today’s world celibacy is rejected out of hand and is now more courageous than being openly gay.

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