After a recent exchange on another blog, I’d like to address a few reasons why reasserters and reappraisers do not understand each others’ arguments. It seems to me that we see our current context with very different lenses, and thus our discussions easily veer off track.
What I’d like to offer are a series of broader issues, one that isn’t exhaustive, that shape the conflict. Perhaps by examining these descriptively, we can address our different prescriptions.
1. A general crisis of authority. Over the last 50 years, all our major institutions are not trusted by the laity. There has been a crisis in the authority of scripture and the church. This parallels a lack of trust in governments as well.
2. An alteration in the relationship between public and private. Sex was once private, but is now ubiquitous, in part because it is used to sell products. Public persons are not merely individuals representing institutions, but persons who’s private lives are also public.
3. The introduction of the market into institutions that had previously been sheltered from competition. These include the church, social service organizations, and unions.
4. The immediacy of communication. This undermines the virtues of reflection, prudence and even the Sabbath itself. Videos and emails are exchanged quickly without consideration about their underlying meanings or the proper audience. Although audiences are easily segmented, anyone can be a hearer, and may hear exactly the opposite of what the speaker intends.
5. The reconceptualization of place. Cyberspace dictates the rules of civil engagement. Geography has less of a hold on identity. Much of our battle happens in cyberspace, and not in person. However, it is still physical persons who make decisions and operate institutions.
6. The social engagement of more Americans with non-Christians. This directly impacts how the average lay person thinks of heaven, hell and the uniqueness of Christian doctrine.
7. The diminishing consequences of sex outside of marriage.
8. The effect of capital upon churches and the liberation of desire for the sake of profit.
9. Our lives and ideologies are generally fragmented, and we put them back together again sometimes in haphazard ways.
Until we can get an accurate description of our cultural context, it will be a challenge for us to even understand our proscriptions.
By and large, the progressive church has accepted the impact of liberal capitalism into the sphere of social relationships. Some have some antagonism toward neo-liberal / libertarian economic policies, but by and large it accepts the colonial, bourgeois, world-view. I am saying this as a description.
The conservatives generally accept, however, the place of the US as an empire, but are unwilling to adapt a pre-modern understanding of cosmology and the role of the church.
There seems to a be some link between social conservatism, political conservatism and theological conservatism, but I don’t think the links are intellectually necessary. One can be a theological conservative and an economic progressive; a theological liberal and a libertarian or neo-conservative. I can say that I share a cultural identity (bourgeois, private college, suburban/urban, Yankee) with people who call themselves “liberal.” What that means on a daily basis changes.
4 thoughts on “Prolegomena to the Current Anglican Crisis”
Would you please expand upon your next-to-last paragraph? I don’t understand what you are trying to say.
I tried to clarify it! Hope it helps!
Well…maybe I should have been clearer about what I don’t understand.
What do you mean by liberal capitalism? What kind of impact does it have on social relationships? What do you mean by “neo-liberal/libertarian economic policies”? In what way does the progressive church “accept the colonial, bourgeois worldview”? (And am I understanding “colonial, bourgeois worldview” correctly — now that I think about it, I couldn’t explain what that means.)
I think that needs an entry of its own. I’d love to get your picture of what you think the progressive worldview is. It’s so hard to see from inside it, don’t you know.
My argument is that many of the social changes around us are a consequence of capital rearranging the system. The liberation of women (especially middle class women) economically from marriage; the ability for people to live independently; our ability to choose – are all somehow linked to capitalism. It’s a bit counter intuitive in our current context, perhaps. By Capitalism I mean, especially, the liberation of money from, say, feudal arrangements (such as women not having property).
However, let me also say that in my view capitalism is primarily a system of coordinating people’s desires. It is not perfect or just, but this is where a responsible state or third-sector organizations come in. I also think that capitalism corrodes community and its virtues.