aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Morning ruminations

Not much on my FB feed from St. Louis this morning. A few of my more progressive colleagues here and there are posting about their grief and anger at the results of yesterday's legislative process, but even that is subdued. Meanwhile, I am reading almost nothing from the traditionalists, especially those on site.

I am guessing that 1) they are exhausted by all this. And 2) they know they have another day to go, and have to marshal their resources to do it all over again, with who knows what bishop in the chair, under what conditions the Judicial Council may announce this morning, and so on. Then, too, 3) they don't want to be insensitive to their fellow UMs who lost yesterday.

What few things I can find about the reactions of both sides demonstrate how little either group understands the other. I think the traditionalists understand the progressives somewhat better than the progressives understand the traditionalists, at least here in the US, because we live and work under conditions set by the progressives. Politics -- including ecclesiastical politics -- is downstream from culture, and the progressives control the culture, certainly in the wider society, but also in the church. They dominate the narrative, theirs are the public faces of our leadership, the official church organs favor their point of view in many ways. So we trads are used to having to explain ourselves -- as nicely as we can -- to others.

One progressive poster (linked to by a friend) said that he was horrified that if the Traditional Plan prevailed, he would have to "sign a contract" that he wouldn't do certain things. He and others could lose their jobs if they didn't sign, or if they broke said contract. I wouldn't put it that way -- a covenant is not exactly a contract, but let that go. But I was puzzled. I remember quite clearly making a series of promises -- very clear promises -- about what I would teach and what I would do. I'm sure that the same promises were required of this poster. I understood that if I broke those promises, I could be held accountable. What is that, but "signing a contract" and risking one's job? And what are we on this side doing, but attempting to fulfill the vows we made, as ones who will have to give an account?

Ah, but said another poster, I was told that things were changing, and those old rules were being lifted. Again, I shook my head. No doubt that was what this person was told. We have many people in authority who administer the membership and ordination vows with a nod and a wink. They remind me of the Steward is C.S. Lewis's allegory, The Pilgrim's Regress. In that story, the young John is taken to a religious leader for his instruction. The Steward is a friendly man, but after a time he puts on a scary mask.
The Steward then took down from a peg a big card with small print all over it, and said, 'Here is a list of all the things the Landlord says you must not do. You'd better look at it.' So John took the card: but half the rules seemed to forbid things he had never heard of, and the other half forbade things he was doing every day and could not imagine not doing: and the number of the rules was so enormous that he felt he could never remember them all. 'I hope,' said the Steward, 'that you have not already broken any of the rules?' John's heart began to thump and his eyes bulged more and more, and he was at his wit's end when the Steward took the mask off and looked at John with his real face and said, 'Better tell a lie, old chap, better tell a lie. Easiest for all concerned,' and popped the mask on his face all in a flash.
As Lewis said elsewhere, he was a converted pagan living among apostate Puritans. And there are many such "Stewards" in the leadership of our church, apostate Puritans (they would say, "recovering Puritans," maybe) who rattle off the words of our ritual and our Discipline, but who see it all as a meaningless formality. They do not believe in the goodness of the vision those words convey, and they do not expect even an attempt at obedience from those whom they catechize or commission. Now, I am no rule-monger, and I struggle as much as anybody in attempting to conform myself to the standards of Christ and the Church. I want to be merciful, as one who desires mercy for himself. But I can't help wonder: Who joins an organization under the assumption that it will be something else later than what it says it is now, so you don't have to obey the rules of that organization? And why should this disappointed person be angry at folks like me, who are simply trying to fulfill our vows, and not at the people who told her those comfortable lies to get her to join?

Oh, well. One more day. May it not be too painful, for any of us. And then everybody goes home and we start the process for electing delegates for the regular General Conference next year. As I told Deanne today, one side scores and then we kick off to the other team and we do it all over again. I am so tired of this.

But I promised.

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