Sunday, November 3, 2013

They Gave a Schism and Nobody Came: Commentary on Christian Right's Loss of Culture War vs. Gays in Europe and America, Transfer of Battle to Africa

This tells me that discussion of the anti-gay politics of the U.S. religious right has gone mainstream (and thank God for that development): for ABC's "Top Line" and Yahoo News this past week, Olivier Knox and Rick Klein interview Roger Ross Williams about his new movie, "God Loves Uganda." Williams tells Knox and Klein,*

All the evangelicals I followed told me that they feel they've lost the culture war here in America as marriage equality is passed state by state, the recent Supreme Court rulings . . . . But they are winning in the global South and especially in Africa and Uganda.

Klein asks Williams, 

People that go in there with this kind of purpose, do they think of themselves first and foremost as there to help or do they think of themselves first and foremost to convert souls?

Williams replies,

They don't do any humanitarian work. They don't build schools or hospitals or help people. They go in to just, it's a numbers game, convert souls and that's it. 

And, as if writing a footnote to what Williams says in this interview, at almost the same time that Yahoo/ABC aired this video clip, Andrew Brown noted for The Guardian that "the Anglican Communion is now quite dead." It tried to give a schism over the issues of gay rights and women's rights, and no one came. 

Brown notes that this past week, leaders of the evangelical wing of the Church of England held a press conference to tell reporters about their recent experiences at Gafcon, a conference of conservative Anglicans who had just met in Nairobi. The press conference? Three journalists came to interview two retired bishops, three vicars, and one of their wives.

What has happened to make the promised schism of these anti-gay, anti-women's ordination Anglicans fizzle so dismally? In Brown's view, "[T]he movement of public opinion on sexuality has completely overwhelmed that of church politicians." And the conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England could not see this coming, because they lived within a "bubble of self-importance" and were coddled in their bubble by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. 

But then, "[T]he fight about gay marriage made it apparent to the main body of the church – and to Justin Welby – that their attitudes were repulsive and immoral to the majority of people in this country." Welby is the successor of Williams. Brown sums up Williams's time in office as Archbishop of Canterbury in the following devastating way:

But almost the only decisive act of Rowan Williams' time in office was the rejection, by a clear majority of committed churchgoers, of his "covenant" – a plan to bind the Church of England into the structures of the rest of the Anglican Communion. No one here wants to be told what to do by the Church of Nigeria, however many Anglicans there are there and however sincerely they seem to hate gay people.

The fight about gay marriage made it apparent to the main body of the church that their attitudes were repulsive and immoral to the majority of people in this country: the Christian right in Europe, the British Isles, and North America has, this statement suggests, spectacularly shot itself in the foot as an evangelical, gospel-based movement, insofar as it has centered its evangelical message around an anti-gay message that increasing numbers of people, including increasing numbers of Christians, see as repulsive and immoral. You can't credibly preach that God is love, that God's love embraces everyone, that everyone is made in the image of God and deserves respect as a result, while singling out gay human beings for special condemnation.

You can't do this and expect people to listen seriously to your "gospel" message. It boggles my mind that it has taken "liberal" Christian leaders like Rowan Williams so long to understand this basic point.

And I continue to ask when the "liberal" American Catholic leaders who control the American Catholic conversation, run its universities, and dominate in its journalist sector, will also understand this point. And will stop catering to anti-gay, misogynistic fellow Catholics who live in a culture bubble, while marginalizing fellow Catholics who work for gay rights and women's rights as fundamental Catholic values . . . .

*My apologies: when I first posted this piece, I provided the wrong link for the ABC/Yahoo article with the video interview with Roger Ross Williams.

Please note: the video at the head of the posting is the official trailer for Roger Ross Williams's documentary "God Loves Uganda." The video discussed in the previous posting is at the first link in the posting, which points to the Yahoo report on that video.

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