Sunday, January 10, 2010

Odd Bird Christians - Mary Daly - Graham Leonard

Two interesting obits of two very odd ball Christians who died within the same week.

The first is of the radical feminist theologian Mary Daly, who was tolerated by the Jesuits at Boston College where she was tenured. She in the end did not want males to attend some of her lectures, which thereby lead her way into retirement. School policy could have allowed such a quirk of teaching preferences but federal law would not allow it. In any case she seems to have the spunk and fire of a truly memorable personage in the faith that she dissected, described and challenged as a theologian.

Mary Daly, uppity theologian
Mary Daly, the feminist theologian and philosopher, has died. She was an audaciously creative spirit; an awkwardly witty, deadly serious writer. She arguably did more to stretch what is possible to think in contemporary feminist theology than any other.

Here's a taste of what she was prepared to say. In books like Gyn/Ecology and Beyond God the Father, she envisaged the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the all-male three in one – as an eternal homosexual orgy. She argued that to call God "father" is to make fathers gods, excusing all kinds of horrors from religious totalitarianism to domestic violence.

Theologians have contested Daly's claims, not least feminist theologians who have remained within the Christian tradition. They point out that alongside the male images of God as Father and Son are the more ambiguous ones of God as Spirit. In the Hebrew Bible, the Spirit of God is envisaged as a wise woman, Sophia. Sophia has even been aligned with the person of Christ: at the time of Jesus, she was well established as a symbol of God's relatedness… And yet, Jesus was a man. The female word Sophia lost out to the male word Logos when it came to interpreting the metaphysics of the Son.
The second obit is of Graham Leonard, former Church of England Bishop of London among other things who in his retirement went over to the other side, the Romans, because of his disgust of female ordination in his church body. He turned in his bishop’s title for that of monsignor.

Monsignor Graham Leonard obituary
However, in 1994, three years after his retirement from London, and after conversations with the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster, his friend Cardinal Basil Hume, he was received into the Roman Catholic church and was ordained priest sub conditione. At Leonard's own consecration in 1964, an Old Catholic bishop from the small churches that have separated from the Roman Catholic church, but are in full communion with the Church of England, had joined the bishops who consecrated him. This eased his reception into the Roman Catholic church, and he was made a monsignor…

He was notably honourable in ordaining 71 women as deacons at St Paul's Cathedral on 22 March 1987. This ordination weakened the arguments against the ordination of women as priests, but he went ahead. Still, he was hesitant about allowing women to exercise authority. He appointed an area bishop to Kensington who directed that no woman should be in the sanctuary when he was celebrating, even though Kensington had many female deacons and female servers. Leonard once used the law of trespass to prevent 100 men and women accepting the ministration of a female priest ordained abroad.
If there is a waiting room outside heaven and one has to wait one’s turn to get the right bureaucratic stamp on the Christian Passport so to speak, I have to imagine a bureaucratic snafu as in the case how all bureaucratic institutions work – and imagine Mary Daly and Graham Leonard challenging each other over one’s place in line.

I do not predict fisticuffs but in any verbal and or physical confrontation between those two – my money is on the Irish girl.


Emergent - Post Evangelical - Post Modernism

Someone did some research and passed it along to me regarding the Labels of “Emergent Church”, “Post Evangelical”, and part of an overall “Post-Modern” Christianity. I am not certain what to make of all this labeling except to say that it appears to be a new philosophical approach in how to deal with the old Evangelicalism which is “Modern” but somehow now is old.

Anyway, it seems to be carving a new niche out on the Tent Circuit of preaching the old time religion with perhaps a few minor tweaks in the way the preaching or message gets delivered.
As a result, some in the emerging church believe it is necessary to deconstruct modern Christian dogma. One way this happens is by engaging in dialogue, rather than proclaiming a predigested message, believing that this leads people to Jesus through the Holy Spirit on their own terms… wikipedia “emergent church”
One of the leading voices of this new emergent church movement is Brian McLaren, a popular lecture circuit figure and author of “A New Kind of Christian”.

The Emergent Mystique
But A New Kind of Christian has also attracted plenty of critics. The most persistent question they raise is whether "modern" and "postmodern" can be divided so cleanly. Wheaton College philosopher Mark Talbot points out that skepticism about values like objectivity, analysis, and control was already present in Enlightenment figures like David Hume. Meanwhile, Talbot says, "the great irony is that by giving us these sharp categories of 'modern' and 'postmodern' ways of thinking, McLaren is doing the very sort of categorization he describes, and implicitly condemns, as modern."

The modern period of history, as Neo tells it, is coming to an end. We are entering "postmodernity," an as-yet ill-defined borderland in which central modern values like objectivity, analysis, and control will become less compelling. They are superseded by postmodern values like mystery and wonder. The controversial implication is that forms of Christianity that have thrived in modernity—including Dan's evangelicalism—are unlikely to survive the transition.

McLaren managed to connect abstruse concepts of intellectual and social history to a visceral sense of disillusionment among evangelical pastors. Dan's dissatisfaction with ministry, in McLaren's telling, was not primarily a faith problem, a psychological problem, or a sociological problem. It was a philosophical problem—the result of a way of thinking that was no longer adequate. Pastors who would have had a hard time seeing the relevance of postmodernism could suddenly envision it as the key to finding, as the book's jacket put it, "spiritual renewal for those who thought they had given up on church."
I would have to say that the Emergent Church concept of a so-called Post Modern Christianity is a possible rebranding of the same old product. By saying that the Bible is a human document, it is not backing off from the unerring concept but rather trying to gather a few new ears who did not get poisoned by last year’s batch of snake oil on last years marketing circuit through Rubetown. Please forgive my cynicism.

Emergent it would seem is slicker and more polished in words, approach and style. Instead of forcing a square peg (people) in a round hole (religion) – they are first trying to see how to help the individual needs first, to feel at home and stay in a new repackaged evangelical setting, before putting them to work at the work of the “new” church. That’s new?

Hardly a Holy Ghost Lite approach but judging from the failed methods of the past by pastors who did not like, got burned out, preaching the message and the sheep who did not like being constantly preached at, perhaps there is a middle ground for those who need the attention and fellowship of an established building and church.

I have to wonder at the old evangelicalism, which started with the so-called Jesus Movement of the seventies, seemed to me to be a reaction to the depiction of Jesus as human as in a Broadway play, Hit, and music of Jesus Christ Superstar.

It seemed to me from my point of view from memory, that almost as if when the reaction to Superstar happened, technology kicked in, small town radio and small town TV evangelism started growing and connecting together to the point of saturation and success.

Mega TV evangelism and mega churches were born over time and in some ways as a form of entertainment not unlike the former sports arenas they, the mega churches are sometimes housed in.

Which sort of reminds me of Fox News. Which came first, the news as entertainment or religion as entertainment? You answer that one.

Perhaps somehow that original product of the message of "Modern" Evangelicalism got lost in the shuffle of running deposits to the bank to pay the mortgages on these new Mega Churches and Mega Media Broadcast Centers.

In a way Modern Evangelicalism soon to be replaced by so-called Post-Modern beliefs is kinda like the old Arthur Godfrey Show never went off the air on CBS. The ratings are down but everyone loves Arthur (even though he is long dead). The young Turks so to speak like McLaren want to get that precious Godfrey time slot, to survive with a new updated version of entertainment now so obsolete and still on the air.

The problem may be that high definition TV (and a new show format) will probably improve the overall picture but not necessarily the quality of the product being sold.

I cannot judge what the ripple effect Post-Modern or Emergent comes to in common understanding or recognition as a real movement to be recognized within the umbrella of beliefs known as Christianity. The energy is there. It appears to be born of the human spirit and of the spirit within.