Saturday, June 19, 2010

Standing on one’s head: the view from here

It never ceases to surprise me, how the Holy Spirit continues to ambush us with aah-ha moments of insight or understanding, unexpected gifts of renewal or affirmation, or deep, often tearful reminders of our interconnectedness- and what’s fun about these gifts is the unexpected places one often finds them waiting for us.

Case in point, the current online edition of The Anglican Journal.

As those closest to me know, I bare real psychic wounds in which our local Anglican Church was very complicit, in addition to regularly having to wrestle with my gay-man-of-faith frustration and pain over much of what goes on in the name of ‘officially Anglican.’ That said, I am, as one ‘recovering Catholic’ friend said recently ‘up to your proverbials in this Anglican soup.’ At the time I suggested it might more interestingly be considered a ‘transformative brew.’

Which brings me back to the current edition of The Anglican Journal. Yes, the coverage mentioned the recent national synod without any mention of the cowardly side-step which effectively left our American brothers-and-sisters-in-Christ out to dry. But the nugget which figuratively, if not literally had me standing on my head was in another story- the special report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Something truly sacred is going on in my country at present, and happily I am able to say that our Anglican Church is not only participating, but led by our primate ++Fred Hiltz, they are playing an active & visionary role in its realization. I’m referring to the current exercise which sees representation from government and the historically complicit Christian denominations meeting with the survivors of what is still shamefully referred to as the ‘Indian Residential Schools’ to recognize their stories of physical, sexual, emotional and mental abuse. With no concrete information to support it, I personally give a lot of credit to the current primate ++Fred Hiltz for our Church’s remarkable openness; all the while mourning the fact that he has failed to be equally visionary in leading our Church towards full LGBT inclusion (another story for another day.)

The ‘nugget’ is to be found in: and is a comment by a First Nation Roman Catholic nun, Sister Eva Solomon:

“One of the most pervasive forms of violence is colonialism…It destroys our psyche, spirit, mind and body. It’s the root we really have to work at,” she said. “What colonialism did was to impose a different identity on us.”
"The European colonizers that came to Canada “made us believe that our political spiritual system wasn’t good enough,” said Sr. Solomon. “Our own original sin is that we personalized that and we felt we weren’t good enough.”

Our own original sin is that we personalized that and we felt we weren’t good enough- you see why I used the term ‘ambush’ earlier- how about being literally stopped in my tracks?

As several of my partners in prayer and practice know, ‘original sin’ has been a burr under my personal saddle of practice for some time- for a number of reasons- not the least being the its Imperial imposition in the second century CE; the damaging predictability of its propagation and the selective amnesia much of the Church appears to be currently practicing on the consequences of such teaching.

Elsewhere, I’ve written of elements of the necessary ground work I feel we have to embrace in we are truly to join the Holy Spirit in becoming the Church we are continually being called to be. High on the list would be the origins and effects of the Church’s propagation of this toxic doctrine.

It doesn’t take an ‘A’ in Psych 101 to see it for the degrading self-fulfilling prophesy it is, or to tease out the dualism, objectification of patriarchy within and the essential insult it is to God.

It is my understanding that one of the early terms for this doctrine, still in use within the Orthodox Church is ‘ancestral sin’ ; which, I would suggest, in the light of current understanding of the human creature and the long trail of suffering, self-wounding and exploitation the result of this Imperialistic doctrine could more aptly described as the propagation of ancestral sin.

To only state the obvious: you tell a kid they’re sinful, vile or even an abomination often enough- all words found in our earlier BoCP, and the outcome’s almost inevitable.

“Our own original sin is that we personalized that and we felt we weren’t good enough.”

They weren’t perfect- none of us are- they were children, kidnapped from the world they knew, treated little better than animals, by a bunch of bossy, at times violent strangers.

They were frightened and often alone- with concepts, rules and a language imposed on them that not only denied their God given uniqueness, their beauty and humanity, but which insisted that who they were- the Indian in them- had to be killed and be remade into something else.

Could the paralells with the newborn human state be any clearer

They were kids- like us all, when the Church’s reign of original sin was imposed on us.

Imperfect, frightened, alone- hardly ground for the invention of a self-fulfilling, exploitive, wounding & degrading doctrine in the name of God.

Unintentionally, I apparently stopped a friend in her tracks some time ago with my suggestion that it was more than overdue- the time when we as a Church began behaving as a redeemed people.

‘Literally, you’ve got me consciously questioning- no, consciously stepping outside the dualistic assumptions of patriarchy and looking at the backside of the great tapestry we call Christianity,’ she told me, using one of the images from our earlier conversation.

And that, I would suggest, is what we have to be doing collectively as a Church. Simply disarming, or avoiding the embarrassment of earlier teachings is not enough. From all that’s been going on in our Church of late it should be only too clear that what the Holy Spirit is calling is to- yet again- is radical & complete renewal outside the necessarily dualistic objectification of both God’s people & all creation. A process which requires us to name, own and deconstruct the articles and artefacts of the patriarchal monolith men-largely straight white men- have so shamefully made of the Good News of Jesus Christ and of our vocation to be the living Body of Christ .

Happily there was a second story in the current Anglican Journal on the Commission. A poetic reflection on the first days of the Commission which, when I discovered it, I personally took as a reminder that no matter how silly and disheartening the antics of certain purple shirts and other ‘official Anglicans’ might have been of late, the Holy Spirit is very much alive and among us, and SHE hasn’t given up on us either- Thanks be to God!

But there was also another nugget in the first story, and I wonder if it might have had the same effect on others- literally moving me to tears. It’s in the witness of the Rev. Margaret Mullen, ‘I have to remember that I’m accepted by the Creator.”

This post was written out of deep and abiding gratitude to our First Nations People- for their generosity of spirit, their very real grace and patience - for the lessons they are offering us, and out of love and gratitude of one particular cherished sibling in Christ who could well share Ms. Mullen’s native name ‘Thundering Eagle Woman’ and whose First Native ancestry brings much to the passionate gift of her priesthood.


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