Meaningful Enlightenment

Is what Andrew Cohen calls for in a blog entry posted 2/15, read here.

I think the ideas being pointed to in it are so profoundly important. I also think it sad that the initial responders (in the form of the comments) are absymally pathetic.

Cohen begins:

My latest passion—what I not-so-humbly like to call the third significant phase in the evolution of my teaching—is what I have been referring to as the integral manifestation of enlightenment. I’ve borrowed the term “integral,” used by my friend Ken Wilber and many others back to the great Sri Aurobindo, because there is simply no other word that is able to capture the four-dimensional, multileveled expression of enlightenment that I am striving to make manifest. I’ve just come out of an intensive weekend retreat with my core group of students from around the world, in which I began to share with them this emerging edge of my own thinking.

I actually think integral is not the word Cohen wants. For my reasons why (here, here). But focusing for a second on the notion of a third phase of his teaching. My summary of the three phases.

Phase 1: Traditional Nondual Advaita. Book titles like Enlightenment is a Secret, My Master is My Self, Who Am I, etc.

–In this phase (from awakening til mid 90s I think) traditional Nondual Advaita in the lineage of his teacher Poonja-ji. You are the SELF, You Are THAT. I AM THAT ONE. Traditional nondual state-stage awakening.

Phase 2: Evolutionary Enlightenment. Titles like Living Enlightenment, Embracing Heaven and Earth.

–In this phase the shift was to the Authentic Self (Soul as opposed to Spirit in Phase 1) combined with Evolutionary Creation Story. Overview here. Along with Enlightened Communication, intersubjective nonduality, beginning awareness of states versus stages and the move towards higher stage/structures of consciousness.

Now Phase 3: No Name yet. Some quotations concerning Phase 3 (my emphasis)….

It was a few weeks ago that this all started to come together in my mind’s eye. I even got very excited about the possibility of developing and publishing measurable, objective criteria for demonstrating the results of evolution beyond ego, both individual and collective, and how it directly relates to the way in which we are actually living…Of course, there have always been spiritual teachers talking about many of these things as a means to develop and attain higher potentials, but what I’m talking about is something different. I’m talking about using these concrete examples as windows through which to discern and dare I say judge the degree of an individual’s or a collective’s actual attainment, in such a way that has the potential for making the usually intangible, inner, subjective experience of enlightenment or consciousness beyond ego meaningful for our own times…But this is the first time I’ve tried to make it concrete in such a way that objective observers would be able to appreciate. I’m sure the rest of my life will be dedicated largely to this endeavor, together with others who are committed to making enlightenment really mean something in the twenty-first century!

What I feel Cohen has hit upon and annunciated in a far clearer manner than I ever could but had been intuiting (which is why I had not been writing specifically integral posts of late) is that it has to move into what he is calling measurables.

From my side in the more philosophically camp, questions like:

How do we actually ground truths in a post-postmodern world without returning to fundamentalisms, naive modernity, relativistic nihilistic postmodernism? Since consciousness and interiority has been so trashed for so long now and those who have returned to some form of phenomenology have usually done so in terms of states—all of the mysticism & phenomenology prior to Aurobindo it could be argued is states no stages and even with Aurobindo, they are stages already set that must be brought down and embodied not that are really evolved as we go along–what of stages?

Minus the kind of exploration I hear Cohen calling for, there will be the common focus on outer actions and policies: politics, social-cultural morals, movies, ideologies, etc. I think those modes of discourse are the only ones that allow us to begin to talk about qualia without ever really having to enter into its mystery or question the very ground we stand on.

I’m not saying those are bad conversations or that intelligent and thoughtful things aren’t said in them. What I am saying is that by themselves I find them incomplete. To me that is what the post-metaphysical turn to the perspectival is about…inquiring into the ground/position of our experience simultaneous to elucidating our points of view. Learning to not only speak from a position, clarify that position, defend it, find the flaws in it, but janus-like with two heads, have one head focused on that while the other is always focused on learning the contours of where one is standing and how one arrived there. Both are equally important. Not a form/content thing, but a form-content/perspective dyad if you like.

But this actually has to be grounded in some way that creates this subjectivity (sing. and collect.) in objective (sg. and pl.) networks. Otherwise it is literally all just in the head.

As to the argument that what we should be focused on now is practical problem solving my answer those answers, a 3rd way radical center approach is already out there on any number of issues.

–Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawkins and Amory Lovins. Be green and economically competitive.
–The 2% Solution. Matthew Miller
–The Radical Center. Lind and Halstead
–Pentagon’s New Map, Blueprint for Action. Thomas Barnett.
–Radicalmiddle.com Mark Satin
–Bjorn Lomborg
–America as Empire. Jim Garrison.
–John Petersen

The Wilberian-only frame of integral has suffered, in my book, because it has locked itself into being teal (yellow in Spiral colors), which is totally unnecessary. Spiral already does a better job of that. The criticism is right that something more than a basic spiral-like one line value system is what is needed for many of the problems.

Cohen is talking in spiritual terms, not the academic-philosophic ones I referenced above. But they are related.

In spiritual communities, where intersubjectivity is coming to the fore in a way not previously seen (I would argue), the question of how we figure out who is right becomes acute.

In traditional spiritual communities there typically was no such discussion. The Guru, the Abbot, the Roshi’s word was law. When that model came via Eastern religion to North America (and Europe) in the 60s, the word is law did not line up with the traditions of democracy, liberty, individual thought/expression, social pluralism. A detente was established to varying degrees (except for very strictly controlled sometimes cultish groups) whereby the guru/roshi dealt with states and the individual was in charge of his/her own life.

This situation, whether it was the best that could be done or not, has massive structural flaws. The biggest being the question of authenticity (a buzzword of Cohen’s): how do we know who is legit and not in all this particularly as major money, consumerism, and the multitude of paths and approaches took off?

More traditional North American faiths like Judaism and Christianity mostly stayed out of the spirituality issue and were more concerned with church/synagogue membership numbers, social actions, congregationalism, politics, fundraising, etc. There was a healthy move in the Abrahamic faiths to return to their own mystical sources and some major fruits have come out of that (Renewal in Judaism, Centering Prayer/Christian Meditation in Christianity). But it too has become cheapened in many ways, fadish, and still mostly in the head or temporary experiences.

Particularly with these all being (as they must) voluntary organizations. We don’t know how to be together. The model of course can not be abbatial or worse totalitarian statist. But the current North American style of individual spiritual choice and authenticity meaning being whatever you are fully—even if that is an arrogant, ignorant ass–fails as well. Again there are individuals and individual groups who do amazing things, experienced amazing conversions. I’m not wanting to disregard that element, but on a large scale, thinking imagining on a wide wide crazy scale, I believe a major change has to take place.

It’s not happening overnight. Perhaps Cohen is beginning to see that–as a self-avowed revolutionary he has been in my mind too naive about how difficult transformation truly is–as in the line about the rest of his life will be devoted to this new phase. That could conceivably be quite a long time. Dude is only 52 or so.

I also think one difficulty faced is that technology is not yet (but perhaps will be in 20-30 years) strong enough to help the grounding process of these more (socalled) evolutionary edge meditations/pushes.

I would go so far as to say that given the history of spirituality as in large measure a state-only phenomena we do not yet have any idea how to do stage transformation. Not that stage transformation is everything. It is not, not even remotely so. But it is part and parcel. It becomes a minimum standard (which is putting the bar quite high I realize) now that we are aware of it. We can’t go back as it were. That is why the above is not some self-serving criticism of earlier spiritual systems to de-legitimize them. It is that we are judged given what is possible (i.e. what we know is possible and can reasonably be held accountable for), a canon I believe has held from day 1 and will continue for future generations.

As regards Schelling, Aurobindo, Plotinus in relation to their spiritual systemization only (their kosmology as it were) I agree with Wilber’s analysis that they with plenty of reason projected out into the future the same process that had experienced by ascending the chain to the point they did.

The metaphor is an art gallery. All of the paintings are already complete. You walk through the halls and they begin to get more and more glorious until you reach a pure light room, then darkeness, then walk back through all the floors noticing a common essence to all. Or if Aurobindo you have already glimpsed the high level paintings and your job is to bring their truth down into the paintings to the lowest floors.

But the paintings, the rooms, the situation of you walking and observing only, that is already all set and forever so in this model. If you stick to that model, then perhaps the guru model only is the answer. Because one person could then abstracted from the paintings (in theory) carefully and perfectly remember all of them and memorize the path through the gallery and led you to the exact same places him/herself.

But when the rooms are more like sand dunes, changing daily, when the paintings are being composed (in part) as we walk in the rooms, as the building itself grows like a plant, does this model make sense (alone) anymore?

If that is the case, as I’m saying. If following the analogy, the paintings are being drawn, more to come, if the building is shifting, growing, if rooms are appearing as if out of nothing.

In that image then how do we declare what is about anything? How do we express that truth in action? And how do we know when we are doing and when not? And who decides and how when there is (as there will) sincere genuine disagreement from roughly equally brilliant and equally flawed beings?

I’m interested to hear if anyone has been thinking about these things, come up with any ideas, etc.

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Published in: on February 28, 2007 at 3:47 pm  Comments (1)  

Gore the Neocon wet dream?

So says Eli Lake, NY Sun neocon in this Blogginghead (video here). Never thought of that before. Why? Because Gore’s plan to green would bankrupt “the enemies of Zionism” (i.e. Saudi financed jihadism).

A couple of thoughts on that assertion.

–If memory serves me right the Palestinians get very little in aid from the House of Saud. They are broke and even broke can kill Israelis. So can Hezbollah.
–The plan only works if India and China are brought on board too because the US going green alone means, Iran and Saudis just sell their oil to the Chinese and Indians.
–As even Lake notes, Gore’s mechanism for going green involves alotta anti-business measures. It would require a more Schwarzenegger like pro-business, pro-investment green strategy.

What occurred to me is that politically this is a golden strategy for Rudy. He should run on this get us off of Middle Eastern oil to defeat terrorism.

While I’m definitely in favor of moving to a post-oil future, this argument is not very good. Not altogether bad but however nice at first blush but there are problems with it. We get very little of our oil from the Saudis or the Middle East more generally. It is certainly true that oil/natural gas tends to correlate with authoritarian governments (Russia, Venezeula, Iran, Saudis). But bankrupting the Middle East does not sound like a good idea. If it is this violent now with oil money but none of it flowing down, imagine what happens if the elites there were to panic and the minuscule amount that does flow down stopped. And this scenario would be a good idea for Israel off all people?

The idea is not thought through as I said, but it instinctively appeals across the board (the Friedman Doctrine it should called). If Rudy calls this policy out as a/the major position now, he preempts Clinton and/or Obama instinctively it appeals to both security hawks and doves/enviros.

And oh randomly, as I noted before (via Dick Morris) Gingrich is surging over Romney for the conservative vote. Shhh, don’t tell Hugh Hewitt, nary a Gingrich word on his site I can locate. Even HH has moved to promoting both Rudy and Mitt.

Gingrich is smart to wait it out if he is going to announce. Tony Blankley explains why here–hat tip Mickey Kaus. Gingrich could become VP Kingmaker–don’t think he wants to be VP himself. Is Jeb Bush off limits for that nomination? Eleanor Clift thinks not. Not sure yet what I think.

Published in: on February 28, 2007 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pro-Con Bible & Gays/Lesbians

Cal Thomas piece in WaPo arguing homosexuality is a sin. Now I know he is not a professional theologian, but his arguments are fairly mainstream within this position.

Thomas writes:

Does one believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that He gets to set the rules for those He wishes to speak for Him; or does culture, political correctness and “the times” allow us to make up, or change, or obliterate the rules whenever it suits us? I choose the former, believing that the God who created us gets to set boundaries inside of which we are to live for our benefit and for His glory. Imagine a sports contest without boundaries and rules? Life lived without boundaries is chaotic, full of disappointment and despair.

First off, I often question such strict binary thinking. Why does one have to choose between believing the Bible is God’s word setting the rules AND culture? Why not both?

His argument is undermined by his lack of historical thinking. The Bible has no explicit support for the abolition of slavery. Some point to the Letter of Paul to Philemon, which is not an argument for the end of slavery, but Paul wanting a master to give up one slave to him Paul so he (Paul) could gain from his (Philemon’s slave Onesimus) help.

The Bible, both Old and New Testaments support—or at least assume and do not criticize–the institution of slavery. Full stop. What abolitionists, who were evangelical Christians btw, is work from their own reason and their reading of the main themes (God is Love, Jesus’ work among the poor) to make the case against slavery.

Was that “political correctness”, changing the rules and obliterating God’s rule? If it was, then it was good they did because I do not want to worship such a vile deity. Better the atheism of Harris if that were the case.

I agree with Thomas that there are boundaries, that we do need them, but I think this specific issue in the post-industrial world mind you (gay/lesbian rights & responsibilities and acceptance in monogamous relationships in church) is one where we have set the boundary too sharp and that boundary is now working as a wall to keep people out of the kingdom.

So a brief run down of the Biblical citations against homosexuality.

First The Book of Leviticus 20:13

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”

Pretty straightforward. Now this section of the Book of Leviticus comes from the Priestly worldview/theology (known as P Source in Lit.). The Priestly worldview is based on the idea that the world is created into holy/unholy and transgressing the bounds into unholiness requires varying degrees of cleansing–from the minimal ritual bath for a woman just out of her menstrual cycle to the ethnic cleansing of land by killing non-believers (Book of Joshua) or in this case homosexuals.

In this view the world is made into natural modes, prototypes if you will and those that deviate from that pattern are unclean. So this theology/worldview is the one that gives the Jewish dietary kosher laws. A shrimp is unclean because it lives in the water and yet is not a fish. A pig is unclean because it has cloven hoofs which means it should be a mountain animal (like a goat) but lives on the land.

Men should penetrate women and if instead a man lies like a woman–i.e. he is penetrated–then he is unclean.

So what is the problem with this for Gentile Christianity? Gentile Christianity, i.e. Pauline Christianity (as opposed to Jews for Jesus), one of the key revolutions of Christianity was that it did not enforce Judaism on Gentile converts to Jesus. Whether or not it should have is a different question, but it did.

Hence this selective reading of Leviticus is a non-starter. Unless Cal Thomas is suggesting (as some have to their credit) that Christians should “re-Judaize” themselves as it were. Also it means the US should, if one is being consistent, attempt to enact legislation for public execution of homosexuals in the United States. Of course that’s ludicrous–but is that because are standards have changed like on slavery?

So Leviticus is out. Because reading back into the Old Testament what one has already decided is right from the New is a heresy known as Marcionism. I don’t think Thomas is meaning to promote heresy. Christians affirm that the God of Jesus Christ is the God of the Hebrews and that given the eschatological understanding of the kingdom in and through Jesus different choices are now open. Jesus was himself very anti-nomian (anti-law): e.g. stories of him healing on the Sabbath, allowing women to touch him, calling the kingdom a mustard seed (an unclean seed), etc.

Which leaves Paul, where the argument for/against homosexuality must take place for the Christian.

Now sociologically Paul was from traditional patriarchal society. Both his Jewish and Greek influences were opposed to homosexuality. The Greeks had an acceptance of young male love as well as raping slaves/war captives, but a proper Gentile man was never to be the “receiver”–i.e. in their minds be a woman. Paul also accepted slavery as normal and assumed a woman’s place was in the home. Traditional patriarchal views, both good and bad. He did however make the insane statement by those days standards that a man should love his wife. And that he belonged to her.

The 10 Commandments recall prohibited coveting your neighbor’s wife and coveting your neighbor’s possessions–i.e. your neighbor’s wife was his possession. That backdrop is in Paul, even though he did make the radical jump to saying the Gentiles no longer had to hold the Jewish Law.

The mediate position, so says the Book of Acts between those who said no Jewish law for Gentiles and those who did was to get rid of the Holiness Code in things like diet, circumcision, but keep basic moral standards….do not kill, steal, murder, sexual morality.

Paul also believed the end of the world was coming in his lifetime so that it was better people not marry in the meantime if they were still single at the time of his preaching. So worth keeping this all in mind.

Moreover we know that contrary to arguments made by conservative Christians (and others) the acceptance of monogamous gay & lesbian relationships is nothing approaching this shattering social revolution they claim it is. The real change was moving from arranged marriages and in many cases polygamy to monogamy and more importantly the choice of the young people themselves as to their partner would be based on love. That marriage was about love. Hear echoes of Paul? This only took place in the Western world on a social wide scale in the 19th century among the middle classes mostly.

Those who pushed for those standards were for that day and age “liberal”. The conservatives back then argued this would ruin the institution of marriage (heard that statement before?) because marriage was an economic property arrangement not considered the way of finding true happiness. In that way they were much smarter than many of us today in North America.

But once the move went from marriage as arranged, alliance, economics to based out of love then the momentum is heading inexorably I would argue to homosexual monogamous relationships. Conservatives by todays standards look back to the 1950s which is when for a moment the two tensions of marriage for love and male-female patriarchal values were held together. Of course the 60s revealed from their children the multitude of dark sides and lies that existed behind the closed doors of the Ozzie and Harriet home.

Which is why conservatives today in North America are not in favor of polygamy and arranged marriage and are therefore social revolutionaries when they head as missionaries to other parts of the world where original conservatism still holds sway–and in other cases even they have realized that one must make compromises with local culture but just won’t admit that for the West. It also explains their bind–they are promoting this tension filled 50s ideal and yet trying to hold back the momentum of which they clearly are a part against gays, divorce, etc.

So back to Paul.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites….none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Notice again the issue of male homosexuality. Male prostitutes (do the female ones not inherit the kingdom either?) and sodomites. Again the emphasis is on being, as they say it, “like a woman”.

The other key passage is Romans 1:24-29. Again the passage begins with idolatry interestingly enough. God, Paul says, because of the sins of the Gentiles (he is speaking of here) gave them up to “unnatural intercourse”. So homosexual and lesbian activity was then seen as a punishment for the prior sin of idolatry.

So although Paul has jettisoned the dietary laws, you still see the influence of the Priestly view upon him. As a modern example of how this passage could still challenge us. Or bathhouses or truck stops where anonymous sex takes place.

I think the real alliance should be between traditional (so-named) gay/lesbian and straight, monogamous, children, Godfearing, and those of a more tribal and/or narcissistic elitist godless sensibility. For there the effects of idolatry are as Paul named.

But there is nothing in any of this about committed partnerships. I’m not for free love–the other word Paul uses is porneia, as in pornographic. And does it make sense given what we are learning through biological studies as well as the experience of such committed partnerships to talk about natural and unnatural–remember the whole issue of Judaism/Gentile started because the Jews experienced holy Gentiles coming to faith in Christ without being Jews.

Published in: on February 28, 2007 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  

gg unit

A good post by Glenn Greenwald criticizing the tactic of quoting anonymous blogger comments on left-wing sites (e.g. HuffPost, Kos) as indicative of liberals in general and hence to declarations that all liberals are unhinged, deranged, etc.

The specific claim is in reference to anonymous blog comments that lamented the fact the suicide bomber in Afghanistan didn’t get VP Cheney. But compare that to Ann Coulter publicly stating she was sad Tim McVeigh did not blow up the NYTimes building.

Greenwald correctly notes you are just as likely to find vile hatred in anonymous right-wing blogs (although most right-wing blogs smartly do not allow posts). This is why I’m against anonymous comments. Such views are correctly rejected by mainstream left, right, center, up and down.

No doubt Greenwald is totally one-sided in his blog, in his outlook, but he is very good in puncturing many of the other side’s myths (especially when it comes to the left-wing media).

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bout Friggin’ Time

Syria and Iran are invited to a regional dialogue on Iraq. Heard this one before? Thank God Condi might actually be holding Cheney back–and as much as I disagree with the man that people are cracking jokes about the bombing in Afghan. is sick.

They could still pull a rabbit out of this violent hat.

Iran is some years away from a nuclear weapon, even a low grade North Korea style one. As best as we know now. I’ll admit the intelligence here has to be questioned in light of its misuse during the Iraq leadup. Regardless, the reform and conservative elements in Iran are starting to stare down the prospects of more sanctions and the opposite reaction that is the Saudis. The hardliners in Iran led by the President are in spewing more vitriol by the day. The Americans have to strip the conservatives (Khamenei and Rafsanjani) off from Ahmadinejad. To do that requires more than just co-operation on Iraq. They co-operated on Afghanistan and got zilch in return. It would have to be an all out diplomatic push that would give them assurance of their long term stability of their regime (off the Axis of Evil, off sanctions, into WTO).

The elements there now the American occupation is coming to end but they also fear the chaos/vacuum to be created. This is the US’ last chance to achieve part of Bush’s vision of a different Middle East. It is not going to be the one he wanted/dreamed up for sure, Syria and Iran are going to be there to stay. Hezbollah, Hamas, these dudes aren’t going away. But the key is to tamp down the growing Shia-Sunni split, create a borderland bulwark (i.e. Syria) to prevent this, so that the big economic push and marketization of the Middle East which the despots I think can no longer hold back, particularly stemming eventually out of Kurdistan and Shia Iraq, takes off. That is the legacy Bush could offer. Not without blood, huge mistakes, and the rest.

So I’m hoping (though not without reservations given the past mo of these guys) this could be the first step in the massive diplomatic offensive that must take place. Condi has to really step it up, but Cheney looms in the background wanting to widen the war into Iran, leave the Iraqi government isolated and de-legitimized more than it already is, and re-entrench the Sunni autocrats.

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anglican Crisis

As someone studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church, I’ve been very silent about the furor in the Anglican Communion. I’ve mostly wanted to stay out of it for personal reasons–I’m still pretty sore after having gone through Roman Catholic seminary during the sexual abuse crisis–and because I wasn’t sure which way things were headed and constant focus on the matter was bringing me down. I didn’t find it healthy for my spiritual life.

But this last week there has been a major shift and I need to work through my thoughts and emotions on this subject.

For those not familiar, I can’t (and you wouldn’t want me to) go into a whole background on the thing. My readers from integral world are not in large measure Christian much less Anglican, which is a distinct denomination within Christianity.

If interested, there are some very good blogs. Here, here, here, and this one from the so-called traditionalist side.

But a little background is necessary. The Anglican Communion is a Communion of National Churches–The US Episcopal Church, The Church of England, The Anglican Church of Nigeria, The Church of Canada. The Anglican Communion grew out of the Church of England and the English Reformation (Henry VIII, Elizabeth I) and the attempt to create a National Reformed Catholicism. In some ways a middle or third way between Roman Papal Catholicism and more Calvinist-Puritan forms of Protestantism.

The Anglicans worked out a system of maintaining both bishops (like Catholics) and synods (like Presbyterians, Reformed Churches). The US Church is called Episcopalian precisely for this reason–they have bishops (episkope in Greek) and are Protestant, i.e. not Roman Catholic.

With the expansion of the British Empire, clergy followed and Anglican branches were set up in British colonies. Since de-colonialization there has been a move to independence in church matters–hence there is the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Kenya with African bishops not missionary English-Scottish-Irish bishops in these countries.

So after the Anglican Church grew out of the British Isles in the mid-19th century the Anglican Communion was created. All these national churches (currently I think there are 38) chose to be in communion with each other. But each national church is in charge of its own affairs. Unlike Roman Catholicism where the Pope and Vatican enforce rules upon the diocese worldwide.

The manner of keeping common order and communion in Anglicanism is through common worship. The word orthodoxy literally means right worship or praise not right doctrine. Hence Anglicanism is known for its theological wideness but everyone prays from the Common Book of Prayer. Emphasis on Common.

So for example with bishops and synods, the US Episcopal Church has three houses–House of Bishops, made up of all American Bishops; house of clergy, representatives of priests and deacons; and house of laity, representatives of the laity.

For any motion to pass it must pass through all three bodies at once every 3 year meeting called the General Convention (or General Synod in Canada). Somewhat like the US federal system, each house can veto the other. If one of the three bodies does not pass a measure, the measure fails. Must have all 3 houses vote for a measure. It is democratic, if you like, within each house simple majority for most issues, 2/3 majority for extremely important ones.

Now the US and Canadian churches with strong traditions of democracy and liberal government have strong lay and clerical synodical traditions. Missionary churches in sub-Saharan Africa with tribal identities where the bishop is seen more as a chief do not. So bishops there tend to have serious control/power.

The Anglican Communion was nearly rent in the 60s/70s over the issue of women’s ordination. So when these issues emerge the question is always who is to decide when national churches argue with each other–unlike Roman Catholicism there is no higher court of authority.

There is the Archbishop of Cantebury who symbolically represents the unity of the Communion. But he is more like the Captain of a soccer squad than the CEO. He is not the Pope and he has no power to force any national church to do anything. There is also the Lambeth Conference–Lambeth is the Cantebury palace, again notice the pull towards wanting to be a Pope–which meets every 10 years.

It was decided after some serious wrangling and near splitting that national churches could decide either to ordain women or not and that both were acceptable and churches would accept each other. Many of the Churches in the Anglican Communion to this day still do not ordain women. Even in the US Episcopal Church which does ordain women, some local dioceses do not.

In 1998 the Lambeth Conference, which is only made of bishops—i.e. only 1/3 of the whole body–came up with a report on the topic of homosexuality. It was an advisory report that passed but with nothing approaching unanimity. It stated that homosexual acts were incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It also however urged the creation of a listening process (very Anglican) to listen to the experience and spiritual reflections of gays and lesbians within the communion. It also stated that the church must provide spiritual care for people and to work to protect the rights of individuals in free societies (i.e. stop gay discrimination).

Again notice that is was a recommendation of the House of Bishops as provisional in 1998. Now those with an agenda against what they perceived to be the falling away from true Christianity by a liberal agenda in the Church took this as the “standard” of teaching of the Communion. Which clearly historically and numerically it was not. It was a recommendation by a majority though not 100% of the House of Bishops. Those bishops constituting but 1 of 3 legs of the authority.

And it existed on an international basis, not the local national churches as with women’s ordination for example. As long as it was that–a recommendation–it was fine. It needed to be examined, listened to, but was one of a number of outlets for reflection on the matter.

The notion of Lambeth being the standard of the communion took hold in the conservative wings of the Communion.

In 2003 the Episcopal Church (USA) ratified at General Convention the election of Gene Robinson to be bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is an openly gay, in a committed relationships, divorced man. Robinson had been elected in the proper course by the local synod in New Hampshire, (clergy and laity). There is a myth propagated by opponents of the election that a liberal cabal with an agenda manipulated the scene to get him elected. This is not true. People knew who he was, he had been in that diocese for a long time, they simply felt he was the right person for the position.

[There is also the matter of same-sex blessings in the Canadian Church, but I’m going to leave that out for the moment].

This election caused a firestorm of controversy. And occurred just as the new Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was barely settled in. Williams himself is a theological liberal and as a professor had written it seems in favor of homosexual inclusion in the Anglican Church. But his role as Archbishop is a different one–at least as he sees it.

At the point of Robinson’s consecration, member churches of the Communion separated. Not formally but in the sense that they would not take eucharist with one another at meetings of the head of the national churches.

The US Church after 2004 (and the Canadians) put a self-imposed hudna-like moratorium on blessings and ordinations of gays & lesbians. This came as a result of requests from the House of Bishops (worldwide) in the Windsor Report. In the meantime local churches in the US who were angry by the ordination of Robinson threatened to leave. Although there is absolutely no rule by which they can do this. To complicate the matters African bishops, particularly from Nigeria and Rwanda, created missionary churches within the US. Ostensibly to reach out to Nigerian, Rwandan, African immigrant populations in the US, but it became a insurgent church. They wanted to create an alternate Anglican Church in the US, hoping the Episcopal Church would get booted out by the Communion, making them the official Church in the US.

At the same time other US dioceses wanted the Archbishop of Canterbury–not African bishops–to take them on and appoint a vicar to oversee their grievance against the national church and its leadership.

Then in 2006 at the next General Convention the Americans elected the first woman head (primate) in Anglican history. Remember a great number of the other national churches, specifically the ones that tend not to favor homosexuality, do not accept women as priests, live in patriarchal societies where women do not hold typically public office, much less are bishops, heads of national churches.

Since then some US churches, notably in Virginia have seceded and the church property is in litigation. Not good.

The Archbishop of Canterbury proposed a Covenant, which has no juridical basis in the canons of the Church, to restore communion. The Covenant presumably would create a two-tier level of membership, those who want to stand by Lambeth 98 and those who don’t. The churches who do not (US and Canada) would have non-voting seats in the International House of Bishops (Anglican Consultative Council).

But notice the problem with all this–all of these recommendations come from bishops.

Now this week, the US church has been given an ultimatum by the other Primates (heads of national churches) that by Sept.30th they must clarify their position on authorization of same sex blessings and ordinations. The communique from Dar es Salaam Tanzania is found here.

The consequences of not obeying the demands are not spelled out, which is unfortunate. That is bad law and bad theology in my opinion. The US Church technically can not achieve this, though a meeting of US bishops is set for March. The General Convention of all three houses does not meet until 2009, after the deadline of the next Lambeth Conference 2008. All three houses: bishops, laity, and clergy, would have to vote on this measure.

The Canadian Church is not mentioned at all which is very mysterious. All of the blame is laid at the foot of the Episcopal Church, which is not true. The move towards episcopal dominance started at Lambeth 1998 took the Communion down a road it should not have gone. If I wanted to be Roman Catholic, I would have stayed Roman Catholic. They are much better at being papal and imperial than these wannabe African and British clowns.

My own opinion, if I had been a voting member, would have been for Gene Robinson to voluntarily step down and not accept the ordination after the anger arose. But having said that, once the rules were followed, I think the Communion should have moved more in the direction of our tradition–with divorce, women’s ordination, etc.–to find a way for member churches to have different opinions and live in communion.

The difference it is argued with homosexuality as opposed to women’s ordination is that women’s ordination is not a matter of doctrine and is not condemned in the Bible. The argument has always been about this really, not gays and lesbians–how do we understand the authority of the Bible and who has the authority/power to make those decisions? I’m sad that gays and lesbians have been dragged into this and are the match that ignited this pre-set to explode tinder.

This latest communique is a sad expression for me of Christianity. Or rather un-Christian. The Covenant is not necessarily in all ways a bad idea, but its imposition by bishops is without the vote of the clergy and laity. Again Roman Catholicism already exists for that. In the meantime, it has been assumed that the US is the source of all the crisis (read the conservative blog and see how giddy they are at this latest communique for proof) and that the fly-over bishops creating church guerrilla campaigns is only out of their deep charitable love and care for the poor ones. They certainly love those people and have care for them and also want a pound of flesh for the others. The rhetoric is brutal.

As one sad piece, the Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola, the head of the anti-American alliance, is proposing legislation to make homosexual acts punishable by five years in prison in Nigeria. How’s that for also being against discrimination from Lambeth 98? His American supporters have said that he is actually (get this) a hero for homosexuals because sharia Islamic law in Northern Nigeria promotes public execution of homosexuality. Five years apparently is a great humanitarian deed as opposed to death.

Rowan Williams has sacrificed his own principles for the role it seems to me. He is just trying to buy time to get the Covenant in place. But all the momentum suggests he is being outflanked on his right by Akinola who wants them cut out. To be fair, Williams got the language in the latest communique put in at the last minute that the US Church had in good faith responded to Windsor Report but it was still unclear. Akinola was not happy with that. But Williams has not taken one iota of account of laity and clergy–other than the floods of nasty letters he gets (funneled to him by his staff who are holdovers from the regime of the previous Archbishop who supported the African bishops) against the American Church. They are funded by right-wing American political interests–including a few rather extreme characters who do advocate for public execution of homosexuals in America!

At stake as Williams sees it I’m sure is that the Churches in Africa are growing while England and US are shrinking. Also no one as LBJ said wants to be remembered as the guy who lost Vietnam. No one wants to be remembered as the guy who was Archbishop when the Church split. But it may come to that.

I don’t know what the American church will do. This was my fear with Robinson accepting the ordination, that it would bring this issue to light and cause steps back for gays and lesbians in the church. On the other hand, at some point it has to be pushed above ground. Like with women, like with civil rights/apartheid/slavery, etc. I don’t know that there ever is a good time to do it.

The American church on the whole, though not without exceptions, does not accept the Windsor Report as the standard teaching. For better or worse I just don’t see it. To me at the last General Convention the Americans went as far as they could without giving up their basic intuition/belief in being a church called to do this (plenty of self-righteousness no doubt but also plenty of honest sincerity in my view as well). It’s far too easy to just write it off as liberal agendas and so forth. Both sides are human beings. Both sides have had failings, which is why I do not accept the latest communique which puts all of the cause of brokenness at one participants doorstep, which is a way to shame and guilt and create fear, to have power over. This is not the message of Jesus Christ, who said we must serve and not seek to lord power over each other like the heathens. Like going to godless secular courts to handle church affairs for example.

In a later post I’ll deal more specifically with the theology pro/con concerning homosexuality. Where there is no way God makes a way so goes the saying. That is my hope. Humanly with all these machinations I can not see or feel such hope. But as Paul said, Christian hope is “hope against hope”, hope against optimism or hope in human sinful beings.

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Resurrection III

This piece focuses on The Gospel of Mark, the first of the Gospels historically and the one upon which the other three, to varying degrees, are based.

Starting in Ch.16. Mark says that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (Jesus’ brother James? ie. his mother?), and Salome go to anoint the body. Now remember Paul said that Jesus appeared first to Peter.

Mark has used a literary device here. Earlier in the Gospel Jesus had taken three close male disciples–Peter, James, and John–away and was transfigured on the mountain. The disciples (both male and female, there’s gender equality for you) are the models of how not be for Mark. They are stupid, weak, ignorant characters. Again both sexes.

So these three women then think to themselves along the way, “Who will roll the stone away for us?” probably something they should have thought of prior to leaving (not very swift) but anyway, they get there and the rock is already rolled away and a young man dressed in white robe tells them (v.6-7)

“He [Jesus] has been raised; he is not here….But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is gong ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him just as he told you.” Unfortunately v8 states “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” (16:8).

Now in your Bible you will find both what is called a shorter ending and a longer ending following. The shorter one simply states the did as they were commanded and told Peter and the disciples. The longer version includes, as I will show editing from the later stories created by Matthew and Luke.

In other words, the women running away scared and telling no one is the original ending of the Gospel. There is a rumor of resurrection by the young man in white (who may represent a newly baptized catechumen) and that resurrection/appearance is in the Galilee. Peter is mentioned by name which may link back up with Paul’s statement about Peter being the first to see. Maybe.

So Mark’s Gospel has an empty tomb, a rumor, and no actual appearance, and the women acting as cowards. The later versions were put in because it didn’t look good I suppose to not have the disciples respond as God commanded.

So why would Mark have the women disobey out of fear? Mark was written during the persecution and terror of the Jewish War against the Romans 67-71 CE. The Romans destroyed the Temple and sacked Jerusalem. The Wailing/Western wall where orthodox Jews pray at today in Jerusalem is the only remnant of that very temple.

Mark’s community suffered persecution. Not only is there is Resurrection appearance of Jesus there is also no triumphant Ascension of Jesus into heaven in Mark either. Because for Mark the discipleship of Jesus is marked from now until the end of time by suffering and the cross. Therefore fear is the great enemy of the Way of the Cross and Suffering. The disciples are who not to be.

All we will ever hear in this world is a rumor of Resurrection. It is an “amazing” claim that calls for faith or fear & running away. Faith means living the life of death and pain that is the Christian way. To me that is a profound meditation, which is why I tend to connect more with Mark’s Jesus and theology than some of the other gospels–on this point anyway.

So notice in Paul, the first, there are appearances (Jesus being revealed to) a number of people. Paul’s main emphasis in that is declaring apostolic authority not what the appearance was like. Now Mark who has only a rumor of resurrection, an empty tomb, and disciples who run away scared.

Not exactly a lot to go on so far. Matthew and Luke, who I’ll cover next (keeping in chronological order) I think were embarrassed by some of Mark and sought to fill in some of the details.

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 11:11 am  Comments (1)  

Biden Op-ed

A very important op-ed from Joe Biden in the Boston Globe.

Biden I think is the smartest voice in American political discourse on Iraq. Far smarter than either the Bush Administration or the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination who at this point are all simply focused on getting out and have no thought of the aftermath (as Republicans rightly criticize them for).

Biden makes three points:

1.Congress should repeal the War Authorization of 2002 given that there were no WMDs discovered and Hussein is dead.

2.Pass a new authorization that limits the US presence to Iraqi troop training, protecting the borders, fighting any possible al-Qaeda transnational terrorist bases. All troops out by early 2008.
–I would add also a clause for making preparations a la Kenneth Pollack for humanitarian/refugee crisis that will certainly take place once the US troops begin drawdown.
These are the outlines of the Baker-Hamilton Plan.

AND
3.Begin the process of a federalized political settlement. Plan here.

–This is the key element that Biden and Gelb have offered. Roughly based on the Dayton Accords regarding the former Yugoslavia, which while far from perfect (see here) has managed to hold a peace a decade on, even with Kosovo still in flux. The new draft oil law is a step in the right direction. The Kurds will be forced to deal with the PKK (Kurdish Terrorist Organization) residing in their territory launching attacks on Turkey, so the Turks get on with accepting the coming Kirkuk referendum to the Kurds.

–What this does is does not get into the waters of cutting the funds for troops and the ignorant Murtha plan. It still puts pressure on the administration and forces them to make a decision, a decision that could evoke a real constitutional crisis. The Republicans will of course not let this come to a vote which only further isolates their party for ’08. In this sense from a political point of view Biden is light years out ahead of the rest of the Dems. Biden recall began the push for a non-binding resolution which was scoffed at as ineffective, but as he notes if it was so ineffective why did/does the administration push so hard to block it?

–More importantly, it puts the argument exactly where it should be, where Baker Hamilton knew it should go…..the strategy and the goal are failures, changing tactics does not matter in that case. The Republicans have of course tried to make it all about the surge and if you don’t accept the surge you are for defeat, being for the surge is being for victory. Which of course assumes that being for victory is a strategy, as if just mentally creating our own reality will make this happen. Or more practically, it assumes that the American military can win this issue without any different political option.

Biden blasts Bush & his followers from here to kingdom come (and knowing Biden he’ll definitely say it again and again and again and again) on this point. Being for victory, having websites devoted to Victory does not a victory make. Biden realizes this is a sectarian conflict, civil strife, insurgency, not a traditional military army versus army affair. Hence no such victory is possible, websites and radio interviews to the contrary.

The rest of the Democrats have so stupidly fallen into Bush’s trap by focusing only on getting troops out. Biden has not. Biden has offered a real alternative to the failed strategy and goal—a unified central democratically-elected non-ethnic government of Iraq. Surge or no surge Maliki is not a statesman nor a strongman. He is a partisan politician, just as if every other man in the Green Zone. Give them their slices so the bloodletting can abate. There is no buy in for the Sunnis with this central government democracy format. It’s over. Only Bush has not realized this and even he is showing signs of coming around.

It goes: Goal–>Vision, End Outcome Desired
Strategy–>Policy Implemented to Achieve Said Goal
Tactics–>The Means Used to Promote the Strategy

The surge option is tactical. They are very good tactics, better than the ones we done earlier. That is for fighting an insurgency. Which is only one of the many wars going on there right now. But the strategy and the goal is unachievable. They are failures. So what will better tactics give? No supporter of the Administration has answered this question other than by saying it will be worse if we leave, which is to admit (I think) there is no answer. It will be worse for a time, that is the cost of a failed goal and strategy. That is the failure of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party–from the US side that is. Better tactics does not make a failed strategy and goal achievable.

That is why Biden is right. That is why the Democrats either get on board with what he is saying or watch Rudy be the next president of the US and enjoying controlling Congress as a consolation prize.

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Iraq Oil Law

The Iraqi Cabinet approved a draft on oil to be sent to the Parliament for final authorization next month. Story here. Once again the US Ambassador Zalmy Khalilzad, one of the few wise people this administration has, was key to getting the Kurds on board.

As of now it appears the measure will pass Parliament.

The real question mark will be whether the lines will be secure enough to be tapped. Oil wells, workers, their equipment are vulnerable, very vulnerable targets to insurgents.

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  

New Poll Numbers

In the last 10 presidential elections the Republican Party 7/10 times picked the front runner in their party’s nomination process. The other 3? The incumbent or sitting Vice President (George HW Bush ’88).

The Democrats did not (surprised?) follow such a trend. I think 5 times picked the leader.

New polls out (very early) from Zogby support this trendline:

i.e. Giuliani is pulling out ahead and has all the mo’.
Obama in a head to head with McCain and Giuliani wins, whereas Clinton doesn’t.

Clinton still leads by a slimmer margin (8 points) over Obama in the Democratic Primary race.

The David Geffen episode has hurt Hillary it seems more than Obama. As Maureen Dowd correctly noted (did I just write that?), Hillary’s so-called inevitability is based on her fundraising status, which Geffen called into question. He raised I think legitimate issues, especially for me do we want another 4-8 of a dynasty plus the ideological revup of the far right base? I don’t. Also Sen. Clinton’s answer to the question of how to deal with criticism–“deck your opponent.” It spoke of a strain of vindictiveness and the worst of the Clinton years. Again her line: I know how to beat them.

I don’t doubt she would make a decent manager–like I said I think she should be Senate Majority Leader, she’d be one of the best ever likely in that role–but the power hunger, the triangulation, the persona, it just totally turns me off.

I think all trends point to Rudy getting the Republican nomination. I don’t think Newt or Mitt (what’s with these four letter first name Rep. candidates?—Newt, Rudy, John, Mitt) can give the strong right push to topple Rudy. The only man who could’ve would have been the Bush son who probably should have been President, i.e. Jeb. No chance of that this time around. Although as bad as it is now for the Bush Dynasty, I would never count Jeb out for 4-8 years down the line. He is an extremely sharp politician.

The Dems are wide open and I’m not making any predictions. I still think its 50/50 that Gore jumps in. But the Clinton camp should look at these numbers and be worried in my view. Democrats are not going to like seeing her polling below John McCain not to mention Rudy in a general. That has always been the question mark with the Sen. from New York–is she actually electable. She’s sharp, but her personality is so divisive. Edwards has got to get out so the showdown between Obama and Hillary takes place. The longer Edwards stays in the better that is I assume for Clinton. For what it’s worth, I think Edwards is a flake.

I’ll empathize Hillary for a sec. If she comes off tough for national security she gets the bitch label. If she sits on the couch and invites everyone to a conversation it’s pure cheese and looks so faked/polled. If she admits she was wrong on the Iraq War, she gets called a flip flopper in the General. If she doesn’t admit she was wrong (which it is way too late to do now) I think she will lose the Democratic Primary.

Does an Obama Richardson ticket make sense? Probably not–too racial I suppose. Maybe not. And on the issue of barrier breaking possibilities, I still think the US electorate is more willing to elect a black man than a white woman. That’s just a hunch, no scientific research on that point. Just a gut intuition.

Obama needs a foreign policy guy for VP—Biden? Webb? Richardson has strong foreign policy cred, effective governor, could pull a state or two in the Southwest, the Democrats did well in the Mountain West. But I just wonder if a Black and Latino is too Rainbow-Coalitiony sounding.

Update Tuesday 27th, see other sets of poll numbers with Giuliani ahead of Obama here.

Published in: on February 26, 2007 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment