The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Toxic Atmosphere

I begin to think that it's simply impossible for progressive Christians to engage with our more conservative brothers and sisters online. They just don't want us.

Case in point: Covenant, which was founded to be a place for irenic across-the-gulf discussion, has reached the point where member Charlie Clauss asks "Have we run off all the progressives from Covenant?" Administrator Fr. Tony Clavier answers, "I do hope not."

A progressive, Michael Russell, responds: "Nope. But there is little point to even attempt further discourse with settled minds that expose more than one impasse which cannot be bridged with discourse. Please note that the previous sentence applies to me as well. “Covenant” has an orthodoxy peculiar to itself (largely subservient to the ACI line) and that is fine, but there is just no point in arguing with any vigor." Things deteriorate rapidly from there.

After a civil suggestion to "begin by naming some of the impasses," which Russell replies to, another commenter states that "what I advocate is not punishment but that TEC stop claiming to value the Communion while simultaneously rejecting the mind of the Communion expressed in Lambeth resolutions, requests from the ABC, proposals from the Primates, etc," and suggests that expulsion from the Anglican Communion is not punitive, merely definitional. When Russell points out that border-crossings and property "takings" also fit this description (he misses, also, the complete farce that is the Listening Process), the whole thread becomes a pile-on. Another member then chides Clauss for what he terms expressing "more concern. . . with aligning with liberals in pecusa than with those who share the same gospel but who are outside of pecusa."

By the end, two members have stated that TEc "is no longer a church" and that "TEC is not to me recognizable as a Church."

The sad thing is that I have had a very positive correspondence with two Covenant contributors, who have been irenic, friendly, and quite able to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Somehow, efforts to do this online seem to get spoiled by those who ache for doctrinal purity.

An amusing side note: One of these members, deploring Russell's citation of Richard Hooker, states "I have found that when you ask people who claim Hooker as their authority on Scripture it turns out that they have never read Hooker. I hope this isn’t the case with Michael," relying on a "pull quote" from Bk V of Hooker's Laws. When Russell--and Fr. Clavier--urge him not to rely on isolated snippets of Hooker,he repeatedly presses Russell for a quote. On a later thread, the same member asks "Michael, when can we expect your Hooker analysis that supports your argument that Hooker’s view of the primacy of Scripture only pertains to salvation?" After Russell replies, again without a pull quote, it turns out that the edition of Hooker that member was using was edited by Russell. Aye, well. Be careful who you slag online.

UPDATE: Fairness to the commentator who owns Rev. Russell's edition of Hooker requires I point out that his response to the "reveal" was quite gracious: "Yes I do [own Russell's edition]and I owe you a debt of gratitude for the edition that you put out. I may even have met you at S-W around some lectures by David Tracy. Yes, the price is incredible and I appreciate all the extra writings that are in your edition."

Which brings me back to my point--maybe online isn't the place to have these discussions. Maybe we need to be interacting directly with each other in real life, getting to see the good as well as the bad. Maybe a covenant could make sense if it came after, and not before, the crucial business of "intensifying relationships" by living them, and not legislating them.

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