Anglican Samizdat

May 16, 2009

How am I mean? Let me count the ways

A few recent conversations started me thinking about how utterly rotten I am to the Diocese of Niagara and the Anglican Church of Canada; possibly even downright abusive and taunting.

What has been keeping me awake at night is, is it justified?

The parish I attend is an ANiC church that used to be in the Diocese of Niagara; the diocese is suing 3 of the ANiC churches in Niagara – or more accurately the wardens of the churches. The parishes in question had a choice of whether to fight for their buildings or to hand over the keys to the diocese; I think a moderately convincing case could be made for simply handing over the keys and avoiding further strife: the case could be based on 1 Cor 6, or Matt 5:40 for example. J. I. Packer addresses these issues to some extent here. He makes the point that parishes have a duty to try to hang on to their buildings if the gospel would suffer by letting them go. I find this convincing for at least the parish I am familiar with.

In that context, let me get back to being mean. Two reasons have been presented to me for being “nice”:

First, as a parish, being kind and generous is “who we are”; the person who suggested that would probably concede that it is not who I am – but let’s examine the idea anyway. It is true that the parish I attend is a loving, caring, giving community of wonderful people. Nevertheless, we are engaged in a lawsuit that we believe to be legitimate. Fighting someone in court is not an amicable activity: to pretend otherwise, adopt a simpering grin and make gestures of phony friendship is merely concealing a warzone with treacly charm: it is futile. I concede, though, that we are programmed to adopt the veneer of politeness from an early age and it probably does help to hold anarchy at bay. After all, if I were as naturally impolite as this individual, it could have ended up with riot police and fire-hoses – perhaps not the end of the world, but it would have ruined the carpet.

The second is the game-playing aspect: we want to look like the good-guys. Preferably the innocent, downtrodden, set-upon by an unfeeling institutional Goliath, helpless, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-our-mouths good-guys. Well, the simple fact is, we are the good-guys, but we are also fighting a messy battle in court where cut, thrust, chop and dice make a little verbal taunting look tame. To insist on verbal niceties would be like forbidding 2nd world war solders from singing the vulgar version of Colonel Bogey so as to avoid offending Hitler.

So now, back to sleeping soundly and – counting the ways.

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