Sunday, January 28, 2007

Willfulness :: Tom Ehrich

Not long ago, the "enemy du jour" stalking traditional Christian denominations was "creeping congregationalism."
That meant the tendency of congregations to function independently of traditional denominational standards or structures. Conservatives in the Episcopal Church, for example, lamented the loss of cohesion or what they called "catholicity."

Then the denomination, with significant cohesion, made some decisions the conservatives didn't like, and suddenly they are demanding their own form of congregationalism, claiming they have the right to leave the national church and to take their property with them. And they demand a choice as to which "catholicity" they recognize: Nigeria or New York.

In other words, in this argument, as in most religious arguments, the issue is rarely higher-order concerns like Scripture, tradition or reason.

The issue tends to be the lower-order concern of willfulness: We want what we want, and we will do anything to get it, even quoting Scriptures we never read before if they make our case, or making common cause with a bishop in Nigeria whose existence previously meant nothing to us.

Consider the "victim role." Some people or groups are indeed victims, and they deserve justice.

But even when doors open, tables turn and balances shift, it's difficult to stop using guilt, shame and remembered grievances to get one's way.
Like everybody, I like to use my lizard brain.

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