Saturday, October 07, 2006

Community versus Commodity

I've just returned from the Diocesan Readers' Conference in which the key-mote speaker was the Rev'd Professor Gareth Lloyd-Jones from the University of Wales speaking on the Hebrew Scripture and how it describes the life of a people under the rule of an Empire.

He raised some very interesting issues, and many of them resonated with me and my near theological isolation in my community. There are just no other Tridentine Anglo-Papalists in this diocese of the Church of England. If you are one, let's do lunch. If you are also a priest, then let's do Mass! Widening the subdenomination to include the Anglo-Catholics (the proper ones, not the Affirming Catholicism syncretists), it's clear that we are in the minority here clinging onto what we have received and trying desparately to hold it as fully as possible. We follow the traditions in an empire of liberalism.

Listening to the Reverend Professor, I was reminded how it was Joseph, the favoured son of Jacob who unthinkingly engineered the oppression of his own people. It was he who sold sustenance to the folk for their money, then their cattle, and finally for their slavery. Did the Jews have a choice? It was one of their own people who, in conjunction with the state, took possession of the Hebrews as a commodity. Interestingly, it was the priests who remained largely untouched by the Egyptian resources takeover. In essence, the Egyptians through Joseph, bought the religion of the people.

Now, let's look here. The dominant empire in Britain (and in America too) is that of the Consumer Culture in which everything is regarded as a commodity, even workers. The Consumer Society seeks its pleasure using whatever means it can and will not stop at anything to consume it. In more unsavoury language (forgive me but I believe it to be the correct thing to say), ours is a culture of masturbation. It does not take delight in what it has, it seeks only more in order to scratch an itch. Our society cannot live with waiting, or constraint and it will sell all that it has in order to gain what it wants more immediately.

If this is the culture, then we in Blighty had better watch out because we already see the Established Church giving way to the rule of pleasure, the rule of individualism and the rule of "believe what you want" which is largely the creed of the Consumer Empire. We Anglo-Catholics are in pain and, like the Israelites, we cry out at every heresy that the Established church embraces, only to be told to "get a life" or "worry about more important things" or "we have to go with the flow". Those of us with firm principles are being branded "narrow-minded" (as if that were something unforgivable) or "fundamentalist" even though fundamentalism is the last thing that can be attributed to an Anglo-Catholic.

It was escaping from the Egyptian oppression that made the Hebrew society unique in the world for it was as a direct result that they found the comfort of the Decalogue, a stabilising structure of rules and ideas which gave them the support that they needed to live life in the sight of God.

We Anglo-Catholics have already within our minds and hearts and libraries the stabilising structure that we need within the Scripture and the Tradition. Just as the Decalogue is expanded and expounded in the Pentateuch for several chapters (several long chapters) likewise have our Scriptures and Tradition been expanded upon in every age by the Fathers of our Faith. We already have so much, but how are we using what we have? To squabble with one another, or to stand together in solidarity against the world which seeks to buy us and sell us as commodities?

It is the Decalogue that sets our Jewish brothers and sisters apart as people of God, what is it that separates us? How do we use it?


The Archer of the Forest said...

I feel your pain. Having grown up in the American South, and now being in seminary in a diocese (Chicago) that allows champagne for communion (Oh, the horror!), being an Anglo-Catholic who has been known to pop in on a Tridentine rite from time to time, life can be tough.

I have always found in my readings of Christian history that there is always a remnant who need to be served; a remnant of faithful folks who would otherwise be thrown to wolves and forgotten. Especially in terms of those of us influenced by the Anglo-catholicism, the Oxford Movement has its roots in serving that remnant. In the original case, the purpose was not simply high church liturgy for its own sake, but to give the London dock workers who otherwise lived miserable lives and were largely despised by the majority in the Church of England a taste of the glory of God, if only for a short time on a Sunday.

I always feel led back to those English dock workers in the 1800s. They deserved priests that would serve them and stick up for them, when the majority in the Church of England would have preferred to let them go on being the outcasts of society that no one wanted.
If good A-C people like ourselves throw in the proverbial towel, who will be the voice for the remnant of people these days on the theological docks who deserve better?

axegrinder said...


"What do we have? How do we use it?"

We have the embrace of the Trinity within the Great Tradition, which serves as a repudiation of postmodernity's adolescent refusal of parenting (Thomas Oden).

There are certainly other ways for us to squander our inheritance. God save us from them.

Jason Kranzusch