Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Communication FAIL

{Note: some readers in the past have complained about insufficient advance warnings when satire follows. This is to assure those same readers that what follows is literally true, and is not satire. In short: even if I wanted to, I could not make this stuff up.}

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) has authored two remarkable letters which she has made public through ENS, the Episcopal News Service. One is a letter to President Barack Hussein Obama, and asks that, following the "deaths of civilians working to deliver humanitarian aid" (I kid you not), he use the power and influence of the United States to persuade Israel to drop its blockade of Gaza. The second is a post-Pentecostal response to the Pentecostal letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury. (It is noteworthy that the Presiding Bishop did not think it was worthwhile to send a Pentecostal letter of her own until after the Archbishop had sent his, and after Bishop Marc Andrus had published his own inane response, as well.)

The two letters demonstrate a truly remarkable degree of cognitive dissonance, or what in the common parlance is called "disconnect." In fact, the disconnect is so astonishing that for once I am at a loss as to how to demonstrate it most effectively. Let me begin with the Presiding Bishop's letter to the President:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the Episcopal Church, I write to express deep concern for the circumstances surrounding Israeli forces' interception of a flotilla of ships bound for the Gaza Strip earlier this week. The deaths of at least ten persons aboard one of the ships and the injury of many more, including four Israeli soldiers, represent a grave tragedy and underscore the urgency of renewed political leadership toward ending the blockade of Gaza. As we pray for those killed and wounded, and for their families, I urge your renewed attention to the status of Gaza as part of your Administration's leadership toward a two-state solution.

The full details of this week's incident are not clear. {Editor's Note: Oh, yes they are.} As Secretary Clinton has noted, we do not yet know the specific sequence of events that led to the outbreak of violence, and therefore our responses must be measured and thoughtful. It is clear, however, that the deaths of civilians working to deliver humanitarian aid could not have happened absent the counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Episcopal Church strongly supports American leadership toward ending the blockade. There are far better ways to protect Israel's security and promote moderate political leadership in Gaza than a blockade that intensifies human suffering and perpetuates regional insecurity.
(Italics added.) OK, got that? Israel has unilaterally declared a blockade against Gaza, and has proceeded to enforce it. The blockade is counterproductive. And why is that? Just listen to our Presiding Bishop count the ways:

Israel's stated aim in imposing restrictions on trade and movement of persons in and out of Gaza was to end rocket attacks from Gaza, undermine the political leadership of Hamas, and secure the release of an Israeli soldier who has been held hostage in Gaza by Hamas since 2006. None of these goals has been well served by the blockade. Rocket attacks, while diminished in frequency, still continue and, in fact, appear on the rise again. Hamas retains political leadership in Gaza; indeed its power has increased as a result of its control and taxation of illegal, underground trafficking of goods in contravention of the blockade. Corporal Gilad Shalit remains a hostage in Gaza.

Instead of enhancing Israel's security, the blockade has harmed its international standing and imposed an inexcusable humanitarian toll on the people of Gaza. While Israel has allowed a very limited amount of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, the restriction on basic goods for agriculture, fishing, and infrastructure construction has caused poverty and joblessness to soar. . . .
Now let's turn to the Presiding Bishop's letter in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury:
The recent statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the struggles within the Anglican Communion seems to equate Pentecost with a single understanding of gospel realities. . . .

The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God's good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones. . . .

. . .

The Episcopal Church has spent nearly 50 years listening to and for the Spirit in these matters. While it is clear that not all within this Church have heard the same message, the current developments do represent a widening understanding. Our canons reflected this shift as long ago as 1985, when sexual orientation was first protected from discrimination in access to the ordination process. At the request of other bodies in the Anglican Communion, this Church held an effective moratorium on the election and consecration of a partnered gay or lesbian priest as bishop from 2003 to 2010. When a diocese elected such a person in late 2009, the ensuing consent process indicated that a majority of the laity, clergy, and bishops responsible for validating that election agreed that there was no substantive bar to the consecration.

The Episcopal Church recognizes that these decisions are problematic to a number of other Anglicans. We have not made these decisions lightly. We recognize that the Spirit has not been widely heard in the same way in other parts of the Communion. In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions.
Do you see the disconnect yet? Let me make it plain for you.

1. Israel unilaterally decided to establish a blockade against Gaza, which the Presiding Bishop contends has been "counterproductive".

2. The reason the unilaterally imposed blockade has been counterproductive is that "[r]ocket attacks . . . still continue and, in fact, appear on the rise again. Hamas retains political leadership in Gaza; indeed its power has increased as a result of its control and taxation of illegal, underground trafficking of goods in contravention of the blockade. Corporal Gilad Shalit remains a hostage in Gaza. . . ."

3. At the same time, the Episcopal Church (USA) decided in 2003 unilaterally to impose a non-celibate gay bishop on the rest of the Anglican Communion, and it recently decided, notwithstanding the widespread condemnation which that unilateral act received, to impose on the Anglican Communion yet another non-celibate bishop -- this time, a lesbian.

4. Have those unilateral decisions by ECUSA also been counterproductive? Let me count some of the ways (all documented in previous posts on this blog -- see this link for a guide to the gruesome details):

a. A majority of the provinces of the Anglican Communion have declared themselves "out of communion", or "in impaired communion", with ECUSA. Bishop V. Gene Robinson is not welcome as a representative of ECUSA in many of those provinces, and he was not deemed eligible to attend the conference of all active Anglican bishops called by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008.

b. The Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion is fractured; the Lambeth Conference of 2008 was fractured; the Anglican Communion Council is now fractured; and the Archbishop of Canterbury finds himself at his wit's end in trying to hold the two factions together.

c. The consecration of Bishop Robinson has led to the withdrawal of no less than four dioceses and hundreds of parishes of ECUSA, the unprecedented and uncanonical deposition of more than a dozen bishops and of around five hundred of its clergy, and the instigation of some sixty lawsuits between Christians.

d. Membership and average Sunday attendance at Episcopal churches has plummeted; total contributions are down; the national headquarters has had to slash its budget and beg for contributions to finance its many lawsuits.

e. Last but not least, ECUSA has become a laughing-stock among churches, as an example of the precise ways not to go about planting new congregations and attracting new adherents.

Talk about "counterproductive"!

Yet in its fanatical devotion to "peace and justice", ECUSA presumes to tell Israel what it must do to halt the deteriorating cycle of counterproductivity: dismantle the blockade, and cease all its efforts to interdict the shipment of arms to Hamas in Gaza, in the interest of allowing unfettered "humanitarian aid." What does our Presiding Bishop propose as an alternative to the blockade, as far as preventing the delivery of new shipments of Qassam rockets to Hamas for it to use in murdering innocent Israeli civilians at random? Again, just listen to the wisdom of Katharine Jefferts Schori:
Rather than tacitly backing an ill-advised blockade, the U.S. should work with its ally, Israel, to promote constructive new policies toward Gaza that serve the aims of peace and security. These should include continued efforts to halt violence, and credible long-term strategies to support Palestinian leaders who are actively working for peace. Nevertheless, any long-term successful Palestinian government with the capacity to safeguard peace and security must draw support and legitimacy from across Palestinian society. I would encourage your administration to actively support the process of Palestinian political reconciliation so that a future Palestinian government can draw strength both from its internal support and from its external actions on behalf of peace.
"Continued efforts to halt the violence"? Just what, pray tell, has the United States, or any other nation for that matter, done previously to "halt the violence" against Israel? It seems to me that all those countries have been far too busy signing on to UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions denouncing Israel for its every act taken in self-defense.

"Credible long-term strategies to support Palestinian leaders who are actively working for peace"? Don't make me laugh. Name just one "Palestinian leader" who is working for peace. To a man, they have all -- whether from Fatah, Hezbollah, or Hamas (for those are the only factions of the "Palestinian leaders") -- refused to recognize Israel's right to exist.

So Israel should unilaterally stand down from its blockade, imposed in the teeth of world opinion to the contrary. But as for ECUSA, it will continue on its "Spirit-led" path to Divine Truth, regardless of how unilateral it may seem to the rest of the Anglican Communion, and regardless of how much others (such as the Archbishop of the Sudan) may urge it to stand down, and "deconsecrate" Bishop Robinson.

What is sauce for Israel is obviously not sauce for the Episcopal Church (USA). Because the latter is all about "peace and justice", don't you see, while the former needs to embrace that same peace and justice, and to date has failed to do so.

Any "peace" which our Presiding Bishop could urge Israel to adopt must surely be "the peace of God" -- for it passeth all human understanding.




5 comments:

  1. You mean she's stopped praying to "mother Jesus" long enough to write letters to the very people who can't do jack about the situation?

    Idolaters are funny. They always find the very things that won't help them in the long run.

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  2. Show her a fork in the road and she will usually take the left one.

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  3. "Note: some readers in the past have complained about insufficient advance warnings when satire follows. This is to assure those same readers that what follows is literally true, and is not satire. In short: even if I wanted to, I could not make this stuff up."

    Having in the past fallen into the "some readers" demographic described above, I thank you for the heads up!

    It is a testament in its own rite of the Episcopal leadership's detachment from reality that you even need to post disclaimers like this. That their actual behavior so frequently strays into what normal people would call "satirical" is just one more nail in the coffin that they are actively building for themselves.

    Thanks for keeping us apprised of the construction process.

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  4. Mr. Haley,

    I think we can all agree that the P.B.'s qualifications to speak on matters of international diplomacy are of the same order of magnitude as are her qualifications to speak on matters of theology. To be abundantly clear, were those qualifications to be expressed mathematically on a scale between zero and some suitably large integer, expressing hers in either arena would require the use of scientific notation and the sign of the exponent, which would clearly be substantially greater than unity, would necessarily be negative.

    It is also good (based on the premise that anything that is comparatively favorable is a positive) to see that her qualifications, however small, far outstrip those of Bishop Andrus.

    I would suppose that we should thank God for small favors in these instances.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

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  5. Mr. Haley,

    Just a few minutes after posting my last comment, I was reading a Catholic blog I frequent and noted a thread on the following pair of quotations from an out of print book by the Catholic philosopher and theologian Alice von Hildebrand:

    Not only is the quality of sacredness a mark of all religions, but it is so essential to religion that the very moment sacredness disappears religion vanishes with it."

    Sacredness is such an essential element of man’s religious life that it can be considered to be a barometer for the vitality of a particular religion. The moment the sense for the sacred diminishes, it is a sure sign that the faithful of that particular religion, are becoming secularized – that they have lost the sense for the things that are above.”

    For me, these two observations illuminate much of what I have seen deracinate The Episcopal Church over the past for or five (and I suspect more like eight) decades.

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