Monday, December 17, 2007
by Wayne Besen
Has there ever been a more feckless, less respected religious figure than the "Arch-Baby" of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams? Liberals ignore him, conservatives walk over him and through his stunning lack of leadership he has lost control of the Anglican Church.
The wheels came off the car in 2003 when openly gay V. Gene Robinson was selected as Bishop of New Hampshire. Since then, conservative Episcopal factions in America - egged on by anti-gay peers in developing countries - have threatened to bolt and take every bit of property that isnâ€™t bolted down to the church floor.
In the face of such insubordination, Williams had a clear-cut decision to make. He could side with liberals and crush the cabal of right wing turncoats. Or, he could stand on the wrong side of history and defrock Robinson and those who approved his consecration. Instead, he has taken a series of wishy-washy positions that have pleased no one and revealed weakness - which has encouraged further conservative mutinies.
After the unassuming Robinson assumed his new position, some conservative parishes warned they would opt out of the Episcopal Church and place themselves under the authority of theologically like-minded African Bishops.
It was at this point where Williams should have flexed his muscle. A commanding leader would have threatened to fire any pastor who defied the Episcopal leadership. He would have told troublemakers, such as Nigerian Archbishop Peter J Akinola, to can his rhetoric or get canned.
As a result of Williams' habitual indecision, on December 8, delegates to the Episcopal Church's Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave the denomination and align themselves with a South American province in the Anglican Communion. This was followed a day later by the Church of Nigeria placing four new North American bishops under its banner.
The spineless Williams responded with a wordy letter that incoherently chastised both sides. He blamed the liberals for departing from the Orthodox interpretation of Scripture and told Bishop Robinson he wasn't invited to the splashy Lambeth Conference next summer.
He also reprimanded the foreign conservatives for appropriating American parishes and told them the conservative Americans from breakaway parishes were also not invited. In other words, the Anglican Church is on the verge of a schism and the best Williams could do is tell the dueling sides they could not come to a big church party. Now, that's leadership!
In a laughable act of desperate futility, Williams suggested the warring factions join "professionally facilitated conversations." The clueless Archbishop of Canterbury is so out of touch, he might as well be the Archbishop of Xanadu.
What exactly are these two sides going to resolve? The liberals believe that homosexuals are equal in God's eyes and therefore should be treated as human beings. The conservatives believe that gay people are sinful and should be treated as subhuman. Williams believes in nothing - other than keeping the Communion together, even if that entails engaging in the immoral act of harming gay people within the church.
The thing is, once people have the epiphany that gays and lesbians deserve equality there is no turning back. The Archbishop can't expect parishioners in the Episcopal Church who believe in fairness to abandon their principles and ditch their gay friends and family members - in the name of the false idol of "unity."
Chicago Consultation, a coalition of church liberals, blasted Williams for his lame letter, saying he pandered to conservatives and slighted gay members of the church.
"The archbishop's lengthy letter contains not a word of comfort to gay and lesbian Christians," the group said, responding to Williams. "We are especially troubled by the absence of openly gay members on the bodies that may ultimately resolve the issue at hand. The archbishop's unwillingness to include gay and lesbian Christians in this process perpetuates the bigotry he purports to deplore."
The bottom line is that Williams will have to finally choose sides and squash dissenters. There is no getting around a schism and there is no way to bridge the gap and offer more than band-aide solutions.
It is a shame that it has come to this, but Williams' lack of moral clarity is responsible for the likely break-up of the Anglican Communion. He has stood for nothing - and nothing is what he will end up with if he doesn't get his act together. Forget a facilitator for the opposing sides - he needs to get one for himself so he can find out who he is and what he ultimately stands for.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
by Wayne Besen
Perhaps, if the largest newspaper in Little Rock were called the Arkansas Republican-Gazette instead of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Mike "Huck-a-Bible" might have bothered to read the news. America was shocked to learn that the rising GOP political star was blissfully unaware of the National Intelligence Estimate that found Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
This debacle was followed by news of an Associated Press questionnaire Huckabee completed in his failed 1992 U.S. Senate bid, where he called for the quarantine of AIDS patients and referred to homosexuality as "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle" that could "pose a dangerous public health risk."
Huckabee defended his ignorance by saying his "comments came at a time when the public was still learning about HIV and AIDS." Actually, by 1992 every American had easy access to information on the transmission of HIV. Huckabee was either divorced from reality or a cruel manipulator who exploited sick people for political gain. Even more outrageous, the former Arkansas governor denied he intended to quarantine AIDS patients, explaining that the word he used was "isolate." That laughable gem must have come from the Arkansas Bill Clinton School of Parsing.
In the 1990's, Huckabee also signed a newspaper ad by Southern Baptist ministers that supported a church policy calling for women to "graciously submit" to their husbands. While this may play well in the deepest, darkest recesses of the South and with some elements of the Taliban, most women voters, and certainly Hillary Clinton, won't bow at his patriarchal feet. What is scary, is that in a December 11 New York Times/CBS News Poll, 85 percent of potential Republican voters say that Huckabee "shares the same values of most Republicans."
Meanwhile, Willard "Full of Mitt" Romney gave his much-anticipated speech about his religion to head off anti-Mormon sentiment coming from the Huckabee campaign. Romney's delivery was exceptional, but he delivered an exceptionally divisive message. His premise was that people of faith should unite and ignore sectarian differences to win the culture war against the Infidels - who used to simply be called neighbors.
Romney also argued for more ostentatious public displays of religion. Unfortunately, he failed to realize the obvious - that religion has already run amok in the public square. This is why he was forced to give a speech that was essentially a religious test for public office - an indignity his own father did not have to endure when he ran for the presidency.
Romney - and the misguided Washington pundits who lauded his address - do not understand how little his performance accomplished. Most evangelical voters who genuinely cared about his faith before the speech will always view him as the Mormon guy in the mystical magic underwear
. In a sense, Romney is a deserving victim of the hyper-sectarian society he has helped create.
Losing ground on the right to Romney and Huckabee, Rudy Guiliani may have tried to reassure
conservatives by saying on Meet the Press that he thought gay acts are sinful. His statement was ambiguous enough where it was difficult to discern what he meant. But, if the former New York City mayor, who has an affinity for drag and once lived with a gay couple, buckles to the base, it signals a complete takeover of the GOP by religious zealots. This will either spell disaster for the Republican Party or for the future of America.
To have such intellectual barbarians with legitimate shots at the presidency is embarrassing and speaks to a nation in decay. I don't think it is a coincidence that Americans posted average science scores lower than 16 other countries in a recent International Student Assessment given to 15-year-olds in 30 industrialized nations. In math, U.S. students had average scores below 23 other countries. Morality obsessed Mississippi was the lowest-performing state in both math and science. In math, Mississippi students' achievement was comparable to those of peers in Bulgaria and Moldova. But, they do know their Bible verses by heart!
Such an education system produces pupils like White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who was clueless about the Cuban Missile crisis, saying, "...I really don't know about...the Cuban Missile Crisis. It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."
Why doesn't Bush do away with all pretenses and hire Britney Spears for the job?
It was also no surprise that Barbara Walters 10 most fascinating people
of 2007 included no scientists and was loaded with no less than seven celebrities, who are primarily interesting because we want to sleep with them, thus they boost ratings. I'm sure Justin Timberlake is interesting, but what about the scientists who just turned skin cells into stem cells? Too bad they can't dance.
If you are dumbfounded how men like Huckabee and Bush are taken seriously, just consider that America, thanks to religious fanatics, has become dumber. I have hope that our nation will wake up and realize that what is going on doesn't add up - until I remember that most of us can no longer add.