November 18, 2003
Sexual schisms are immoral!
Sayeed Qutb stands for the noteworthy proposition that Muslims who do not conform to his view of Islam are not Muslims, but, rather "shirk." (If you read the link above, you will see that sex was a core issue for poor Mr. Qutb's religious mania.)
Such a notion of ideological purity is worrisome to me, because it does not allow evolution of human thought. By definition it is backwards in nature, and you wouldn't think it would have any appeal at all to educated people who believe in democracy or freedom. So why worry about it at all?
I worry because it appeals to two very different aspects of the human mind. One is the very natural tendency we all have of wanting easy, absolute answers. There is nothing easier or more absolute that something that can be defined once and for all, for all time. Those who look for easy answers often look for "leaders" -- authority figures who pander to this need. The second aspect is that side of the human mind which loves ideological purity. Those who want to lead other people have an easier time of it if they can cite a final, external authority as the source for what they say. This also makes it infinitely easier to escape criticism, and avoid any personal responsibility for one's opinions. If one's opinions are not one's own, then all disagreement and all opinions to the contrary are transformed into attacks on the external source of ideology. If said ideology is said to come from "God," then disagreement becomes an "attack" against "God."
Mind you, I think this is an extreme abuse of logic, and extreme arrogance. But that's what Sayeed Qutb and his ilk have made a permanent wellspring of intellectual terrorism -- which has led to real world terrorism.
While Qutb and his sequelae are an extreme case, this rhetorical mechanism -- defining people as apart from and separate from what they otherwise would have themselves be -- how different is that mechanically from labeling of non-conforming Christians as non-Christians, labeling of non-confirming Republicans as RINOs (usually for disagreements over "morality"), or non-comforming Democrats as DINOs (again, usually for disagreements over "morality")?
I was fascinated to see earlier today that the fundamentalist Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Bakker) has been caught preaching to a "homosexual church" (not sure how that is defined either; by simply allowing homosexuals to belong?)
Curious, I discovered that the church, called the Potter's House Fellowship Church in Tampa, Florida, has been "disavowed" by the AOG (Assembly of God). I am not quite sure what it means to be disavowed by the Assembly of God, but I figure some of my readers might be as curious as I was. Here's what the AOG's Head Dude down there said:
Terry Rayburn is district superintendent of the Assemblies of God Council in Lakeland, Florida. He says what is happening at Potter's House is definitely not of the Holy Spirit. "We feel very strongly that the Holy Sprit would only live in a human vessel that was sanctified by salvation," Rayburn says, "and inasmuch as homosexuality is a sin, then we would not concur that that would be the Holy Spirit."OK, so no AOG affiliation. What does that mean? At their recent service, Tammy Faye, was quoted as saying that Jesus loved crazy people:
"I think Jesus really loves crazy people. He really does. He made so many of us!"I am not a theologian, but her analysis seems consistent with Biblical accounts of a man criticized for the company he kept. Pastor Morgan (of Potter's House Fellowship) was educated by the AOG. Ordinarily, that would make him a Pentecostal minister. Not, however, according to the United Pentecostal Church International.
It's getting tougher and tougher to keep track of these religious schisms. Among the various Baptists there are the Rainbow Baptists, which are affiliated with the Welcoming and Accepting Baptists, and both are in turn affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA.
I remember when the Dolores Street Baptist Church in San Francisco was burned and then "disfellowshipped" and I had just assumed that there was no such thing as a gay Baptist, so all of this rather surprised me.
The following (severely edited for my impatient readers!) chronology is interesting:
Oct. 1995 * First Baptist Church of Berkeley, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, New Community of Faith in San Jose, and San Leandro Community Church are disfellowshipped from the American Baptist Churches of the West. The rational for the dismissal was the membership of the churches in AWAB. Not having legal ground for the disfellowshipping, the ABCW changed it's Common Criteria for church association to prevent churches from the region from being a member of AWAB. The churches appealed change in Common Criteria to the General Board since such a change puts the ABCW criteria in conflict with that of the ABC/USA.
By any standard, this is every bit as much of a religious split as the one facing the Episcopalian Church. The difference is that in the Episcopalian Church, the split is the inverse of the Baptists; the majority (Episcopal Church in the USA) being pro-homosexual, and the minority (American Anglican Council) "anti" -- with the Archbishop of Canterbury, while expressing disagreement with the ordination of a homosexual bishop, seeming to duck the issue for now. (Bear in mind that the Anglican Church was a schism brought about by Henry VIII, and the Episcopal Church was an American splitoff from the Anglican Church.)
But parenthetically, why is the Episcopal Church schism getting all the attention? I have not seen any of the Baptist stuff reported anywhere. To hear people talk, you'd think that only Episcopalians and Presbyterians had "problems" with the homos. Now, I don't belong to any churches at all, so this is primarily relevant to me as an aid in analyzing the matter of "exclusion from definition" (for lack of a better term).
Unlike the followers of Sayeed Qutb, neither the majority Baptists nor the minority Anglicans will likely engage in terrorist tactics against their respective "heretics" who don't live up to their standards. But "inclusion" is a very tough business, especially when dissent is seen as threatening the essential nature of What Something Is.
Whether in religion or politics, the only alternative to inclusion seems to be schism.
Is schism a bad thing? Why shouldn't the Rainbow Baptists have just as much right to form their own denomination as the American Anglican Council? Suppose the RINOs were all kicked out of the Republican Party, and the DINOs out of the Democratic Party. They could all coalesce into the new small "l" libertarian party and call themselves "Arnie's Army" or something.
How far the majority is willing to go, and what issue is worth the costly nature of a schism, are other matters.
Why does sex have to be so damned important to religion and politics?
I have a blind spot. I really wish I could understand these things better. I just don't care where my neighbor puts his dick as long as he isn't harming someone.
Millions apparently care very much.
UPDATE: Speaking of a new small "l" libertarian party (whether called "Arnie's Army" or not) here's a very informative post about such a movement -- a "popular insurrection" no less -- within the Libertarian Party itself.
posted by Eric on 11.18.03 at 10:33 PM
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