Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Word "Love" Is Inadequate

At some point in recent Episcopal history, the innovators, who were now much more interested in new morality than new theology, starting dropping all their
prophetic, ground-breaking, barrier-breaking, new world exploring rhetoric -- the rhetorical mode that had sustained skeptical Christianity for the 20th century, most used, or most loudly declaimed, in the 1960s and early 70s -- and started talking about themselves as if they were perfectly orthodox believers. I suspect the same happened in other mainline denominations.

This, they obviously thought, would provide some excuse for doing what almost everyone recognized as ground-breaking and barrier-breaking, if not (opinion was divided on this) prophetic and new world exploring. Some felt that the barriers being broken were like corsets oppressing women yearning to breath free, others that the barriers were like guardrails keeping reckless, foolish, inattentive, or suicidal people from driving their cars into the Grand Canyon.

The liberals' problem was convincing everyone else that what had once been universally held to be wrong was now as mainstream as American cheese in suburban Sioux Falls, Iowa, and as bland and inoffensive as beige carpets. Hence the appeal, which the Rev'd Ms. Russell adopts, to a high but abstract principle derived from a Dominical teaching taken out of context.

Thus the moral innovators could claim to be "biblical," because the principle to which they claimed allegiance was indeed found in the Bible, without having to trouble themselves to find, or to obey, what the Bible actually said. Making the word "love" the sole authoritative principle without further definition destroys all possibility of reason, and therefore of challenge.

The word by itself suggests wisdom, insight, sensitivity, even godliness, but by itself means nothing practical, nothing specific. It is a bag into which one can put anything one wishes and get it through customs, a get-out-of-jail-free card any criminal can use, a magic wand that makes all problems disappear. [emphasis mine -kp]

Except that what Ms. Russell calls absolutism, fundamentalism, and puritanism simply articulates what the Bible tells us about reality. More to the point, it articulates what God has graciously told us about reality because on many matters, like the nature and exercise of sexuality, we don’t want to see what we should see, what is indeed right in front of us. We need the details, not just general instructions to “love.”

From David Mills, in Touchstone Magazine - Mere Comments

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