Friday, July 01, 2005

Bad English

from The New Republic Online: by Martin Peretz, 06.30.05 ....

About 40 years ago, when I was a young graduate student at Harvard, I drove the aging and very distinguished suffragan bishop of Massachusetts, W. Appleton Lawrence, from Cambridge to some 'peace meeting' in the western part of the state....Somewhere around Amherst, I asked Lawrence what Anglicans believed. His face took on a deep, pensive look. "We believe," he intoned, "in civil rights for Negroes, the admission of Red China to the United Nations, and friendship with Castro Cuba." I do not at all want to belittle the bishop. I liked him. He was not pompous. And probably he thought that this clever Jewish boy from New York would not really be asking him a theological question, which is exactly what I was doing.

....Still, I was immediately suffused with a sense of the impending decline of the Anglican Church, at least here in the United States.

... For all their purified language, the House of Bishops and the consultative councils of the Anglican Communion are settings either for ideological dogmatism, nearly always with unanimous decisions, or for lifestyle fratricide, as in the debates about gay clergy and gay marriage. In any case, the number of Episcopalians is in steep descent. The influence of the American church--such as it is--seems to be limited to the sway it exercises over the bureaucracies of the 35 other declining Protestant denominations assembled in that portentous rump called the National Council of Churches, always "joining hands and voices" for something goofy or worse.

The Episcopal Church in the United States has long been threatening to disinvest from U.S. companies that "support the occupation of Palestinian lands.....last week, in England, the Anglican Consultative Council, including the present Archbishop of Canterbury, voted unanimously to do the same. (The previous archbishop criticized the move.) The Anglicans have an analysis backing up their position: "It is the Israeli occupation in its many facets that foments the violence and fuels the conflict." This ignores so many facts that it boggles the mind.

....The Anglican luminaries are either ignorant or mendacious. A church spokesman, James Rosenthal, stated that the resolution expressed the Anglican concern for the situation of Palestinian Christians living in the territories. Now, it is true that Christians are in deep despair in emerging Palestine--but not because they are endangered by Israel. ....Christians have been deserting the territories out of fear that the Israelis will abandon them to the twin mercies of virulent Arab nationalism and Islamic fanaticism.

.....What kindles the fire in their hearts for Palestine? There is little or nothing in Palestinian society that would fill a progressive with enthusiasm. ....I come to an unavoidable conclusion. The obsession here is not positive, for one side, but rather negative, against the other side. The clerics and the lay leaders on this indefensible crusade are so fixated on Palestine because their obsession, which can be buttressed by various Christian sources and traditions, is really with the Jews. A close look at this morbid passion makes one realize that its roots include an ancient hostility for the House of Israel, an ugly survival of a hoary intolerance into some of the allegedly enlightened precincts of modern Christendom.
Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief of TNR.

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