St. Paul and the Liberal Agenda
As a Catholic, I feel a special sympathy for conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians. Talk about a hijacked religion!
Time was when the Anglican Church was spoken of as the via media a middle way between Catholicism and Protestantism, corresponding approximately to what C.S. Lewis called mere Christianity, affirming the basic and central doctrines almost all Christians shared.
Lewis, who died in 1963, wouldnt recognize his church today, particularly its American branch. The Episcopal Church in this country has recently elected as its presiding bishop a woman named Katharine Jefferts Schori, an unabashed liberal-and-then-some who favors homosexual clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Her election has triggered a worldwide reaction among more-orthodox Anglicans and Episcopalians, some of whom have been driven to contemplate schism rather than submit to her leadership. Her nine-year term will begin in November. Several American dioceses have already rejected her authority, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has been forced to acknowledge the turmoil in his church.
Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh complains that Jefferts Schori is clearly not committed to the faith as delivered to the saints. In a typically provocative sermon recently, she spoke of Mother Jesus. She later explained that all language is metaphorical, particularly theological language, but this metaphor obviously failed to grab some members of her flock. Still, she insisted it was straight-down-the-middle orthodox theology.
Well, thats one way to put it. Another would be to say this woman typifies liberal arrogance in her conviction that her mission is to raise everyones consciousness, even if it means speaking as if she has just superseded St. Paul, who tried to be all things to all men.
A British satire once parodied her attitude by depicting a progressive-minded clergyman saying, I think we have to get away from this old idea that God is holy or something. Exactly. Liberals specialize in superseding everything that came before them, urging us to question authority. It always turns out that they mean every form of authority except their own. Before that, they demand that we fall to our knees.
Chesterton spoke of the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal. It would be hard to sum up liberalism more succinctly. Do you still think abortion and sodomy are abnormal? If so, the liberal is here to set you straight, if we may use the word straight in this context.
To liberalism, tradition, which Chesterton called the democracy of the dead, is nothing but bigotry, and may be safely ignored. Liberals want to be open-minded about everything except the past. They seem to think our ancestors got everything wrong.
Liberal Christians seem to agree that the man who got the most things wrong was St. Paul. It seems that Jesus founded a simple religion of everyone being nice to each other and tolerant of everything, and right away, as luck would have it, this cranky Paul fellow came along and mucked everything up, and the Church has been haywire ever since, especially on matters of sex and the sexes. Ill bet you wont hear Bishop Jefferts Schori purring approvingly of Mother Paul! Wicked Stepfather Paul, maybe.
What these liberal Christians never seem to comprehend, if they notice it at all, is the sheer urgency of Pauls teaching. Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, and the other apostles all stress the spiritual peril the human race faces. The end of history is approaching, and we must be ready for it. Salvation is available to everyone, but a total conversion is necessary. It cant be delayed. Gods kingdom is at hand; his mercy is infinite. But the Good News comes with a terrible warning.
This is a mysterious and unsettling message, and Paul doesnt water it down. Did he really think the end of the world was imminent? This is still debated, but at any rate he certainly tells us to live as if it were. Gay rights and sensual indulgence are not on the agenda; neither is following worldly fashion. The only agenda is obedience to God the Father and worship of the Son. Everything else follows from that.
Liberal Christians are right about one thing. Their instinctive aversion to Paul shows they realize that he was no liberal.
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