A video has been produced by Peter Ould and posted on the Stand Firm website as a "powerful montage." Peter Ould said of this video, "I thought I'd let the Windsor Bishops know at this point what I'm praying for them. If you share my thoughts then feel free to use the video on your own blog / site." I have no intention of using the video on this blog. It can be accessed here.
The video is out there to be an encouragement to the bishops to accede to the requests from the Primates at Dar Es Salaam. It will mostly be played by those in the realigniment / dissenter community and I assume understood as powerful. It will no doubt be sent to bishops by some of those folk as an encouragement.
I believe it is a profoundly disturbing and spiritually dangerous video. Shame has come to the blog struggles concerning the Anglican Communion.
The text of the video is as follows:
"450 years ago two bishops believed that truth was more important than compromise. They believed some things are worth dying for. 450 years later Episcopal Bishops will decide whether the truths Latimer and Ridley died for are worth holding onto: whether the fire lit on the 16th of October 1555 was of any worth; whether scripture is authoritative, or the sinful desires of men and women. We pray you will not shirk. We pray you will make a stand whatever the cost. Better to die for truth than to live on for sin. It is time once again to be of good comfort and to Play the Man.
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, after the examples of your servants, that we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace."
The text puts the issue as this: "whether scripture is authoritative, or the sinful desires of men and women." The call is this: "better to die for truth than to live on for sin."
All of this is apparently fair game in Anglican-land these days. This is an appeal to "Windsor" and perhaps "Windsor like" bishops. There are other appeals out there to other bishops.
But here is the shame:
We all know that the sin being spoken of here – the "sinful desires of men and women" – are viewed largely by the realignment / dissenter crowd as being about the sin of men and women having same sex relations, that is about gay and lesbian persons.
With that in mind, know that the VISUALS of the video are of Latimer and Ridley being burned at the stake, in graphic detail and at lenght.
The author, no doubt, want the bishops to understand that upholding the belief that "scripture is authoritative" is what is necessary, even if it costs your life – or perhaps in modern day your 'holding'. But the dreadful subtext is in the visuals with the music for "Great is Your Name." The viewer watches the immolation of the bishops in detail, with a soothing voice overlay. That subtext can mean very different things to different people.
To some, avid readers of Fox's Book of Martyrs, this is about courage to hold to belief and the encouragement to "play the Man." For these viewers the suffering at the stake, like the suffering on the cross, is something to be bourn for the faith. It can be accompanied by romantic or dramatic music. It can seem almost glorious.
For others, whose counterparts in previous generations, were burned at the stake for being homosexual, or heretics, or witches, images of burnings at the stake is a constant reminder that this end is always possible for them. And, unlike the martyrs they will not go to their deaths for what they believe alone, but for what they are perceived to be, "sinful men and women."
One hopes that the producer of this video meant no such thing. It still remains that the horror of death by fire was met out by those in authority against enemies of state and religion. No matter that this was an illustration of how bishops should stand firm for what the producer believes is the issue, namely scripture as authoritative. The vivid presence of the fire and the visuals of the burning is a reminder of the miseries and terror visited on people by state and religion at its most righteous.
The video text gets a lot wrong – simplifying the martyrdom and mistaking the choice of Episcopal Church bishops - "whether scripture is authoritative, or the sinful desires of men and women." There is no shame in error or simplification.
But the visuals are horrendous. They may be on the surface a reminder that a peculiarly horrible manner of execution was used against two reformers, but deep down they also recall us to the reality that such executions took place against others without any remorse by church leaders of several generations.
There is no word in this video that speaks out against such punishment for any reason. The video makes of death by fire a romantic and courageous thing. But in reality it is an outrageously horrible punishment that no one should suffer.
There is no word in the text, no visual in the video that suggests in any way what must be said. What needs always to be said is: "Never Again."
The shame that this video brings to the struggles we face is this: the visual romanticizing of the martyrs' death is an affront to all those who live in fear of death or the death of spirit at the hands of the state or church for what they believe, or what they are. The subliminal visual "text" is that the stake is still here, and you could be next. No one who has known of others in their group burned at the stake can forget: there is always a stake ready for the using.
I cannot and ought not speak for Gay and Lesbian folk, but as a potential heretic, traitor, a person of questionable practices of all sorts I can say that I found the video a frightening reminder about what can happen to any of us - gay, straight, left, right, orthodox or heterodox. There are those always ready to light the fire.
The shame of this video is that it does not condemn the burning, but glorifies the burned, and at the same time it condemns sinful men and women and glorifies scripture as authoritative. But I say glorify sinful men and women because that's all there is among humankind, and condemn no one, and make scripture the instrument of God's engagement with all us sinners.