In the past few days there have been posts stating that Archbishop Akinola was taking up a post at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, that Marcus Borg was joining the faculty at Trinity School for Ministry, that Ruth Gledhill had released a copy of the new draft Anglican Covenant, but that Covenant was pulling it because Ephriam Radner, one of the members of the drafting team and a Covenant writer, had requested it be withdrawn. These notices of matters verging on the apocalyptic were posted along with a story that Newt Gingrich has become a Roman Catholic. All good fun...oops, it turns out the last of these four is true (or I think it is). How can we tell? Well, the first three posts were all filed under the category of "humor" on the Covenant pages. One has to look carefully next to the name of the author, but there it is.
All good fun, perhaps, but the trouble is these things are now out on the net and the linking of this page is well done by robots who don't laugh. We might remember that humor is a highly interactive form of communication best done among people who can laugh together. Pushing humor as news sometimes produces internet blog-farts. These pages, even if pulled, will remain as faint wisps of electronic detritus for years, and people will state with the confidence due Covenant, "Archbishop Akinola went to CDSP in 2009." In the topsy-turvy world of the internet blogsphere anything becomes a fact. Making it up as we go along can indeed be good for a laugh. After all no one would take seriously the idea that Akinola would be at CDSP or Borg at TSM, or Gingrich was becoming a Roman Catholic (wait, I remember, that IS true.) But some will forget the humor and remember the "fact."
Other blogsphere material is neither funny or true but will pass into the land of search engines where the robots cannot distinguish humor from feisty journalism and journalism from trashing. And the purposes served are not at all the simple ones of telling a joke, or poking fun at people who may or may not deserve to be laughed at.
The constant references to Fr. Forrester as the "Buddhist bishop" makes it almost impossible to make careful enquiry into his qualifications and suitability to be bishop of Northern Michigan. He has been subjected to trial by title, "Buddhist bishop." Lost in all that is the sort of studied response that came from the Bishop of Southern Ohio, Bishop Breidenthal.
Some in the blogsphere are essentially providing the internet Anglican talk-show environment for a limited and quite vocal crowd of kvetchers. Preludium has some, but mostly a mild mannered sort. Over at Stand Firm the kvetchers are sometimes given to howling. Sometimes the writers over at SF do a very good job at looking at an issue, so I graze in SF land regularly, even if it troubles my liberal soul.
I was surprised yesterday to see that Matt Kennedy took on a comment I made concerning the saying of the Nicene Creed and dumped that comment back into a criticism of my reasonably consistent effort to keep Fr. Forrester from being tried and convicted without a hearing.
Fr. Kennedy writes with passion and often with great detail, but he gets on a rant and where he leads others are willing to follow. But more to the point the search engine robots will now link me with a plot to overthrow the value of the Nicene Creed. Kennedy says,
"If Mark Harris' defense of Bishop-elect Forrester is any indication of 815 group-think then hang on. TEC gleefully jettisoned the bible to embrace VGR's sexual habits and the teeming masses, the rushing hordes, of LGBTQI people who have since become Episcopalians. Now Mark Harris+, a member of the Executive Council and well connected TEC insider, appears just as willing to trade the Nicene Creed for Thew+, Hegel, the Buddha and the over 2 Million American Buddhists who'll be hard pressed find places to sit amidst the throngs of LGBTQI couples on Sunday Morning. "
One of Kennedy's readers makes this strange comment:
"At present, having read one or two of his sermons, and listened to one, Fr. Forrester seems far too opaque to even suggest the concept of his “becoming a window for the Word of God in our midst.” Owing to his opacity, I think a window is out of the question, but a door might be a reasonable metaphor.
But a door assumes, incorrectly, that someone makes artillery in a sufficiently large caliber (probably something like 2000mm, or thereabouts). Of course, he would then no longer be, figuratively or physically, “in our midst.” The terms that come to mind are splattered and all over us, which as a Christian I should not wish on anyone, and certainly do not wish on him.
Absence of consent followed by deposition seem by far the most appropriate, and Christian, measures for Forrester."
In the blogland equivalent to the radio talk show rants some of the soft underbelly of America's love of violence makes it to the surface, but unlike talk radio there is plenty of time to pull the plug. SF didn't. Suggesting, even suggesting metaphorically, that a gun be taken to Fr. Forrester, is playing the hate game. It is not a joke. It is not a bit of April Fool's Day humor.
While I am of course honored to be vilified by Stand Firm (kind of a badge, you know), I am less honored to know that my reminder that we Episcopalians say the Nicene Creed consistently has been turned into an accusation that I might trade in the Nicene Creed for Forrester, Buddha and Hegel will sit out there as a fact right along with Archbishop Akinola being on the faculty at CDSP.
All of which pales by comparison to the purity driven comment that started it all: "Yes we all say these words, but are they believed when they are spoken?" My response was to say,
"who knows the hearts of people? God alone. About as close as we can get is the sense that a person is without guile, and open to learning again and again from the words what lies behind them.
I believe we say the words, even the ones we don't particularly think are clear or on the surface of it true, and let them wash over us, and perhaps wash us down. There were years when I was not particularly comfortable with "incarnate from the Virgin Mary." The words wash over me and after a while I found the "other side.""
"I do agree we need to hold Bishops to a "higher standard of theological reflection than a new believer in the faith." Do you suppose that perhaps Fr. Forrester is engaged in his sermons in "theological reflection"?
That would be a good thing. It is not the same as reflecting the Word of God (notice I did not say reflecting 'on'). Theological reflection is at least a step on the way to becoming a window for the Word of God in our midst and beats the hell out of much of what passes for preaching.
Having preached some bad sermons, I ought to know."
Somehow that comment about a window became in rant-land an image of a door and a gun, and splattering, and no more problem in our midst.
What began as a criticism of me (and I know my failings, they are ever before me) as become an occasion for trash talk of the worse sort.
Perhaps it makes for readership - Stand Firm has a mighty active gang of readers. But it does not make for either Christian charity or good journalism, or even modestly useful blogging.