Badges? Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges! (Revision 1)

OK, I will admit that in part I am posting this note IN ORDER to use a favorite cut from Blazing Saddles. Still, perhaps there is some modest value in thinking about badges. At General Convention Deputies and Bishops, visitors and exhibitors, and a whole host of others will get a badge, looking something like this (on right).

Eagle-eyed volunteers will watch the entry ways to the floor of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops to make sure that only people with the right sort of badge get in. Interestingly they are informative to legislative concerns - identifying who can be on the floor, who has access to what area, etc. But these are badges that check us in. Nothing on these badges says anything about contact information, health concerns, medical or other information. The badge identifies our role at the Convention. In the House of Bishops the badge makes it possible spot the elect without reference to the color of their clerical shirt. In the House of Deputies, the badge affirms that we are deputies. So I suppose these are deputies badges. Thus the clip from Blazing Saddles. Here it is.

OK. Recovered?

Christopher P was kind enough to let me know that I'm not up on matters in film land, that the phrase came first from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Unless someone knows an earlier utterance, Here is the first use of the phrase, "We don't need no stinking badges!" Not as funny as Blazing Saddles, but purer.

Now that we've done comic and comic relief, on to the stinkin' issue:

Now here is a question about the Anglican Covenant and the matter of badges.
What sort of a badge is the Anglican Covenant and who might be given it, or wear it?

We know about the badge of baptism - the outward and visible sign of THE inward and spiritual grace of inclusion in the death and Resurrection of Our Lord. We know about the badge of communion - they will know us by the love we have for Our Lord and one another in this meal. We can think of the scriptures read as a badge of fidelity to God's Word (which is outwardly and visibly signed in the writings, but inwardly and spiritually ingested in our incorporation in Christ Jesus.) Some might see the creeds said as a badge of orthodoxy, or a growing need to more carefully define orthodoxy.

But there is kind of a creep...Baptism and Eucharist are clear, Scripture still pretty clear. The Creeds are less immediately clear as badges, but then the creep begins in earnest. The Thirty Nine Articles is moving away from a universal badge of our being deputised as Christians. The Lambeth Quadrilateral, unknown to most Episcopalians until recently, is even further away. And now there is this think called an Anglican Covenant. What sort of a badge is it? Is it in any way an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace? That is, does it share in any way in the sacramental deputising of us as Christ's body in the world?

Maybe the search for new and improved badges is wrongheaded. We have the badge and sign of our Christian life: We are washed, we are resurrected, we eat, we drink, we are informed by Scripture, we seek God's reign wherever we can and hope for its fullness. It is hard to imagine just what the Anglican Covenant can add to that. Of course it is argued that the Covenant is there to tell us we legitimately carry the "Anglican" badge, and that we are deputized to be Anglicans. But of course no one out there in the regular world of Christ's followers cares a wit whether or not we are Anglicans. Anglican Churches do, bishops do, even sometimes parishes do. But it is mostly the authorities that care.

Authorities are everywhere, of course. The Anglican Church in North America has some, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada and The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Province of the Southern Cone, and on and on, have Authorities, and THEY care.

So the badge is about getting on to the floor of their decision making bodies. That is indeed important to have is that is where you are called to go. But for most of us, most of the time, we go where no badges are needed, because we go where we are mostly among friends.

At that level the badge that is most useful is the one that a local church wears: the rainbow badge, or an inclusion symbol, a sign of the inward grace of the community that is home and hope. It says, no badges here. "Badges? Badges? we don't need no stinkin' badges!"

So let's remember one badge gets us into General Convention, another (the Covenant) might get us onto the floor of the Anglican Consultative Council, or Lambeth Conference, or maybe an ecumenical meeting. But the badge that gets us in to people's lives, and indeed into our own deepest living, is the badge of our inclusion in the household of God. And that badge is mostly worn by Jesus Christ.

I cannot imagine a time when the Anglican Covenant would creep back out of the world of Administration and become in any way a sacramental badge indicating an inward and spiritual grace. It just doesn't work.

So the Anglican Covenant is no one's business except those whose business it is to exclude and include in business. If we get this badge we get to play out our ministry in a particular context, and there is real value to that context, but we need to be clear that although the Covenant lists all those others signs and badges, some of which are central to our Christian faith, that does not make the Covenant central.

By the time the Covenant gets to part 4 it has crept a long way from Baptism and Eucharist. By then it is a meal best eaten by the Administrators.

In the film those are the guys at the table, passing out the badges.


  1. Christopher (P.)29/6/09 9:16 PM


    Blazing Saddles? Surely you know the original reference, from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948, with Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston, and this memorable piece of dialogue:

    "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."

    All films made after 1960 are merely compilations of earlier ones.

    Perhaps Blazing Saddles is the Youtube you want, though?

  2. And don't forget that the Monkeys used it in one of their parodies also.

  3. "We can think of the scriptures read as a badge of fidelity to God's Word (which is outwardly and visibly signed in the writings, but inwardly and spiritually ingested in our incorporation in Christ Jesus.)"

    I love your sentence concerning the Bible. Not only moving from outward sign to inward grace, this ingesting of Scripture also leads back outwardly to a changed life (your "incorporation in Christ Jesus"). My Evangelical heritage appreciates your phrasing.

  4. At my church we wear name badges. They are not required, but do come in handy especially for those of us who have trouble remembering names. My day job also requires the use of badges. These badges are good because the first name of the person (and picture) are printed on the front. The name is in LARGE letters so that people can read the name from quite a distance. The two types of badges, one for security (you gotta have one to gain entrance) and one for convenience (so that everyone who can read will know your name) are hard to keep up with (if I forget the security one you cannot gain entrance to my job) but helpful.

    I'm all for being helpful but against being exclusionary. Maybe badges are not all bad, but they can become a status symbol (with some having them and some not having them). We need to be careful that the exclusionary side of badges is not the face our church will show the world.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.