"T" is for "Twerp."
Shortly after our engagement in 1998, my better half, who willingly identified herself as Catholic but was at something of a loss for why ('70s Catechesis), made a proposal to the adrift Methodist. We were discussing religion, namely What Religion We Would Be. Very American, when you think about it. While hoping I'd warm to Catholicism, she offered Plan B first:
"You're Methodist, and I'm Catholic. But how would you feel about a 'compromise'? I was thinking the Episcopal Church."
According to her recounting of the incident, I spat my veto of that proposal, virtually making a balloon animal out of the steering wheel, although I don't recall it being that vehement. After all, it's not in my nature.
In any event, she then suggested Plan A, looking into Catholicism, and I said sure, OK. Have to have a united front for the offspring, don't you know? It's been all downhill since.
One of the reasons I was turned off to the ECUSA was the small print at the bottom of a then-regular column in the Detroit Free Press. The small print innocuously identified the author of said column:
THE REV. HARRY T. COOK is an Episcopal priest and author. He is rector of St. Andrew's Church in Clawson.
Harry T. Cook: get the Gaviscon--you're in for a miserable eight column inches. It wasn't the fact he's a left-winger that's a problem--then, and more so now, I'll read columns by folks of that persuasion. The problem was that he tarted up his stylings in a vaguely-religious sanctimony leavened with a heaping shovelful of lecturing prissy schoolmarm. Moreover, when he invoked Jesus, I began to notice something: Cook's Christ was notable only for his occasional appearances to endorse a hobbyhorse of Cook's rigorous leftism. "Fundamentalism" and "intolerance" (i.e., people who had the gall to disagree with him) were particular bugbears for the Schoolmarm.
In other words, instead of the King of Kings, Cook's Jesus was the Grad of Grads, teaching a 500 level course on Contemporary American Social Issues. A Mascot, not Master.
Rather shorter and much tweedier than even a semi-lapsed Methodist pictured Him.
Reading Cook, I slowly began to realize two things: (1) I identified with the Forces of Evil he ranted against (where can I get my ID card?), and (2) I wanted nothing to do with the ECUSA. I suppose I should thank him for his anti-witness, given that I'm Catholic now. I can't imagine the heartbreak of faithful Anglicans right now, and I'm glad to be spared that.
After inflicting his worldview on Metropolitan Detroit for a few years, he provided one of the happiest moments of my Freep readership with his announcement he would no longer be writing for the newspaper. He also announced he was forming something called the "Center for Rational Christianity" (I hadn't heard of Spong at this time). Fortunately for all of us, the CRC appears to have retreated into a tree-massacring exercise in ensuring that the world will be aggravated by Harry's written word. Bad enough, but it could be much, much worse.
Terrifyingly, like Jason or Freddy Krueger, Cook made a reappearance last week in the Freep to comment on the Great Episcopal Crack-Up and the Secular Canonization of Canon Vicki Gene Robinson.
He has not gotten better with age.
As I read of the protests against the ordination of Bishop V[icki]. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire on Sunday, my private anger at Episcopalian fundamentalists turned into public embarrassment.
Uh oh, class. It's come to Harry's attention that someone has stolen the apple off his desk, and he's staring down his nose and tapping his foot impatiently.
He's opened with "fundamentalist"--a Spongian touch if ever there was one, and a fine substitute for thought. As an evangelical writer once retorted, Spong's definition of "fundamentalist" is "anyone with an inclination to take the contents of the Bible seriously." Likewise the Rev. Harry.
As we will see, Cook's a lot like Spong--only without the intellectual rigor.
Is it really possible that two obscure biblical passages -- one in Leviticus (circa 500 BC) and the other in the Epistle to the Romans (circa 50 AD) -- are taken so seriously by some Episcopalians in 2003 AD that they call Robinson a "sinner" because he makes love with the man who is his life partner in a faithful, monogamous relationship? So seriously that schism is the only alternative?
Do they actually read the Bible in mainline seminaries, or just read about it? Really? Two passages? Try at least three more that I can regurgitate here: 1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10, Jude 7. Take a long look at Genesis 1 as well.
Perhaps they should teach counting at Touchy-Feely U.
And note the Wondrous Superiority of His Kind to Those Smelly Jews and Other Pre-Merlot Mediterranean Barbarians. After all, you know, we sit at the Apex of Creation and invented things that they could not. You know, like X Box, Zyklon B, Jerry Springer, carpetbombing, Hustler, weaponized anthrax and the like.
Why listen to those guys, when you can Listen To The Spirit With The Grizz?
Actually, I'll stick with listening to the Jewish guys, and not the fellows going "Wheeee!" in the cultural vortex, thank you.
"The issue," one of the protesters said, "is not so much homosexuality as it is the place of scripture in our tradition."
Enjoy your one moment of good sense in a Harry Cook column. You almost always find these oases, small as they are, and they are always quotes from the Forces of Eeeeeeevil. Drink deep.
Back into the featureless desert of Harry's mind.
We are left thereby to suppose that one of the 613 so-called commandments, which prohibits sex between males, set down by members of a priestly cult in Fifth Century BC Judea, taken together with a homophobic blast of a mid-First Century AD Pharisaic Jew-turned-militant-Christian, dictate the very will and law of an unseen God.
Nope, apparently they just read about the Bible, and regurgitate half-remembered lectures about Julius Wellhausen and other good reasons to disregard it as a text and feel better about themselves.
Actually, Harry, most Christians do see in Scripture the very will and law of God (not exactly unseen, either--perhaps you've heard of that "Incarnation" thing?). They believe the Holy Spirit inspires Scripture.
The problem is that Robinsonians think the Holy Spirit can be found everywhere but the Bible. Peculiar, that.
"So-called"? Well, someone's not going to be seconded to the Michigan Episcopal-Jewish ecumenical dialogue next year.
As a Detroit geography lesson tangent, Clawson sits right next to Oak Park, a heavily Jewish suburb, and a heavily Orthodox one at that. I'd love to see Harry explain his exegesis to his unamused neighbors.
Do the churches of those Episcopalians who are anxious that the ordinances of scripture be obeyed to the letter have crucifixes or statuary? Most Episcopal churches do, putting them in violation of Leviticus 19:4, which follows by a scant few verses the proscription of homosexual love. Are any priests of the Episcopal Church blind or lame? According to Leviticus 21:21, they should never have been ordained and should presumably be defrocked.
Harry really, really needs to demand a refund of the money he spent on the Rationalist Apologetics seminar. I could parry this one two weeks into RCIA. First, try reading the whole Bible in context. It's amazing what one can find: Exodus 25:18-20, Numbers 21:8-9, 1 Chronicles 28:18-19.
Oh, wait--that's something "fundies" do.
Well, since you seem to be big on church convention decision-making: Ever hear of the Second Council of Nicaea? No? Nothing about sex at that one? Chucked it during Hal's marital troubles?
Too bad. But back to the musty book. Here's Leviticus 18-20 in context. Something tells me Harry wouldn't chuck the lot, even some of the sex parts. After all, sex with cousins and closer relatives is still at least a little icky. For the moment. Then there are those sections about being nice to strangers and the poor. You know the ECUSA's peace & justice brigade has copyrighted those.
So, essentially, Harry's not applying exegesis, but rather exegenesis--lacquering on the whiteout to affirm VGeR and his own enlightened self.
Some of the same Episcopalians opposed to Bishop Robinson's ordination want to exclude women from the priesthood, because Jesus is depicted as choosing only men to be his apostles. By the same logic, the fundamentalists should be of no opinion about homosexuality in light of Jesus' silence on the matter.
I read somewhere once that people use ten percent of their brain during their lifetimes.
Harry's really got to put the pedal to the metal if he hopes to catch up.
Take a look-see at Jesus on sexuality in Matthew 19--note that he assumes sexuality is a male-female phenomenon, occurs in marriage, and is unbreakable.
Note also his teaching on good ol' lust. Again, marriage is the assumed state.
Hmm. Isn't there an implied condemnation of lesbianism in that "everyone"?
I love "inclusive" language! Well, here.
Note also Harry's implied denial of the Triune nature of God--the same God is speaking in both Testaments, so basically Jesus said a whole lot about homosexuality.
Never mind that Fourth Century claptrap. We've got some affirming to do!
For Episcopalians and for most of the historic communions of Christianity, the teachings of the Bible have been interpreted in light of evolving traditions and mores as understood through human reason and experience.
Four percent. Tops.
Evolving mores, eh?
"We want to make Rev. Feely our bishop. OK, so he's got a thing going with his sister, but....
It was such an interpretation and understanding that gave permission to the Episcopal Church to take the step it took Sunday. It was affirming the choice New Hampshire Episcopalians made six months ago to elect Robinson their next bishop. At the same time, the church was reaffirming its corporate baptismal vow to "respect the dignity of every human being." That principle is distilled from the ethical teachings of Jesus, who, in agreement with his Jewish contemporary Hillel the Great, observed that the objectives of life are best realized when people treat others as they themselves would be treated.
Come get your Distilled Jesus™ here--Now, 100% Judgment-Free!
For a generation, the Episcopal Church has studied, debated, fought about and dithered over the question of whether gay and lesbian persons should be in leadership positions. Realizing that any congregation is likely to have gay and lesbian persons among its members, and acknowledging that some of its abler bishops and quite a number of its best priests have been parts of that demographic, the church decided to stop discussing, take a stand and make a statement. That's what happened last summer, and Robinson's ordination Sunday stands as an exclamation mark at the end of that statement.
Underneath the revisionism and affirmation-speak, notice how Harry goes all Soup Nazi on us. To the faithful objecting Anglicans, he wags his finger and intones: "No church for you!"
Let this be a lesson to Catholics, too. Every time Call to Faction, PastChurch, NARN, VOT"F", Priests Against Celibacy, etc., call for "dialogue" on an issue, remember what "dialogue" resulted in for faithful Anglicans in the U.S.: Leather goods. As in, a belt to the mouth and a boot in the a__.
What to me is so embarrassing about the New Hampshire flap is that in a world in which so many millions of people are beset by economic, social and political alienation, some leaders of the Episcopal Church have diverted enormous amounts of time and energy in a failed effort to derail Robinson's ordination. They supposedly worry that his private expressions of affection with the love of his life somehow offend their God who, as another oft-quoted passage of scripture says, "is love."
Lest we forget, Harry, VGeR's working on the second "love of his life." If I recall correctly, he promised to love the first until death. Then she became inconvenient to his process of self-discovery, so now he's on Love of His Life Number 2.
Just to clarify the record.
The Bible is the repository of great, time-tested wisdom. It also serves as a bin for discarded concepts and notions among which the above cited lines about homosexuality must certainly be numbered -- along with the idea that Earth was created in seven days, and those tempting invitations to smite our enemies for the simple reason that they're not, as Pogo would say, "us."
Three percent. Tops.
[Thanks to Chris Johnson for the link.]