Monday, 11 October 2010


I am challenged regarding compromise as necessary regarding living in society. Of course that is true, though it is different and better (I'd suggest) that diversity is necessary for living in society. It is a looser view of society, but one that says compromise into one effective programme is something that is practical, but not something that is ideal. Better we hear and see the variations, to draw the boundaries as far back as possible.

There is a further problem here when the compromise is always to a set tradition, and a highly dogmatic one. Why should that always be the effective sticking point, a sticking point of appearances? This is why I get to say something like, "Anglicanism is duplicity" - even if this is a sweeping statement. Obviously it is not duplicity for someone who agrees with its liturgical compulsions, nor whose compromise is genuinely with these, but not when you do think something and you end up expressing something else, because it is preset and without adequate variance.

There is no get-out for an individual and collective compromise. Things are said and sung by me within Unitarianism that I don't believe. But there is the actuality that variance is there, and I get my chance too, and it all goes into the pot. There is tradition and inheritance, and the guiderails of history, but they are not legal and determinative in terms of fixed expressions. No one says, "You preach the faith of the Church not your individual viewpoint." Such is no guidance to the balance of the argument, the membership, where inspiration comes from or where it is going.

Liturgy always hangs behind theology. It was made before, and draws from before that. It has several functions, including spiritual uplift, and the argument contained therein is only one clue. I'm aware of this, and accept this, but also need to see evidence of evolving forms. Not every Unitarian service now has the Lord's Prayer, but almost every one that does includes the invitation to say it and the expectation that some won't. I don't any more. The prayers are increasingly we centred, and assume less a big ear in the cosmos. Sometimes there are no prayers, just thoughts. These changes are the clues, and when compromise is part of the scheme.

I read Colin Coward's pieces, and he has produced many on the Anglican Communion and recently on leadership behaviour. He is right to campaign for better standards overseas and for inclusion of course. But I do wonder if he is asking for something unavailable.

When Rowan Williams took on 'the job' and became a Church bureaucrat, he also declared that there was little in scripture to support his previous view of inclusion. Such a declaration has allowed the obnoxious to run with the ball, because it's as if he has given up the argument. Indeed, he has helped them run with the ball, by leaning in their direction to produce a Covenant that would, well, lean in their direction. It's all about slow down to the slowest pace of any innovation, to talk with inaction.

It is fine to preach inclusion, but you also need to a) either tackle their arguments head on, i.e. in such scriptures or b) (as I do) declare those scriptures non-normative, of only partial relevance to one's outlook. The fact is that Christians are stuck with some pretty horrible scriptures in places. Rowan Williams then takes the view to let them and tradition have the argument over his previous theologising. I think the only thing to do is to reject them.

Again it is the idea that something is a given and you have to accept it. No you don't. You can, of course, look for higher principles offered within the scriptures and take an overall view. That, though, is a never ending argument. For those who say then 'Christ', that is also an abstraction: after all we lack the data about his apparent moral perfection, and on that we might ask about his attitude to the Gentile woman (though he learns a lesson from her) and about the piggies that apparently jump off the cliff - indeed we might ask about the value of putting yourself in harm's way and the hubris to imagine that what you do actually matters in the cosmic scheme of things (should these texts be sufficiently true to events). And if 'Christ' isn't the human being involved, it becomes even more subjectively abstract. I am with Francis William Newman and preaching against the moral perfection of Christ. He was at a distance from James Martineau on this one, for whom Christ was that ideal of truth. There's tradition for you: referring to Newman (the better brother) and Martineau (the religious one).

Presumably Colin Coward and others do believe in the moral perfection of Christ, in a God of history and in the nearness of the liturgical fixed things to their own viewpoint. Then they ought to tackle the arguments. Tackle the arguments and take the ball from these authoritarians, even if their behaviour doesn't do them credit in the meantime.

1 comment:

Erika Baker said...

I agree about the difficulty of compromise when it means codifying everything into immovable "tradition".

But genuine compromise is the opposite of codifying anything, it's the admission that things can change, even if we feel we can't change with them. It means precisely that the slowest to change are not holding up the whole process.

The other effect genuine compromise has is that it diffuses the escalation of conflict. There is this strange phenomenon that something becomes more and more polarised in the cause of a debate, and the more rigid people become the more extreme they become and the more their view on this particular issue seems to become of overriding importance.
The strange escalation of homosexuality from a second order issue to a first order issue to THE test of orthodoxy is an example.

Genuine compromise can help for conflict to simmer down until your awareness of the complexity of life and the relative importance of things is more balanced again and you don’t have to spend all your time fighting vicious and destructive battles. It helps to get things back into proportion. And it also means that we’re not taking ourselves and our own view so extremely seriously that anything else absolutely has to be eradicated.