Thursday 11 February 2010

Seeing a Therapist

Patient: In this not undepressing job at times I think that I may I not wish to proceed further without apologising. If it could be stated I would wish to offer apologies to as many people affected by my delivery as I can.

Therapist: What are you apologising for?

Patient: What I have said along the way in my public utterances. I may not have failed to uphold a whole class of people and their self-claimed rightful identity in civil society with my words and failed to uphold a sense of peace towards that identity.

Therapist: What were your words?

Patient: I said that gay and lesbian people have a "chosen lifestyle" and that same-sex partnerships as a lifestyle choice was not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.

Therapist: There are two things to apologise for, who they are and specifically for their role in your Church.

Patient: In my own counting I did not get beyond one.

Therapist: Tell me the one.

Patient: That the identity, orientation and right to be heard as that identity and orientation had been perhaps undermined by my words.

Therapist: It is your wording that is wrong?

Patient: My narrative perhaps gives rise to misinterpretation.

Therapist: Suppose I would say you mean to say you are sorry for labelling gay and lesbian people with a chosen lifestyle, in other words for suggesting that they could choose differently and better, and that you are sorry for saying that the Church cannot sanction their ordained ministry as being representative of the Church?

Patient: But it then gives the wrong impression that I was wrong; the impression I want to give is that these people have full human rights and that God loves them as people, which I naturally do uphold and which I am sure I did not contradict.

Therapist: So you are not sorry for what you said.

Patient: My problem is that I analyse the Church, and from that I cannot change this outcome of my analysis. I presumably want a form of words that mainly placates. In fact, ideally, I would like something like a form of words that produces an apology that gives the impression of being more apologetic than it actually is, rather than the reverse which seems to have taken place.

Therapist: So you have a divided mind: a mind for the Church and a mind for human rights, and actually you are concerned to give the right impression that might unify your division. Taking the divided mind as an issue here: have you always been like this?

Patient: I do not think so, nor do I think it is a divided mind but rather a divided situation.

Therapist: So are you suggesting that you have always contained two opinions, or rather...?

Patient: Not by my own self-evaluation. Surely it does not have that level of unclarity, even for you. More simply, I used to be able to argue a different position: I used not to argue against the God given fidelity of love and his sanctification when it came to the LGBT community. But since being in my job, I have.

Therapist: So we have the problem, you say, that your job has changed your mind but your mind hasn't really changed.

Patient: My narrative now has to include the data of my institutional position. There are more inputs, so to speak, that produce the output which I must manage, for which a wrong impression is given about my separation with this and the human, secular and plural approach which so many use today, that the separation suggests an attitude which the affirmation of the other should not.

Therapist: So... Appreciate, I need to interpret this. You are saying you have always contained two opinions, the theological and the wider social - one a negative impression and one a positive impression.

Patient: No, not quite so, because I used to incorporate the plural, secular and human into my theology of Church and Bible, but since the data of the institution has struck me within the narrative of my job, I have separated out the human, secular and plural approach in order to retain tolerance of the gay and lesbian community with whom I was once theologically tolerant.

Therapist: So your division is recent.

Patient: In this sense yes, but not in the theological sense which must remain unified.

Therapist: Other theologians retain a unity of mind, presumably.

Patient: They don't have my job. If I apologised directly, it would undermine the theology of the institutional Church as I now understand it. After all, the job brought about new significant others, and plastically the theologically dependent ethical position I developed has expanded to include those I previously argued against.

Therapist: So you are convinced of your theological position.

Patient: In order to preserve my self-esteem as an Archbishop among archbishops and bishops of widely differing opinions I have to carry conviction. I am already criticised for a language that suggests otherwise, when my clearest statements are those that lead me to think I need to give an apology for my language.

Therapist: Humm. Forced to be clear and yet when you are clear you feel a form of guilt. Let me ask: if you were to recover your previous theological opinion, would you not recover a unity of mind? Perhaps an apology to these people on the substance of the matter might be the first step to recover a unity in your own mind?

Patient: I doubt that I could ever recover that theological argument, even in retirement. Imagine changing back again. It would render everything I have been saying a transitory narrative. I would rather give it more substance, if I can.

Therapist: But in order to uphold yourself now, you must maintain two minds.

Patient: Theologically not... But what can I do?

Therapist: I counsel many politicians who need to maintain appearances. The change back is something they are counselled upon after they resign or retire. So I am not unsympathetic. In any case, you as an individual have a number of divisions in your childhood upbringing, and indeed even moved from a Protestant low Church upbringing to a high Church identity. So you have built in the division. And today you are a member of the English establishment par-excellence, despite being Welsh. Your cover is an intense intellectual complexity, like a duvet over the straightforward night time cold of existence. Your stress on the narrative that you have repeated today suggests a profound distancing from reality, so that even reality becomes a story, or a bedtime dream, and that reality becomes ever more pliable and unrooted in a basic foundation like daylight - and yet, and yet: your sudden ethical and human and secular distinction, that one that also allows you to live in this society, means you are looking for a simpler foundation of acceptance and tolerance that are probably your true feelings.

Patient: So what can I do?

Therapist: At this stage I suggest we treat your mind carefully and gently and avoid difficult jolts. So yes I would counsel that you say sorry in a manner that does not undermine your present condition.

Patient: But I really believe that the Church and Bible does not allow me to say what I used to think. Or at least I think I do.

Therapist: This is the danger: we convince ourselves and then we are not so sure.

Patient: You are undermining me with that suggestion! I am sure that my job has added the data that...

Therapist: I know about convictions. So, I think we need to apologise in a way that will uphold you in your present situation, even if it means not upholding others.

Patient: Can the apology sound like more than it is?

Therapist: This I must leave to you. You must take responsibility for your own words. Now your half hour is nearly up; who is paying this time?

Patient: The Church, I hope, as before.

Therapist: Come back and seem me after General Synod.


Anonymous said...

Sadly, it is not the church that is paying. It is people like me - a gay man being forced out of home by squabbling siblings.

Erika Baker said...

One of your best pieces of writing ever!!

I agree with Colin, it's gay people who are paying, and liberals, and anyone with common sense and a grasp of reality.

But maybe it's the church that's paying most, day by day losing as it does more credibility, respect and goodwill from the increasingly secular society around it and the many disillusioned Christians within.

As long as society has to teach the church the outliving of Christian values, the church pays, and pays and pays.

Anonymous said...

A nice cartoon you might like:

A not-so-nice cartoon you might not like:

Gays and women! Where's me parrot, Mr. Jibs? Arrr matey! Where's Gingerbeard when you needs 'im? Arrr!



Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

That 'cartoon' from the Montreal Gazette is truly hideous, although I did do a very similar cartoon.

June Butler said...

Therapist: This is the danger: we convince ourselves and then we are not so sure.

That is the danger. Rowan may have reached the point where he no longer knows what he thinks.

Well done, Adrian.