Monday, August 6, 2007

A Guy in the Pew Offers Some Perspective

When I was first seeking elective office, I received sage advice--don't assume that most voters are as interested in the ins and outs of the campaign as the political junkies who are actively following the campaign. Most voters have far more important things to do with their lives--they are earning a living, raising a family, and enjoying their hobbies. Politics may be yout hobby, but it is not theirs. The best way to run a campaign is to ignore the political junkies, and instead focus on what most voters really care about.

It seems to me that the Anglican blogosphere needs to hear this same advice. We are "Anglican junkies." We (on both sides of the great issues of the day) follow every word coming from the Archbishop of York or Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh. Heck, we even follow (and often blog about) the nuances of the comments at Stand Firm. Titus One Nine or Father Jakes' blog. Yet, at best, we number in the thousands. The Anglican Communion number in the millions. Anglican politics is our hobby, but it is not a hobby shared by most of our fellow Anglicans.

So what do our fellow Anglicans care about what is happening? To be truthful, not much. From what I can tell, most Episcopalians care far more about what is happening in their own congregation than what is happening in their Diocese, much less at 815 or Canterbury. It is of no help to a GLBT worshipper that Eugene Robinson is a Bishop, if their own congregation is not welcoming. And it is of little concern to a conservative Episcopalian that they belong to a Network Church if they are not spiritually enriched by their worship service.

To be sure, that Eugene Robinson is a bishop may well have encouraged a few seekers to try out an Episcopal Church, and may have caused others to seek another church home. By and large, however, the vast majority of our fellow Anglicans will make their own decision to stay or leave based on the quality of their own congregation--is the worship service spiritually fulfilling? Are the sermons insightful? Is the congregation welcoming? Are our children nurtured?

In the end, those of us who belong to congregations need to be more mindful of what we are doing to make our own congregations the best they can be, and perhaps pay a little less attention to Anglican soap opera occurring in New York and Canterbury. It seems to me that a focus on what we do locally may have far more to do with the success of the mission of our church than our concern for what a few Bishops or Primates might do later this Fall.

8 comments:

bls said...

I couldn't agree more. I lost interest in all of this about 6 months ago, I figure now, and thank God for that blessing. There are so many other things to think about in the world.

But you know what? I think ordinary political junky-hood is worse than ever these days, too. I don't remember all this wild back-and-forth, anyway; it's partly because of the internet, of course, and instantaneous communications. My theory is that the passion people invest in politics these days is at least partly because of the decline of religion, in fact; people need someplace to put their passionate feelings about morality and their idealism, etc. I think it might be like our taste for fatty foods, too; it was evolutionarily important, but in the modern world has become counterproductive.

bls said...

(It's all based in our taste for stories and drama, really. The old take on Bible stories, and the fine points of religion, don't do it anymore for people - we need to come up with new stuff, IMO - so new drama has to be created.

Politics is the perfect place to experience all that, and today it can be moment-to-moment experience.)

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Spearfish!

FYI, the Bishop of New Hampshire is not named Eugene Robinson.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Robinson

Blessings,
Bunker+

Chuck Blanchard said...

Bunker:

Thanks for the correction! So it really is just Gene. I did not know.

BLS: one reason that I decided not to do a politics blog was for the very reason you identify.

MadPriest said...

Anybody who blogs to change the world is going to end up being disappointed. You should blog because you enjoy it, it's cathartic, the other bloggers in the neighbourhood are your friends, you like the sound of your own voice, it's a way to express your creativity, that sort of thing.

However, the point you make about general apathy is true in all political situations right up to national and international level. But this should not, and does not, stop people getting involved in politics. The percentage of Anglicans who blog is tiny but, I suggest to you, that they are far more influential than their numbers may warrant. For a start, a high percentage of people who blog will be the sort of people who get involved in church politics in the "real world." Secondly, the blogosphere is a convenient place from which to gain information to gauge public opinion. Those in authority and the media do use this resource, though they rarely admit it. Again this is the case in many areas of life. A million people might watch a television programme. 50 people may write in to the broadcaster to make a comment. The broadcaster will take their views very seriously. Of course, anyone using the blogosphere in such a way has to have discernment. On the whole, bloggers have strong views on things and debates on the blog tend to get polarised. However, extreme views can be used to work out the less extreme views of the people in the pews. For example, the fact that Stand Firm is extremely popular among those vehemently opposed to gay people, indicates to me that there are more people in the pews quietly opposed to gay people than there are people who support gay ordination etc.

On a personal level, I listen every week to what people in my blogging neighbourhood have to say about life, the universe and everything and I put a lot of it in to my sermons on Sunday. I am influenced and then I influence others. And that is at the local level that you advocate we should work. I agree, but I'm sure I wouldn't be as effective at the local level without this crazy world of blogging.

Good post. Thank you.

themethatisme said...

Good post and one with which I have much sympathy. When I mentioned the Anglican communion during prayers at my parish last week, it quickly became evident after the service,that outside of the clergy present, no-one was remotely aware of the furore.
Most of my congregation don't consider much beyond the boundaries of the parish never mind strange mythical places like Canada or Africa.
Much of my blog visiting is about my own awareness and a wilingness to hear stories and opinions from other places and as MP says the odd cathartic moment of my own.

Martin said...

Chuck, I agree with you that we need to do the best we can with our own local churches.

But I also that we don't do a good job at discerning what the perception of the Episcopal Church is in our own communities. When people hear only bad news about lawsuits and church splits, supposedly over gay issues, this doesn't do us much good.

I think it is important for us to focus on this at the local level, but not many of our churches have done the homework necessary to determine what people think of their local church in their own community.

It's a communication, marketing, and identity issue, to be sure. But more than that it's about vision.

We have not shown the greater community compelling reasons why people should be Episcopalians and what we have that's distinctive.

It is a national (denomination-wide) problem but can be effectively addressed locally . . .

Anonymous said...

I doubt that anyone outside the homosexual community genuinely cares who Gene Robinson is, given that that church is now thoroughly riven by scism. The Bible states that false churches will fall by the wayside in the end days, and so goes the homosexual Episcopalian. If you're not willing to repent of your sins--indeed if you're wholly unwilling even to acknowledge that you're sinning to begin with--then you're neither a Christian nor a very reasonable human being. The beauty of scripture is that God makes it rather easy to repent and find salvation. That the homosexual in the 21st Century would take it upon himself to attempt to convolute God's law in order to futilely justify his abomination, was already foretold no less than two millenia earlier. And still we pray for you.