For many of us on both sides of the great Anglican soap opera, one of the worst features as been the tendency--by those on both sides of the debate--to demonize our opponents. As I have often said, there is room in our church for both sids on the issue of same sex relationships. Indeed, we need both sides in our church.
Father Dan Martins, who differs from me on the issue of same sex relationships agrees in a must read post:
It seems to me that what most gets in the way of the ability to empathize is the tendency on all sides to paint the opposition with a very broad brush. The way conservatives do this is to hang the institutional label of the Episcopal Church on every misdeed that any liberal has committed. All the detestable enormities of "revisionism" thereby become monolithic. It's an impressive list. Who can work up very much empathy for an institution that subverts the sacrament of marriage, rejects the authority of Holy Scripture, denies the divinity of Christ and his atoning work, allows Druids and Muslims to serve as priests, believes there are already enough Christians in the world, welcomes unbelievers and pagans to Holy Communion, and confuses the gospel with the Millennium Development Goals?
The problem is, "the Episcopal Church" doesn't do any of those things. Some--many, perhaps; including people in positions of high leadership--do some of them, and that is a serious problem. But nobody, to my knowledge, does all of them. And none of them represent the official teaching or practice of the Episcopal Church.
Liberals, of course, have their own version of the broad brush. They have, at various times, portrayed their opponents as misogynists, homophobes, mindless fundamentalists, neo-Puritans, Anglo-Baptist interlopers, and--my personal favorite--Nazis, all of whom get together at night while the good-hearted politically naive liberals are sound asleep to swear allegiance to the Chapman Memo and plot to steal the Episcopal Church from itself. What decent person in his or her right mind would want to hang out with that crowd?
Once again, the problem is that we're dealing sweeping generalizations. That any or all of the labels (except "Nazi," no doubt) has at one time or another been true of an Episcopalian/Anglican conservative is invoked by many as license to spray paint the whole list of labels on to anyone who dares to resist what is widely perceived as the majority view in TEC.
Of course, merely by describing these phenomena, I have to an extent indulged in them! So I will plead with anyone who will listen: Let's put the broad brushes away. Conservatives would do well to quit automatically unchurching anyone who holds "reappraiser" views, not just because it really pisses them off, but because it's just wrong to do. Somebody can hold a mistaken view on the sexuality questions without being lumped together with John Spong and Markus Borg--or Katharine Jefferts Schori, for that matter. Liberals would do well to quit assuming anyone who holds "reasserter" views does so out of either ignorance, selfishness, or mere power-hungry churlishness. A person can hold a traditional view of sexual morality without being lumped together with Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps.
Both sides in this mess clearly feel beaten up and misunderstood by the other. There is abundant opportunity for empathy. But lest it be thought that I'm just turning into a ball of cotton candy, I will observe that empathizing is not just a charitable thing to do, it's a strategically smart thing to do. I am regularly astonished at how few on either side of the divide seem to understand this. Somehow it's more appealing--no doubt because it's more gratifying in the short term--to hang on to our broad brushes, responding to our opponents with sweeping generalizations and rhetorical flourishes, scoring easy PR points with our homeys by lobbing polemical hand grenades across enemy lines. That's a surefire formula for a World War I-style stalemate. Whichever side is the first to successfully get inside their opponents' collective head, to learn to think what they think and feel what they feel, to learn what motivates them from the inside, will be the first to emerge from the foulness of the trench.
Such a move may lead to final victory. Then again, in God's mercy, it may lead to reconciliation--reconciliation of a sort that none of us can presently envision or imagine.
Read it all here.