Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dialogue on Whether a Satire of Episcopal "Inclusivistic" Liberalism is Chauvinistic (vs. Dr. Edwin Tait)

Edwin was replying to a satire that I was made aware of, from an Anglican blog, called "Episcopal General Convention, A.D. 2021." I posted it here with an added picture of a monkey, and Edwin (a more or less traditional Anglican who favors women's ordination) was not pleased at all. His words will be in blue.

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This is unbelievable, Dave. You are implicitly comparing women to animals. I know that's not what it sounds like to you. But take a minute to understand how it looks from the perspective of someone who believes in women's ordination precisely on the grounds that women are (as we all agree) fully human. Your satirical piece confirms our worries that the rejection of women's ordination in the modern world constitutes an implicit denial of the full humanity of women.

It's easy to say, "lighten up." If someone made a similarly tasteless attack on something you cared about, you wouldn't lighten up either.

And what is the basis for women's ordination in Christian tradition, Edwin? Failing any support there, is it your contention that unanimous Christian tradition until very recently got this entirely wrong, and the grounds were stupid patriarchal power plays and chauvinism?

Also, it should be noted that this was not my piece; it came from an Anglican struggling with the virtual collapse of ECUSA. Albert above is another Anglican. He's joking about it [he posted this: "There's a joke about the definition of a 'moderate Episcopalian'. After witnessing a mass that included human sacrifice, a moderate Episcopalian turns to his wife and says, 'That's it! One more change and I'm outta here!'"], but you're here providing far more comedy and folly (in my humble opinion) by suggesting that I think (or should conclude from the above satire) that women are lower than or equal to animals.

I won't go certain places with this out of respect to you, but suffice it to say that if there are non-rational biases and prejudices on this particular topic they are far more likely to come from you, not I.

Of course the piece in no way implies that women are on the level of animals. If you can't see that, then clearly you are being too emotional about this to think clearly.

On the other hand, there is such a thing today as animal rights, which holds that animals have just about the same right to life as human beings. And that is a liberal, secular thing, and on the same continuum of liberal theology: away from traditional Christian doctrine and ethics. The piece has, I think, far more to do with that sort of "inclusivistic" mentality than with some alleged idiotic patriarchal chauvinism.

I would have thought that was fairly obvious, but apparently I was wrong about that.

The argument for women's ordination is quite simply that women are fully created in the image of God.

So what? That doesn't prove anything. We all agree on that, but it has no bearing on whether women should be priests. Why didn't Jesus choose women disciples? Surely He treated women with great dignity and "equality." But that didn't cause him to choose women disciples, did it? Why, pray tell?

As I understand Aquinas's position - not that he's identical with the whole Christian tradition but he is a particularly thoughtful and representative spokesman in many ways - women share a common human nature with men but lack a ruling principle which is accidental to this common nature, has biological roots (see Aristotle), and makes them more imperfect. This is a quite coherent position, but not one modern Catholics defend.

The Bible does teach that there are inherent ontological differences. These may in turn ultimately have some biological basis, to some extent, as the more we learn about human beings, this often is the case.

Having rejected the traditional rationale, modern Catholics (and conservative Anglo-Catholics) have invented a new theology

"Invented"? "New"? Of course this is a radical anti-traditional bias.

that posits a bifurcated human nature, distinct at the most essential level but fully equal in dignity.

Equality and dignity are not at issue; but rather, differential roles and purposes according to gender.

This is, I believe, a more radical break with Christian tradition than the ordination of women itself - it radically tinkers with Christian anthropology in order to maintain a traditional practice. It's like cutting off one's arm to save one's fingernails.


However, this is not the point here. The point is that the only way advocates and opponents of women's ordination can have a reasonable dialogue based on our common Christian heritage is by agreeing from the start that women are, by nature, equal to men and created in God's image. This is common to Aquinas's view, the modern Catholic view, and the pro-women's ordination view.

Exactly, but it has no bearing on either my position, the traditional one, or the post in question, since none of them deny this in the slightest.

Tasteless jests like the one you've dignified by inclusion on your website undercut this agreement by implication.

Not at all, because you have misunderstood the humorous critique (as you well know: all good and effective satire is deadly serious at bottom).

The satire does not, it seems to me, presuppose inequality or suggest that women are on the level of monkeys. Rather, the point is that "inclusivity" does not cover all the relevant parameters and factors in the overall debate. The liberal / liberal Episcopal fallacy is that we include more and more people in this "inclusivity" silliness, even extending (by reductio ad absurdum but also real developments in philosophy and culture today) to the animal and plant kingdom.

That is what is being pilloried and mocked: not that women are equal. Again, the fallacy lies in the same sentiments that you expressed above: that equality must mean virtually comprehensive sameness, as if equality and "clonelike" are synonyms. This is not true. Women are fully equal, yet God did not ordain that they could become ordained priests. There are many grounds for this, which I won't delve into right now.

It may be that the Episcopal Church will descend into some idiotic notions with regard to animals.

It's already starting to happen. In fact, we see it in the abortion mentality, because (as I have long noted) there is presupposed a sort of "scarcity theory of value" by which human beings can be disposed of because there are so many of them (overpopulation myth, etc.) whereas rare species of animals may not be killed under pain of great fines or imprisonment. That's because what is more rare is considered more valuable, despite metaphysical, theological (ontological) considerations, which are ignored.

But this is in no sense even remotely the same issue as women's ordination.

Exactly. It is only indirectly related. The satire was highlighting the fallacy that "inclusiveness" is a distinct issue from equality. The myth is that simply crying "equal, equal" will inexorably lead to women's ordination. It does not, because the issue there is not equality, but rather, intrinsic ontological difference and roles to play. Therefore, this falsehood can be attacked completely independently of some supposed nefarious chauvinistic mentality that you mistakenly thought you saw in the satire.

I don't accuse the original blogger of patriarchal prejudice so much as a complete failure to think logically or theologically about the issue.

I would say virtually the same about you, seeing that you have given me nothing of any substance to cause me to change my mind on this. You know that tradition is a slam dunk against your position. So you're in quite a pickle, aren't you?

All certain conservative Anglicans can see right now is "our church is going down the drain" and they respond in often wild and vicious ways - as here.

I found the satire very apt and funny both. It is excellent satire, and based on rigorous logic and analogy: the slippery slope of the inclusivist mentality. Now, of course, animals won't really be ordained in 2021: that's the humorous, goofy satire part, but the point behind it is valid: inclusivism leads to ridiculous things. Hence, our problems now aren't ordained monkeys, but rather, ordained practicing homosexuals, etc. In that case, what is clearly sin is simply defined out of existence, so that these men can be ordained. But with women the issue isn't sin, but rather, different ontology and purpose in the kingdom based on gender, but within a paradigm of equality and equal dignity.

(This attitude is by no means confined to conservatives - I've seen some unbelievable rhetoric from the liberals as well; one poster on beliefnet said with regard to conservative bishops, "These creatures are demonic.")

Unless you give me some solid reasoning, I don't accept your critique at all. As far as I am concerned, there is no decent biblical or historical argument for women's ordination. If you know of one, please let me know; I'd be delighted to see it.

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