Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Go Back to the Jungle??

From an editorial by Michael Gerson in The Washington Post:
An epoch-dividing event recently took place in the religion that brought us B.C. and A.D. Too bad hardly anyone noticed.

For years, a dispute has boiled between the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion it belongs to, with many in the global south convinced that Episcopalians are following their liberalism into heresy. This month, Archbishop Peter Akinola, shepherd of 18 million fervent Nigerian Anglicans, reached the end of his patience and installed a missionary bishop to America. The installation ceremony included boisterous hymns and Africans dressed in bright robes dancing before the altar - an Anglican worship style more common in Kampala, Uganda, than in Woodbridge.

The American presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, condemned this poaching of souls on her turf as a violation of the "ancient customs of the church." To which the archbishop replied, in essence: Since when have you American liberals given a fig about the ancient customs of the church?

[…] Some American religious conservatives have embraced ties with this emerging Christianity, including the church I attend. But there are adjustments in becoming a junior partner. The ideological package of the global south includes not only moral conservatism but also an emphasis on social justice, an openness to state intervention in markets, and a suspicion of American economic and military power. The emerging Christian majority is not the Moral Majority.

But the largest adjustments are coming on the religious left. For decades it has preached multiculturalism, but now, on further acquaintance, it doesn't seem to like other cultures very much. Episcopal leaders complain of the threat of "foreign prelates," echoing anti-Catholic rhetoric of the 19th century. An activist at one Episcopal meeting urged the African bishops to "go back to the jungle where you came from." Not since Victorians hunted tigers on elephants has the condescension been this raw.

History is filled with uncomfortable turnabouts, and we are witnessing one of them. Serious missionary work began in Nigeria in 1842, conducted by a Church Mission Society dedicated to promoting "the knowledge of the Gospel among the heathen." In 2007, the Nigerian outreach to America officially began, on the fertile mission fields of Northern Virginia. And the natives here are restless.

The Religious Left is, I believe, coming to the sad realization that its days are numbered – not because its view of the world isn’t popular in the West. It is. Unfortunately for them, however, it is the sort of popularity that causes people to wake up on Sunday morning, think “Jesus loves me just the way I am,” roll over, and go back to sleep.

The popularity of leftist religion is, in its effects, rather like a viral disease process. As more and more host cells are transformed, the patient comes closer and closer to death. When the whole church believes what the left believes, no one will bother to show up anymore.

In the meantime, orthodox congregations of all stripes keep finding new converts walking through the doors. And the new missionaries from the Southern half of the world are helping to decouple orthodox Christianity from a culture to which - like the Left - it has become far too attached.

“Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Evil is ultimately self-defeating because, once it wins, there is nothing else for it to do. It can put up a heck of a fight, but in victory it finds only emptiness.