Right now, I’m reading a book from 1987 by Allan Bloom called the Closing of the American Mind that my father recommended I read. It reminds me of the book inside of the book in 1984 – Immanuel Goldstein’s The Principles of Oligarchical Collectivism. In any event, one of the things that is sticking in my mind is that without a fundamental background in right and wrong, in natural law, from what is a liberal arts education to liberate the mind?
I think the same may hold true for Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church. Without the fundamental backdrop of faith, submission to God, and the authority of Holy Scripture, the theological liberation contained in Anglicanism ends up being quite useless. A theological system that was once meant to stifle radicalism for the sake of the common good is now dominated by radicalism, because the sense of the common good is lost.
So, what is left? Tolerance. The only societal sin is intolerance. We no longer seek the good, we seek tolerance. Tolerance is, however, a poor substitute for the good. A Gospel of mere inclusion rather than transformation emerges. The church is no longer different from society, and folks might as well stay home on Sunday. But, it ultimately no longer matters how many attend the church, or how many folks are finding Jesus Christ, because the goal is not evangelism, but making structure tolerant. Forget why the structure was there in the first place, as that no longer matters.
The Rev. Don White recently preached a sermon at St. James about country club churches. One of the points he made is that, in this environment, those that are the most spiritually unhealthy end up in leadership positions. I certainly think we’ve seen that in the Episcopal Church. Imagine the guy heading up the stewardship campaign doesn’t give to the church, the lady heading up Evangelism hasn’t ever brought anyone to Christ, and those attempting to do the work of reconciliation are the folks who start all the fights.
I’ll be interested to see what Bloom’s cure is for all this, realizing it hasn’t worked in the twenty years since he published his book.