Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spy In The House Of Love

So here comes summer, the green festival of decline. It's about time. It's all about time. I turn the wheel of my iPod to "Hello darkness my old friend," and then "Losing my religion," scanning the time horizon with my spyglass for the shorter cooler days and longer nights whose anticipation must get me through the upcoming long, hot, green Dionysian Advent.

I come away from the Church History book I'm reading with the stench of smoke and rotting flesh in my nostrils. I am particularly appalled by the Reformation in England. Episcopalian, I can't help taking it personally. At least Luther and Calvin had principles. Henry VIII had a marriage problem. A power problem. A cash flow problem. And, voila -- bare ruined choirs. And Cranmer ? Father of the exquisite cadences of our beloved Common Prayer ? The doomed dude who infused Catholic Henry's political changes with iconoclastic, marauding Protestant doctrine.

Don't even get me started on the topic of Archbishops of Canterbury. I mean it.

Sweating, reeking of Off, trying to dodge the long, unctuous fingers of Rhus, I set out today down a shady, brookside path where bramble berries, touch-me-nots, milkweed, grapevine and buttercup are all coming into their glory. I stopped to listen to the sound of birdsong and falling water and distant traffic. I slipped easily out of fretfulness and into the attentiveness of photographing, of looking. I felt a deeper contentment than I had in weeks. I was home.

Mes amis, I am most weary of the hilarious sitcom of my metaphysical life. As my inner Merton whispers stability into one ear, there's another voice at the other ear urging me to plunge into the Tiber and swim for my life. But that's not all ! Listen -- there's the chorus of exasperation at all matters ecclesiastic, the Good-Old-Boys' club that elevates misogyny and homophobia to Cosmic Truth, dressing it up in fanciful vestments of foundational doctrine, and enlisting it in service of that which trumps everything: preserving the institution. And more ? Church as a stone of shame shackled around the ankle of human liberation ? Check. Theologic disputation as a testosterone-fueled blood sport ? Check. Dueling triumphalisms, each smugger than the next ? Check.

Weary, as I said. You might well point out that I am probably having my small-c catholic cake and eating it too here in Episcopalia with a woman priest, a woman Presiding Bishop, and long-overdue institutional acceptance of the fact that there is a God-given spectrum of genders and affections. But staring down the long road of church history, through contingencies and conspiracies of power, war, oppression, empire and greed, I can't help seeing a Boschian charnel ground of genocide perpetrated in God's name. And want to chuck it all -- bathwater, baby, bathtub, plumbing, everything.

For what ? A metaphysical reality not twisted into the straitjacket of Trinitarian language and grammar, or regarded through the lens of the scandalously particular historical contingency of Jesus ? But, alas, there is no Christian equivalent of "If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him." In fact, that's what got the whole Christian contraption off the ground -- we did kill Jesus -- and he dogs us now, unkillable, across the stinking, charnel landscapes we have created in his name, into eternity.

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