The consecration of Gene Robinson as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire went off about as expected -- fervent cheers for the new gay bishop, forceful warnings about ecclesiastical divisions to come. Finally, the consecration itself: one more convincing signal of what a wacky world it's gotten to be since the Kennedy assassination or thereabouts.
A conflict we never anticipated 40 years ago -- I don't meant Iraq -- has unhinged and reordered old allegiances, and not just in religion. Pretty much everywhere, so far as I can discern.
Forty years ago, a Texas Episcopalian and a New Hampshire Episcopalian were cut from much the same cloth. Today, that same Texas Episcopalian likely has a larger community of interest with a Nigerian Anglican -- reverent of the Holy Scriptures, loath to rewrite the moral law -- whose great-grandfather ran around in breechclout or whatever the well-dressed tribesman was wearing back when George V was king.
Nor is it just Episcopalians. It's pretty much everybody. Color and birthplace probably never had less to do with affinity than they do today. Belief, especially about human destiny and duty, is the point that matters.
That's not what we anticipated way back then, but it's what we got.
I thought of all this the other day after watching CBS' 75th anniversary special, noting the old familiar faces. Those faces -- no surprise in their eyes as to what they saw around them. Would you have thought it, Paladin -- the divisions and incongruities of today? What about you, Steve McQueen? When we watched you, an eternity ago, it was as members of a somewhat -- generally -- more often than not united community, with interests viewed -- generally -- as those of the community at large.
This state is at an end. We are out of sync with each other and have been so for some years. Take the Episcopalians. Excuse me -- take us Episcopalians.
The Episcopalians who wanted, and got, Gene Robinson as a bishop took a familiar modern tack in asserting his fitness for the episcopacy. They said we know more than we used to. One thing we supposedly know is that gayness, so long misunderstood by society, so unfairly punished and stigmatized, is just fine. We have figured this out for ourselves.
The other side inquired: We have? When was this? When did the monogamous union of man and woman become just one more lifestyle option for Christians: no worse than gayness and, by inference, no better?
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