23 May 2013

Sometimes I just…

Well, despair of my own Church. Recently, in Curaçao, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered a homily on the Acts of the Apostles in which she said (and I am not making this up, though I dearly, dearly, dearly wish I was):
There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it. Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison.
I’m sorry, I don’t usually resort to using animated GIFs to express my reactions, but:

Well, yes, the girl had a demon in her which was oppressing her, and two cruel, callous and greedy slave-masters which were using the powers of this demon to make money off of her. St Paul was doing the poor girl a favour setting her free, and the reason the slave-masters complained of St Paul to the authorities was because they lost their exploitable source of money! What, is our Presiding Bishop trying to be an apologist for slavery here? I don’t even--
That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so! The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns.

An earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God. The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand. This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor. This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household. It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.

Really, Bishop Katharine? A demon is actually the ‘spirit of God’, St Paul (who apparently doesn’t ‘share in God’s nature’ as much as this demon does) actually got what was coming to him from the Roman authorities, and is actually an amnesiac who forgets the presence of God at the drop of a hat and recovers it again when it suits the Bishop’s pre-read narrative? Right. Keep going, there, Kate, don’t mind me, I just have to drop into the next room to make a call…

Thankfully for my sanity and that of other Episcopalians, the reaction to the homily have been roundly negative. One of the comments on the homily, from Susan Raedeke, sums it up best:
Am I to understand that the PB believes that Paul, in a case of mistaken identity, was able to make the Holy Spirit take a hike? That’s one powerful apostle. Or maybe there are little-bitty good spirits that possess people so that other people can make money off of them? Bizzaro.

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