Here’s a bit of strange news from Cairo, reported by the Associated Press:
January 21, 2010 (CAIRO) — Egypt’s top cleric wants Muslims to answer the call to prayer, but not when its ringing on their cellphones.
Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa issued a fatwa, or a religious edict, on Wednesday urging Muslims to do away with a popular fad — Quranic verses or the five daily calls to prayer as cellphone ringtones. The government-appointed cleric says such ringtones are inappropriate, misleading and demeaning to God’s words.
“God’s words are sacred. … He ordered us to respect them and glorify them,” Gomaa said.
Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and the time for this is announced solely with calls to prayers from mosques, Gomaa said. “The calls to prayer are to announce it is time … using it as a ringtone is confusing and misleading.”
I don’t entirely get this, or understand why the Grand Mufti thinks ringtones are wrong. As the Minister of Keyboarding for two Christian prayer websites (here and here) geared to the time of day, I’d be thrilled if people signed up for reminders to pray at 8, 12, 5 and 9 or any other time they could click. Every bishop and priest I know would be thrilled.
But the more I thought about this, the more I realized I’d skipped over the really interesting part:
The government-appointed cleric says…
What single fact more starkly illustrates the difference between the U.S. and Egypt, the West and the East, Christianity and Islam?
Suppose Barack Obama tried appointing a grand mufti, or archbishop or whatever you want to call him? The outcry would be instantaneous. Such an appointment would be blatantly unconstitutional.
Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Minister of Ministry—or Rick Warren, take your pick; Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, the archbishop of Boston, the head of the American Jewish Congress? It wouldn’t matter who Obama appointed, 90% of Americans wouldn’t take it lying down.
But in Egypt a grand mufti, appointed by the government to settle such earthshaking controversies as the ubiquity of ringtones, shows he’s a Really Important Guy with Big Things on His Mind.
Would it be better for Egyptians to receive a prayer call five times a day chirping, “We’re Off to See the Wizard”? I bet I could sell that one to Gay people.
Finally, though, I realized the point in the Episcopal Church’s Current Unpleasantness: the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom we’re all sposed’ta be “in communion” with, is himself a government-appointed cleric.
Has there ever been an idea more offensive to American democracy? It’s right up there with wiretapping your phone.
I would hope that President Obama, if he ever did take a notion to appoint a National Cleric, would at least find a guy with a decent barber. Man, those eyebrows have got to go.
Why should Americans take dictation from an English Minister of Morality? It makes no sense. We’ve got a right to own any damn ringtone we want. We fought for that right against English redcoats and we won it.
The past few months I’ve found myself arguing that Episcopalians should consider dissolving our ties with the Church of England—and in particular, stop funding the Anglican Communion and its every-ten-years Lambeth Conference, which costs U.S. parishioners over a million dollars to have tea parties on the lawn of a decrepit London palace while H.M. The Queen’s perfume is piped in overhead.
Mind you, I don’t really want such a break—Americans created the Anglican Communion in the aftermath of 1776—but it seems increasingly necessary and ought at least to be a topic of discussion. I’d never want us to turn our backs on our old friends (in truth we’ll always maintain ties), but the Church of England is fast becoming an embarassment to the English people and to us. Everywhere you look the CofE is defending itself against charges of racism, sexism and homophobia. Tell me again why we need cousins like these.
In the past several years the American Church has been split (95 to 5) by loud and bitter arguments over whether Gay people can be Christians and women can be priests. We’ve long since said yes to both. Meanwhile the English have theoretically approved women bishops, but can’t manage to actually get one, and an English bishop has lost a court case after blatantly discriminating against a lay Christian educator who’s Gay, on the theory that while he’s officially celibate now, he might get a boyfriend at some future date, and then all hell would break out.
England, the home of whoring kings, has staked its whole identity on sexual hypocrisy; do what we say, not what we do. And the Church of England is the principal defender of this nonsense. Anti-Gay discrimination is illegal, but that didn’t stop the Bishop of Hereford. He didn’t pay the court fine, his parishioners did.
The English, like we are, are struggling to build and maintain a modern society in the midst of financial meltdown; they don’t have time for these bizarre controversies, which are as meaningful as ringtones. Yet they’re stuck with these bishops, part of the National Church which everyone theoretically owns and belongs to.
Does this really help England, the nation and the Church in 2010? No.
Christians ought to elect bishops, not have them appointed by the Prime Minister. But as long as the English Church is “established,” Gordon Brown’s in charge of its spirituality. So every minor personnel decision, every internal controversy, becomes political, a contest between Tories and Labour and Liberal Democrats.
Ordinary people find this kind of Christianity unpalatable, and so do I.
The latest development is that a delegate to the Church’s ostensibly independent governing body, called General Synod, has introduced a monkeywrench resolution that seeks to import the American schism over Gay people and women clergy to England, so they can have a great big fight about it.
I doubt her resolution succeeds this year, but it appears the English Church is headed for a schism much worse than we Episcopalians have gone through.
The Church of England looks divided into three competing parties: neo-Calvinists, called “Evangelicals,” who hate Gay people but are okay with women priests; “Anglo-Catholics,” who are often Gay closet cases, but hate women priests; and a “Broad Church” that’s trying to hold everyone together by never mentioning who’s Gay or female.
All this was supposed to have been solved 400 years ago by something called the “Elizabethan Settlement,” in which everyone agreed to get along or else Good Queen Bess would chop off their heads.
Now it is all unraveling, thanks to aggressive “Evangelicals” from America and Africa, looking to export their homophobia while promoting a “Restorationist” theocratic agenda to control everyone and tap your phone.
Her Britannic Majesty has apparently told Rowan Williams, her government’s Archbishop of Canterbury, that if the Anglican Communion breaks up, she will have his head. So he’s steered hard to the right, even though he’s an Anglo-Catholic theologian who supports LGBT Christians in the Church.
However, the breakup of the Worldwide Communion ought to be the least of the Queen’s worries; her own Church seems headed for a crackup. And if that happens, the country will face a constitutional crisis.
I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point the Church is disestablished. And if that happens, you can kiss thousands of ancient churches goodbye; there simply won’t be money to maintain them. They’re barely surviving today. Clergy salaries and pensions have been slashed, the roofs are caving in, and Sunday service consists of ten old women, two old men and any stray cats they can coax inside.
Contrast all this with the current state of the American Church. A few months ago we held a convention in Anaheim, presided over by a female archbishop (called “presiding” in American lingo; her powers are limited) and a female president of the regular clergy and laypeople. The anti-Gay, anti-female schism is behind us; it wasn’t fun and we’re no doubt poorer for it, but the rebels only peeled off four dioceses and 75,000 believers (if that) among 2,000,000, despite the secessionists’ loudest PR efforts. The meeting in Anaheim was as peaceful as we’ve ever been, thanks to no longer having the bigots. LGBT Christians got everything they wanted from the convention, including approval to start compiling Gay and Lesbian wedding services. Since Gay weddings are legal in New England and Iowa, what are LGBT Christians supposed to do in those places, go to the justice of the peace? That’s not how Episcopalians usually marry; we do it up big in church, because we believe a lifelong commitment by two people under Christ is a holy thing.
So here we are, swimming free, while the CofE is headed for fireworks and the African churches are doing their best to export anti-Gay genocide. Can you wonder why I say Episcopalians don’t need the Anglican Communion? With the devastation in Haiti (our largest diocese), it is wrong to spend a million bucks on a Lambeth tea party from which Old Eyebrows excluded the Gay bishop of New Hampshire, while inviting (and being accepted by!) every other American bishop.
I hope, if a break does occur, that in future centuries we’ll get back together, once the English and the Africans come to their senses. But for now, it all stinks of politics, over issues of justice which history will surely decide, just as it did when the division point was race and human slavery. How many hundreds of animal species in which homosexual behavior occurs does it take before the bewigged House of Lords faces reality? Until then, who cares?
In Anaheim the Episcopal Church faced the consequences of its decisions and pushed full steam ahead. Lesbian and Gay couples can now get married in many Episcopal churches as if they were regular people.
I’m proud of that. I believe it’s God’s will. But staying with the Church of England, much less Uganda (with its U.S.-inspired “kill the Gays” bill), Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda? Let the Queen sell a painting if she’s dead set on preserving the illusion of a 19th century Anglican empire in the 21st. American parishioners have better things to do than waste money on tea parties or take orders from government-appointed muftis obsessed with ringtones, gender or sexual orientation. These things are minor, while “God is love” is not.++
Filed under: gay |