- Editor's Note: We invited Backbone bloggers to reflect on the ever-greater influence of the Humanist Manifesto, one of the strongest statements of the modern liberal or progressive worldview. Here is the first volley in the resulting dialogue.
By Dave Crater (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last month, the first woman in the history of the Episcopal Church was elected to the post of Presiding Bishop. For the next nine years, she will serve as the primate, or highest ranking bishop, in the Episcopal Church, representing Anglicans in the United States to the global Anglican Church and to the rest of the world.
Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori, who three years ago supported the consecration of practicing homosexual Eugene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire – the first openly homosexual bishop in Episcopal history – in her inaugural sermon as Presiding Bishop observed the following about the crucifixion of Jesus:
“That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children.”
Any genuine Christian would enthusiastically agree the cross of Jesus brings new life into this world, and that when Jesus walked out of His tomb three days after dying, He indeed became the “firstborn of all creation.” However, the imagery of female labor, and of Jesus as our mother, strikes the authentically Christian ear as curious, particularly when the masculine pronoun “His” is used at the same time. And well it ought, for this is not Christianity, but paganism baptized in Christian language.
Femininity worshiped as the spiritual source of life – often accompanied by temple prostitution and other sexual profanity – is a distinguishing feature of primitive pagan religion. Bishop Jefferts-Schori can perhaps be forgiven for mixing a masculine pronoun with her feminine metaphor, for she is appealing to the New Testament book of Colossians for spiritual authority, a book full of exclusively masculine language about both Jesus and God His Father.
Yet there is no doubt Bishop Jefferts-Schori was educated not for paganism, but for humanism. Before becoming a bishop, she was a scientific researcher off the coast of Oregon and holds a PhD in marine biology. Her doctoral dissertation addressed the history of organic evolution in the various layers of the ocean. She is a Darwinist, likely sympathetic with the doctrine of the Humanist Manifesto that, like biological life, our philosophical and ethical worldview has “evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.”
How else would she now justify the consecration of a homosexual bishop, something the Episcopal Church has opposed since its founding on these American shores? Only on the grounds that our values and ideals have now evolved to a higher plane.
Or perhaps a lower plane. Because human beings are incurably religious, as the great Christian theologian John Calvin once opined, humanism is an unstable compound. Humanism’s goal of pure naturalistic secularism, denying the very premise and raison d’etre of prodigious ecclesiastical structures like the Episcopal Church, is always the opening act for a slide downward to paganism, sometimes resulting even in quasi-religious criminal messiahs like Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin.
The Humanist Manifesto itself has a certain aura of scripture about it – an eastern quality of natural metamorphosis and human unity with a creation that has assumed the status of the divine. When this view of God and man then attempts to take up Christian language and hold ecclesiastical office, it should not surprise us that Christianity begins to sound very un-Christian, man begins to sound like woman, church becomes less and less sacred, and talk of values, ideals, meaning, and purpose becomes little more than a fig leaf for a thoroughly amoral conception of human life and society.
What has happened in the Episcopal Church is a microcosm of what has happened throughout the once-Christian West.