Sunday, April 05, 2009

Ann Holmes Redding: Uncut and Unplugged; Christian and Muslim; Roaring and -- Moring

Most of us are willing to pay lawyers a lot of money for their professional indulgence of casuistry. We're fairly sophisticated folks here in the western world, and we don't often resort to brass knuckles and stilettos. If we want a guy's balls busted, we get Rocco's and Vinnie's smart cousin, the lawyer, to do the dirty work. We get a thug in a suit to do the smack-down. The sleazier the weasel the better, so long as he wins. In a way it's almost interesting to ... know about. One can think, "That's sleazy and dirty, but it has some impact on the other guy, like a sucker punch to the kidney." It's that kind of intellectual dirty work that we pay lawyers for. When amateurs indulge in casuistry we see neither elegance nor justification. It's just dirty. But when we see an Episcopalian priest indulging, and at an amateur level, in casuistry, it's something make the laid-back atheist choke. Yes, dear reader, I'm on again about Ann Holmes Redding, "Hear Her Roar." When her ugly brother John C. Holmes indulged in obscene public displays he never tried to cover it up as acceptable. He was outright pornographic and proud of it. Anne Holmes Redding? She's the former Episcopalian priest who was both a Christian and a Muslima. Ann Holmes Redding, Christian Muslim. I think even a Mafia lawyer would have trouble swallowing that one.

She's not the only sleazy casuist: Our "Post-Modern Novelists" are as bad. See below. First, the good news:

Janet I. Tu, "Episcopal Priest Ann Holmes Redding has been defrocked." Seattle Times

The Episcopal Church has defrocked Ann Holmes Redding, the Seattle Episcopal priest who announced in 2007 that she is both Christian and Muslim.

Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, who has disciplinary authority over Redding, informed the priest of her decision in a letter today.

Wolf found Redding to be "a woman of utmost integrity and their conversations over the past two years have been open, honest and respectful," according to a press release from the Diocese of Rhode Island.

"However, Bishop Wolf believes that a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim."

"I am very sad," Redding had said Tuesday. "I'm sad at the loss of this cherished honor of having served as a priest."

She also said she was sad at what seems to her to be a narrow vision of what the church accepts.

Redding, who had formerly served as director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, announced in June 2007 that for more than a year, she had also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Muslim prayers moved her profoundly.

It was an announcement that perplexed many, though Redding said she didn't feel a need to reconcile all the differences between the two faiths, believing that at the most basic level they are compatible.

Redding's defrocking — formally called deposition — comes almost 21 months after Bishop Wolf first told the priest to take a year to reflect on her beliefs.

After Redding remained firm in her belief that she was called to both faiths, Bishop Wolf said in fall 2008 that a church committee had determined that the priest "abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church by formal admission into a religious body not in communion with the Episcopal Church."

Wolf barred Redding from functioning as a priest for the next six months, and said that unless Redding resigned her priesthood or denied being a Muslim during that time, the bishop would have a duty to defrock her.


To some, Redding's an embodiment of how more people seem to be drawing from different faiths these days — including a recently elected Episcopal bishop in Michigan who practices Buddhist meditation. They see her story as a call to the church to be more open to such people.

In Christianity and Islam, while "there are streams of tradition that are mutually exclusive, there are also streams that are not mutually exclusive," said Eugene Webb, professor emeritus of comparative religion at the University of Washington. "Ann is exploring those."

It would be a good thing, Webb said, if more churches allowed for such exploration since it's "going to take place one way or the other. It might be better to wait and see what comes of them, rather than decide in advance that it wouldn't be fruitful."


But what's at stake is central to the church, he said. "To be a Christian is to be a Trinitarian and worship Jesus. If we're not clear on that, we have nothing to offer in our witness."

Though Muslims regard Jesus as a great prophet, they do not see him as divine and do not consider him the Son of God.

Redding does not believe that God and Jesus are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus. And she believes that Jesus is the Son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

Harmon points to the contrast between the Rhode Island bishop's discipline of Redding, and the position held by the former, now retired bishop of the Olympia Diocese in Western Washington who said he regarded Redding's dual faith as exciting in its interfaith possibilities.

"We are internally incoherent on a massive scale," Harmon said. "What does it say about a church that you can be in Rhode Island and have that treatment, and be in Olympia and have another treatment, if it has to do with something this central?"

Current Olympia Diocese Bishop Greg Rickel has said that while he supports Redding on a personal level, he agrees with Wolf's position.

Redding says people are entitled to their opinions about her.

She doesn't believe she's guilty of the charge against her: that she "abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church."

Just because she became a Muslim, "that is not an automatic abandonment of Christianity," she says. "For many, it is. But it doesn't have to be."

Redding understands that most people regard the faiths as mutually exclusive. "I just don't agree."

In any case, Redding is moving on.

She's co-written a book, just published, called "Out of Darkness Into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Christian and Jewish Sources."


Redding is starting to write her memoirs and hopes to get a contract.

Rocco's and Vinnie's smarter cousin might be able to live with that kind of thing, but I have trouble with it, and I'm no saint. Nor am I "po-mo" novelist.

"I'm OK with Christianity; it's Christianityism that I have trouble with. And so it is with Buddhism: I can't deal with Buddhismists."

Alright, I'm not no novelist, so I think I just can't get away with the creative misuse of the language like that. I think silliness it comes across as inane if not stupid if not immoral if not deranged to write "Christianityism" and "Buddhismists" and so on. In fact, like most people, I think both terms are repulsively ugly and stupid, and not even an ad. writer could get away with crap language like that. But a bureaucrat can. Can, and can with a straight face and an untroubled soul. Yes, a soulless bureaucrat can pull it off without a blush while leaving the rest of us gasping for air amid the rhetorical flatulence. When novelist tries same, then it's time to open a window and toss. "Islamism." Spare me.

Maybe the reason I find serious novels today so disgusting is that they accurately reflect our times. Jihad Watch has this piece up and running, an interview stumbling toward the end; falling to its knees; and finally falling on its face, turning an unhealthy color of blue as it sprawls, sick, at the bottom of the page. We're supposed to like it. I think. But here comes the post-modernist irony, obligatory and meta-ironic: A p.c. bureaucrat novelist is out of politically correct bounds and could find himself, potentially, up on charges in the "legalistic" climate of Britain today for mouthing asinine cliches about "Islamism."

Peter Popham and Thais Portilho-Shrimpton, "Ian McEwan faces backlash over press interview. 'I despise Islamism': He defends fellow writer Martin Amis against racist charge and condemns religious hardliners." Independent on Sunday. 22 June 2008.

The novelist Ian McEwan has launched an astonishingly strong attack on Islamism, saying that he "despises" it and accusing it of "wanting to create a society that I detest". His words, in an interview with an Italian newspaper, could, in today's febrile legalistic climate, lay him open to being investigated for a "hate crime".

In an interview with Guido Santevecchi, a London correspondent for Corriere della Sera, the Booker-winning novelist said he rarely grants interviews on controversial issues "because I have to be careful to protect my privacy". But he said that he was glad to leap to the defence of his old friend Martin Amis when the latter's attacks on Muslims brought down charges of racism on his head. He made an exception of the Islamic issue out of friendship to Amis, and because he shares the latter's strong opinions.

"A dear friend had been called a racist," he said. "As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist.

"This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist. And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on we know it well."

McEwan – author of On Chesil Beach and the acclaimed Atonement and Enduring Love – has spoken on the issue of Islamism before, telling The New York Times last December: "All religions make very big claims about the world, and it should be possible in an open society to dispute them. It should be possible to say, 'I find some ideas in Islam questionable' without being called a racist."

But his words in the Corriere interview are far stronger, although they do fall short of the invective deployed by Martin Amis,. He has said "the Muslim community [....] But his words in the Corriere interview are far stronger, although they do fall short of the invective deployed by Martin Amis. He has said "the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order", and told The Independent's columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a Muslim, in an open letter: "Islamism, in most of its manifestations, not only wants to kill me – it wants to kill you."

McEwan's interviewer pointed out that there exist equally hard-line schools of thought within Christianity, for example in the United States. "I find them equally absurd," McEwan replied. "I don't like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others. But those American Christians don't want to kill anyone in my city, that's the difference."

The difference.Yes, like when I found out that I don't have sex with women, I have "sexism."

Not a novelist can get away with that, not a bureaucrat, but only a government sponsored hack of a would-be ad. writer cum ideologue missionary can come up with such nonsense. "Islamism," and "Christianity is just as bad." Not even in a bad novel. In government? It soars.

What we have here is a failure to communicate. That's the whole point of the philistine priesthood's attack on language.

Ann Holmes Redding can sing "I am Christian/Muslima, Hear me Roar," but most of us hear it as so off-key it's like fingernails scratching down a chalk board. It's Amateur Hour at the Church of Speak Easy. And a plodding novelist who can't come up with a better phantasy than "All religions are evil" is one more guy who should be making a living at the soup line.

Honestly, if Rocco and Vinnie find out about people like these, they'll break their legs for half price. Those guys got standards, y'know. Too bad they're so rare these days.

1 comment:

truepeers said...

So what would you have him say, "I despise Muslims"? But what if that is not how he feels about many Muslims, quite aside from the question of how offensive the statement would be seen.

Perhaps the lack of appreciation for difference is with the argument that seeks an analogy in "Christianist", etc. Christianity is a religion proper, separated from tribal politics, with a fully coherent anthropology, that one may freely choose. Islam is not, and a Muslim fears death, literal or at least social/familial, if one goes apostate. One might thus sympathize with the Muslim, and his silent choosing of what he does and does not believe, but not with those Islamists who actually enjoy promoting the Jihad and Sharia. What's more, "Islamist" is a term used by Muslims to denote a difference in their own world, one that somehow holds meaning in the context of the various responses to modernity. Response to modernity, you ask? why do I imply Islam is not always the same thing and that "Islamism" is not simply rooted in the Koran and Hadith, i.e. in Islam, simply put? Because it always takes two to tango: we always discover who we are in history, not in the abstract. And because Islam is by nature highly reactive; it defines itself by what it is not much more than do Christianity or Buddhism.