Like most people, the pond loves a good cherry-pick (if you share the pond's sinus issues, remember that on the other hand, a nose pick must be done in private).
Shakespeare is always tremendously rich ground - if you go about it the right way, he's a monarchist or an anti-monarchist, a crypto-Catholic or a closet secularist, possibly bisexual, certainly not completely straight, except of course he had a wife and a bed, the possessor of a voice best revealed in - choose one only - his comedies, histories or tragedies, and so on, and if you do it right, you can, with consummate cherry-picking, prove he didn't exist at all.
The Bible is even more fertile ground, written as it was by the hands of many men, some relatively sane, and some barking mad (and who knows maybe the odd woman, gay, TG person or slave chipped in a few lines, their role now hidden by the patriarchal hand of church history).
This is to the delight of the average secularist, since the bible is full of contradictions, and stern injunctions, especially assorted old testament lunacies, ignored these days because they're too hard.
here it is:
8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.)
Now take Desmond Tutu.
Clearly he's been cherry-picking the bits of the bible that talk about love:
I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this ...
I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place ...
I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level. (Desmond Tutu Would Prefer Hell Over a Homophobic Heaven)
Which brings us to the angry Sydney Anglicans, the Jensenist heresy and the Pellist conspiracy.
Oh sure, they talk the talk about love, but they don't walk it, because they prefer to cherry pick the bits about hate, and fear and loathing, especially when it comes to equality of rights for women and gays ... that's how they've ended up hanging out with the fundamentalist gay bashing, women persecuting Anglicans of Africa, rather than Archbishop Tutu
Oh you can find the odd acknowledgment that maybe Christ's over-riding message seemed to involve love and he never actually picked out 'teh gays' for a rough ride - that was left to the goat and camel herders and fishing folk that took up and distorted his message with their own cherry-picking agendas.
Which is why you can find featured on the angry Sydney Anglicans site today yet another outing from Phillip Jensen under the header In What Are We United?
Once you get past the usual Jensenist gobbledegook, the message is the usual fundamentalism of the angry Anglican - a fundamentalism which incidentally sees the angries often spouting fundamentalist thoughts more in keeping with a fundamentalist Islamic than a Tutu.
Let's cherry pick a little:
Organizational unity instead of Gospel unity is death. The failure of Christian ministries, be they church or para-church, commences when they lose their direction and become organizations that demand organizational unity over theological unity in the service of the gospel.
Yep, right there, from the get go is the fundamentalist creed. Theological unity or death ... And who is going to give the world theological unity? Why the Jensenists of course ...
Never mind relativism or liberal 'live and let live' philosophies or diversity of thought ...
The beginning of this downward fall is nearly always the loss of gospel clarity.
That'd be Jensenist gospel clarity ...
What follows is a long and tedious tirade against the splitters and the interdenominational or the non-demonitional which inevitably sees a slide into the hell of the interdenominational ...
And what's the problem? Well there's the danger that the sheep might stray from angry Sydney Anglican fundamentalist thinking, allow others an assortment of beliefs, allow for diversity, allow for different sorts of cherry-picking to the preferred brand of angry cherry-picking.
The language turns almost Maoist in places:
When people of great ability who do not share the common theology or vision are included the ministry will inevitably be weakened. Fellow travellers are more dangerous than enemies.
Oh dear, the pond always recommends the use of lickspittle in these circumstances - as in lickspittle fellow travellers are more dangerous than running dog enemies ...
Now you might think the pond is indulging in paranoia, but inter alia, in the usual way Jensen reverts to idle talk of Corinthians:
Paul consulted with the ‘influential’ leaders in Jerusalem but knew his commission came directly from Christ and they could not add anything to him but should in fact be opposed when they were in error (Galatians 2). Yet he can talk of practices that should be followed as a rule laid down for all the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17, 11:16, 14:33).
Uh huh. Now 14:33 is this in the King James version:
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
And what's 14:34 and following?
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
And amazingly you can find any number of examples of angry Anglicans insisting, a couple of thousand years on, that this remains a good reason for women to be kept silent and in their place!
So when you read this, seek out the hidden message:
Any church is the church of God when by Christ’s Spirit it gathers in his name, prayerfully preaching his gospel, believing his word, seeking in his mercy to be obedient to his will. Or as our denomination has it: “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance” (Article 19).
Yep, there you go. Not a congregation of faithful men and women, but a congregation of faithful men, with their women locked up and silent at home, since it's all the fault of the shameless hussies and Eve that the angry Anglicans aren't in the garden of Eden ... or some such twaddle ...
Your average angry Anglican doesn't pick up on that kind of casual sexism - the invisible woman - in much the same way as their refusal to acknowledge gay rights is a practised, routine form of bigotry ...
And yet, as anyone, including Tutu knows, prayerfully preaching Her gospel and believing Her word can just as easily be construed to suggest that gay rights are a struggle up there with apartheid ... a struggle for love a loving Jesus would look on with favour.
As for the Pellists, they've had a really bad week, but the tragedy is that the really bad week has arisen from the really bad lives many of their victims have lived ...
Brooding about that just gets the pond agitated, so let's end with a laugh from that splendid comedian and bigot Angela Shahanan, doing a totally excellent bit of cherry-picking. Read it in full under the header Catholics should have more freedom on mandatory detention (behind the paywall but you know how to google if you want your full dose of cherry-picking madness)
Cherry picking good:
Pope Francis pulls no punches with his language on marriage and family, bluntly referring to the same-sex marriage campaign as the work of the devil. His willingness even to speak of the devil is a clear evangelical tendency, which some find rather startling.
But for some years preceding this papacy, Catholics have made common cause with Protestants, especially evangelical Protestants, who both politically and ideologically have the zeal and organisational ability of a previous generation of Catholics.
Devil talk good! Evil easy to spot!
In Australia, the battleground of good and evil has become muddied as Kevin Rudd, the "Keir Hardie socialist", self-proclaimed follower of Bonhoeffer, and quintessential Christian-lite, casually embraces deeply destructive social policies like gay marriage. This is as much a problem for Liberals, who are finding their social conservatism playing second fiddle to fundamentalist libertarianism.
But now sob, cherry picking denied, the cherry picker most unhappy!
People with a strong faith walk a very fine line when politics and theology overlap, as Tony Abbott well knows; and it is a fair bet that many Australian Catholics support mandatory detention, even as a preliminary way of sorting refugees from economic queue-jumpers. So why, when the very foundations of family life are threatened, are Australian Catholics not given a bit more leeway on asylum-seekers?
Yes, yes, more leeway of asylum-seekers, who are after all the work of the devil. That bloody Satan!
Oh yes, it's great to talk about the devil and hate and fear and loathing, but what's all this jibber jabber about love?
The church must be even-handed politically, and the Australian church makes statements on all sorts of things. Social justice is important, but the rock upon which society is founded is more important than anything. Religious freedom is under threat in Australia. If orthodox Christianity wants to be taken seriously, it cannot allow itself to be subtly undermined by socially progressive governments.
Naturally you'll find the orthodox Taliban saying exactly the same thing.
So let's wrap it up with Shanahan's very best comedy stylings:
People from very different traditions are now working together to try to save the oldest natural legal and social institution in the world. It shows that despite the jeers of the proselytising atheists, Christianity has an influence which is not spent.
Back in Australia the scenario looks depressingly familiar. We have a wishy-washy Christian leader, a secular polity teetering on the brink of neo-paganism and a Catholic hierarchy who, with a few notable exceptions, are demoralised by sexual abuse scandals which reveal a history of inaction and possible complicity.
Sob. Neo-paganism, Romans in the streets, wine flowing, coffee sipping ...
Who to talk to? Why let's form a Jensenist Pellist conspiracy!
Anglican archbishop Peter Jensen said at a talk on Christian engagement with the public square in Sydney last week: "We are in a contest for the soul of the West and the church is in full retreat".
Yes, the Devil's out there, and only a few valiant, if entirely deluded people are matching Hollywood in its love of the occult.
Unfortunately Catholics have historically invested far too much of their political and social aspirations in the established political structures, especially in the Labor party. But they have been betrayed. Witness the successful abolition of the religious exemption in aged care, which will be a precursor to the abolition of all religious anti-discrimination exemptions.
The Catholic bishops didn't really put up a fight against that abolition, nor did Catholic Health. Ironically, the day after the amendment was passed the bishops published a statement about the next election, rather wimpishly entitled "Vote for the Common Good".
I am sure we will all vote for what we think is the common good; and although the bishops have quite rightly set out the life issues and the issue of man-woman marriage as first-order issues, the only area where they make a definite policy recommendation is to call for the end of mandatory detention. This is indicative of the influence of the left-leaning Catholic social-justice wing.
Well if nothing else Shanahan is indicative of the influence of the right-leaning, fear and loathing 'hate the love' wing, revile sordid notions of social justice wing, a wing which in its day fell in love with Franco and which now is given routinely given free voice and much space on the pages of the lizard Oz ...
You could spend a lifetime trying to work out the angry bees buzzing in the bonnets of Shanahan, the rest of the Pellists, their fellow travellers, the angry Sydney Anglicans, and the Jensenists, but why not just settle down instead and watch a repeat of The Exorcist?
After all, the devil has a starring role, and there's plenty of mumbo jumbo ...
And remember that cherry picking is essential if you want to be truly barking mad, such that you get to complain if you can't dish out the same fear and loathing to asylum seekers as you already do to gays ...
And that's enough comedy this cherry-picking Sunday ...
(Below: some fashion thoughts for angry Anglican men. Is your virgin bride dressed appropriately when in church?)