Friday, February 16, 2007

Toyota in NASCAR and the Primates in Dar es-Salaam

Sometimes I just like making up titles like that to stir your imagination's pot. Days like this, though, I actually see a link between these two seemingly innocuous blips on the cycles of the world news and media outlets.

It turns out that the Daytona 500 will see something new this year. I am not a big fan of NASCAR, but do allow its impact on our culture in American Society, so when an innovation in the form does occur, I do take note. The innovation is this: for the "first" time, there will be a group of cars presented from Toyota taking the field, and doing their best to win a race that has become something of legend among stock car racing fans. Imagine that, now, in the debate between the juggernauts of Detroit, and the virtues of being either "of Apollos, or of Paul"...I mean, being either of Ford or of Chevy...there is a new animal on the, amongst the classical icons of American automotive entities, there will be a smattering of Camry's.

This is new, and news. On the television morning shows, it got equal play next to a young girl who has been hiccuping without respite for three years without a break and Keith Urban's return from rehab to performing and touring. One soundbite in the debate of whether or not die-hard fans would accept a Toyota on the field of play in the race was offered by a gentleman in a baseball cap carrying an American Flag color scheme in red, white and blue: "I fought to defend this country, and I want to see American cars in this race, not foreign ones."

Funny, because in the very next scene, the chief engineer pointed out that Camry's, particularly, represent a division of Toyota's multinational concerns that is made entirely in America. The Ford Fusion, this year's submission to NASCAR, is made in Mexico.

Which is the "foreign" car?

There is a great old Pogo cartoon from another century that describes that lovable swamp resident offering up that when it comes to discovering the enemies in life, too often "they is us." Sometimes we look so hard for someone to blame, to define as being on the outside...or we work so hard to push someone into the outer darkness that we forget that the point of life is, ultimately, to realize that we are not so different from others. Skin color, theology, car make we like to drive--these are semantics, differences that are applied to the surface. Our blood is still red. We still walk this earth for just barely a century and we pray that our children's children might enjoy just a bit of the prosperity that we now enjoy at their expense.

We forget that too easily when we debate points of doctrine, seeking to delineate a firm line of differentiation between the ortho- and the heterodox.

As we journey into the coming weeks, the Anglican Communion will be digesting the actions and reactions to the gathering of the Primates of the provinces of the Communion in Tanzania. Reports from the newly formed episcope, ECUSA's new news weblog, indicate that the leadership of our communion is already distinguishing itself for its factionalism. Seven primates have refused to accept communion alongside ++KJS, our own Presiding Bishop, for the position on homosexuality that we are perceived to have taken in recent years. They would rather see Ford and Chevy duke it out, if you will, than tolerate that God might just have some plans for the Toyotas of this world.

I know that is an odd, and perhaps slightly offensive bridge to the incidents I describe above, but I see the same levels of obtuse ambivalence in the rhetoric and ecclesiological posturing in those seven of my Lord's archbishops as I do in that sadly misinformed man with the flag silk screened onto his cap. When we are intolerant of change, then we are in for a fix. God tends not to let those moments lie fallow.

It is no small thing to be willing to break bread with another, and I would brace at the invitation to do so were the person across the aisle from me someone for whom I have little respect, or with whom I share little agreement--but, and hear me on this, I most certainly WILL break bread with those who do not share my theological positions on the nature of God and the Church. In fact, I do that on an almost daily basis. It is, I am convinced, in the nature of Anglicanism, that we find ways to share fellowship--even when we do NOT agree on the nature of things. In doing that, I find that I allow God more space and room to be active in my life. I don't presume to know for certain what it is I am supposed to do, think or believe today, any more than I did yesterday. But, in the end, I am open to being formed.

By refusing to take communion with my Presiding Bishop, those Primates have chosen to pretend to end the debate. How many more years of darkness does that mean for us?

In the end, I can't help but ruminate on the idea that someday we just might see a humanity that sees itself whole--as the Body of Christ, the Umma of Allah, as the sangha of Buddhism--a holy community that is greater for its unity than for its orthodoxy.

What an epitaph: "See, I was right." For so many deeply convicted of their own righteousness in this debate, I fear that will be their only heritage...and in the end, they only get the "last" word in because they had it engraved. Thing is, eventually even the lichen will erode that adamancy, right?

So, Toyota races in Daytona. My Presiding Bishop continues to go to the table to be in dialogue and fellowship...and I will pray for those who would chose to reject, rather than to include.

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