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Hallo again to all.

Crisis. Passion. Drama. From histrionic weather forecasts to minatory news stories, from violent expletives in everyday conversation to blow-'em-up movies at the cinema, we've pumped up our adrenaline so much that we can no longer, it seems, bear the ordinary. A simple test: Watch a film from the 1950s and compare it to one released last year. Different worlds indeed.

A simple American diner advert from the 1930s.

Much of what we do — those of us not living and working on the edges of violence or in the midst of war — is blessedly ordinary. We worship and we work, most of us in non-life-threatening positions. We contribute to charities, hoping to do our part to help the hungry, the homeless, and the unloved. We teach Sunday School, we sing in the choir, we serve on the Parish County Council. We serve as delegates and deputies to our various national synods, and much of the business of those bodies is rather plodding. From time to time, those synods can indeed make decisions that are important to the life of the church. As we're experiencing just now, some of those can be deeply difficult.

A hyped McDonalds advert

Now fast forward to our culture's tendency to drama. The media reports breathlessly on walkouts, threats, schism. They push verbs to the limit. 'The speakers disagreed' is too dull; 'the speakers bitterly opposed one another' will sell more papers. If it bleeds, well, then, it certainly does lead.

Nature tends to imitate art, so the verbs in our newspapers and on our tellys propel us towards more drama in our mostly pedestrian lives. We have parishes locking doors against the Archbishop of Canterbury in England and dramatic walk-outs at the General Convention in the States. In Australia, 'church leaders hit back at criticism'; in Canada, with as temperate a national reputation as any country could want, the church is 'grappling with sex'. We don't at all cavil at the seriousness of the issues that confront the church today. But we heartily lament the loss of temperateness, the loss of the ordinary, in our dealing with, describing, and talking about those issues. Everything is a crisis.

Confess it: We're addicted. Many of us, even in the church, feel most alive when we're fighting for something — martyrs in our own minds perhaps, but fighting still — which we believe is right. And to further that right, to ensure it will prevail, we justify our plotting, scheming, screaming, and schism-ing. Calmness is seen as inaction, and action is necessary.

You should be very worried, the saying goes, if you find that God hates the same things you do. Perhaps we should also worry if we feel most alive when we're actively 'against' something. We're all for the right use of passion, energy, and commitment, but we fret when those seem to be used mostly in negative ways. Our Lord cleared the temple in a righteous anger, but it may not be given to us to determine when we need to be temple clearers. As Anglicans, should we not claim something of our heritage to disagree and challenge, discuss, debate, and, if necessary, reach hard decisions without rancour and blow-'em-away emotion?

Mehden agahn - nothing in excess, the Greeks carved into one side of the temple at Delphi — Nothing in Excess. We might think about that, in the days to come.

See you next week.

Brian Reidís signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 7 September 2003

A thin blue line
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