Christmas Eve-why I go to Church-Episcopal….


I originally started writing this at 1:00 a.m. on December 25, 2008, Christmas day, just minutes after I came back from the 10:00 Christmas Eve Service at St. Lukes-on-the-Lake in Austin, which is my “main Church” for about 7 years now—at least when I’m in Texas. It’s an Episcopal Church and I wonder sometime why I still go.  Obviously, I love to see Father Mike Wyckoff & Father James P. Jameson who supported and helped me through many bad times over the past six or seven years.

I particularly enjoy wearing my new Harvard jacket and showing Father Jameson (himself a Harvard graduate), who saw me at some of the all time low points of my life, that I really did make it back to “the old school” over the summer, and I really did take my son Charlie to summer school there, accompanied him to Widener & Lamont Libraries—and even sat in on some classes in Irish Mythology & Literature with him.  Those things all make me feel good, but sometimes I feel it’s hypocritical for me to go because I’m so completely disappointed with the Episcopal Church and feel it’s let me (and the world) down in every possible way.  Every value that made me loyal to the Church of my birth (practically) has gone by the wayside, and the Church itself is disintegrating so fast it makes your head spin—and what does it mean to be a member of the “Anglican” Communion (based on the “Anglos” = the English, this is the quintessetial Church of England), if the Archbiship of Lagos, Nigeria is in some ways more important than the Archbiship of Canterbury—simply because the Lagos Archdiocese is alive and growing while Church attendance shrinks a little each year in England.

Even the Queen, one of whose many titles is “Fidei Defensor” (“Defender of the Faith”) cannot make any comments about the largest Mosque in the World, the London Markaz currently being built in Newham on the Eastside of London, nor can she dismiss the Archbishop of Canterbury for endorsing the application of Sharia Law at least as a viable alternative in English Courts.  So what’s the point in being an Episcopalian?

Well, for one thing, I grew up an Church of England/Episcopalian and was confirmed at All Saints in Beverly Hills, California, when I was 14, by the Bishop Robert C. Rusack.  The Church was a huge part of my life, whether I was in Dallas or Los Angeles or New Orleans or Cambridge, MA.  I was a choirboy and briefly an acolyte.  I studied the Book of Acts as my special confirmation project with Canon Noble L. Owings at St. Thomas in Hollywood.
Of course, that was way back in ancient history—some guy named Richard Nixon was President, there was a war in Vietnam, and and another fellow named Ronald Reagan was Governor.
Back then the Church was still using a little black prayerbook “approved” in 1928 or thereabouts, although the language was basically the same as the King James Bible.  My very earliest Church attendance and “baby Sunday School” was in England where they were until recently using the same prayerbook adopted in 1668, during the reign of a dissolute king whose namesake I am….and my father and his father were also….And like those old Stuart Kings, my father believed strongly in the “Papist” and “Royalist” side of the English Church tradition….(I grew up with a picture of “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, last effective Stuart pretender, in my bedroom).  Despite all their interest in the Church, my parents ended up divorced at the early stage of the upsurge in divorces nationwide.
By contrast my grandmother, who had been an Episcopal Church organist in Shreveport, Louisiana before she married, was from a tradition of Morning and Evening prayer services where Eucharist was rare and Charles Wesley was more often mentioned than “Charles the Martyr” (aka Charles II).
But any way you cut it, I loved the tradition of the Church—the tradition of those old prayerbooks is almost 100% gone. I loved the elegance of the Church, but what fragments of elegance can remain in a Church which spends 99% of its time debating whether gay people should be allowed (1) into the Church, (2) into the Clergy, (3) ordained as Bishops, (4) married, (5) married to Bishops and Clergy?
I know as well as anyone that there have been gay Christians around since Jesus’ own time, and this is doubly or triply true when you realize that the earliest Christians were mostly Greek-speakers, and God knows that the Greeks practically invented gay love (at least as known in the Western World).
Plato’s discussion of sexual manners and mores which has become known as “Platonic Love” was originally written mostly in reference to male friends and how they should behave towards each other. Without her having created some of the most sublime poetry ever written in any language, the Poetess Sappho would never have created the association between female-to-female “gay” love which gave rise to the name “Lesbian” as an inhabitant of the island of Lesbos on which Sappho lived.
When the Apostle Paul talked about it being “better to marry than to burn”—he made no distinction between gay and straight love. And I think what he meant was honor and commitment are what make a good person.
People say that homosexual marriage will destroy the institution of marriage? I ask: if the VERY heterosexual celebrity artist (and I use this term “artist” or even “singer” advisedly) Britney Spears hasn’t destroyed the institution of marriage almost singlehandedly—what can gay people possibly do that would be worse? Most of the crimes against the institution of marriage are committed by heterosexuals, in fact.
My wife of 17 years took off for the last time in July 2002.  She had been involved since 1995 with a former close friend of mine who stole all my banking records while staying as a houseguest and allegedly comforting me after my wife had left me one of the first times.
What will gay people do to the institution of marriage that’s worse than that? I’d like to know???   Why do we fear ANYONE whose sole purpose is to pursue happiness with others of like mind and taste in a quiet, unobtrusive, non-violent way?   It’s incomprehensible to me.
It’s almost as though the Episcopal Church has driven off the “straight and narrow” path of tradition and straight into a ditch of stupid arguments from which it may never be towed out…..
But anyhow—I do still go to Church—at least on “High Holy Days” out of the memory of my parents—of my grandfather’s amazingly well-preserved booming tenor voice singing the Doxology every week and Christmas Carols out of his own company’s specially printed collection of Christmas Carols every Christmas. The first prayer-song I ever learned was when my mother taught me “The Magnificat” and told me about Mary and the wonders of motherhood in the creation of the world. I look back on those talks now and realise that my mother was probably a little bit “new agey” in her Maryolatry combined with feminism….but still it all fits. My grandmother used to criticise my mother for being “Churchy”—an outwardly religious person with no real convictions—and as much as I love Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels I suppose I could be accused of much the same thing.
I have a Ph.D. in Anthropology, having minored in Biology & Classics in College, and I certainly “believe” in Evolution and Darwinism (both biological and socio-cultural) more than anything else (although I acknowledge them as theories—they ARE theoretical models—how could they be anything else?).
I “believe” the world is billions of years old, not six thousand—and I “believe” that the Five Books of Moses were written by at least six or seven different authors, real people none on Mount Sinai by dictation, and  none of whom were ever named Moses or lived within 300 years of the time when Moses supposedly lived, and I strongly believe that Moses probably WAS a genuine Egyptian…so why do I go to Church? Why do I enjoy it?
I think it’s because of what my grandmother and grandfather used to say, “it’s what makes us civilized”—it takes us out of ourselves, away from our work, and into a world of ideals which, whether we believe in them or not, are interesting, very historically significant, and some of them, like Jesus’ teachings, are beautiful and really hard to argue with as a good plan for a decent life.
I would have loved to have known Jesus or anyone like him, I’m sure.
If there is a single historical person on whom the Gospels are based, and I tend to think that there was, he was a truly extraordinary person, and a wonderful teacher—and it hardly matters to me whether he was the Son of God or not.
I love Him for teaching us to Love, and I hate all of his so-called “Christian” followers who teach one form of hate or another. I happen to know that I don’t have the tiniest “gay” instincts in my makeup—I’ve had way too much contact with gay men my whole life not to know for certain that their interests and ways in the “pursuit of happiness” are not mine. I love the female body and the nearest things to truly divine and mystical experiences I have ever had were in the company and close proximity of such bodies.
But I know for a fact that, even though the concept is never discussed in the Bible, Jesus must have loved gays at least as much as he loved harlots (prostitutes) and adulterers, and probably a lot more than he loved pharisees, sadducees (seduqim), and (unfortunately for me) lawyers, other legal experts, and their ilk……
But anyhow, I was feeling kind of poorly around 8:00-9:00 and thinking that I wouldn’t bother to go to Church because I hadn’t been for a while and after all, “the Episcopal Church has become a national embarrassment in the United States over the Gay Rights issues and an nightmare in England for endorsing the adoption of Sharia Law in England”—so why should anyone be associated with such a Church? But then I think of St. Michael’s and all Angels and the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, of All Saints in Beverly Hills and St. Thomas in Hollywood, of St. George’s on St. Charles in New Orleans, Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, and my all time favorite, St. Thomas-on-Fifth Avenue in New York, and these really are the seats of some of the greatest expressions of North American civilization.
Quite aside from the phenomenon represented by Christ Church in Cambridge, MA (where George & Martha Washington prayed after Washington took command of the Continental Army on Cambridge Common by Harvard College) and the National Cathedral in Washington (where Ronald Reagan and so many more are buried), or St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia (where Patrick Henry delivered a lay sermon ending “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” from the pulpit), which are all just major historical sites. So there’s some point in going to the Episcopal Church—I remember my family, long ago and oh so far away. I think of nice ideals, whether they are practical or not. And I am connected to history, to some of the best of Anglo-American culture and civilization, and I can be smug and think that I am sophisticated enough to uphold the rights of all people to the “pursuit of happiness”, in the words of a fellow Episcopalian, Thomas Jefferson….whether all Episcopalians “get it” or not….Next lecture will be: why the STATE should get out of marriage, and then “Gay Marriage” won’t be an issue—because it will be private, religious or personal expression protected by the First Amendment, and that’s how it OUGHT to be….

One response to “Christmas Eve-why I go to Church-Episcopal….

  1. Pingback: Mary Lincoln

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