Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Divorce Be Not Proud

 In the seventh grade, one of our summer reading assignments was a book titled  "Death Be Not Proud" by John Gunther. Gunther wrote an account of his son's death from a brain tumor and borrowed the title from a work by John Donne,

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,      
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.  John Donne  1572–1631

Three of the take home points for the young reader of Gunther's "Death Be Not Proud" was that the process of dying is not pretty, that the body and soul put up a fight to hold onto life as long as possible, and while the fight may be valiant, it is ultimately doomed to failure. The thought of someone publicly disclosing the details of such intimate and personal suffering was troublesome for many of us at the time, but the fact that  later that year one of my classmates died from a brain tumor is what seared this book into my memory.

That same year, another classmate became the daughter of a divorce. Divorce was such a rare occurrence back then, almost as uncommon as death from a brain tumor, that I had to get "a little talk about it" from my mother. The take home message from Mom was that there was shame associated with divorce and that it would be best to be sympathetic to the children involved because it was bound to be difficult for them.

Times have changed since those pre-teen and early teen years.

Now it is perfectly acceptable to broadcast over the Internet and news media one's personal tragedies, sufferings, and failures. In fact, it has become almost expected of us to do so.

This Sunday morning, I awoke to the "news" of the divorce of recently retired Bishop Gene Robinson from his homosexual husband. Bishop Robinson wrote a letter to his diocese explaining his side of the story. Although this did not make the NBC evening news that night, it was publicized via AP and Yahoo.

The Bishops' defenders were quick to issue a warning to us mean-spirited bloggers,
"Jim Naughton an Episcopal advocate for gay rights and co-founder of Canticle Communications, said the 'strength, grace and generosity' shown by Robinson and Andrew during the challenges of the last decade 'will always be a source of inspiration' for Episcopalians and Anglicans seeking acceptance of gay relationships. He added, 'Anyone who is using this moment to pass judgment on what kinds of Christians LGBT people are needs to reflect more deeply on their own Christianity.'" (AP)
As I noted elsewhere on the web,
"As this divorce was rumored to be in the works during his active employment as a bishop and is only now going public after his retirement, it puts the lie to any talk whatsoever of "lifelong committed monogamous relationships" that may have come out of his mouth for the past couple of years."
While I am sure that Gene Robinson is undergoing some emotional anguish, and to that extent I am sympathetic, I will pass judgment on one or two points.

  • A homosexual marriage in the eyes of the state of New Hampshire is not the same as a Christian marriage. Revisionists must continue to insist that Gene Robinson was married to another man. There is no room for backtracking on that point lest one be accused of needing to reflect more deeply on their own Christianity. 
  • A homosexual divorce is not a divorce in the eyes of the Church, but the revisionist must stick to their guns and insist that it is equivalent if not all the more tragic.
  • To use the language of divorce and marriage in the context of Gene Robinson's living arrangements serves to perpetuate a separate agenda, the ultimate goal of which is to eliminate all vestiges of the traditional meaning associated with Christian marriage as we once knew it.
  • Divorce in the ranks of the ordained has, through tolerance, gained acceptance (case in point the Bishop of Northern California), and there is no longer any shame associated with publicly stating,
"It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples," Robinson wrote. "All of us sincerely intend, when we take our wedding vows, to live up to the ideal of 'til death do us part. But not all of us are able to see this through until death indeed parts us." Gene Robinson (AP)
Not that the proud are usually affected by shame.

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