Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Archbishop's Chaplain

I never knew that he needed one, but the Archbishop of Canterbury has a new chaplain. If anyone needs proof that the "evangelical" Archbishop Justin Welby is calling his engine room asking for more steam as his sinking ship plows into the waves of progressive post Christian religion, all they have to do is take a good look at the research interests of his new chaplain.

From the Episcopal Digital Network we get a hint as to how influential the Archbishop's chaplain might be,

"The Rev. Isabelle Hamley has been named as the new chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. As well as her duties as chaplain she will have responsibility for developing the archbishop’s priority of prayer and the renewal of religious life, especially through the Community of St. Anselm."
“I am delighted to welcome Isabelle to the team at Lambeth,” said Welby. “The chaplain is a central part of life here, supporting the archbishop and the family, maintaining the rhythms of worship and prayer and providing pastoral support for the community who live and work here.”
“Isabelle comes to us highly commended by her diocese where she has served in several ministry roles, lay and ordained, in university, college and parish. She brings a pastoral heart, a spiritual richness and a rigorous theological understanding to what is a demanding role."
SO what exactly does someone with a rigorous theological understanding present as her PhD thesis?

"Hamley is in the final stages of a Ph.D. in biblical studies, (Relational identity, Otherness and Victimisation: An Irigarayan Reading of Judges 19-21)"
Judges 19-21 contains the story of the Levite and his concubine. You remember, the unfaithful concubine who was retrieved by her "husband" and on the way home they spent the night in Gibeah, a town belonging to the tribe of Benjamin. That night the wicked men of the town bang on the door demanding the Levite come out and be sodomized. Instead of going out himself, the man sends out his concubine who gets raped to death. The man cuts his dead concubine into twelve pieces and ships the parts to the four corners of Israel setting off a war against the tribe of Benjamin. The Benjaminites are defeated but six hundred escape. A ban on them prevented them from marrying an woman from Israel, but in order to save the remnant, Israel allows the Benjaminites to abduct four hundred young virgins of Shiloh (the women belonged to a group that did not join Israel in the war against Benjamin).

What could be wrong with any of that, and what could "An Irigarayan Reading" of these chapters possibly entail?

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Luce Irigaray, 

" a prominent author in contemporary French feminism and Continental philosophy..."
"Irigaray alleges that women have been traditionally associated with matter and nature to the expense of a female subject position. While women can become subjects if they assimilate to male subjectivity, a separate subject position for women does not exist. Irigaray's goal is to uncover the absence of a female subject position, the relegation of all things feminine to nature/matter, and, ultimately, the absence of true sexual difference in Western culture. In addition to establishing this critique, Irigaray offers suggestions for altering the situation of women in Western culture. Mimesis, strategic essentialism, utopian ideals, and employing novel language, are but some of the methods central to changing contemporary culture."
I wonder if the Archbishop's new chaplain shares those same goals? The Rev. Isabelle Hamley surely must be familiar with the fact that Irigaray is a culture warrior out to remake the world into her own image.
"Irigaray's analysis of women's exclusion from culture and her use of strategic essentialism have been enormously influential in contemporary feminist theory. Her work has generated productive discussions about how to define femininity and sexual difference, whether strategic essentialism should be employed, and assessing the risk involved in engaging categories historically used to oppress women. Irigaray's work extends beyond theory into practice. Irigaray has been actively engaged in the feminist movement in Italy. She has participated in several initiatives in Italy to implement a respect for sexual difference on a cultural and, in her most recent work, governmental level."
Warning sirens are blaring in my mind telling me that Canterbury itself may be next target for "strategic essentialism" if this new chaplain is a of disciple of the feminist philosopher Irigaray.

Radical feminism must have deep roots in the religious schools in England if this type of thesis is accepted and encouraged for a PhD candidate to pursue.

If a PhD is awarded on the basis of a thesis like, "Relational identity, Otherness and Victimisation: An Irigarayan Reading of Judges 19-21" the value of a PhD from whatever institution is offering it is diminished.

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