Friday, October 13, 2006

Good Order over Warfare

As I read more and more about the English Reformation, it becomes clear to me that, unlike many on the Continent, the British chose to use liturgy as a point of conversion rather than to kill one another over doctrine or theology. As Norman Jones writes in the English Reformation: Religion and Cultural Adaptation, "the law was not interested in sin, it was interested in order. . . The English did not go to war over religion. The English exception seems to arise from the nature of English government and the attitudes of English leaders."

On the one hand, there was Thomas Cranmer who, trained as a good Christian humanist, believed in the power of persuasion, "teaching the people through Reformed liturgies and sermons rather than slaughter." While, on the other hand, you had Elizabeth I who intentionally "endorsed the maintenance of harmony within a broadly tolerant church." For both, peace and conformity, gentle persuasion and good order were the way forward towards the creation of Christian community.

As a part of a group of sabbaticants given to ecumenical dialogue this semester, the role of good will, charity, hospitality, and the willingness to listen are all becoming clear as necessary prerequisites for framing conversation and thinking through hard issues of faith. Liturgy has the potential either to create community or to divide us from one another. It seems to me that good order is always preferable to warfare, but many groups have as their raison d'etre the construction of the "other" as enemy. Learning to not frame our world in such a way is quite difficult but much more productive and Christlike.