Janet Tu, religion reporter for the Seattle Times, recently came out with a mind-boggling story. She chronicles the odd pronouncement of the Reverend Ann Holmes Redding, an Episcopalian priest from Seattle, who has decided that she is both an Episcopalian and a Muslim.
Incongruously, Redding who is the director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, a priest for more than 20 years Tu reports, is “ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.”
This is yet another outrage against the Episcopal Church, as hard as it is to rise to the level of outrage for a Church with so many such instances constantly coming to the fore. After all, the Episcopal Church has lurched from one upheaval to another for these many years. From the fight over ordaining female priests, to allowing avowedly and unapologetically homosexual priests to take the pulpit, not to mention their many decades of “progressive” ministries, the Episcopal Church has seen falling numbers in their congregations and splinters over doctrine as a result of the constant reevaluating of its tenets and practices. It’s no wonder that the joke about them seems too true for comfort; Episcopalians are just agnostics who can’t shake that need to go somewhere on a Sunday morning.
This latest instance does not help belie the claims from another, more cynical, religious perspective, that of radical Islamists, who claim the west in general is in relative cultural and religious decay. Islamists see endemic in western societies an unwillingness or inability to uphold their own religious convictions and sees a west constantly warping and tearing down their own practices. Certainly I won’t substantiate that view, but it sure is hard to dismiss it out of hand when stories like this come up.
It is patently absurd, of course, to be both a Muslim and an Episcopalian, even for the gruel thin creed that is Episcopalianism. Not because being Episcopalian is so incompatible with Islam, but because Islam is entirely intolerant of any other religion and is, therefore, entirely incompatible with Episcopalians.
Islam sanctions lying to outsiders, oppressively taxing them for their beliefs, and, in some instances, the outright murder of those outside Mohammedan faiths, so to imagine that Islam would welcome a person professing two religions as if they were merely taking a half-hearted citizenship in two different countries is a fool’s assumption. This confused Musli-piscopalian is deluding herself to imagine she can mix and match her religions like one might accessorize a summer dress — especially when one of those religions is Islam.
Certainly, this paean to “tolerance”, this kitschy religionism, is based in woeful ignorance of her original religion and willful ignorance of her newfound Islamic hobbyhorse. Of course, none of this would be so bad if religion was only meant to make one “feel” better like any new agie snake oil-like con job, but this is not the case at all. Religion is presented as God’s truth, a truth not invented by man but one merely accepted by him. To mix and match them so gratuitously certainly makes the lie to any claims of “truth”, to be sure.
This lack of doctrinal adherence is not surprising in the US in particular. Since the Second Great Awakening in the 1940′s and 50′s, doctrine went the way of the dinosaurs to be replaced by that religious “feeling” and the last vestiges of a Priests or Ministers who actually taught a religion was replaced by the showmen who made worshippers “feel” Jesus instead of understanding him and his teachings. So, it isn’t surprising to find a woman who has such a lack of grounding in her religion that one seems just as good a fit as another… or that several can be molded and shaped to fit her “feelings” of the moment.
And here we get back to that disdain radical Muslims have for westerners; the fact that we won’t even stand up for our own religious beliefs.
Let’s be honest about something, shall we? No religion views any other religion as the “right” path to God. But, after thousands of years of violent intolerance, westerners were finally led by Britain and the United States to a level of tolerance of other religions, sanctioned and codified by law, that had never before existed. This is a reformation of thought that has never occurred in Islam and one that must occur for Islam to join the world’s great religions as a force for good instead of evil.
Unfortunately, this Musli-piscoplianism invented by this wayward “Reverend” who is probably seeking the light of the media to lead her onward as opposed to that of Godâ€™s wonâ€™t help Islam to reform. That must be done from within Islam itself. All this woman’s actions will do is heap more scorn on western religionists. And this woman is truly treating religion as an “ist” would be defined it should be stressed. Combining all sorts of religions to create something simply for the sake of a new religion of tolerance is not religion but “religionism” — religion for the sake of religion, not religion as distinct ideologies and creeds.
But, maybe Episcopalians are not too far gone down the road of kitsch just yet. Janet Tu, the writer who broke this ridiculous story, later informed us in a separate story that the Reverend Ann Holmes Redding is being sidelined from her position as director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral by her Bishop, Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf. He has given her a year off from her duties to, “reflect on the doctrines of the Christian faith, her vocation as a priest, and what I see as the conflicts inherent in professing both Christianity and Islam.”
Being both a Muslim and an Episcopalian seems too much even for the newagies in the Episcopalian Church thus far. Maybe there’s hope yet that we in the west aren’t ready to abandon all vestiges of our religious convictions?