The Washington Post is not a newspaper prone to writing positive things about Christianity, so when it does, one must dig just a bit more deeply for the Post’s true motivations, as in this piece about the new Dean of the National Cathedral:
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, new dean of Washington National Cathedral, started out as a comedy writer for Steve Allen. He got the gig, he says, through his parents. Hall’s father was an actor in Hollywood, his mother a costume designer. And the connection he forged through them with the comedian-turned-‘Tonight Show’ host made a lasting impression on Hall’s approach to ministry.
‘Steve was a big influence in my life,’ Hall says.
Now 64 years old, Hall has white hair, an angular face and thin-rimmed glasses. He looks, well, like a traditional Episcopalian. But he doesn’t talk like one. He is friendly and funny, smart and very, very frank. Boy, is he frank. Don’t be fooled by the white collar he wears. On a scorching summer day, Hall strides into Le Zinc, a French restaurant close to the cathedral and one of his favorite hangouts, in an Oxford blue shirt with white clerical collar and seersucker jacket. He settles down to lunch and a long conversation that culminates in a description of what he calls ‘bar theology.
Ah! So he’s a really hip and trendy Episcopalian! For those that haven’t been keeping up with the Episcopal church in recent years, battles over doctrine and church property are being fought around the nation as the Episcopal church has embraced gay marriage, appointed at least one gay bishop, and begun to ignore annoying and non-hip doctrine and scripture in favor of progressive orthodoxy and Democrat political platforms. This aggressive movement away from Episcopal Christianity has caused many congregations and diocese to split with the Church, and in those circumstances, the Church had filed lawsuits to seize their properties and churches. Because the Episcopal Church does not have a hierarchical structure like the Catholic Church with a central authority holding all properties, most of those suits have been unsuccessful, but have been an enormous financial hardship for local congregations. This is probably the point. The diocese that have split have commonly rebranded as Anglicans.
The Rev. Hall’s intentions are pretty clear:
I came from no place to real, established Orthodox Anglicanism,’ he explains. ‘Now that I’m older, I’m moving back toward wearing the institutional part of Christianity lightly.
Under Hall’s leadership, the cathedral announced it will start performing same-sex marriages. ‘Our position [the Church’s] has been don’t ask, don’t tell. We’ve been more about etiquette than ethics.
Translation: We’re ignoring the scriptures and substituting our own, progressive pop theology/Democrat Party platform morality. It’s much more groovy. Here’s where things get really interesting:
That kind of atheism, though, is bankrupt. It’s like picking a fight with a cultural image no theologian would buy into. I don’t want to be loosey-goosey about it,’ he says, ‘but I describe myself as a non-theistic Christian.
“A non-theistic Christian.” Wouldn’t that be pretty much an atheist? He expands on the concept.
Jesus doesn’t use the word God very much,’ he says. ‘He talks about his Father.
I do not, gentle readers, possess a divinity degree, but I am reasonably well read in comparative theology, and have read the Bible many times–even the Old Testament, you know, the part with all those Jews? The idea that the number of times Christ said “God” compared to his utterances of “Father” is somehow significant and gives license for Hall and his ilk to pick and choose Scriptures they favor speaks volumes, not about Jesus, but Hall. Could it be Christ often said “Father” because God is his father? You know: the whole “Son of God” business?
You’ll love this one:
Hall explains: ‘Where I am now, how do I understand Jesus as a son of God that’s not magical? I’m trying to figure out Jesus as a son of God and a fully human being, if he has both fully human and a fully divine set of chromosomes. . . . He’s not some kind of superman coming down. God is present in all human beings. Jesus was an extraordinary human being. Jesus didn’t try to convert. He just had people at his table.’
At this point, Hall leans back in his chair, a rueful smile on his face.
‘This is like therapy,” he says. ‘I should lie down on the couch.
Oh dear. Perhaps he should. He does seem to be confused about the foundations of Christianity, doesn’t he, gentle readers? “Jesus didn’t try to convert?” I guess that’s why all Christians are Jews even today. What’s that you say? They’re not?! Oh. Then what is Rev. Hall talking about? I trust I don’t have to get into an explication of the nature of Christ in order to demonstrate that the Very Reverend Hall is striving mightily to portray Christ as less than divine?
The challenge, then, is how to bring people back. He says, ‘what we don’t do well is folk music and guys in Hawaiian shirts. What we do is we have this transcendental space. The cathedral, in a way, the building, is our biggest problem and our biggest resource.’
He says he sees change ahead. ‘We’ll have an urban progressive liturgical church and a more suburban conservative church. We’ll cut across denominations.
Gee. I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. I’ve always believed that vast, transcendent spaces, like magnificent cathedrals, are a positive. They remind us even though we live for such a short time and are inherently sinful, God loves us and promises eternal salvation. Sitting in one helps us feel the grandeur of the universe and the presence of God. Singing the religious masterworks in such buildings, one can’t help but to see, even feel, the hand of God. To Rev. Hall, the cup of transcendence is obviously only half-full.
Are you getting the sense that Rev. Hall is much more about being a faithful Obamite and Hillaryite than a Christian? The National Cathedral, horribly flawed as it is, is merely a place to organize to prepare for the fundamental transformation of the Episcopal Church and America, ultimately, to fight political battles? You have no idea:
Hall believes he has more in common with leaders of reform Judaism, who also focus on things like marriage equality and gun control, than he does with some of the more conservative members of his own tradition. ‘I can’t see that we’re not going to realign.”
Hmm. How about saving souls? Faithfully preaching the Gospel? I know: so yesterday. But hey, who needs eternal salvation when one can engage in Earthly pleasures without concern and redefine one’s theology whenever it’s convenient? That’s pretty hip, isn’t it?