Posted by: Fr. C. | June 11, 2012

Of Crabs and Men

Is this your parish?

Being from the Chesapeake Watershed and having spent summer days at my sister’s place on the bay crabbing (despite a seafood allergy that prevents me from actually eating the tasty critters), I am familiar with fact that one need not put a lid on the pot in which the crabs are kept.  Naturally one would think that any crab that wanted to, could simply crawl up over the edge and escape.

Ah, but as the article points out, the curious nature of the crab is that instinctively those in the group reach up and pull down the ones climbing out, back into the bucket.  They will not allow one another to break free which destines all for the steamer. This is the gist of sadly crabology.

Mr. Stuart aptly observes that this phenomenon extends to human behavior.  “It says in effect that ‘if I can’t be free, neither can you.’”  He goes on to observe that this “is the tendency to want to downplay, discourage and even disallow someone else from a breakthrough or succeeding at something that we have not experienced.”  It can b have any number of motivations: envy or jealousy, a competitive attitude or simply ignorance as to what is really happening. He goes on to note that there is a pointed spiritual lesson in this.

Beginning with St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Stuart focuses on the admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:10, 15) The injunction is set in the context of seven verses in which the Apostle gives specific instructions to Christian believers as to how to get along with one another. (Romans 12:9-16)

Church history to the very present, particularly the brokenness ans sectishness of the Anglican continuing church movement (a microscopic bit of that history), has been marked by a “crabologism” infiltrated that it has been the source of much suspicion and division in the body of Christ.  Throughout the centuries God has sent saints, teachers, and even devout “ordinary” lay folk to lead the the members of the Body of Christ out of the bucket of spiritual malaise.  As Mr. Stuart aptly points out, “the crabs within the church have often provided the major opposition.”

These folks have sought not only to resist the move of God, but have even fallen to the depths of martyring the very people sent to proclaim that new found freedom. To leave the familiar confines of the pot is anaethema.  Certainly, a devotion to brotherly love has not prevailed.

Stuart observes the group most resistant to a fresh move of God are those who experienced the last one.  he uses the analogy of adding successive stories to a skyscraper. The one’s who added the last floor are the ones who most vehemently protests adding another. 

This was true in Jesus’ day as well.  The disciples of both John the Baptist and the Pharisees had real difficulty with the disciples of Jesus not fasting and praying like them.  To them it seemed like Jesus’ disciples were crawling out of the bucket of the law and they wanted to pull them back in. (Luke 5:33-35, Matthew 9:14-15 & Mark 2:18-20)  The disciples of Jesus however were not just victims of crabology, they themselves also fell prey to a crabology mentality.

Anyone who is honest about continuing Anglicanism can see this plainly, on a daily basis. It is like the disciples on their return from their initial sending.  hey have preached, healed and cast out demons.  Aha!  But there is this other guy out there!  They saw him daring to cast out demons in Jesus’ name.  But he’s not a part of our franchise!  They wanted him stopped and the “pure” franchise maintained. “Our group has the monopoly on Jesus.”  You can almost hear our Lord sigh as he rebuked them, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

Like Tom Stuart, I have personally witnessed and experienced spiritual crabology over the past twenty years since I gave up the traditionalist fight inside the Episcopal church and fully joinined in the continuing Church, particularly after my ordination. side the forty years not only in the church, but also in my own heart.  When I and my family finally found safe harbor in a traditional setting-in my case the Anglican Province of Christ the King-I had an experience experience that clearly defined for me what I thought Christianity should be like: intense traditional english catholicism with a high sense of ritualism.  Nothing else was right.

As the years passed, particularly in my service as a military chaplain, I began to share in worship and prayer with other traditional Christians.  Like my fellow crab Tom Stuart, I found myself suspicious and resistant to other believers who were seeking to move up and out of my theological bucket.This attitude was and remains fueled by an arrogant, pious donatismm amongst many of continuing church clergy and laity-folks I have come to call “Angricans.” From parishes of 25 or 30 aging souls, Crabus Anglicanus can simultaneously sneer at Roman Catholics (“given over to modernism”), the Orthodox (“too foreign”) and even Baptists (“well…well…they’re just Baptists“).

I was not rejoicing with those who were rejoicing-even with people whose theology I share. Instead, just like so many others, I found myself harboring a complaining and judgmental spirit toward fellow Christians– WARNING: crabology alert. I reached a place where I was “more Catholic than Roman Catholics”, “more Orthodox than Orthodox” and just plain “more full in the faith” than anyone else. All the while I did this I declaimed that I am only in one “branch”.

I agree with Tom Stuart that when a crab-like attitude begins to creep in, it is often accompanied by an inability to genuinely rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  It bars us from sharing in the many gifts they might bring us to enrich our own faith. Rather than rejoicing with them, or even standing with them on common issues, we are offended by their rejoicing and we draw inward and become more sectarian or evein “sectish”.

At a recent meeting of the Anglican Church in Norrth America, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America (a man who can’t be accused of compromising his theology) had some pointed things to say to Christian crabologists of all stripes. As reported at the Anglican Ink blog, his Beatitude cited the common moral vision of the Orthodox and the ACNA and the Protestant confessing churches.  While the churches were divided amongst themselves over issues of doctrine and discipline, including big issues such as women clergy, the more pressing split was “between those who hold traditional biblical faith” and show who hold a “secularized faith according to contemporary” mores and “who dismiss the moral teachings of the Scriptures and the Fathers as culturally irrelevant.”

“This realignment is not the protestant/catholic, evangelical-charismatic/mainline divide, it effects all churches,” Metropolitan Jonah said, and “it is creating a massive realignment” between the true faith and “those who reject it, criticize it and persecute it.”

Finally, the Metropolitan paraphrased Pope Benedict who has “called for us to stand against this enemy.  Without alteration, without change, without revision” we must stand together “against those who would subject their faith to the wisdom of the current age.  We must stand together because we cannot stand alone.”

This is not a call to abandon one’s identity as a Christian.  It is a powerful plea acknowledge that there is a broader Christian world beyond the edge of the bushel basket.  It is a challenge to abandon crabology amongst catholic Christians, and the incredible waste of resources and damage to witness that it involves. Most of all, it is a clarion call to climb out of our own pot before we die.

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