By all accounts the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal Bishop-elect, is a nice man. Still, I must confess to some discomfort when confronted with people who persevere in difficult, divisive activity because they are convinced they are carrying out God’s will. Although I share their hatred of slavery, for example, I’m sure John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison would also have made me uncomfortable.
Rev. Robionson was asked recently if it wouldn’t be better if he stepped aside in the interest of preserving unity in the Anglican communion, and he replied, according to an article in the New York Times, that he believed God wanted him to go forward. “I do have this sense I’m supposed to go forward,” he said, “and I do feel that’s coming from God and not my own ego.”
Although I admire people who remain true to their convictions, what makes me uncomfortable about Rev. Robinson’s comments is the implication they may carry that those Anglicans who oppose his confirmation as Bishop are opposing God’s will. That’s the trouble with conflicts over religion: they turn into religous conflicts.
While I’m at it, and to return to a more familiar theme, I was also struck by another of Rev. Robinson’s comments. When asked why he thought there was so much anger at his selection, he stated that
he believed it was a sign that patriarchy was ending in the church as women, minorities and gays were more fully included. The election of a gay man as bishop is a “threat to the way things have been done, when white men have pretty much been in charge of everything,” he said.
I will leave it to others more versed in theology than I to explain how the inclusion of “minorities” has been a threat to “patriarchy,” but it is at least clear that Rev. Robinson equates his case and cause with civil rights struggles in the past. But this attempt, to me, presents an interesting question: what is the underlying civil rights principle to which Rev. Robinson would appeal?
Before the rise of “diversity” the answer would have been clear. The principle would have been clearly understood to be that no one should be subjected to adverse (or favorable) treatment because of race, or gender, or sexual preference. But now that principle has been superseded, at least for large segments of elite opinion (and, legally, in college admissions), by the “diversity” principle, which requires a regulatory thumb on at least the racial and ethnic scales.
I wonder whether the would-be Bishop means that gays should not be discriminated against because they are gay, or that they should actively be sought out by a “gay-conscious” policy of promoting sexual diversity.