10 October 2003

Order and Chaos

Well, I had an assignment for my Education for Ministry class to write a short essay on order and chaos. And I've been thinking a lot (as I mentioned) about evolution and revolution in reference to the actions of the Episcopal Church's General Convention in August, and thought I might post something to the blog about it. So: the proverbial two birds are now kaput. The stone follows:


Chaos: Hurricane Isabel blows through. Trees down. Power out for five days. Food spoiling in the fridge. No drinkable water.

Order: Blessed power. Blessed clean water. Life goes back to normal. Thank God.

Chaos: Every weekend in August, picking up our lives and driving for most of a day each way, with or without dogs, to visit friends and family in other states. Exhausting, but exhilarating and richly rewarding.

Order: September. Ho-hum. Another day, another dollar. Work, eat, sleep; nothing much special going on.

Is order preferable to chaos? Depends on the order; depends on the chaos. Order is familiarity, security, stability, comfort. But it's also rigidity, inflexibility, boredom, totalitarianism. Chaos is danger, terrorism, bad news from the doctor. But it's also serendipity, variety, the surprise birthday party. Both are aspects of God's good creation, in all its variability.

We wouldn't want our lives to be dominated by chaos. For far too many of us, living in places torn by war and poverty, chaos is the dominant reality. But chaos is also change, and change is necessary, and good, and Godly. What we really need to strive for is not unrelieved order but balance. Balance between order and chaos; change that proceeds with due caution, to avoid tipping the apple cart and spinning us off into the void of no (or scarce) return.

The middle ground between stagnation (unyielding, uncaring order) and revolution (chaotic change that happens so quickly that the consequences are impossible to foresee) is evolutionary change. Those of us who support change in our institutions, be they governmental, corporate, or ecclesiastical, need to realize that uncontrolled change can be just as harmful as no change at all, if not more so. The ends do not justify the means. This is as true for the freedom fighter as it is for the oppressor. One reason for this is that if the chosen means are uncontrolled and excessively chaotic, the ends actually reached may be very different from those envisioned.

These are some of the thoughts I've been kicking around since the Episcopal Church's General Convention in August, 2003. Let me be clear: I strongly support the full equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in all of our institutions, including the Church. I think gay people should be ordained. I think they should be allowed to marry in the eyes of both church and state. But I also think that change needs to be evolutionary, not revolutionary, or God only knows what the consequences might be.

Only time will tell what the effects of these actions will be for the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and on faithful Christians of every opinion, every sexual orientation. Do I think we'll get through this? I do. And though I know that change is no less necessary because it is painful, I am sorry for the pain that the Church is feeling over this. Most of all, I wonder if this hurricane of our own creation could have been more of a mere squall if we'd proceeded with due respect for the delicate balance between order and chaos.

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