Articles and Projects: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Articles and Projects
I should be writing an article. Instead, I am repairing and polishing a brass hinged bracket that will be used to secure a processional cross or a bishop’s crozier in the sanctuary of the small Anglican church I attend. This is the third project that I’ve undertaken this week. The first was to install ribbons into the binding of a new, old Gospel Book that had been donated to the parish. Having a ribbon will allow the priest to carry the Gospel Book in procession into the midst of the congregation and then to open the book to the portion of the Gospels appointed for the day. The other project was undertaken earlier in the week and consisted of patching a wall above a side chapel altar where we had shifted statues of St. Mary and St. Joseph to a location that was more in keeping with the architectural demands of the space.
Now, if I had not undertaken these projects, I might have written an article by now. The problem is, however, that I am less and less inclined to write about the topics that appear to push people’s buttons. Yes, our national approach to the Covid pandemic has been less than perfect. Compared, however, to other nations, between vaccinations and therapeutics, we are in perhaps a better place than we really deserve, especially considering the level of vaccination resistance and disinformation endemic in some quarters. As we approach a million deaths in America one would think that this might be a time for mourning or, at least, sober reflection. Instead, we engage in endless debates on the efficacy of masks and treatments, all the while looking for someone to blame.
Speaking of someone to blame, I could have written an article on a variety of hot button cultural and/or political issues. Anything that includes issues of race, or sexuality, or political identity, will be sure to get a response, even if what is actually written is not read. Recently, I made the observation that during the time of the writing and formation of the New Testament there were eleven Roman emperors. There were almost continual struggles for political power. As a result, small scale civil wars broke out. Mystery religions were all the rage, often incorporating a fluid sexuality inclusive of transgender adherents. Brothels, catering to a variety of sexual expressions, were common in all the cities of the empire. Slavery was normative. Gladiatorial games were held not just in Rome, but in all the provinces. Infanticide was a normative practice. Divorce was common… I could go on… From my reading of the New Testament, however, I fail to see the writers addressing all these pressing political/social/cultural issues with great specificity.
Instead, for the New Testament writers it was about being the Church and modeling a life in Christ. The moral and ethical standards of the Early Church were not based upon a laundry list of the deficiencies of secular society, but on the example and teaching of Christ and how that was made real or incarnate in the life of the Church. It was not a legislated morality. It was a lived morality. The measure was not an abstract view of society or the body politic of the empire. The measure was the person of Christ. For the Early Church the Christian cosmos was two-fold. It extended far beyond the borders of empire to the furthest extent of creation, while at the same time the entirety of that Christian cosmos could be found in the smallest gathering of believers in the most insignificant village. It was dependent not on power or influence. It was dependent on presence… the presence of Christ.
I could have written a better article, but I’m glad that I did my projects. The bracket will, in a small way, beautify the sanctuary. The Gospel Book is ready to be carried and the Gospel will be proclaimed in the midst of the congregation. The side chapel is prepared for those who wish to pray. Upon reflection, I think that I made the better choice…
Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD