The question over Communion without Baptism has hit close to home. As is well known, the Easter Diocese of Oregon has recently issued their open table resolution. Oregon, by the way has two Dioceses, the Diocese of Oregon and the Diocese of Eastern Oregon. I reside in the former.

Already there have been some excellent responses to the CWOB resolution. The Curate’s Desk and Creedal Christian represent just a few, and I find that I really have nothing new to add.

Though there is this one point: what I find particularly troubling about the resolution is that it attempts to come across as a ‘radical’ gesture, something that appeals to the young. The messaging goes something like this: the hierarchy has occluded the pure message of the gospel – absolute freedom and utter inclusion. And so the resolution trades under the banner of “radical hospitality” in distinction to the “canonically driven.” Yet in practice, this form of hospitality is nothing more than the hospitality-industry with a thin ecclesial gloss.

I want to ask the CWOB folks: what exactly about this message is supposed to be radical?  Or, to meet them on their operating level – that of marketing – do you really think you’ll be able to compete with the mega or evangelical churches? Because they will always offer a better product, better music, younger and cooler people and, not being hindered by the episcopacy, the ability to do whatever they want.

It’s not difficult to see that the CWOB movement is straining toward relevancy, and is increasingly taking its cues from the advertising industry. So, by breaking with the status quo, in this case, 2,000 years of ecclesial tradition or the “canonically-driven,” they think they are doing something progressive; and in so doing, they are only giving the people what they want. But what if the message of the status quo is to break away from the status quo? What if the message of the status quo is collapsing difference, mixing all forms of life into one homologous consumer package? If they really wanted to be radical, wouldn’t the message be: you can’t purchase spirituality on the cheap?

One wonders if the CWOB folks watch TV. After all, nearly every other commercial peddling the latest wares commands that we be true to ourselves and that we don’t do what they tell you (except the advertisers of course). Refusing self-actualization, mediated through the latest product, is tantamount to suicide. PT Barnum famously said that there is a sucker born every minute, and I fear that CWOB just spent their last cent on this latest version of snakeskin oil.

Overall, I think we need to begin asking why the theological objections to CWOB, particularly when it comes to the meaning of the sacraments, have fallen on deaf ears. If sacraments are just symbols, then of course CWOB makes sense. And in a culture that baptizes their young for sentimentality’s sake, then of course CWOB makes sense. But what if the real issue is that the CWOB folks just don’t see capitalism as a problem that has infected the church? That is, if there is nothing wrong with capitalist ontology, nothing complicated about the desire to maximize effectiveness and to continue decreasing barriers to spiritual self-aggrandizement, then why shouldn’t we make it easier for folks to join us at the table? Isn’t the message to get as many people into heaven as possible, to be nice in the way that God is nice?

Finally, lest this post come across as sounding too antagonistic, I would encourage in love the CWOB folks to read Thomas Frank, particularly this essay: Why Johnny Can’t Dissent. I think this bit might help:

The people who staff the Combine aren’t like Nurse Ratched. They aren’t Frank Burns, they aren’t the Church Lady, they aren’t Dean Wormer from Animal House, they aren’t those repressed old folks in the commercials who want to ban Tropicana Fruit Twisters. They’re hipper than you can ever hope to be because hip is their official ideology, and they’re always going to be there at the poetry reading to encourage your “rebellion” with a hearty “right on, man!” before you even know they’re in the auditorium. You can’t outrun them, or even stay ahead of them for very long: it’s their racetrack, and that’s them waiting at the finish line to congratulate you on how outrageous your new style is, on how you shocked those stuffy prudes out in the heartland.

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