What’s In a Name?

More than one person took me to task for using the adjective “reactionary” to describe the point of view I found in the newsletter United Voice.

Although I thought that the description was accurate, I though I had best check up on myself by consulting with The Oxford English Dictionary. This is what I found: “reactionary, a. and n. [f. reaction (chiefly in sense 4). adj. 1. Of, pertaining to, or characterized by, reaction. 2. Inclined or favourable to reaction. Also, in Marxist use, unfavourably contrasted with revolutionary.” Under sense 4 of reaction, I found “A movement towards the reversal of an existing tendency or state of things, esp. in politics; a return, or desire to return, to a previous condition of affairs; a revulsion of feeling.”

With that definition of reactionary in mind, consider the opening sentence of the editorial in the September issue of The United Voice: “‘Inclusivity’ has proven a disastrous concept for the Episcopal Church.” Further on, the editorial states, “Within the inclusive theology popular in episcopal circles today, God becomes a laissez-faire father who loves us all and expects nothing from us.”

By attempting to make inclusivity a dirty word, the author of the editorial — Todd. H. Wetzel, the Executive Director Episcopalians United — appears to desire a reversal of an existing tendency or state of things, and he is obviously afflicted with a revulsion of feeling. I understand that for some people “reactionary” is a pejorative term, but I used it as descriptive, and I think that the description is accurate. Some who oppose inclusivity prefer to think of themselves as “conservative”, but I do not want to dignify their position by applying to them a term that better suits those of us who attempt to follow Jesus in welcoming all of God’s people.

In trying to preserve the essential meaning of the Gospel, I believe that we are truly conservative. I do not mean, however, we preach that God makes no demands. Instead we proclaim that God demands that we become the open and generous people God intended us to be, welcoming others without demanding that they become just like us in order to be acceptable.

Perhaps all adjectives have positive and negative connotations that get in the way of mutual respect and understanding during arguments, but we cannot carry on a conversation without having some ways to identify each other in ways that describe our differences of opinion. I doubt that I will live to see the day when the noun “Christian” needs no modifier.

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