God Don’t Like Ugly

No matter one’s position on issues of human sexuality, the Lambeth Conference’s exclusion of same-sex spouses must appear ugly.  And, as the old saying has it, God don’t like ugly.

Apparently folks at Lambeth also realized a bit of the ugliness of their exclusion.  The Lambeth Conference webpage originally said, “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is sending personal invitations to every eligible bishop and spouse (excluding same-sex spouses*) and is looking forward immensely to hosting them.”  The webpage has since been updated and the parenthetical phrase “excluding same-sex spouses” has been omitted.  The policy hasn’t changed, but I suppose someone must have realized how ugly it is to speak of excluding human beings parenthetically (with an asterisk to boot).  God don’t like ugly.

In fact, since the exclusion of same-sex spouses seems almost (not entirely) a textbook case of what Rene Girard called the “scapegoat mechanism,” it’s hard to believe folks at Lambeth didn’t realize its blatant ugliness sooner.  In a nutshell, Girard explains the scapegoat mechanism as a way that communities try to overcome internal rivalry and strife.  When the tensions within a community grow to the point that they threaten the very existence of the community a bizarre mechanism arises: the communal violence is turned toward a single individual or group. People who were enemies now become friends as they communally participate in the execution or exclusion of the specified scapegoat.  The scapegoat is usually an innocent victim from some marginalized group, but the innocence of the scapegoat must never be recognized.  Rather the victim must be thought of as a monstrous creature who has transgressed some prohibition and deserves to be punished.  In this way, the community deceives itself into believing that the scapegoat was the culprit of the community’s crisis, and that the elimination of the victim will restore peace to the community.

As I said, the Lambeth Conference’s attempt to deal with the strife within the Anglican Communion by excluding same-sex spouses is almost a textbook example of Girard’s scapegoat mechanism. It is ugly. Moreover, whatever peace the scapegoat mechanism may achieve in the short term never lasts. And most importantly, as Christian theologians who like to think in Girardian terms tell us, Jesus came to unmask this ugly sacrificial system, put an end to scapegoating once and for all, and to show us a better way to live together in reconciliation and peace.

The Lambeth Conference’s decision to exclude same-sex spouses, therefore, is not only ugly; it is also stunningly theologically uninformed.  I’m no disciple of Girard, but his ideas about scapegoating should be familiar enough to anyone who is theologically competent.  How anyone with even a basic grasp of contemporary theology could miss the Girardian implications of the exclusion of the same-sex spouses is beyond me.  Stunningly ugly, and, to my mind stunningly ignorant as well.

I can see no reason why anyone would want to attend a conference that is organized on the basis of such ugliness; nor in my opinion should they.  The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church’s request that bishops and their spouses, and the House of Bishops together, “prayerfully and carefully consider her/his/their response, choices and actions” in the light of what it calls the “troubling circumstances” of Lambeth 2020’s exclusion of same-sex spouses is entirely inadequate.  In my opinion no one from The Episcopal Church should attend Lambeth 2020 and The Episcopal Church should withhold all resources designated for Lambeth 2020 unless same-sex spouses are invited to participate fully.

God don’t like ugly.



12 thoughts on “God Don’t Like Ugly

  1. Thank you for your post. I share your opinion, although I anticipate that it will not prevail, at least not entirely. What happens if the atendees from TEC-US are only those bishops who oppose the action of the last 2 General Conventions? I have no idea how the Lambeth Conference works internally, or upon whom, if anyone, its conclusions are binding.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well put and I agree. What troubles me is God made us all. We are all different. God made people who are attacked to the same sex so has God made a mistake? No is my thought.

    Godspeed Peter

    On Wed, Feb 27, 2019, 5:05 PM Amy and Joe Go to Africa wrote:

    > Joe Pagano posted: “No matter one’s position on issues of human sexuality, > the Lambeth Conference’s exclusion of same-sex spouses must appear ugly. > And, as the old saying has it, God don’t like ugly. Apparently folks at > Lambeth also realized a bit of the ugliness of their ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Joe, beautifully written with heart, mind and intelligence. I hate ugly in any form. It’s not what God taught us in John 3:11-12, “And then Jesus said love another as I have loved you, that you should also love. We are all God’s children and like in his eyes. Please give my best to dear Amy for me! I’m so glad she will be representing the real Christian community. I miss you both every day. But feel so blessed to have been a member of your flock while you were with us. God’s blessing and love to you both. Still waiting on word on your next book?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lutie and thank you for the reminder of what Jesus said in John 3. Indeed! And new book should be out in a month or so. Love, Joe


      1. Joe, I’m so glad you got my post!! The post wouldn’t let me send it because it said I made a duplicate statement. I tried other ways with no luck. Oh well, you got it all that matters. I do follow you both but don’t usually make s comment. I’m so proud of what you and Amy are doing. Just think of the graduates who will be enriched by your teaching. So glad your foot finally healed. That’s a very painful and problematic condition. Getting ready for my second knee replacement Tuesday. Deacon Corby is annointing me with oil and prayers and blessing on Tuesday and crossing me with ashes on Wednesday. If I’m going to be in the hospital might as well be blessed by one if the best and dear dear friends. But she wouldn’t bring me pancakes!!!!! Go figure!! 🤗 Have a blessed lent. Love and hugs to you and Amy


      2. Thank you Lutie. Prayers for your knee replacement. So good that Corby will anoint and say prayers with you. Please give her my love. And pancakes would have been a nice touch, but I suppose you can’t have everything. Love, Joe


      3. Joe, Thank you for your prayers for my hopefully last surgery, enough!! I’m fortunate to have Jim Rivers as my “ health advisor and gives me honest profession advice that I listen to”. I surely do not need the pancakes! God has given me all I need in his love and guidance. I am truly blessed with a wonderful close loving family, so many wonderful friends and good health, curious mind and love and caring heart. I will continue praying for you and Amy in your classrooms and on your global adventures. Stay well and I’ll stay tuned in to your blogs. Thanks again for your smiles and sermons and listening heart. Love and peace , Lutie


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