Illustration: Edd Aragon
God, says my favourite theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, is the point at which truth, beauty and justice merge. I like that, very much.
Quite apart from the ethical appeal, and the tantalising hint of Platonism (which Balthasar rejects), these things are therapy. If you're feeling mopey, they're guaranteed pick-me-ups - telling truth, seeing beauty or kicking ass - which is a form of administering justice, right?
So it's weird that the contemporary church seems hell-bent, as it were, on dumping the lot of them. Worse than weird. Dangerous, since the need for muscular spiritual leadership was never more urgent.
Democracy, which seemed in its youth to gaze across landscapes of boundless optimism, is now shrunk to the pocket handkerchief between incompetence and corruption: fumey motorways on one side, dodgy land deals on the other.
In such a circumstance you might expect the church to pause and re-up, replenishing its stocks of truth, beauty and justice as enticements.
But no, far from it. Child abuse, protectionism, corporatism, misogyny, homophobia, and churches that feel like liquor barns. Truth, beauty, justice? Pah! Who needs 'em?
So Christmas, well adrift from its origins, is now less an answer to commerce and politics than, at best, a respite from them. At worst, a perpetuation.
But say you did want some church this Christmas. Say you craved solace, a sense of old time and a lungful of goodness to keep you swimming upright through the festive season.
In Sydney, you'd have a choice between a church whose hierarchy has actively cloaked paedophiles for decades and still cannot come clean, much less apologise, and one that sees beauty as an impediment to godliness and makes women and gays second-class congregants.
Ask yourself, as you light your midnight candle, how is this OK?
In Britain, the retirement this month of the sweetly sandalled Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is seen by many, including him, as the failure of his long push to allow the church to have women bishops and gay priests.
Here, we don't even permit women priests.
I'm surprised this is legal, given that the law bans "discrimination against another person on the ground of sex … [or] on the ground of homosexuality". But I am advised, by those who understand that the law cannot be expected to mean what it says, that it's like getting big-breasted women to work in topless restaurants. There are loopholes for those in need.
There was that flutter of controversy, earlier in the year, over the Sydney Anglicans' new marriage vows - the pretence that ''submit'' implied some advance on ''obey''.
Excuse me? In a world where the girls regularly - and again this week - wipe the floor with the boys academically, say what?
Certainly feminism brings unresolved issues - in finding a gender power-balance that works in both the bedroom and the world, and in not simply licensing women as aggressive, hard-drinking, fast-driving faux men.
But resolution must come through engagement, not repression. And come it must, because the issues are bigger than just us or just marriage. Just women. Just priests.
The issues are huge. After 2000 years we've seen what the leadership of white Christian males can deliver. Penicillin. Space stations. Iphones.
But also, and increasingly, climate change. Extreme weather. Food shortages. Extinctions. Financial and glacial meltdown.
Cardinal George Pell accuses the Greens of being "thoroughly anti-Christian". He says non-Christians are "frightened of the future" having "nothing beyond the constructs they confect to cover the abyss".
The abyss of paedophilia? The constructs of denial? It makes you wonder.
Archbishop Peter Jensen argues for - nay, imposes - his doctrine whereby women and gays, in church or at home, are mere helpers.
This is not in Anglicanism's Thirty-Nine Articles. It's elective. He calls it ''headship''. Others would call it prehistoric. Misogynist. Homophobic.
Women should submit to men, Jensen says, as men should submit to the church.
Which makes it plain just how close in spirit this fundamentalist Christianity is to sharia, with its similar ''god-given'' (but man-written) hierarchy.
But the weird thing is, Jesus was such a girl.
The headship doctrine claims gospel roots, and maybe that's right. I'm in no position to exchange biblical quotations - except maybe this: ''By their fruits shall ye know them.''
A true fundamentalist would surely emulate Jesus's behaviour, as much as his words. And the behaviours that distinguished Jesus, against a male world, the qualities that distinguish the New Testament from the Old, were fundamentally female.
Ever submissive, meek and humble, Jesus consistently turns the other cheek, sides with the underdog, washes the feet of the disciples. These were the supposedly feminine qualities, as enunciated in Lear's tragic: "Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.'' Jesus, in short, played the woman.
To me, as a child, this behavioural drag made Jesus rather dull. Such a goody-goody, he seemed, with none of the swashbuckling heroics, the pride and passion, the glory and revenge that I wanted in a story.
Yet of course that very humility was heroic, making Jesus subversive, and therefore dangerous. A man behaving like a woman? Crucify him.
Maybe that's why the church needed the ''headship'' doctrine, so Jesus could be seen as a servant to God, but not to humans. Certainly not to women.
Yet it is perfectly plain that the mindset we must cultivate to survive the coming century is strongly female-flavoured - less grabby and aggressive, more humble and communal; better sharing, more self-abnegation. More ''family hold back'', as my nana would say.
We don't need women being more like men. We need men to be more womanish.
If, as the world heads into its precarious future, the church wants a leadership role, it must enlist all three of the therapeutic virtues. It must stand rigorously and fearlessly for truth, whatever the political cost, supporting the whistleblowers from abused children to Julian Assange.
It must make its spaces, its music, liturgy, vestments and the entire sacrament as hauntingly lovely and as sensual as possible, engaging time past and time future - the whole person.
And the church must learn to value women's mix of ancient Gaia-type wisdom and maths super-smarts. It must let women speak as priests. Anything else looks like fear.