Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sturm, meet Drang

All that work on the plum puddings has left me tired, and in need of relaxation. So in keeping with the generally Victorian atmosphere of my Christmas pudding odyssey, I turned to my favorite lady novelist, the Swan of Newark, and I was in luck, because last week saw the publication of a new 3-volume novel.

Volume I commences with a fetching frontispiece portrait of the Anti-Hero. Here he is, the Reverend Snidely Whiplash (played by Christopher Cantrell):

Just look at him. Have you ever seen such a sinister character? Just the sort of villain to besmirch a fair damsel's reputation! Oh, Basil Rathbone, why did you leave us before the greatest movie adaptation of all came along?

The authoress graces us with a preface:
Sisters and Brothers,

I don't normally do this
So this is bound to be good.
I am quite used to being vilified by the folks in pews on the Far Right of the Church. There are several Conservative Weblogs who say such hateful things about me and the people I love that normally, I don't even bother to read them.

Not to worry, I won't even send you there (but you know who you are).
Because it's not the sort of literature you'd want your wife or servants to read.
Trash. The lot of it. Not worth a moment's consideration by anyone.
Least of all me.
Besides, most of it is the same handful of people who are so hurt and angry they can only spew their venom back and forth at each other.
Not like me and my friends at The Episcopal Majority and The Consultation Steering Committeeand Wake Up. We're so diverse, you can hardly find two of us in one place at the same time.
I understand the feeling. I was once in that same emotional space, but from the other end of the spectrum. And then, I rediscovered Jesus and it changed my life.

But that's another story for another day.
Because Heaven knows, you're not interested in hearing about MY flaws!
What's fascinating is that these folk claim to have found Jesus AND THEN they got ugly and mean-spirited and bigoted.

There are just some mysteries to a personal profession of faith I'll just never quite understand.
It makes me wonder if they're really Christians at all. I mean, just look how different they are from me.
You know, even the Weblog of Kendall Harmon, the Theologian of the neo-Puritan, orthodox evangelical movement, has "Web Elves" who censure those who cross the boundaries of good taste and decency...Not so with all the brethren.
And on that sustained, ominous organ chord, the novel begins:

Take a look at APOSTOLICITY

This is, at the very least, conduct most unbecoming a Christian, much less one who is ordained in a position of leadership.

You know, one of those Conservative Weblogs I don't read at all, and neither should you.

You'll instantly recognize the face of our Presiding Bishop in what has been described to me by the Weblog Author as "visual satire."

"'Visual satire'! 'Visual satire', you dare to call it! Know you not that a woman's fragile reputation is at stake? How will she fare if this scurrilous report should be bruited about? Why, her name shall be the sport of every wastrel in the county!"
All my lamentings and pleadings were to no avail; the stony-hearted scoundrel tossed back his cope, a sardonic smile curling his thin lips.
One of his fans says she thinks this is not only "hilarious," it is yet one more piece of evidence that "reasserters" (that's "orthodox-talk" for liberal/progressives) have no sense of humor.

(Gee, I seem to remember that claim in the early days of the feminist movement.
It wasn't true then, and it isn't true now! Why, Margaret Sanger and I went to school together, and you should have seen her do The Cups And Balls using three diaphragms and a dried pea - boy, did we laugh!
You know,I think what really angers me most is that these folks have absolutely no originality or creativity. They really think they have ORIGINAL THOUGHTS.
They're not deep thinkers, like me.
I'm absolutely aghast. No matter where you are on the theological spectrum,I trust you will be as well.
Thank goodness I just got my bottle of smelling salts refilled and the springs on the fainting-couch replaced.
You will note that I have tried to communicate my distress to The Weblog owner. He has responded that he is of the opinion that I need to "lighten up."
Yes, it's easy for him to say! He's a man - what would he know of vapours and tingles, of palpitations and flutterings, of the sort of general collapse and enervation that assails a virtuous woman when confronted by this sort of...of BEASTLINESS?
I understand his anger and the outrage. I do. I'm not a fan of censure. However, there have to be healthier, more appropriate ways to publicly express one's emotions - especially for one who is entrusted as an ordained leader in the church...
I mean, there are videos and magazines and things like that, aren't there? Not that I'd know, but I've heard them talking when I pass by the tavern.
Indeed, I think his bishop, if he isn't already, ought to be made aware of the contents of this Weblog.
Indeed, indeed. I'd write myself, except that I'm so busy signing letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury these days. But there are always other people who are willing to take on this sort of work. Anyway, I have the bishop's address and phone number, for anyone who needs it.
It's an embarassment to the church - not to mention placing the authors of the comments and this Weblog in jeopardy of cannoical charges of "conduct unbecoming.
Yes, those people making comments should watch their step, too. We haven't quite gotten around to chaining up the laity yet, but it's only a matter of time. And believe me, the list is getting longer every day.
Perhaps the most loving thing anyone can do is to call this brother into account.
For his own good, of course.

Volume II begins with a stunning piece of news:
I am informed by the author of the Weblog APOSTOLICITY that the offending pictures (and all of the comments) have been removed.
That threat of a thrashing by the Squire had the requisite effect.
It's still not funny. It remains deeply offensive. As do the comments about rape, which he left up because, even though he admits they are "over the top," he didn't write them. Indeed, they were written, he claims, by a member of the Via Media Group in his diocese.
With eyes flashing defiance, I haughtily spurned the cur as he grovelled before me.
"Back, villain!" I cried. "The hand that dared to defame that purest of women shall never touch mine! A lifetime's penance would not suffice to expunge thy crime! Go!"
See? This is how conversation is supposed to go. All in good order and decency. Both sides making every attempt to meet somewhere in the middle...
Exactly. I demand something, and you give it to me. Easy, right?
It's really hard to find common ground when your beginning point of discussion is to the right of Atilla the Hun and you are hell bent on the destruction of The Episcopal Church you claim to love.
But then, hyperbole has never been my strong suit.
Maybe if we hold each other accountable when we cross the line, we'll have a better chance of finding our way back to the middle again.

It takes work and vigilance and patience, but, I think it's worth the effort.

Especially patience. Why, I had to wait a whole two hours to get what I wanted. And since "the middle" is wherever I am, surrendering will automatically get us there. So you see how things should work from now on.

Volume III provides the heartwarming conclusion that every Victorian novel needs.

Thank you, Christopher.

Thank you for pulling the picutres and the story off your Weblog.

Thank you for admitting you were wrong.

Thank you for apologizing.

With trembling hands, he reached out for the goodness that had escaped him in life, and which his benighted sinfulness had attempted to besmirch.
"Forgive me," he croaked. "Now I see I were wrong. Truly, it is an angel's face which leans above me! I wish to make amends..."
An unearthly light played about his features as he sank back upon the ground and expired. We bowed our heads at the Maker's stern yet merciful judgment upon the repentant sinner at our feet.

Ah, some people may laugh at these old melodramas, but I find they're the very thing for a cold wet day in November.


Blogger Kasia said...

But Mrs. Bennett!...

At least she didn't talk about her 'poor nerves' and that abominable - sorry, abHominable - Darcy...

1:49 pm  
Blogger Ellie M said...

To quote another estimable author, it would truly take a heart of stone to read this and not laugh.

2:10 pm  
Blogger Dr. Alice said...

Snort. This is about the funniest thing I've ever read. I'd love to hear her preach a sermon; it would probably be a comparable experience to hearing Charles Dickens give a reading from the end of "Oliver Twist." (Apparently he could get quite carried away describing the demise of Bill Sikes.)

A question that popped into my mind as I was reading: if comparing the PB to Jadis is such a terrible thing to do, why is the recent picture of the Afican primates as chimpanzees considered to be innocuous satire? Double standard, anyone?

3:24 pm  
Blogger Ellie M said...

Dr. Alice, I raised that very same question in the comments section of the Lady Novelist's blog a few days ago.

She didn't post my comment. I can't imagine why not...

7:17 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

kasia - yes, she was definitely building toward an ode to her poor nerves. I was thinking, we'd originally cast Mrs. Schori as Lady Catherine, but having read her recent interviews and correspondence, I think she really would make a better Mrs. Norris.

9:32 pm  
Blogger Christopher+ said...

It's pretty standard behavior on her part. It is all territory we have covered before - I think it really, deep down, proceeds out of her desire for my green cope. All the other stuff is cover for that. Oh well!

7:17 pm  
Blogger Kate said...

Her "thank you Christopher" rings a bit false when you look at this page:

8:59 pm  
Blogger Ellie M said...

The Lady Novelist has been on a real tear this past few days. Some unidentified but clearly misogynous male cleric apparently owes her an apology for speaking the truth. She's also sorrowfully unsurprised by the San Joaquin situation, and saddened by criticisms of Saint Katharine of Schori by those bottom feeders on the neo-con sites. Woe, alas!

But she still finds much to be cheery about. She loves the new logo of one Episcopal parish, a dancing tree. (Yup, a TREE. No Druidical connotations there at all.) And another parish's contribution, a "controversial" statue of a crucified pregnant teenager, gets her love also. The statue's all about AIDS, you see, and the fact that teens are so susceptible to its scourge. (A statue of a teenager with a zipped-up fly might do more good, but I guess that wouldn't be as cool.)

8:06 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I noticed that thing about the apology, but I didn't want to do another post so soon after this one, so I didn't mention it. I'm afraid whoever wrote on Fr. Cantrell's blog that maybe it wasn't good tactics to post such an apology was right. This is starting to look like trophy-hunting.

10:37 am  

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