Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Braxton's Lear - Beyond the Valley of the Far Side of the Fringe

Gene Robinson is at Lambeth, wearing both his famous bullet-proof vest AND his Golden Hairshirt. His blog provides a semi-daily recounting of his ongoing martyrdom at the hands of pretty much everyone.

The Mrs. Fidget of the Episcopal Church (remember C.S. Lewis's Mrs. Fidget? She was the viciously passive-aggressive mother who was always holding her family at gunpoint with her "wounded" feelings ("Anything will 'wound' a Mrs. Fidget")) managed to survive a single heckler with nothing worse than a slight buckling of Atlas's knees as the sorrows of the world bore down upon him:
But almost immediately, I found myself profoundly sorry for this young man. After he had been removed, and the hymn ended (the congregation had sung a hymn to drown out his shouting), when I asked the congregation to "pray for that man," I was nearly overwhelmed with sadness. All I could think about was that place in his heart which must be filled with such darkness, a place that was meant to be filled with loved, but because of whatever had happened in his life, whoever he has been associating with, it was filled with hate. Someone had to TEACH him to hate like that. He didn't learn it on his own. For a moment or two, I was nearly overwhelmed by my sense of sadness for him. The tears in my eyes and the crack in my voice were for this child of God who, I suspect, has experienced so much pain and unhappiness in his life.

And then, on with the sermon.

He also had to endure an old lady reading the Bible to him a few days later, but things only REALLY got bad this past weekend.
Yesterday was a painful day. I am feeling frustrated and angry. I dare not write too much, because I don't want to sound like I'm whining, nor do I want to say anthing intemperate. But making my first trip into Canterbury and the campus on which the Conference is occurring was difficult.

The level of fear and anxiety, especially among the Conference powers-that-be, is out the roof. No matter what I say, no matter what assurances I give, I seem to be regarded as a threat, something to be walled off and kept at a distance. Greeting a few American bishops in passing, and then at a dinner for General Seminary alumni last night, has been pleasant and supportive. But even though I thought I was properly prepared for the feeling of being shut out, I am stunned by the depth of that feeling.

I love this image of bishops as pack animals, sniffing each others butts and wagging their tails in recognition when one of their "own" passes by. And yes, Robinson SHOULD be prepared for not only the feeling, but the reality of being "shut out", because it was basically his idea. As this article from 2 years ago reports, Robinson begged and pleaded to be allowed to come to Lambeth with "diminished status", and as an "observer":
In a written statement to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, has offered to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference as an ‘observer’ to avoid controversy.

According to the Church of England Newspaper, the bishop revealed that he had entered correspondence with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Therefore, any speculation that the practicing homosexual bishop was intending to go to the conference whether invited or not, has been made void.

After the release of the Windsor Report, Bishop Robinson wrote to Dr Williams offering to attend the Lambeth Conference not as a bishop, but as an observer or a non-voting member in a ‘diminished’ capacity.

The Windsor Report had recommended that Dr Williams be prudent with his 2008 guest list "in view of the widespread unacceptability of [Bishop Robinson’s] ministry in other provinces of the Communion," and that he "exercise very considerable caution in inviting or admitting him to the councils of the Communion."

In an interview with the New York Times in October, "Bishop Robinson said he had expected such a recommendation" and had asked if he could attend Lambeth 2008 in a "diminished capacity".

"Bishop Robinson's position has not changed and his offer to the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend the conference by invitation in a ‘diminished capacity’ remains on the table".
Of course, that was then, and a moment when TEC was genuinely fearful that NONE of them would be invited. Once Rowan Williams castrated that possibility of discipline, Robinson's humility turned out to be as genuine as Uriah Heep's.

But to continue.
The most infuriating blow came this morning with news that when the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops meets on Tuesday afternoon (each of the 38 "national" provinces of the Communion will have its own gathering), I will not be allowed to participate, because this would look like I had become a "participant," and the organizers seem intent on enforcing my status as a non-invitee. If nothing can be done to change this decision, it will be a particularly painful blow. At our House of Bishops meeting in March, I pleaded with the House not to let Lambeth separate us. For me to be excluded from my own House of Bishops seems especially cruel and unnecessary.

I mean, don't we have diplomatic immunity, or something? Doesn't a meeting of American bishops in England automatically turn the spot we occupy into a piece of American soil, so OUR rules operate, not theirs? I'll bet the African bishops are being all polygamous at THEIR provincial meetings, so we should get to run things our way at ours!
I don't know how all this is going to play out over the next two weeks. At the moment, I am feeling like the ancient Hebrews, wandering in the desert looking for God's daily manna, just to get through.
And they got pretty sick of it after awhile, too, as I recall.
With all the exclusion and meanness that has come my way over the years, you'd think this would come as less of a surprise. But surprise me it did! And it hurts, especially at the hands of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Things only got sadder and hurtier later that day, at the Grass Mass.
Some 20-30 American bishops joined us for the inclusive service. Many of them gathered with me in the parish hall next door, to walk with me over to the eucharist site. They are sharing the pain of all this with me, and their pain is real too. We're all caught in this institutional web of which we are a part. Their being there, their words of comfort and pain, and their walking with me meant so much.
As they walked beside me, my head drooped lower and lower, until my great nose nearly touched the ground. Eventually, I stumbled, and gave a low groan. 'Gene! Dear Gene! Whatever is the matter, dear Gene?' they asked. They buried their hands and faces in my magnificent mane, so I could feel that they were there, and together we walked a little further.
I have decided, on my own, to let it go, sad as it is. This is not a ditch I feel called to die in.
Or a Stone Table. Or a Cross, for that matter. But maybe ditch is best, after all.
What I want all of you to know is that there are some amazing people in our House of Bishops who are working constantly behind the scenes to support me. Their support means the world to me. They are as dismayed, discouraged and frustrated as the rest of us. They need to play THEIR roles INSIDE the Big Top (the large tent where they are meeting -- the circus reference has been duly noted by everyone!), and I need to play MINE, OUTSIDE, as our beloved ++Katharine told me back in March. So that's what we'll do.
After all, a permanent disfunctional squatter encampment perched like a festering ass-boil on the edge of a legitimate state has worked brilliantly well for the Palestinians, so why shouldn't it work for us?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good heavens. When it comes to the inevitable made-for-TV movie, they will have to find an actor of truly Braxton-esque stature to play this role . . .

Ellie M.

10:05 am  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

"I don't want to sound like I'm whining, nor do I want to say anything intemperate."

Heaven forfend!

1:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's got his own blog? Unreal. I hope Rowan realizes that humoring him may keep him quiet for a short time, but will only make him worse in the long run.

6:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph had me laughing so loud I frightened the animals! You are by far the most talented blogger on the planet.

I suspect his blog is going to cause the Braxton's Lear to be retired - it's inevitable.

Carolyn P

10:02 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I'm afraid he's going to crowd out all competition for the rest of the year! Oddly enough, I haven't yet heard any complaints from his competitors, but I'm sure they're silently seething as he seizes the trophy yet again.

"And there are also many other things which Gene Robinson said, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the Braxton's Lears that should be awarded."

10:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this revealing piece.

You missed the most nauseating story on his blog however. It involved "Emily"....the high point was when he "melted" into her embrace. Only she, a lesbian woman with muscular dystrophy, had trod the same dusty path as he, bowed down low with the weight of her cross, only he, in his agony and misery, could unite with her in suffering....

11:18 pm  
Blogger Daniel Muller said...

My favorite word was "hurtier."

VGR is the Galatea of "T""E""C."

11:25 am  
Anonymous Antique said...

Someone give the man a recipe for lemonaide (when Life hands you lemons...).

2:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You missed the most nauseating story on his blog however. It involved "Emily"....the high point was when he "melted" into her embrace."

Wait a moment . . . I'm getting a flashback . . . what, oh what does this remind me of? Ahhh, I've got it -- how could I forget the Swan of Newark?!

"She held me in her strong arms and said, in a mother’s soothing voice, “Let it go. Let it go.”
I was rocked in the peace of Mother Gaia. . . For the first time in five days, I allowed myself the luxury of crying. Of letting it all go. The grief. The pain. The shame. The blame. The tangled knowledge that it isn’t my – our – fault. And yet, feeling the burden, the sharp sting of the accusation any way. Because we're so innocent and sensitive and complicated - just like Jesus!
“Let it go,” she crooned, “I’ve got you. You won’t fall,” she said, as I felt myself tilt off balance in my chair, “ I’ve got you.” And she did. And I didn’t. And it was okay. And, it was absolutely awful. And, I cried and cried and cried. . ."

What is it with these folks and purple prose? Do they all read Harlequins in their off hours?

Ellie M.

9:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am still laughing over the image of Mr. Robinson-as-Aslan----digging their fingers into his magnificent mane, indeed.
You are SO DAMN FUNNY---please write more often!

6:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh please please please write some more.....
Humor is the only thing getting some of us through this Lambeth farce....

And you are far and away the funniest

11:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geeze, Mab,

Why don't you go back to undulating over Chesterton?

Me thinks you should replace your vibrator with a volume of Chesterton, angled at the right spot.

4:51 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

My "undulating" days are long behind me. Perhaps you meant to say "ululate"?

9:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you howl when you get excited?

I think undulate was exactly the word I was looking to use, as I can picture you swaying, dreamily, thinking of your beloved Chesterton.

However, did you mean to type disfunctional in your pithy prose? I thought it was dysfunctional.

Just curious!

9:24 am  

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