Methodists in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

cheshire-cat-alice-in-wonderland-quote1David Watson, among others, has made the proposal that the upcoming GC in 2016 be a closed session. He, and others, have tried to give us a direction out of the Wonderland we find ourselves in. This has, of course, prompted all sorts of responses from those who do not think it is a good idea, notably by UMJEREMY here. The links to the people and blogs that he references can be found within the vitriol.

Alice, a reasonable young lady, finds herself in Wonderland (If you have not read the two books, I highly suggest them)and around a colorful cast of characters, some helpful, and some not. A few people acted as my Cheshire cat, outsiders not involved in a lot, but pointing out that the UMC, as a denomination, has a stronger cumulative effect than any of it’s citizens. Just like Wonderland, the UMC has become ruled by madness so that any normal behavior becomes inconsistent with the operation of it. That which is reasonable seems as if it is madness and that which is madness seems to be reasonable. The proposal to close the GC is reasonable. The vitriol spewed is madness. Unfortunately, we are in Methodist Land and things are reversed here.

Of course the journey through Wonderland begins with the white rabbit. So that we are all on the same page, the White Rabbit is the distraction in the story. He starts out innocently enough, but it does not take long to discover that the main characteristic of the White Rabbit is anxiety. He’s always worried about being late or about offending someone. But he can also be rude or even cruel, as when he mistakes Alice for his servant and orders her around, or when he tries a variety of violent methods to get the giant Alice out of his house. He starts off so innocent, but his true colors are revealed soon. The caucus groups, and lately those of the left the most, fall into this category. It all seems innocent until you are called a bigot, a flesh eating mosquito, equivalent to a date rapist, or any other number of unseemly things. Suddenly the White Rabbit is not so innocent anymore. Suddenly he is not worried about offending anyone anymore, all that is left is his “very important date”. All that is left is his cause and nothing more. The White Rabbit has become little more than a red herring to distract you from realizing that you are in Wonderland and that needs to change.

Wonderland would not be complete without the Mad Hatter and his tea party. Trapped in the unending chaos of a forever tea party, the Hatter has indeed become Mad. Nothing matters to him, except of course, his tea party. Love Prevails fits the bill well. Just unending chaos for the unconversation that they demand to have. It is of course an unconversation as you can not say anything but what they wish you to say. Happy happy unconversation to you, to you. The purpose? The same as the rest of Wonderland, to be nonsensical and chaotic.

As we travel through Methodist land we will inevitably run into the Queen of Hearts, or in this case, UMJEREMY, who is not so concerned with the nonsense of Methodist land, but is much more concerned with absolute rule. Mind you, the rule makes no sense. You disagree? Off with your head. You have a different idea? Off with you head. Make no mistake, by painting those who brought forward suggestions of closing the GC as all manner of nasty things (racist, abusers, etc) is no different than “off with your head”. If anything it is worse as it is the sort of vague insinuation that festers in the mind and makes those around, and you for that matter, question your integrity and mission. It assumes that your motives are less than pure. It assumes that you act out of fear. It is wrong, it is vile, and it is, dare I say it, the same type of abuse that is being argued against. But, this is Wonderland, so off with their heads. After all, “If you want equal time, if you really want to stop the distractions at General Conference, then stop the abuse, fully include LGBT persons in the life of the church, and we can get back to peacefully discerning the best forms of the church in the rest of Christendom.” (UMJEREMY) So, if you want to peacefully discern (because of course, if you do not agree with UMJEREMY, you are not using discernment…OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!) what is best for the church then you must give in (even if you do not believe that is best for the church) so that you can. The word for that is extortion…or, in the language of the Wonderland we find ourselves in, off with your head.

Finally to Jaberwocky…that is to say the nonsense that we are trapped in. If you notice in reading Jabberwocky you can make some small sense of the words, but can not completely understand things as it is primarily nonsense after all. At it’s heart, it is a poem about a father warning his son.

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.


“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
      The frumious Bandersnatch!”


He took his vorpal sword in hand;
      Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
      And stood awhile in thought.


And, as in uffish thought he stood,
      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
      And burbled as it came!


One, two! One, two! And through and through
      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
      He went galumphing back.


“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
      He chortled in his joy.


’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.”
And, like all things in Wonderland, at the end of the poem, things return to the same state. What has been offered is an escape from Wonderland. The closing of the GC session does not change how business is done, but, to be fair, does give an impression that things are hidden. That is not the case, and does give an opportunity to show how the governmental structure of the UMC works (or tries to work in some cases). The closing of the GC allows us an escape from Wonderland, it allows us to go back through the looking glass to the world where sensibility reigns instead of the Wonderland where the nonsensical is sense and the rational is crazy. It lets us have a direction to go rather than any road leading us nowhere. It ends the perpetual chaos of an unending tea party for our unconversation day. Make no mistake, all the vitriol over this is little more than Jabberwocky, and I can not help but wonder if the word of God for the day boils down to the simple warning of the poem, “Beware the Jabberwock my son.”


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2 Replies to “Methodists in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass”

  1. Beautiful!
    I was already at the Jabberwocky by the time you described the Mad Hatter.

    Perhaps there’s a third side:

    Is there someway to recognize and celebrate intentional families, filled with people who love with the powerful love of agape, phileo and storge love?

    For hundreds of years the church has supported same sex families: we’ve called them monasteries and convents. (True, they had their problems, but the basic idea worked for the vast majority of their members.)

    In our deconstructed society, we have confused sex for love. Everyone affirms “love” and then unquestionably allows that it’s highest expression involves sex.

    But Sex does not equal Love. (More often than not it equals self-centeredness, pain and abuse. It’s rarely the beautiful expression described in the romance fiction.)

    And when our Identity is primarily defined as sexual behavior, we have lost what makes us human.

    It’s clear what we all have an inborn need for a deeper love, for family love, for friendship love, for Godly love. But our over sexualized society has settled for love as recreational sex and not much more.
    Sex has become the distorted lens through which we see all of our relationships. And this has devastated our families.

    What if the church could officially recognize covenantal relationships that abstained from sex? What if families could be formed around Agape love?

    What if General Conference begins to work on a Theology of Love that went beyond Erotic/Sexual love? … and instead gave us all a place to stand together.
    A place that affirmed the deep and abiding Godly love of brother to brother and sister to sister, parent to child and child to parent, spouse to spouse and in-laws to in-laws, old to young and young to old….. all in the unconditional love of Christ.

    1. “What if the church could officially recognize covenantal relationships that abstained from sex?” That is an interesting question. I think that there is a difference between marriage (sexual or not) and the type of relationship that you are talking about. The monasteries and convents were not formed (I think, my monastic history is a bit lacking) for the primary purpose of companionship though. It remains an intriguing question though. I would love to hear any other thoughts that you have about it.

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