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Monday, February 26, 2007

The problem with Brad Drell . . .


. . .is that he often pulls my very last nerve.

The good thing about Brad Drell is that he often pulls stuff from my addled brain that I had been unable to articulate.

Brad is an affable enough guy, for a neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox evangelical. He's a Louisiana lawyer, a lay deputy from that fair diocese, the husband of a woman, who, by everything he says, is patient, strong and wise, the father of three darling little girls (I've seen pictures. Cute. Cute. Cute. The youngest is named Elizabeth, who he has promised to call "Elizabeth" and not "Lizzy" or "Liz" or "Betsey" or "Beth" and so earns an immediate place of affection in my heart), and a deeply committed member of a Prison Ministry Team.

He also has his own Blog, "Drell's Descants," which carries with it an "Asbestos Alert" for any liberal or progressive member of the church. People who comment there have been particularly cruel to me and people you and I know and love. Oh, you know, it's just the usual stuff we've come to expect from the "uber-Christians".

Believe it or not, Brad and I were also members of the Order of St. Verbosia, or "The Verbosians" - a group of people who are deputies to General Convention who frequently post (hence, 'The Verbosians') on the House of Bishops and Deputies (HOB/D) Listserv.

We met before and during GenCon 2006 in hopes that if we could simply keep talking, we might stumble our way onto the path of reconciliation, which, we all felt, might be pleasing unto the sight of the Lord.

Alas, it was not to be. The effort is now deeply buried in that place where all naivety as well as good intentions find their final resting place. I understand that they used to be used to pave of The Road to Hell, but that task was completed a few centuries ago.

Brad has been 'dormant' for a while on HOB/D. Emboldened, I suppose, by what he clearly considers the "victory" of the Communique, he has resurfaced.

Just this morning, Brad wrote: If you don't think we are holding up homosexuality as an ideal for Christians, then why do some in TEC call it a gift? That is far beyond saying homosexuality is morally neutral. I think divorce is also treated in the same way in some circles based on what I have seen.

Interestingly, a regular on the HOBD listserv emailed me off list and said my post was much better than some of the rants I used to post. Eye of the beholder, I guess, as to whether I am ranting or not, or being two edgy.



See what I mean?


So, I responded: Eye of the beholder, Brad, as to whether or not you were being edgy or ranting. So, too, with whether or not homosexuality is a gift or is morally neutral.

Ultimately, it matters not whether you were being edgy or ranting. It matters what you intended. The nature of the human enterprise of conversation is that "intent" often differs radically from "impact." Some of that impact is mitigated by what the hearer wants or expects or is predisposed to hear.

I have been saying for at least as many years as I have been on this listserv that my 30+ relationship with my beloved has been a gift and a blessing. Even the really, really hard parts. Even the parts I wish were different. I would even say that our love is in no way morally neutral. Perhaps the actual physical, genital expression of our love - as it is with any heterosexual couple - is morally neutral. But, our love, our relationship, our family is, I would assert, morally positive.

Eye of the beholder, Brad. You look at my relationship through a particular lens of scripture and the impact is that you see something very, very different than I intend - or that which is truth for me.

Eye of the beholder, Brad. I sometimes hear you ranting but most times I hear you being edgy. Then again, I'm looking at you from a particularly defensive posture. I'm always expecting to be clubbed by those sitting in the pews on the right side of the church. I'm always waiting for the 'sucker punch.' Sadly, that comes largely from experience.

The point is, Brad, that up until most recently when people on the right have been working very, very hard at schism, there has always been room in this church for people like you and people like me and our differences. There's always been a certain level of spiritual maturity which has allowed for the classic Gracious Spirit of Anglican Accommodation.

Sadly, this graciousness is what has been lost. I think I grieve this more than anything else. Indeed, I feel as if I want to put up a grave marker: "Here lies the Gracious Spirit of Anglican Accommodation - bludgeoned to death by those who promoted Christian triumphalism, scriptural hegemony, and ecclesiastical imperialism."

Oh, and just for the record: I think divorce is sometimes necessary; in fact, sometimes it is the only healthy, life-giving thing to do. (You have lived long enough and known enough couples to know this is true.)

But, the breaking of a vow - whether out of frivolity or necessity - is always a tragedy. Perhaps it is more a tragedy when divorce is the result of a frivolity, but that doesn't negate the fact that even when divorce is a necessity, a vow that has been made before God which is now broken is a tragedy.

I think all of heaven weeps when a vow - any vow - is broken.

To state that "homosexuality is an ideal for Christians" is to misstate the case. Committed, life-giving, faithful, monogamous, human relationships, whether found in a sexual expression between people of same or different gender - is the Christian ideal. Many heterosexual and homosexual people - some of whom are Christian and some of whom are not - fall short of that ideal.

I think we might even agree that is the goal of the Church, Christ's body, to help ALL couples live up that ideal. Not judge or enforce or punish, when they miss the mark, but help and support and edify the very members incorporate in the Body of Christ.

That, I think, is what God intends. The impact depends on how you hear what God has said, and whether or not you believe God is still speaking. That God might still have a word of truth to bring to people who live in this time and in this particular place. That God might still have more of the truth of the history, the present and the future of God's love for humankind to reveal to us - and through us - to the world.



The problem with Brad Drell is not that he's not intelligent, or deeply committed to Jesus, or even a genuinely nice guy who is precious in the sight of the Lord.

It's just that he thinks he's always right.

And, nothing gets my Portuguese up faster than someone who claims to be right. All the time. In all things, but especially all things theological.

So, thank Brad Drell for his ministry to me. I am grateful that he challenges me to think and to consider and reconsider my position. I am deeply grateful for that.

I once had a Spiritual Director who would have listened to me go on about Brad and her response would have been, "Divine Sandpaper."

She maintained that God puts people in our lives who "rub us the wrong way." They are supposed to, she would say. They work like sandpaper sent from God to remove all the old buildup of dust and scratches and allow our true grain and our inner shine to come forth.

Let us give thanks and praise to God for the life and ministry of Brad Drell: 'Divine Sandpaper' extraordinaire.

8 comments:

The Ranter said...

Interesting... I read HoB/D as a kibbutzer and Drell is not the only person who comes across as thinking he's "always right." I know of some others who do that too... There is more than one sheet of "divine sandpaper" in that conglomeration of Whiskeypalians.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, to be absolutely sure, Brad is not the only sheet of divine sandpaper in God's tool box.

He's just the one God sends me most often.

Bill said...

When two people are talking face to face and having a polite discussion, even if it gets a little hot, is not really an issue. I think the issue is when the discussions are written and many people have access to the words, especially if the words start to get abrasive.
The danger is not in the sandpaper but in the block of wood they wrap it around. The danger is not in the words but in the actions of those who read those words and perceive that they should instigate some form of punishment against the perceived evil doers. You can call me anything that your little heart desires but when you drag me behind a car for a few miles, that really pisses me off. What the right is failing to realize is that sometimes their words incite. And whether they incite to violence or incite to exclude, the damage is done and often irreparable. There is a classic Supreme Court ruling that says, Yes you have a right to free speech and to express yourself, but if you yell “Fire” in a movie theater, you are going to jail. So just as a piece of advice, be careful of what you say because there may be those folks of a not so gentle nature ready to carry out your un-intentional will.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, Elizabeth, when when will you learn your place? It's not your place to mouth off to men who are "always right". When will you ever learn?

I'm going to look him up - his blog, that is - as he's a fellow Louisianian. He may need me to protect him from you.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Brad may be a good Christian and a good man, but I was not impressed with what I found at his blog.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

See what I mean, MiMi?

Someone just sent me this quote from Blessed Verna:

"The snake tempted Eve with something she couldn't efuse: "the
temptation to be absolutely right," she said. "I think that's the power of darkness, that great need to be right. We are all still
responding to that snake who says: 'You will be absolutely right, and you will be like God.'"

Frair John said...

Careful, Brad doesn't like it when we talk about him. He got very nasty with me for linking to him and taking him at his word.
His prison ministry is not one that I could do easily. The fact that he is a parent fills me with awe. But as a church commentator I find that he's just part of the noise machine. He falls into one of the great weaknesses of the legal profession: the idea that a JD empowers him to speak on any and all topics. His theology tends to follow the strait lines of concrete thought that lead to the neat definitions of heresy. Orthodox theology is messy and full of paradox. He seems to prefer a clarity that isn’t in the creeds properly read.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Friar John, I didn't link to him, so perhaps he won't get nasty to me.

I do admire him for working with the prisoners.