« Have fun storming the castle! | Main | Dixe Chicks, I Salute You »

"The body of Christ has a right hand and a left hand and more than its fair share of assholes."

Set%201_Indiana%20009.jpgThere is debate as to who actually said this, but the context is more important. It was the summer of 1992 and I was in a drama troupe in residence at Epworth Forest in northern Indiana. It was the best of times and the worst of times. The six of us had a great time staging the plays we were doing, but we seemed continually out of synch with the weekly rotation of camp leaders. Even though we cleared the plays we were doing in advance with the camp deans every week we found detractors among the adult leaders in one way or another.

What got us in trouble? Maybe it was our original comic romp through the scriptures called "Reduced Bible: From Genesis to Revelation in One Hour or Less or Your Money Back" or our retelling of the Good Samaritan as the Good Homosexual or our production of "A Peasant of El Salvador" which retold the story of martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero, I can't be sure. Probably all of the above and then some. We all taught workshops as well and Liz, who was teaching a class on prayer forms and meditation, had a student question her focus on breathing meditation asking, "where in the Bible does it teach this?"

Oh, and I should mention that since some of us were vegetarians we all took a vow not to eat meat over the summer. That really freaked some people out.

During our last week a particularly reactionary, right-wing keynoter effectively replaced most of our performances with his own church's troupe of talking mimes. Yes, I said talking mimes. No, I am not kidding. I remember turning to a sympathetic pastor there in the middle of a performance and saying, "I have faith that God will save these kids from this horrible theology, but I'm not sure that God will enlighten them that this is bad art."

At the end of the summer when we were dissecting the whole ordeal with a dean that was actually on our side and trying to figure out what happened, he let us in on the above bit of wisdom. I have to say, this quote has helped me greatly through the years. Sometimes in culture wars it's not about a titanic struggle between right and left, it's about quarrelsome assholes who relish finding fault and tearing people down.

I do thank Fuzzy for reminding us that it is really important for a functioning body to have one really good asshole to get the shit out. But more than one is just too many.

40 for 40, #5


That month was full of milestones for me as well -- it was the first time I was a professional actor, the first time I (co-)wrote a piece of theater of any real length, and the first time I ever bought a 50-lb bag of popcorn.

How fun to hear another story of The Drama Troupe! My year was 1979. I also describe my intro to Christian community in my MFA application, see here http://dvivid.blogspot.com/2006/12/applying-myself.html
Did you live in WAKA lodge?

Thank you for visiting my blog-- I'd love to talk with you some more. For this topic, though, I later worked in college ministry, and in one 24-hour period I was called a communist (by my pro-Reagan presbyterian pastor) and a fundamentalist (by a Catholic lay minister who thought I'd see that as a compliment).

So yes, the Drama Troupe was the jumping off point for all of that. My swan song role was as the plant that grows into Jonah's shade tree-- I had a great death scene. More moving pieces were performed, but I played a plant.

Tell more stories!

Was Al Edyvean the director when you were in the troupe?

When I was in the troupe back in 1987, yes, he was still the director, though he was coming to the end of his tenure. When I was there in 1992, we were our own autonomous acting collective. The Doc years were over then.

I can't remember the name of the lodge where we stayed in 83. It may have been WAKA, I can't remember.

So you were in the drama troupe for three different years? I think the beautiful thing for me was to simply be a participant, utterly naive of church politics and ecstatic to meet believers of different stripes. I went on to Indiana Central U/now U of Indy, to follow some of my troupe-friends, but I detested my Methodist college experience."Where breadth fails." Now I read that the theater Edyvean founded is a)named after him, and b)based at U of Indy!

In any case, it was a great experience of artists seeking "excellence." And I loved working on the maintenance staff even more than acting, I think because I felt much more useful. (Although how useful do you need to be if you get to play a plant with a major death scene, really?)

Actually, only two years... 1987 and 1992, and only with Edyvean in 1987.

I'm assuming you are speaking of the plant that dies at the end of the story of Jonah. That sounds hilarious. I'm preaching a series on Jonah this Lent. Do you remember the name of the script or was it something you all cooked up?

I am a bit confused. So anybody who does not appreciate your 'art' is an (bleep)? ("Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth..." Eph. 4:29). I would praise the student who asked for a scriptual basis for her spiritual teaching ("Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so." Acts 17:11).

1) No, not everyone who doesn't share my point of view is an asshole. Unloving behavior, however, never builds up. Also, while the person who said this may not have made this distinction, I will. People aren't assholes. They sometimes, however, behave like it. In other words, it's not an ontological state, but a phenomenological state. Depending on randomness I will have another quote that will expand upon this train of thought.

2) Questioning is good, but obviously she had a limited view of scripture not to understand that breathing certainly part of our biblical heritage (God breathes life into us, God's spirit (ruah) is a life giving force) and breath prayer has a long tradition going back until at least the middle ages. The problem I had was not that she was asking questions, it was the assumption that anything different from her immediate experience of Christianity was suspect.

Hope that alleviates some confusion. If, Brett, what you mean is that "that's an awfully crass thing to say," then, yes, I'd agree. But it was a fairly crass statement that shook me and I remember it well. I think crassness has its place in my spiritual walk. If that doesn't suit you, then I can accept that. Paul used crassness to shake up people. (Phil 3:8 "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish (crap, shit), that I may gain Christ.") (Gal 5:12 "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!")

Oh, and, Brett, I'm glad you found my blog! *waves at Leah* Hope you all are well!

Uh-oh, I think I missed the Lent thing!

The Jonah drama was a British comedy called "It Should Happen to a Dog," and it was a riot. We camped it up with a a narrating angel turned into a hippie angel in sandals and John Lennon glasses. But it did stay remarkably true to the story of Jonah.

I was seventeen, utterly without dates or suitors, so yes, to dress in a skin-tone leotard with a a few well-placed leaves, some faux coconuts velcroed to my shoulders, and my hair turned into tree branches above some serious tree-leaf eye makeup, then to play the pleasure-tree as a vamp, yes that was great, great fun.

So I still have the description of Nineveh, "ten thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many cattle."

Al Edyvean's son Doug played Jonah. He was an arrogant young'n at the time (maybe 16?), but a talented comedian.

I googled "It Should Happen to a Dog" and found the play by Mike or 'Wolf' Mankowitz, a London playwright, published in 1956. We adjusted the play to be very 1979, as the language was meant to be hip and in the 50's vernacular, which did not easily translate.

There you go! Better late than never.

Whoa! I just stumbled on this site. I was at Epworth for a few seasons. Doc Edyvean was in charge when I was there (like, 82-85). This is dusting off some memories...

By the way this is really dusting off some memories for me. I remember Denise very well...you write wonderfully by the way. Ironic1 I would love to know who you are becuase I am sure we have met. I was there from 77 until I cannot remember when........

Oh, my name is Lawrence Lee, though back then I was more widely known as "Larry." Haven't gone by "Larry" for a long time though. I'm assuming by your sign on, dedyvean, that you are related to Doc, yes?

Hello Larry!
I just found this page and I remember you (and Doug). I was part of the Edyvean Drama Troupe at Epworth during the summers of '87 & '88. And, I played Jonah in "It Should Happen To A Dog" during one of them. Larry, it was a long time ago, but I think that I remember mime, cards, and the "Shalom circle" song when I think of you. Blessings!

I just returned to this site after a long time-- to find a post by Doug Edyvean in response to mine! And after I said he was an arrogant 16 year-old he was thoughtful about my writing?

Doug, if you return, please get in touch with me. Would love to say hello.

It's interesting to read your comments re Epworth and the Drama Troupe. I was in the drama troupe in '83 and was part of "the band" that played for the kids' assemblies in '84, if I remember correctly. I remember Doug and Ray and we all stayed at WAKA Lodge (mostly lounging around the back breezeway in the least clothing we could get away with...) We performed "Christ in the Concrete City", "Man of La Mancha" and "A Spark in the Valley" during my tenure. What memories!

Post a comment