Sunday, July 09, 2006

Brother to a Dragonfly

Will Campbell is usually called a renegade Southern Baptist. I think I'd just call him Contrary.

He's a Southern white man who was active early and often in the whole desegregation thing.

And then he did the unthinkable and really looked at the KKK and gosh darned if he didn't go out and love them too.

He got hate mail from all sides for those choices. And more.

He's a preacher without a church who marries people yet never says "by the power vested in me" because he refuses to be vested by the state.

One of his friends remarked that gosh darned but everyone Will knows is in trouble.

I got to meet Will Campbell somewhere around twenty years ago. He was invited to come as an honored speaker at my liberal but Southern Baptist supported college, and since I was friends with the chaplain, I got invited to eat dinner with Will (and 20 other people). After his lecture, we went out drinking with a smaller group. I don't actually remember that much about that, except that I always remembered him and liked him, and really thought he had his sh*t together.

I read his book after I met him. I liked his way with a story. I was suitably impressed by everyone he knew and all he had done and his love for his brother. But I didn't really remember all that much about the details of it all.

So when I ran into a copy of his book, Brother to a Dragonfly, in a used bookstore (that I just happened to be in because a tool store was beside of it), the book mis-shelved in the New Age section right beside of Jean Dixon and James Von Praugh, well, I knew it had come for me. There are, after all, no coincidences.

Will Campbell is a renegade Baptist. But far more, Will Campbell does what Will Campbell thinks is right, damn the torpedoes. And from this reading of his book, this is what I got out of it. He doesn't really worry about making someone feel comfortable, and in fact, as often as not, makes folks uncomfortable, not by condemning them but simply by doing what he thinks is right. If he worries about it, about making others uncomfortable or about what others think of him or anything like that, I don’t see it.

I suppose in the best of all worlds, that's exactly who I'd be too. And here I am, having run into Will (through this book), and into the best human interaction trainer in the world who I had the privilege of training under 15 years ago (and human interaction training is essentially about how to be real and honest with yourself and thus in your interactions), and find myself reminded . . . of quite what I'm not real sure, or maybe I just don't have words for it.

I'm going to have to see if I can find Bill, the Southern Baptist who was that chaplain back then, and who married husband and me without a prayer and without the invocation of the state (although we did use the license), and see that he's up to.

I hope he's growing himself some food, and encouraging his congregation in that way too.

To Bill, to Will, to Winfred, this one’s for you all. And here’s to finding 40 Acres and a Goat the next time I’m at the used book store.

title of this post is a link to Will's book on Amazon

7 comments:

Laura said...

"human interaction training" - really? I'm puzzled - that sounds a lot like coordinating, facilitating, teaching, preaching - does it escape the evils of all those?

Actually it sounds like something I could use.

madcapmum said...

I was reading the quote you presently have in your sidebar. In Alberta "redneck" has a different meaning. Here it refers to the folks who have a fair bit of money to throw around on big trucks, who love expensive motor toys and beer and laugh at talk of environmentalism. Our premier is described as a "redneck". It's a compliment from one corner, a sneer from the other.

the Contrary Goddess said...

You are very correct Arcologist. But even a blind hog finds an acorn now and again.

My longer answer is that we live in such an artificial world that "human interaction training" (and the like) is remedial, not needed in a less artificially contrived (homestead small community sufficient etc) world.

The truth of it for me is that my, oh, six weeks or so, involved in various human interaction trainings were the ONLY useful education I EVER had, and it was so not "education" as we generally think of it. And it isn't "useful" to me in the usual sense either -- not professionally but internally. And my guess is that I went through that with a whole lot of people who didn't get anything out of it too.

But yeah, you are right. Unless it is done as Harold is fond of quoting Eluetheros: anything worth doing is worth doing for free. Can't fault free human interaction training. Can fault all that paid for by government especially.

the Contrary Goddess said...

oh, and madcap (and everyone) -- I recommend reading the Dragonfly book. I mean, it isn't a great book but it says so much -- about the South, about the movement, about Baptists (and in Cananda, Baptists may not be as prevalent as here in the buckle of the Bible Belt where we have Southern, Old Regular, Free Wills and every other kind of Baptist!), about brotherhood, about live a couple generations ago, about so many things.

H. Stallard said...

You Just Might Be A Redneck If…


Your state's got a new law that says when a couple
get divorced, they are still legally brother and sister.

You've been married three times
and still have the same in-laws.

Your house still has the
"WIDE LOAD"
sign on the back.

You can burp
and say your name at the same time.

You think Possum is
"The Other White Meat"

You carried a fishing pole into Sea World.

Your huntin dawg had a litter of puppies in the living room and nobody noticed.

You go to a family reunion to meet girls.

You think God looks a lot like Hank Williams, Jr., and heaven looks a lot like Daytona Beach, Florida.

You think the last words to
The Star Spangled Banner are
"Gentlemen, start your engines."

Your front porch collapses
and four dogs git killed.

You think fast food is hitting a possum at 65 mph.

You can get dog hair from out of your belly button.

You take a six-pack cooler to church.

Your family tree has no forks.

You have a rag for a gas cap.

The third grade teacher says little Bubba
could be a mathematical genius
because he's got thirteen fingers.

Fifth grade was the best six years of your life.

A seven course meal is a bucket of KFC and a sixpack.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Harold! Didn't you READ the redneck quote from Mr. Campbell? Oh, I forgot, incest cases can't READ.

Which is mostly to say, you know, that I totally agree that folks generally have to lighten up. Quit taking themselves and most especially what they do for money so gosh darned seriously.

Except for taking care of the corn -- that is serious. Playing and having fun. Loving each other. The good stuff.

H. Stallard said...

Oh, was I supposed to have READ the quote before I gave some examples for those who might not know what our version of a redneck was???

Course now that there twas purtty hard readin fur the likes of me seeings how I spent the best 34 yers of my life in tuh 3rd grade!