What – is it Junior High all over again?

Remember Junior High?

Yes?  No?

Many people probably would rather not remember – even now we strain to remember those days when we were thirteen, fourteen years old, and then when the memories actually come back we think, well, maybe it might be better if we just forget.  Time to get some ice cream!

What is it about Junior High School that brings out the best and worst?  If we’re not sure we can remember what those days were like, all we have to do is pause a moment and take a look at the recent Primates Meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

It all comes back. 

One of the hallmarks of Junior High is the development and implementation and cultivation of cliques.

One is either in a clique or one is not.

If you are not sure if are in a clique, you are not.

It is vying for The Inner Ring, as C.S. Lewis wrote about.  Those who are not in are very conscience of the fact that they are out.  Some were once in but are now toiling away the hours wondering what the heck happened?  Those who are in spend a lot of time worrying about whether they will end up out.  At any moment the whole setup could falter and an insider becomes an outsider in a flash.  Crushed!  Devastation. When that happens one might as well call the rest of the year off.  If you are not in then you are out and when you are thirteen that is a fate few wish for. 

Unless you are one of those who brush off the dust and get a job making a few extra bucks at Baskin Robbins.

These were ones who just seemed to stay out of it – they came to school, they did their work, they did sports or clubs, and they went home to do their homework.  They never got pulled into the fray.  Often it seems these were the ones who actually went on to make something of their lives – in fact they often looked on with bemusement at the antics of their fellow Junior High colleagues.  Thirty years later they are still chuckling.  Ask my brother.

We have such antics of late with a group called the Anglican Primates.  There is the center hot shot, the Big Man on Campus (BMOC), that everyone wants to be seen with, but in the end everyone is mad at – and believe me, it’s everyone.  Ask any BMOC.  At some point he will just gallop off into the distance and the remnant will wonder what all the fuss was about. His name then pops up as someone you might know on Facebook.

Then we have the cliques that just love drama.  They feed off the drama.  We can remember the thirteen year old girls that just lived for drama.  I was in youth ministry for many many years.  Thirteen years old are memorable and they still are memorable to this day.  Like the time that my roommates and I decided at the last minute to go to the beach for the weekend in New Jersey.  When we got home late Sunday afternoon we were met by a completely full answering machine filled with nearly hysterical thirteen year old girls who could not understand how we could go away for the weekend without consulting them and were just sure that we were lying on the side of the highway somewhere wrapped around a tree.

Drama-making is a hallmark of cliques – they compete with each other for the center of attention of the most popular guy on campus – in our case, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  One was either vying for his attention or telling everyone else what a horrid guy he was and get rid of him.  He was either wonderful or he was horrible, there was no in-between. 

In the case of our Anglican Primates, in fact, our Anglican Communion, we have cliques that are just engaged in one drama after another, crying out for attention and if it goes a few months without being the center of attention, institutes more drama.  It’s no wonder that back at my Junior High School in San Diego some of these drama-makers sometimes found themselves headown in trashcans with only their feet showing as you walked down hallways on your way to class.  There are times when it may feel like Anglicans worldwide would like to take these drama-makers and do likewise.

Here is an excerpt from a 1978 film called Junior High – seem rather familiar, maybe too familiar.  Look at all the different cliques – does it seem like, to coin a phrase, it’s yesterday once more?  Or were we so much older then, we’re younger than that now?

A good example of this kind of drama-making was the perfectly-timed “wedding” earlier this month of two lesbian priests in the Episcopal Church with one being for extra drama points actually a sitting Episcopal seminary dean.  With professional pictures in place for world-wide distribution and a cherub diocesan bishop so pleased as punch to be the center of attention for once, the drama had the desired affect.  It exploded another clique to do exactly what happens in Junior High.  “Well is they are coming to the party, we are not!”  And they take their stuff and go home.  The Drama Makers are now beyond exstatic because now they have succeeded in being the center of attention (which is what they really want).  But is it enough?  Nope.

Truth be told, the Drama-Makers, actually want not just the attention of the BMOC but of the very ones who picked up their stuff and went home (otherwise, what’s the point in belonging to a clique?) and so – more drama ensues.  Where are those trashcans?  So they pretend to ignore the clique that did not show up,  but it’s all pretend and everyone knows it, except perhaps for those who didn’t show.  Instead, they get to point and say,”see we told you so,” and the Drama Makers, now without an audience, need to stage a new event.  Stay tuned.

But if Junior High is any indication of what the future may bring – it is the silent ones, those quiet ones so many thought were boring if they were thought of at all, the ones over in the corners eating their sandwiches out of paper bags from home or there in the library studying or out running around the track who will actually be the last ones still standing, the ones who don’t get mixed up in the drama, the ones who are rather bemused by all the attention-seekers and find them somewhat entertaining.  These are the ones who do their homework, they show up for class, they scoop the ice cream.

We may not know their names now – but then again, maybe we do.  Who knows – maybe it’s you.

In fact, there was someone on the periphery in my school days who followed that track without drama – he did his homework, he went to class, and yes, sometimes he did work scooping ice cream at the local Baskin Robbins.