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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Muppets in Ministry

Journalist Dahlia Lithwick, who usually has better things to do with her time (like covering the Supreme Court for the electronic magazine Slate,) recently wandered a bit away from her home territory (or maybe she didn’t) with an article in Slate proposing that every living being is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet. Quoting from Lithwick:

Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C. Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover, Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and—paradigmatically—Animal, are all Chaos Muppets. Zelda Fitzgerald was a Chaos Muppet. So, I must tell you, is Justice Stephen Breyer.

Order Muppets—and I’m thinking about Bert, Scooter, Sam the Eagle, Kermit the Frog, and the blue guy who is perennially harassed by Grover at restaurants (the Order Muppet Everyman)—tend to be neurotic, highly regimented, averse to surprises and may sport monstrously large eyebrows. They sometimes resent the responsibility of the world weighing on their felt shoulders, but they secretly revel in the knowledge that they keep the show running. Your first grade teacher was probably an Order Muppet. So is Chief Justice John Roberts.

The author then carries out her paradigm like this:

It’s not that any one type of Muppet is inherently better than the other. (Order Muppets do seem to attract the ladies, but then Chaos Muppets collect the chicken harems.) It’s simply the case that the key to a happy marriage, a well-functioning family, and a productive place of work lies in carefully calibrating the ratio of Chaos Muppets to Order Muppets within any closed system. That, and always letting the Chaos Muppets do the driving.

It’s a wonderful article. Click here to read the whole thing.

But now…doesn’t your little mind just light up when you apply this typology to things like…

  • Church history: Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon were the Ernie and Bert of the Reformation.
  • The life of the church today: I believe that we of the ELCA can proudly claim to be the Chaos Muppets of the Lutheran family in this country, even though some among us regularly look longingly at the Order Muppets of Lutheranism and wish we could be more like them. (Those Lutheran Order Muppets know we should be more like them, and tell us that all the time. Come to think of it, that does remind me of most of the teachers I ever had.)

However, this little blog exists to reflect on internship. So, all you interns and supervisors out there take a hard look at yourselves and each other and think about this Chaos-and-Order Muppet business. Is one of you an Ernie and the other a Bert? The Ernies of this world need the Berts and the Berts need the Ernies. You get too many Berts in one place and everything is well-organized and nailed down and the parish records are neatly kept and the communion cards recorded and the confirmation students sit in straight lines and worship is stable and predictable, and after a while it all gets, well, dull. On the other hand, with too many Ernies the service will last 40 minutes some weeks and 80 minutes other weeks, and nobody is quite sure where the Great Seal of the Congregation is kept, but people laugh a lot and now and then something spontaneous happens in worship. You get the point.

You didn’t get the point?  Well, let me spell it out for you!

Having all Berts (Order Muppets) or all Ernies (Chaos Muppets) is like having a flock of chickens and no roosters! Productivity requires both.  Be comfortable being whatever you are, but make sure that you’ve got a few of your opposites around.

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