Recently, almost simultaneously, Martin K and I asked essentially the same question (or, rather, made the same criticism) asking how Meeting would deal with a poor or working class person who wanted to worship with us.
Another blogger sent me this Unitarian Universalist article by Doug Muder, which, I think, explains one reason why both Martin and I (and I hope others) see the ironic contradiction a "tattooed ex-con" or gum-smacking ghetto-girl in Meeting would be.
In Muder's article, you can pretty much replace "UU" and "Unitarians" and "Unitarianism" with "Quaker" and "Quakers" and "Quakerism," and you have an interesting criticism of our faith.
He suggests that the reason his churches (and, therefore, our Meetings) are so homogeneous is about message & ministry. But I can't help but wonder if our ministry comes first from our culture, from our interactions outside of Meeting for Worship.
For me, the block is cultural, the things said and done in social interactions. In October, I blogged about one such social interaction. But I've had others since.
One Friend recently asked a group of Friends how to deal with someone who swears a lot. She said she'd had a conversation with this person, but the swearing person didn't seem to understand that swearing a lot was "inappropriate" outside of work as well as at work.
This Friend implied that she knew better than the swearing person about how to act.
I grew up working class (and haven't assimilated well into middle and owning class culture) and am well-versed in the myriad and pleasurable uses of 'vulgar' language. I've since learned that it's not proper at middle class jobs, but I still say FUCK to express pain or to be evocative or to be sexually suggestive.
To say the least, Friends don't like this part of me so much. When I swear, Friends at best look uncomfortable, and at worst admonish me for doing so.
I had an angry response to the perplexed Friend. But another (Su Penn) put what I said into middle/owning class speak by suggesting that "one way to approach that discomfort [of being around someone who swears a lot] is to think of it as a problem of translation rather than a problem of appropriateness."
I can think of all sorts of things Friends would deem as "inappropriate." Dress (low-cut tops, muscle shirts), language (non-standard grammar, swearing, Jesus talk), food at potluck (fast food, processed food, non-organic food), conservative views (pro-life, Republican), spending habits (owning an SUV, subscribing to cable), to name just a few (and I bet you can add to this list).
And one might be able to argue that some of these things are particularly Quaker, but most of them aren't.
Even for the values that are particularly Quaker, how is acting like you hold the keys to virtue and proper etiquette a Quaker way of conveying these beliefs? Will those keys get you into God's kingdom?
I think of the profound act of compassion George Fox had for William Penn when he said, "Wear thy sword as long as thy canst."
So I'll try to live into this: Wear thy classism as long as thy canst.