Monday, March 9, 2009

Bad Quaker

Recently, Brent Bill wrote a blog post about being a bad Quaker, then formed a group on Facebook. The FB group gained membership very quickly. Peggy Sanger Parsons posted on the group her top ten reasons why she's a bad Quaker. So I thought I'd do the same.

The Top Ten Reasons I'm a Bad Quaker

10. I swear. I mean the dirty word kind, not the hand on the Bible kind. And not the dagnabbit kind, but the holy fucking shit kind. I do so a LOT.
9. I love dressing up in sparkly dresses, high heels, makeup, hairspray, the whole deal. The only way I feel like I can do so and be accepted as "good" by Quakers is to dress up for Halloween. I keep a stash of makeup for that one day a year.
8. I secretly pretend to play the lottery. When it gets big, I pick some numbers and secretly check them. I've never "won" but I play this way because I don't know how I'd explain it away to my Quaker friends if I actually won.
7. I like rap and hip-hop music. Even songs that use the word bitch in it.
6. I really like drinking with my friends (small f...don't have any Friends who like to go out to get a drink from time-to-time). Sangria mostly, but my sister-in-law introduced me to my new favorite: Mike's Hard Lemonade. And I love fancy one-of-a-kind drinks like the one I had in Florida (again, following my sister-in-law's lead) with vodka, strawberry, pepper and balsamic vinegar. That was fucking good.
5. If I had enough money, I'd hire someone to cook, clean and do laundry for me. I'd also own a fur coat. I'd play the lottery, just for the hell of it.
4. I love my redneck family and jokes about rednecks make me sad and embarrassed.
3. I adore sparkly diamond jewelry. I have a ginormous diamond dinner ring that my grandmother found in a box of costume jewelry she bought at a charity auction. I'd wear it all the time if I didn't think Quakers would look askance at me.
2. I don't care about Quaker history. Not one bit. I haven't read George Fox's journal or John Woolman's journal. And don't ever intend to read these things (though I sometimes read about these things gladly, in 21st century English by 21st century authors and bloggers.)
1. I hate committee work and I love being a committee of one.

As I started this list, I thought I'd write to be funny. Now as I write this list, I feel sad because I realize that sometimes all you need to do to be a good Quaker is to be solidly middle class.


Jim M. said...

Sounds like a fun task. But some of the things don't seem to contradict quakerism to me, at least my kind of Quakerism.
#4 seemed especially odd. Does your meeting go in for red neck jokes?

Jeanne said...

Well, redneck jokes aren't officially sanctioned, but saying something is "trailer trash" or is "redneck" is almost never called out as inappropriate. Sometimes, calling something redneck is used to deride someone or something, especially political things.

It's like when people say, "That's so gay."

Only most Quakers are willing to call people on that.

Tom Smith said...


I have little problem with most of your list and would ask only the following: What is your motivation for doing the things on your list?

If it is for "your own sake," do them as long as you can. A reference taken from George Fox's comment to William Penn regarding the wearing of a ceremonial sword.

If it is only for "fitting in," then I would ask for you to look to your motivation.

I too do not find "redneck jokes" as appropriate and find it "unfriendly" (no capital F) to condone these, but then I lack a sense of humor as to making "fun" of others.

I do appreciate your blogs.

Tom Smith is currently in hiatus for several reasons but intend to return in a couple of weeks.

Jeanne said...

I'm curious Tom, what's your problem with the list?

I think I make it clear that I don't do most of the things on my list (at least with Friends) because I know I will be judged.

And someone recently pointed out to me that the famous George Fox quote to William Penn did not, in fact, happen. It was made up to specifically shine a "better" light on George Fox, to portray the supposed interaction as it "should have" happened.

If you take a close look at the list, none of the items are essential to Quakerism.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning "trailer trash". When I said that Erica Jong's comment on the Huffington Post about the trailer trash making the decisions was undemocratic, not only did Friends not see why. They agreed. Listen and you hear lots of comments with innuendos about class.

Several of my relatives lived in/live in trailers. In rural areas that is the equivalent of section 8 housing - the only thing slightly affordable. Think what does it do to their kids to hear that phrase.
Meg M

anj said...

Wow - I would go have a drink with you Jeanne - but I prefer sitting at the bar in a dive, and having what ever is on tap. My days as a cocktail waitress left me terminally allergic to any kind of drink that involved strawberry. I like Sangria, but Mike's Hard Lemonade goes down a bit too easy. I don't like rap and hip hop, but I do like country. In fact, often when I drive home from a Quaker weekend, I listen to a country station. Oh, and i cuss...although now that I have started to hear my language back from my teenage sons, I am more averse to it -- but I have always maintained if I need to choose between saying fuck and kicking the wall, I will take the way fuck rolls off my tongue. Today, I was at a Quaker gathering and someone was laughing about their pin "Eat the rich" that deflated me as much as redneck jokes do. I do love Quaker history though. I could benefit from my own top ten reasons I'm a bad Quaker. The main reason I am one though, is because I believe Christ has come to teach his people himself.

Hystery said...

I swear a lot and wear make-up (albeit 'green') Most of the people I know who wear make-up are solidly middle-class. I don't wear jewelry but my husband's family does. In fact, they wear big-ass diamond rings and indulge in drink and they're as middle-class as you get- a bunch of college professors and school teacher Episcopalians with property on the lake. I'm not sure the things you mention on your list are specifically class related or if many Friends avoid these behaviors because of social conformity to "class." I don't see anything on your list that is not also common among middle-class folks. Perhaps it is more conformity to the Quaker religious subculture (lots of denominations including the much more working class Methodists and Baptists discourage things like drinking and gambling and overt display of wealth is, as I understand it, a pretty ancient Christian no-no (it being easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than to pass a rich man through the gates of heaven and all that jazz).

Jeanne said...

I'm not going to get into an argument about what classifies as middle class or working class.

Class markers can vary by geography, race, age, urban/rural, region of the country, language and so on.

No one person has the lock on what those markers are. Mine are mine. Yours are yours.

Mine aren't well-accepted among Friends, as evidenced by many of the comments here and on my next post.

Hystery said...

As you know, I totally agree that class markers vary as you say. That was part of my point. If the behaviors you list are treated as working class where you are and are treated as middle-class in my region and still rejected by Friends in both places, then there is something else going on here. (and I say this totally without rejecting the idea that classism plays into this- so not an opposing view but a view that is meant to add a layer)

What I was trying to say is that because class markers differ and because many behaviors (like drinking, gambling, or displays of material wealth) are behaviors that cross cultures and classes, I wonder if the behaviors are rejected for another set of exclusive cultural standards, in this case, religious. This might be good and it might not be. I'll have to think more about that.

The Friends certainly aren't alone in their religious prohibitions. Many things on your list were also forbidden to us seriously practicing Protestants. I grew up as a Methodist and we never gambled. I never knew why we weren't supposed to gamble but that was the case. Rich folks gambled and poor folks gambled but Methodists did not. We also used to laugh at the joke about how back in my great-grandmother's time, "Why don't Methodists have sex standing up? Because they don't want God to think they're dancing."

Now some religious prohibitions are silly and some are useful. It takes honest conversation for us to determine which is which. And, I'd add that we have to keep having these conversations because a rule that helps one generation, may harm the next. I'd say the only rule that should stay absolute is "Love your neighbor." All the other rules should serve that one.

kathz said...

I'm glad you've mentioned that disgusting term "trailer trash". It shocks me that Americans use that term. Even here in Britain, where class prejudice is endemic and very nasty, the idea of calling people garbage is shocking - and the more so, because we tend to think Americans believe in equality.

I am also a bad Quaker and not from a middle-class background. I not only drink - I also fence (with an epee). And I can see the logic of playing the lottery. For some people it's their only chance of escape - a really bad chance, but their only one. In my experience, middle-class people, who have more opportunities, are less sympathetic to the idea of luck and blind to the luck that gave them relative wealth and greater opportunities than most.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Maybe it's just that younger Quakers are more superficial, or maybe we're just less entrenched in an idea of What It Means to Be Quaker. Either way, I enjoyed this post and would have to say that I do/am essentially everything on your list. Except for the lottery. And I don't have redneck relatives, but I do have conservative ones, and small-minded "liberals" who question how I can still love them and enjoy their company should be ashamed of themselves. Perhaps when I'm 21, we can get together and drink sangria and wear diamonds and swear.

Georgi said...

Thanks for the post. I too engage in many of the behaviors you list as do several of my 'bad' and 'good' Quaker friends. I don't like to single out ethnic/socioeconimic groups and blast them with jokes because inevitably it comes around to mine! What I notice most about 'bad'Quakers is we can laugh at ourselves AND some of the serious issues we deal with both outloud as part of meeting for worhip and internally as we drift off to sleep (or not). One reason I stopped going to meeting for quite a while was because everything was SO SERIOUS! Everything just IS...your attitude toward it changes how it feels and how you handle it. When I can...when my emotions aren't ruling..i choose humor and kindness. I am living in Bangkok for a couple of years and being in this culture has torn apart, shook up and put back together my perspectives on almost everything. i do have a maid who comes every week and i arrive home on Wednesdays to an immaculately clean apartment AND I LOVE IT AND...if it weren't for me and several of her other clients, she might be on the the street with the many other women who feel they don't have choices. When people start making life style judgements and base them on religious/spiritual dogma my 'new' perspectives challenge me to say 'what's behind that? Where's it coming from. Forrest Gump would say,"That's all i have to say about that!"