I haven't gotten many comments about my last post about being a bad Quaker, but I did get this one email:
date Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 2:38 PM
subject bad Quaker
You are right, you are a bad Quaker! Don't quite see how that is something to brag about. Troy
So I feel a need to point out to people that there's nothing on my list that's essential to Quakerism and its practice.
This is exactly the kind of response I used to think said something about me. But instead, I now know it's much more a reflection of the shallowness of much of modern Quakerism. We welcome anyone, but we don't welcome people who don't fit our unspoken cultural norms. If you're a witch, it's fine. But be sure to only smoke secretly. You can be an atheist, but don't, no matter what, be a republican.
The Quakerism I love is about coming together and stripping away all that is not God so we can better feel God's influence in our lives.
I wrote this for Laughing Waters Friends Worship Group some time ago, and it still reflects my feelings about our practice:
Waiting on God in the manner of Friends
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)
Friends worship by waiting on God in silence. We believe that when we unveil our faces and hearts, we will be better able to hear God’s will for us as individuals and collectively. We create a virtual desert by removing all around us and within us that interferes with our ability to hear God, be nourished by God, and do what God asks of us.
As such, we gather in a circle in silence, quieting our hearts and minds to ready ourselves to be transformed, to become more like God. Meeting places are spare if possible, and do not have a pulpit or stage, an altar or baptismal font.
By removing all that might distract us from God, we feel we can better hear God’s voice speaking to us individually and corporately and be therefore lifted up and strengthened.
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint. —Isaiah 40:31
Can someone please tell me what part of the above requires that I read dry, inaccessible seventeenth century writing? Or that I not love when strawberry, vodka, pepper, and balsamic vinegar combine to give me a new taste experience that reminds me that my limited experience is just that, limited? Or that I shouldn't love my redneck family unconditionally?
These unspoken social norms actually limit us as a religious society. Only when we come together, reveal our true selves in God's light can we grow. If we're all the same, then what's the point?
I really appreciated Friend Su Penn's comment on Facebook recently about her own badness. I would hope it, too, would reflect me and all of us:
I do not yet know how to bring these differences, which I believe should be explored, into the Light in a loving and plain-spoken way. But because I am actually an excellent Quaker, I am willing to make efforts, make mistakes, to await new revelation and Way opening, to continue to love my meeting and the Friends in it, to stay in my seat when I just want to walk out and never come back.
Thanks, Su, for reminding me to stay in my seat even when it hurts. And for reminding me that staying and revealing our "badness" is exactly what will make us all excellent Quakers.