Sunday, September 20, 2009

Social Class Rule #2, and an Apology of Sorts

I've said I'd talk about making social class rules explicit. Here's the second one.

Middle and owning class people make the rules, and when working class or poor people don't follow the rules, there are dire consequences

I'll give you a secular example first. Take the connection between teen pregnancy and poverty.

This statement is accepted as true by most people, rich and poor alike:

"Teen motherhood is a great way into poverty."

It's not a rule, but a statement of fact. Friends from high school and cousins who were themselves teen mothers have admitted this fact to me, and described how hard it is to be barely out of childhood and raising a child.

This statement is an example of a rule made by middle and owning class people:

"You must wait to have children until and unless you and the proposed other parent are truly, emotionally, socially, and financially ready to care for them."

It can take a lot of privilege to wait until you're deemed ready to have kids according to this rule, stated to me recently by a middle class Quaker. And the consequences of breaking the rule are dire, even though they don't have to be (if we had true economic justice). But this blog isn't about social policy, per se.

What does any of this have to do with Quakers?

We like our rules, and the consequences can lead people to leave meeting thinking Quakerism isn't right for them (at best) or make people feel bad about who they are or where they come from (at worst). As I see that on the page, it doesn't seem so dire. But it is to me.

I believe that God speaks to us in the best way we can hear God's message. For some that's through Catholicism, some that's through Wicca, some that's through the Quaker practice. If we're even unintentionally turning away a whole class of people because they're not like us, I believe we're acting directly against what God would have us do not just for our meetings ("diversity" and all) but for each lost soul searching for a spiritual home who might find one with us.

I admit, having grown up working class, I liked all the rules at first. Don't watch TV. Don't drink unfiltered water. Don't dress up for meeting. Now though, I see not boundaries but brick walls, impenetrable but through a narrow door that fits only a certain kind of person. It breaks my heart every time I get an email, which I do about once a month, from someone who says they left because they felt so much the class outsider. I struggle mightily with staying.

But I do because God said so and still says so every time I sit in the silence.



The apology, of sorts:

I'm sorry I can't say things the way you can or want to hear it. But I don't know how. Really. And I can promise you it's a social class thing. I've tried over the last couple of years to learn how to say things so you can hear them, but to little if any avail. The only place where I seem to have the grace (most of the time) to be clear and understood is when I'm running a group. But I'm beginning to accept this about myself, and I'm stopping trying to have you hear me. You will or you won't. You'll get it or not. You'll be offended or not. It's okay. I'll still publish your comments, even when you disagree with me, if you're respectful and reasonable and not anonymous. Conflict is just fine as long as you're not calling me names or belittling me (or anyone else for that matter). I'll say what I'm led to say and hopefully learn from what you have to offer, even if it's to sharpen my own understanding.