Monday, January 28, 2008

Questions, questions

On a couple of blogs, Friends have begun to ask some questions that seem to be looking for Truth about why Friends are so class homogeneous. But I think a look at the questions might reveal an better answer than their questions might garner.

Here's one example from Susanne K:
1. Is there something about Quaker theology that makes it more appealing to the kind of people who get college degrees? Is there something about Quaker theology that makes it unappealing to the kind of people who don’t get college degrees? If so, why?

2. Or is it something about current liberal Quaker culture? If so, why?

3. Or is it something to do with current liberal Quaker practice? If so, why?

4. Or do you think it is just a coincidence? If so, why?

5. Optional: Are you a college graduate? Do/es one or both of your parents have a college degree?

Question 1: No. No. No. No. I was working class (a third shift worker in fact) when I first came to Meeting. I didn't have a college degree. I was living paycheck-to-paycheck in a tiny three-room apartment (one room, the room I used as a bedroom, was unheated). And yet, waiting worship and continuing revelation spoke to me. I felt I could get closer to God at Meeting than I could anywhere else; and I'd been a seeker for over ten years before I found Friends.

Quakerism spoke to Joe Franko, who grew up poor. It spoke to George Lakey, who grew up working class. The fact is, George Fox and almost all of the early Quaker adherents were poor. The theology spoke to them.

So there is no theological or practical block to Quakerism because of your class background or income.

Question 2: See my blog.

Question 3: See my answer to Question 1.

Questions 1-5: Does anyone else get the feeling they're being tested? Maybe it's only me because I've never tested well.

The questions really should be: What is it about liberal Quaker culture is keeping poor and working class people away? AND how do we change that culture? (Not SHOULD we)

I don't mean to be picking on Susanne. Recently, The Friendly Funnel asked a similar question (and got some similar responses).

I also don't mean to say they shouldn't have asked their questions. Perhaps now, though, when my readers hear another Friend ask that similar questions, they will let the person know that their questions have bias, and perhaps show them their mistaken assumptions. I know when I see questions like this again in the Quaker blogosphere, my comment will be a link this post.


Anonymous said...

1. I give this a maybe. I have no qualms with the theology, but the way Quakers talk about their theology. It is an overintellectualized and cold way to talk about the so-called "The Light." Ironic.

2. YES! It's definitely a culture thing. I'm seeing so much in Quakerism that I see in transracial/national adoption. It's thinking of oneself as "The Great White Hope" or "White Man's Burden."

3. No. Liberal Quaker practice should actually lend itself to more diversity, like how Hicksite Quakerism was more for rural Quakers.

4. Only a coincidence if you're a clueless WASP.

5. Is this really relevant? I think it's only useful if you're going to factor in the non-graduate responses MORE.


Because it's a cultural thing, I feel perplexed. Would I charge into a Korean church saying they are racist? No I wouldn't, because it's a culture thing. Instead of battling this within Quakerism since I don't have Quaker roots, maybe I should just leave and think of Quakerism as a WASP culture thing. Especially since I've received such a negative response from most people. One of my friends asked me, "why do you want to be Quaker?" And this is what I found - I don't want to be like a Quaker, I want to be like Jesus. Pretty simple to me.

Jeanne said...

Ayo, your experience among Friends makes me want to work harder within Friends to make it welcoming. I won't be able to do it in time for you perhaps, but maybe your children.

Tania said...

Jeanne, I think you maybe misunderstood the intention of my post. I wasn't saying if there's classism in Quakerism, should we do anything about it; but if the theology of Quakers as Seekers can't speak to people of a certain class, then should we change the theology to become more diverse? If the theology can speak to everyone, which was my concern and worry, then there's no question that we should definitely do something about the classism in Quaker culture.

I was actually relieved to hear that my theory about the theology of Quakerism not speaking to everyone was wrong.

Jeanne said...

Tania, Mmmmmmm, I'm not sure I misunderstood it. I reread your post and the other comments...and I think they read it the same way I did, that you were asking if it's even a problem that Quaker theology might not speak to poor or working class folks. Yes, your last question asked what to do about that if it is a problem, and even that question suggests that maybe, if the theology were a block, we should just chalk our homogeneity up to our theology and call it a day (because that's one answer...a common one at your question).

Perhaps a rephrase of the question might be: If the theology is a problem, what should we change in it in order to have our Meetings better reflect the culture in which we live?

Tania said...

Jeanne, I owe you an apology. You were absolutely right. I'm going to have something more to say about this soon, I think... Thank you.

Jeanne said...

Tania, no apology necessary! I'm glad you understand that it's not the theology that stands in the way.

Have you read this article about Inessential Weirdness? It's not about Quakers specifically--instead it's about lefty liberals trying to interface with working class folks. I think you'd like it.

Anonymous said...

Just to add my two cents – what attracted me to this theology was not a perception of “intellectualism” or some arcane and esoteric mysticism, but a seed planted for me by a more or less anonymous stranger when I was in High School.

I grew up in an extremely Evangelical-Fundamentalist missionary family, and had the misfortune to be a very curious child. I was also pretty “different” from other kids in my church and school (gay, but not yet aware of it). The theology I grew up with was one of original sin – we are born into this world evil and sinful, and only by God’s Grace and Salvation are we saved from eternal damnation and torment in Hell. And how does one know they are “really, really” saved? By living right, and following without question the Bible in a literalist fashion.

Needless to say, by the time I got to High School, I was pretty confused and disheartened. I needed to be saved and live according to the whims of a God who didn’t seem to like me very much (or anyone else, for that matter). I happened to grow up in a working class (at the time) little town that was part of a fairly liberal school district. My high school humanities class was doing a month on World Religions, and we were asked to invite folks from our various religious backgrounds to speak to the class about their beliefs. That week, a man from Haverford Meeting spoke to us about Quakerism – the piece of the Good News that I picked up from him was this experience of something within each of us which he called “The Light” which connected us to God. In each of us! This was pretty amazing stuff to me, and directly counter to what I had grown up with.

“You mean there might actually be something in me which is not wholly Bad And Unlovable, that might actually be connected to God...” Afterwards, of course, I had to go back to my family and little church and continue living out the harsh dogma of a fundamentalist faith for a few more years. But this seed worked its way deep, down. It provided me with a little window of hope – that somewhere, there might be a God who loved me and who was truly available to me.

The gift this anonymous Friend gave to me was immeasurable. What I don’t understand is why, as Quakers, we don’t shout our piece of “The Good News” from the mountaintops? Just this core truth – that there is within each of us something that is waiting quietly for us to notice and allow ourselves to be in relationship to it – a something which is Goodness, Love, and Peace Incarnate. If this could appeal to a lonely hurting kid like myself at age 17, I can only imagine the numbers of folks this might be a “Saving Grace” for. If we could just get off our high horses as a religious society that Quakers are somehow more “enlightened” than others, or that Quakers need a certain amount of education to really understand what this is all about.

The truth of Quakerism is really so Simple, and so Good.

- Eric Evans

Anonymous said...

Hmm, another question might be, "if Quakerism is all about simplicity, then why are we making it so complex?"

Johan Maurer said...

One source of the temptation to complexify is an understandable desire to take something we intuitively like but don't really understand, and shape it around our allergies. Some of us don't want to step over the threshold of faith and mutual accountability; we're too stubborn and autonomous. And that's not all bad--there are forces in any culture that seem to want people simply to be compliant.

God does NOT want us to be compliant in any conventional sense, but we do have to give up our self-centered lives. I struggle with this every day; my initial dramatic conversion back in 1974 has been followed by little reconversions ever since. But I did have to make that initial decision to put God at the center instead of my own cleverness. Often intellectuals, or people who make a living by being intellectuals, even those at the very edge of coming to faith, continue to want to hedge their bets with notions.

*sigh* And on the other hand, there ARE those whose very vocation and gifting is to be theologians, probing all the edges of faith and its communication. I do honor that. It's just that sometimes we need to remember that they're servants of the church, not gatekeepers or signpainters.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Jeanne. First of all, why the heck can't you live next door to us? You're great!

Next, I must admit that I suspect there may be something in "Quaker theology" that attracts people of a certain class or culture. Let me clarify.

When we say, "Quaker theology" that could mean any number of things, right? Here I'm specifically talking about what has become the default Liberal, Unprogrammed Quaker Un-Theology, which is very similar to UU "theology." In fact, I very much question whether there is anything that can be rightly called [Liberal] Quaker theology these days since just about anything and everything is, apparently, up for grabs.

What is prioritized seemingly universally, though, is an intellectual approach to life, no matter what your "spiritual notions" might be. Even God is considered optional.

Similarly commonplace if not totally universal are liberal political beliefs (usually having nothing whatever to do with Scripture, God, or anything even remotely religious) and the idea of silent worship (as distinct from "waiting", in the sense of waiting upon the Lord). Lastly there's an anti-authoritarian attitude that seems to me to be all-pervasive, and since that pertains to manner of worship I suppose we can vaguely call it "theological."

Most of what we now know as Liberal Quaker theology, including the "SPICE" style testimonies, have very little to do with pre-20th century Quakerism, and less still to do with early Quakerism. What's left is basically a Quaker culture with little shared substantive religious belief.

But what little belief, or "theology" is shared, IMO, is pretty intellectually elitist. For most unprogrammed Friends, to look at Scripture as anything other than metaphor and allegory, for example, is to be simple-minded. Hell, if ya don't take to Jung and don't read the New York Times (I sure don't), both of which frequently are front and center in Friends' utterances during "worship," you're the odd one out. And let's face it, who is it who's familiar with Jung and reads the NY Times? No one in my family of origin, that's for sure.

I'm sorry if implying current liberal Quaker theology may appeal to certain classes over others isn't such a nice thing to say. But it's my strong suspicion based on my experiences.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I can communicate this very clearly.... I'm noticing that I carry within me patterns from my culture of origin, that encode racism, classism, and other forms of prejudge and judgement. I'm starting to think of these things as barriers to the flow of the Light. They keep us from knowing the Truth; when classism or racism rises up inside you, it limits your range of response, it keeps you from walking more fully in the Light.

Moving forward seems to involve addressing these things within. I have a sense of what that means for me, but I can't really put it into words.

Jeanne said...

Katie: Amen sister. Thanks for visiting and adding your voice.

Julie: I think you're talking about culture. 21st century Quakerism, in my eyes and experience, has everything to do with early Quakerism. What's changed is culture. There are places where that very middle class culture is trying to overturn long-standing Quaker theology, but it's being met with pretty stiff resistance (check out Robin M's blog or lizopp's blog or Martin's blog).

That's another reason we have to take a hard look at our culture.

And because of what Katie said. Our biases limit our access to the Light.

Tania said...

Jeanne, I've finally posted my thoughts on this here:

Thanks again for being a beacon of the Light for me here.

ef said...

Whew and Whoa!

This is a really powerful post, and set of comments.

Firstly I want to say that I think it is a powerful thing (and, sadly, not immediately obvious to many quakers) that the idea that it might be okay that our theology turns off a whole group of people is simply NOT OKAY.

It hasn't always been obvious to me, but this has helped it crystallize for me.

If Quakerism is about a God or TRUTH who IS for everyone, which is really true, and not just convenient or comfy for people who went to college, it's ludicrous to imply that it doesn't matter if our understanding of that God fails to make sense to a huge group of people. Either we're missing something crucial or God really likes intellectuals better, which is just a scary proposition.

I happen to differ radically on the theology front, though. I am a quaker, I hope to be a class ally, and I am a nontheist. I am hurt and annoyed when people characterize my theology as "anything goes" - which it is not. For me it feels much more a humbleness (not only for myself but on behalf of humanity) that says any undertstanding of God is going to be metaphorical and partial.

I am not trying to tear down God (by which I mean the spirit/truth that underlies all of our partial understandings and articulations of spirit) but the graven images that people have made of God (in stone, or in words in the bible) will never hold power for me.

Do I have to deny that in myself to be a class ally?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pam.

This is exciting stuff! It seems to me that part of our humanness is a difference in perception. You and I might witness the same thing , but our lenses for understanding that experience could be very different. It’s amazing to me that in many meetings, non-theists are sitting with Christ-centered folks on the same benches, and together we listen-for/wait-on the same Light/Truth as one body!

Knowing this helps me to realize that someone’s non-theistic experience of the Mystery doesn’t necessarily invalidate my own experience of a transcendent & immanent God. The exciting thing about Quakerism is that we don’t believe in the need for an intermediary between us and the Divine (or not-Divine?). So who am I to decide which experience of the Truth/the Light is valid? Does living into the Truth as one experiences it bring “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”? (Galatians 5:19-23)

What I find discouraging is how Quakers are so often willing to dismiss one another’s experience of this Greater Truth. I used to subscribe to a non-theist list-serve but jumped off when it started to seem like many posts were attempts to disprove God’s existence or to prove the benightedness of believers. I’ve encountered this with “God-people”, too. (“You can’t be a Real Quaker if you don’t believe in…”) It seems like a “set-up” to me: correct belief vs. intelligent belief. What if neither was right or wrong?

Can we respect the way the Light has been revealed in others, rather than writing theological scripts for each other? When I meet a new person in my meeting, one of the first things I want to hear about is that person’s own revelation of the Truth – asking Questions and Listening rather than making judgments of their understanding, intelligence, gullibility, etc. (or trying to force them to relate their experience in a language that makes me feel comfortable.)

- Eric Evans

James Riemermann said...

Hmmm. I'm not sure whether to comment because my views are a bit contrary. But it's that way most places I go, so I should get over it.

I support openness and warmth and doing our honest best to reach out whoever walks in our doors. Important goal, important to talk about. By *honest* best I mean reaching out from our genuine selves, and not pretending to be someone we're not.

But there seems to be an implication here that we have the power to make anyone, whatever their individual or cultural preferences, WANT to worship with us. And that's just not true; we don't have that power.

Would anyone here assume that there are no cultural patterns that are likely to make one more, or less, ready to feel comfortable sitting silently in a circle of people--initially strangers--with no idea what is going to happen, or if anything is going to happen at all? Because I would assume that culture absolutely would play a role in a person's readiness to step into that sort of situation. Not the only role, but a major one.

Culture is simply the sum total of how a distinctive people behaves. Everything we do in our meetings is part of our (very tiny) Quaker culture, or subculture. Any many aspects of it will almost certainly be more attractive to certain folks from other cultural backgrounds, and less attractive to others.

In short, I think it is wrongheaded to ask how we should change our culture to make our meetings more attractive to certain people who aren't showing up. A far better approach is to seek to be warm and welcoming to everyone who walks in the door, as our genuine selves, and leave the rest to the visitor.

If they leave, chances are they didn't like it.

If they stay--especially if they stay in numbers--their presence will change our culture. Guaranteed. That is how culture changes.

I also stumble on the accusations of over-intellectualism in Quakerism, which I hear all the time. In comparison with the, oh, lower middle-class Jewish home I grew up in, I find liberal Quakers to be surprisingly anti-intellectual, or maybe just phobic about intellect, despite the presence of a lot of very smart people.

We tend to get very uneasy in the vicinity of an intellectual conversation of any vigor or intensity. "We're getting too much in our heads here," they say, or "Let us only speak of our experience." I think we should get more comfortable wrestling with ideas. Especially disagreeing about them.

(I'm not talking about arguing ideas back and forth in worship, by the way. I don't favor that. But I do find many of the messages in worship--including some very beautiful, deep messages--rather lacking in careful thought. I'm easy with that, but we shouldn't be afraid of messages which contain bona fide ideas.)

Jeanne said...

A far better approach is to seek to be warm and welcoming to everyone who walks in the door, as our genuine selves, and leave the rest to the visitor.

If they leave, chances are they didn't like it.

If they stay--especially if they stay in numbers--their presence will change our culture. Guaranteed. That is how culture changes.

I actually agree with you here. I'm not saying that we should be people other than who we truly are.

But I think our hidden biases get in the way of who we truly are. Until we become aware of those biases, we won't be able to have access to our true selves.

And if we don't have access to our true selves, how can we "be warm and welcoming to everyone who walks in the door, as our genuine selves?"

James Riemermann said...

But I think our hidden biases get in the way of who we truly are. Until we become aware of those biases, we won't be able to have access to our true selves.

And if we don't have access to our true selves, how can we "be warm and welcoming to everyone who walks in the door, as our genuine selves?"

I think I can relate to that.

For one thing, if in your deep and hidden heart you feel a philosophy professor is better than a janitor, however much you talk about equality you're not going to be able to connect with a janitor on a very deep level. The honest differences between you might be a barrier, but unacknowledged prejudices are a much more serious problem. And we can have those prejudices without being aware of them.

I have prejudices, but I honestly don't think I have that one. All my favorite people are earthy, whether they've got a PhD, a BA, a high school diploma, or none of the above. And pretentious, puffed-up people just annoy the hell out of me. Not all of them have advanced degrees.

Another thing I pick up from your reply--not what you said but triggered by it for me--is how a shallow sort of "assumed" culture can get in the way of genuineness, and be a barrier to newcomers. For example, when we frame everything in Quaker jargon, rather than struggling to say what we mean in plain English, that jargon can become a sort of mask over our true faces. Not only do outsiders not understand us, we don't even understand ourselves, because we've let hand-me-down phrases short-circuit the hard work of expressing whatever we feel or think in our own words.

It's not just a Quaker thing, either; all the religious traditions and sects are full of traditional but vague language that everybody repeats but few if any understand.

Saying "what canst thou say" doesn't cut it. After that, you've got to actually say it.

Anonymous said...

I love the interesting and far more revealing than people realize comments to this post.

I love liberal Quaker theology that some would classify as "anything goes." To me, it speaks of freedom. It allows me to get in touch with my culture of origin's pre-Christian beliefs and also accept my parents' Christian beliefs. People often forget that Christianity has been used as a weapon against people of different cultures, and so judging people for coming in with other spiritual beliefs is another form of violence.

I also think that many Christians prefer to look at Christianity in a very limited context. We are human beings and that gives us a rich history that goes to the beginning of time. We cannot separate Christianity from paganism any more than we can sever ourselves from our ancestors' DNA.

James wrote: "In short, I think it is wrongheaded to ask how we should change our culture to make our meetings more attractive to certain people who aren't showing up. A far better approach is to seek to be warm and welcoming to everyone who walks in the door, as our genuine selves, and leave the rest to the visitor."

What speaks to me here is that it's assumed what is "warm and welcoming" is the same to every culture. What is warm and welcoming to one culture might be frightening and repugnant to people of other cultures, and sometimes it's so extreme to say, a person of color who has been on the bad end of racism or discrimination, might take one look and not want to come back. That's why it's so important to analyze this.

James Riemermann said...

Ayo wrote:

What is warm and welcoming to one culture might be frightening and repugnant to people of other cultures...

You lost me here. Can you offer an example?

Jeanne said...

James, I have one example:

shaking hands at the end of Meeting.

People who are not Muslim but perhaps grew up in a Muslim home or in a Muslim culture would find this practice of shaking hands, particularly with people of the opposite sex, repugnant.

My intention might be warm and welcoming, but it may not be received that way.

Allison's talking about the difference between intent and impact, which can be small or vast.

I can be intend to be warm and welcoming all I want, but if I put my hand out to shake the hand of a man who looks Somali, and he flinches or turns away or frowns, whose responsibility is it to bridge the difference between my intention and the impact on him? Me or him?

James Riemermann said...

I'd still like to hear what Ayo had in mind. But I hear your example, Jeanne. To my mind, a fairly obvious requirement of being warm and welcoming toward visitors is, if someone is reluctant to shake hands, or to make eye contact--I have known instances of both in worship--you read the body language as well as you can and gracefully back off. I don't know anyone who would force contact on a person--as opposed to humbly offering it--is not warm and welcoming, but pushy and insensitive. This is true regardless of culture. So, my initial presumption still stands: we should seek to be warm and welcoming toward all. It doesn't mean we shouldn't shake hands; it means we don't let our habits blind us to the person in front of us.

Anonymous said...

Hi James,

I think by "warm and welcoming" we tend to think of what reminds us of home. And that is a reminder that everyone's homes are very different.

I think I was trying to say that just being warm and welcoming isn't enough for some people. If someone has been scarred before by a certain kind of prejudice, say for example racism or homophobia, they might need extra engagement to feel at ease in a situation that is mostly say, all white or all heterosexual.

Maybe repugnant wasn't quite the right word, for say, a handshake if that's what you were thinking. I was thinking more along the lines of, you walk into a Meetinghouse and immediately see that everyone is a certain race or something like that, and you feel out of place and not at ease. Or, you visit a webpage about Quakers, and everyone on the page is white. Why would you even bother visiting?

Jeanne said...

Allison, you make an excellent point about how "warm and welcoming," means what's "warm and welcoming" for us.

And it gets at what I want to say about bridging the divide.

James, I think we need more than to "gracefully back off." And perhaps included in your definition of "gracefully back off" is what I would hope Friends would do: say something like, "I didn't mean to offend. Is there a better way to greet you at the end of Meeting?"

In 1993 and 1994, my girlfriend was African American. I brought her to Meeting once and all the messages were about diversity. It was uncomfortable for both of us and at the end of Meeting, we were mobbed with people who wanted to talk with her and to "welcome" her "warmly."

No one was reading her body language which was screaming "Get me out of here!" I did and she told me she'd never go back.

It's great to hope that everyone will be welcomed warmly, but it doesn't *always* happen.

James Riemermann said...

I agree, Jeanne, it doesn't always happen, we're not always warm and welcoming. And sometimes we are but in a way that a particular person finds uncomfortable. We should work on it, but not beat ourselves up and take every disappointed visitor as something we did wrong.

This is a little confusing for me, Ayo. I'm hearing difficulty with my suggestion that being warm and welcoming is the best thing we can do, but the responses I'm hearing don't challenge that suggestion in any way I can understand. In fact they seem to support the suggestion.

My Friends community is overwhelmingly white, with most of the exceptions being adopted children. Of course that has the potential to be uncomfortable, or worse than uncomfortable, for a visitor of color. Warm, welcoming behavior can potentially ease that discomfort. Not magically, not always, not through the use of any formulaic practices. Not mobbing the visitor, not spouting a bunch of messages focused on the fact that look! isn't it nice we have an African American visitor today? Simple human warmth, sensitivity, reaching out gently and humbly, without pushing or imagining that we have the power to make this person fall in love with us or our community.

No, I wasn't thinking of a handshake. That was Jeanne's example. It's a convention that serves some purposes, but it can't take the place of paying attention to the person in front of you and being a mensch.

Your examples--walking in and everyone is white when you're not--are also not examples of being welcoming, or being unwelcoming. They're examples of real-world differences, and some of those real-world differences can lead to real-world discomfort. The best way for the host community to try to help someone, is to seek to be warm and welcoming, but--as I said in my first post--it is not in our power to make that person feel at home if they don't.

Nor do I mean by warm and welcoming, "what reminds me of home." The home I grew up in was loud, reckless, argumentative, problematic but genuine. I liked it, except when I didn't. But most people find that sort of thing off-putting, and it's a long, long way from what I see in the Quaker subculture. Which I think is absolutely fine.

In my own, less obvious way, I understand the challenge of being different in a Friends meeting. I've spent the last 17 years getting used to being an atheist in my meeting. Not the only one by any means, but at a certain point the only one who was saying so out loud. There have ben tensions and places where the edges have rubbed, but it's worked out surprisingly well. I like being around people who are significantly different from me, particularly when they're seeking to be warm and welcoming. As I have found people in my meeting to be.

There might be some who shy away from handshakes or even eye contact, who would respond well to Jeanne's suggestion of "I didn't mean to offend. Is there a better way to greet you at the end of Meeting?" But a good many would find that a further intrusion and offense. I never had a problem with handshakes in my early days in meeting, but I am quite introverted by nature and tended to keep to myself. People were easy with me, didn't push, and that allowed me to ease my way in over time. Once again, you have to do your best to read the particular person's body language. Some people genuinely want to keep a low profile, spend some time in the shallow end without anyone bothering them. And eventually, perhaps, warming up and trying things that are a little uncomfortable.

But in the end, some don't like it. It's presumptuous to think that's all in our control.

Jeanne said...

We should work on it, but not beat ourselves up and take every disappointed visitor as something we did wrong.

I don't think we should beat ourselves up or even take every disappointed visitor as something we did wrong.

I do, however, take our homogeneous Meetings as a sign that we're doing a *lot* of things wrong. And that we have to look at ourselves carefully, intentionally and fearlessly.

No one here is saying that we have any control over whether anyone will like Quakerism. But as long as we stay the way we are, no one but white middle class and owning class people will like Quakerism.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we have quite a discourse going on this comment page!

James, the thing about transracial adoptees is kind of what drives all this talk, as I am one myself. And I know what it's like to grow up in a white environment and a white church. And how a child can't be expected to "represent diversity" of a group. I'm trying my best to translate my experiences as a Korean person in the language of white people, which I happen to speak quite fluently! I'm also volunteering with different adoptee groups to teach adoptive parents to see their own identities so that they can help their children, so hopefully I will pick up some tools along the way to translate better.

I haven't even figured it out with my parents, to be honest. So doing it with a whole faith tradition is a beast. I don't know if you've seen my blog at or the, but I'm addressing a lot of these issues on both of them.

I think it's really good to ask questions about this and get it out in the air, by the way, so thank you for being so open. Not talking about it can only mean the situation of dwindling numbers will continue.

I actually think it is the whole group's responsibility to provide role models for children of any color (white as well as black) so that they grow up with healthy racial identities and relationships. And that this might mean actively seeking out the advice of people of different races and cultures to figure out what would be more "warm and welcoming" to a visitor.

Someone on another post about this said a Meeting can't be diverse if the individual's lives are not diverse.

But I digress. Warm and welcoming is somewhere in between being overapologetic and politically correct, and being "oh wow it's so wonderful to have a person of color here!" Both will scare away a visitor.

I think before we address what could be perceived as unwelcoming, the very first step is to make a statement that we wish to be more diverse.

Tania said...

In 1993 and 1994, my girlfriend was African American. I brought her to Meeting once and all the messages were about diversity. It was uncomfortable for both of us and at the end of Meeting, we were mobbed with people who wanted to talk with her and to "welcome" her "warmly."

Wow. That's totally not welcoming at all. We need to be welcoming in a way that doesn't reduce people to commodities or rarities that need to be captured. I would have run the other way if I'd been greeted like that by my MM.