Thursday, March 12, 2009

No, Really, I AM a Bad Quaker

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.

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.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Caviar, Coupons and College (A Working Title)

Class Matters has extended its deadline for submitting to their anthology, tentatively named Caviar, Coupons and College, to June 1st.

I, for one, am glad because the essay I started really fizzled out. Won't you consider writing something too? I'd be happy to edit your work if you want.

From their website:



· When was the first time you realized what class you grew up in?

· What were some of the strengths you got from your class experience? What were some of the limitations?

· What stereotypes about your class were or weren't true for you? What class stereotypes did you most worry about embodying?

· Is there class tension between you and family members, friends, co-workers, or community?

· Tell us about an "a-ha" moment in the development of your class consciousness.


Class Action, a national non-profit working for economic justice and to "inspire action to end classim," is putting together an anthology of personal stories from across the class spectrum, and is calling for submissions in the hope of furthering our collective dialogue about class. We especially encourage voices from groups that have been marginalized.

Submissions should be from 1,000 to 2,500 words, and include a brief one paragraph biography about you, the author.

Please email submissions to Pete Redington at predington @ or send them to Class Action, P.O. Box 350, Hadley, MA 01035

Include your submission in the body of the email, and write "anthology submission" in the subject line.

Submissions will be accepted through June 1, 2009.

To download a Word flyer to distribute, click here.