Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quakerism for Quakerism's sake

A f/Friend just used this term in conversation with me, and it speaks to something I feel that I've been butting my head up against a lot lately.

I am not saying I haven't done it (whoa, have I done it!) but it freaks me out when, faced with a (moral/ethical) choice, we often ask, "is it quakerly?" or, in regretting our own actions, or more likely, chastising others, we say "that's not very quakerly!"

More and more I wonder, do I care? should I care? My aspiration in being a quaker has never been to be a good quaker, but to be a good person, to live up to the light granted me, to seek with fellow seekers and manifest goodness, gospel order, if you will.

If it turns out that that's ever in conflict with being a "good quaker" I won't even flinch (I like to think)

This has to do with the George-Fox-as-Icon thing. Some things that I have heard attributed to Fox resonate with me. They don't resonate less when I learn that Fox didn't actually say them, or mean what I thought he meant. The truth is there (theoretically) no matter who spoke it first, or loudest, or even if it hasn't been spoken yet.

This goes to the Christianity thing, too. I have asked Christians what they would do if Jesus came back and refuted what they find most precious in the gospels. The answers that I have gotten are mostly along the lines of "he wouldn't" - which might be quite true in their theology, but doesnt' get to my question (which, granted, is based on my complete ignorance of Spirit-as-necessarily-Jesus, so there we are)

But, what are we seeking? Is it eternal? Is it recognizable? If we find that something ephemeral (like a word, or a book, or a story, or an identity) was a stairstep and not the foundation, do we have the courage to step off of it?

Now, I have that "courage" cause I dont' have much invested in the stairstep. Admittedly, this might impede my progress up the stairs, so that I will never be faced with the decision about what to do at "the top" (=enlightenment?)

I am perhaps a version of the quintissencial Liberal Friend. As someone has accused "us" of recently, I have "evolved" to a place of looking to nothing - for guidance and structure - my spirit is free-floating in the ether. I am, after all, a child of the sixties ('68)

And it's the only thing that makes sense to me. The spirit the inspired Fox and Woolman and Jesus and Bean and Gandhi and MLK and Pennington and Jones and Fell, It's still here, it's the air that I breathe, as it was for them.

Of course it's worthwhile to test our experience of that spirit with those who have gone before, and with those who surround us now.

I am not simply a freewheeling, "I'll do what I darn well please" Quaker - are there really those? In seeking community don't we essentially seek to be accountable to someone(s)????

What do we mean when we ask, "is it quakerly?" I think we mean something that is worth asking

is it kind?

is it just?

is it rightly led?

does it answer that of God (whatever that means!) in myself the others involved?

But let's say what we mean, what do you mean?

1 comment:

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Hi, Pam!

I thought this was a good essay, full of points that well deserved to be raised.

The issue of knowing when to step off the stairstep has more than one side to it, certainly. There are indeed people who are too frightened to step off a stairstep once it's no longer needed, and so stunt their own growth. But there are also people who step off a stairstep and fall.

As someone who has fallen more than once, I am inclined to think that the best questions to ask about stairsteps, especially when you're about to launch yourself off them, are questions along the lines of, "How far is it to the ground?" and "Do I really have wings?"