9/10/2006

Social reject and general pariah

I have recently gotten lured into the weird "quaker cyber-culture" of blogging...what I mean is I have been spending more time looking at the cyber community Quakers are creating. I like some of what is out there like A Place to Stand (granted he's family with Ms. Bathurst, who is like a sister to me). Some make me think, some remind me why I have a hard time with corprate worship these days, and some speak to my condition...but really I would prefer to be under the radar. I know that my ramblings are reaching someone if they so choose and perhaps it provides entertainment or ministers to their condition...but really it is a way of keeping connected to my own spiritual needs in my time in the desert.

Really why did I decide to start this blog with "Ms. Bathurst." Well...for reasons stated in some of the earliest entries. I really feel that many young adult friends are wandering and not connecting back to Quakers. I am one of those. I want to be apart of meeting and the spiritual community offered, but I never feel like I am what meetings want in a young friend. They want someone to be the poster child for the next generation of Quakers, someone who will join committees and have lengthy discussions about their spiritual resume and who will make a meeting proud to send to events like the World Gathering of Young Friends that took place not to long ago; young adult friends whose enthusiasm, piousness, devotion, and blandness (I am sorry simplicity is what I meant) will make our fraidy-cat brand of contemporary Quakerism proud...keep up the status-quo, don't rock the boat.

Ooops, I am slipping into anger. I have been struggling with the idea that this blog is a form of ministry since we began. I like the idea of getting my ideas out, instead of rolling around in my head. But I can't promise to always be speaking in the proper Quaker manner, something like being PC only its more like QC. Its why I liked the article that was picked up nationally from the Philadelphia Inquirer...those Friends speak my mind. I have a lot of respect for the AFSC and Philadelphia Yearly meeting has its place, but that is not the center of the Quaker world.

I don't want anyone telling me how to blog. Or have a Quaker Blogging Faith and Practice. The more we create a "quaker cyber-culture" the more it will resemble the current status-quo of Quakerism and the less visionary it will be. I don't want to express myself differently. I have been thinking on and off for months on the fact that this is a form of ministry. I am better at writing with the spirit than speaking from it in meeting. But I won't necessarily express my understanding of the spirit the way others see as appropriate for a quaker. In fact I like functioning in ignorance from the other quaker blogs. Mostly because I don't have time to find them and then read them. I am actually trying to conduct translational research that will aid people rather than resting on my laurels, which happened at least 30 years ago or more. And if anyone thinks I am being too acidy for a young upstart...I have the Quaker pedigree to back myself and the knowledge of OUR history to keep saying these things though you won't see me attending every committee known to quaker and functioning soley in the insular world of quaker-dom.

12 comments:

RichardM said...

James,

Please visit my daughter as she is having a rough time of it lately. I can't easily drop everything and travel all the way up there and she doesn't want me to. But her friends should visit her if they can.

Richard

Chris M. said...

I agree that we don't need a blogging "faith and practice."

I know you're avoiding Quaker cyber-culture. Nonetheless, I think you might find something of interest in Forrest Curo's blog, Flower Sneezing in the Spring Air. His is a different and prophetic voice, one that would not fit neatly into "QC": sneezingflower.blogspot.com.

-- Chris M.

david parsons said...

Interesting post; glad to hear that others struggle a bit with the "meek and mild" conventions that pass for politeness in the blogosphere. (Although the blogging alternative seems to be flame wars, which is even worse.) Also thank you for the link to the article about leadership.

You might enjoy some of the "convergent" trends--where the goal is to get the evangelical friends to talk to the liberal friends. It's a little like inviting storm troopers in for weak tea and dry toast. The collision should be entertaining, at least.

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

Quakerism is a sleeping giant. There are indeed a lot of whited sepulchres out there like the young Friends that make you so angry -- people who don't really have a clue, but whose ostensible spirituality allow the rest of our Society to feel better about itself, roll over, and go back to sleep.

There are such whited sepulchres among the Friends of my own generation, too (I'm 56), and among the Friends of my parents' generation. As you are doubtless aware.

Christ got angry at the whited sepulchres too, you know. So did the prophets -- denouncing those who said, "Peace, peace," when there was no peace.

The question is always how to answer those people. Art a Child of Light, and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God? If so, then thy answers will be alight.

I'm also curious to know whether the reason you're "not connecting back to Quakers" is that the only Friends you can see to "connect back to" are the ones who prefer to roll over and go back to sleep.

Martin Kelley said...

Hey JN,
You should definitely be speaking from where you are. The whole idea of a "blogging Faith and Practice" was moronic from the start and came from a censorous motivation. There's no one kind of Quaker blog just as there's no one kind of Quaker. We are all called to play different roles.

The "poster child" comments are well taken. There is TONS of tokenism in the sudden interest in young Friends. Poster kids not only have to have the right QC look but come from immpeccible pedigree (no need to appliy if mom and dad aren't on the right committees). It's messy but then life and social groups are and maybe something can be built from it nonetheless. We need more clear-eyed cynics who can question our pieties. I only hope you don't make a career of cynicism--it can be its own psuedo-cool trap too.

I'am glad you're out here posting.
Martin

Rob said...

Sometimes I think it's important to take a Quaker Time Out. Often, I need to get away from the culture of theological contortionists and in-group lingo that allows people to say things like, "I don't feel led to do that," when what they really mean is, "I don't feel like doing that." Quakers often use God talk to trump each other, and it's taxing on the patience, of which, I confess to very little. I recall a business meeting where we all sat around waiting for someone to feel led by God to volunteer for the Snacks Committee. Sigh. My stomach is frequently louder than God. It's a wonder we ever get around to eating anything at all.

I've been surfing around other churches lately/again, and have found refreshment in learning new ways of approaching community. All communities, religious or otherwise, have their faults, and that's what we need to learn live with as Children of God.

take care,

Rob

Heather Madrone said...

I want to be apart of meeting and the spiritual community offered, but I never feel like I am what meetings want in a young friend.

I don't think that it matters in the least what Meetings want in young Friends. I think that young Friends (and older Friends) need to be who they are and to do what they, personally, are called to do.

As long as you're focused on second-guessing the older generation, it will be harder to just be yourself and to hear what it is that you are authentically called to do.

But I won't necessarily express my understanding of the spirit the way others see as appropriate for a quaker.

Good. It is appropriate for Quakers to speak the truth plainly, and it might be that what your Meeting needs of you is your authentic voice.

Be yourself. No one is better qualified for the job.

zach said...

James, I sympathize with what you're saying, especially the way that Quaker norms (traditional or modern) of what is supposedly "quakerly" can be oppressive.

But I want to defend the general idea of a "blogging Faith & Practice" a little bit. Most Friends who are thinking about something along those lines, that I'm aware of, are from liberal YMs, where the "Faith & Practice" is definitely not something that tells you what you have to believe; we take the old line from Balby* pretty much to the max. If it ever became something that created an oppressive "quaker bloggerly" culture, I'd be the first to get off the bandwagon. Really all I'm thinking of personally (and it's not even a high priority for me), are a few queries, and suggested procedures for dealing with controversies, etc.

And Martin, I'm glad there are people who think this is an awful idea (if there weren't, I'd become suspicious of it myself), but I think it's just plain rude to call it "moronic." How are the at least 3-4 blogging Friends have given thought to it at one point or another supposed to read that?

*"Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by; but that all, with a measure of the light, which is pure and holy, may be guided: and so in the light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not in the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."

Martin Kelley said...

Hi Zach: sorry, "moronic" is too strong a word. Let's just think I think it's unworkable and too constrictive. The project is also suspicious seeing the initial idea came from someone who wanted to use it to force continuation of a hostile and unwelcome email confrontation -- it was bullying and oppressive from the beginning.

I don't see us ever really defining a "Quaker blogosphere." This may seem an odd statement considering my work on QuakerQuaker but at each step I've thought hard about how to keep it from becoming too much of an in-group listing. Look, today it includes a post by a social reject like James (wink!). Quakerquaker is meant to challenge the status quo group-think and get new voices out there.

James Naylor said...

I am humbled by the response to this particular post. Thank you all for reading and giving such well-thought feedback/dialogue.

First, I would like to respond about the "faith and practice" issue. I think it is important to reflect on our posts, let them season if need be. Blogs are a form of ministry and bring a truth forward, hopefully in a manner that reflects an individual who is letting their life speak as much as they are creating a cyber-identity. For some having queries may be helpful...however, are we trying to restrict a joyful and exuberant new way of ministry because it is not fitting the tightly structured world of modern Quakerism or is it out of a concern for care of the community?

For those of you who responded regarding my comments about meetings and young adult friends, I encourage you to read earlier posts, "Where do all the young Quakers go" (5/06) and "Good Quaker I am not" (4/06), mind you there is some tongue in cheek action on that last one.

Marshall-- Thank you for your post. It really spoke to my condition. I appreciate what you had to say.

Martin--I also appreciated your comments about a clear-eyed cynic vs a career of cynicism. Unfortunately, I seem to be drawn to critiquing what I love best the most...which makes it sometimes hard to tell where the cynicism is coming from. I depend on a community of peers to elder me if I need it.

As to convergent trends...I have had the opportunity to experience the variety of worship styles in Quakerism and to participate in discussions across the spectrum...it is much like the Quaker blogosphere...I think it is important to approach it with an open mind and heart...to hear beyond the words to the content.

Again, this has been a humbling experience. I hope you all continue to read and that something may speak to your condition at some point or at least offer something to reflect on. Or that you may help keep me connected during my time in the desert.

Chris M. said...

Having started off the comment-fest, as it were, I didn't want to leave this out, in light of Richard's initial comment:

Please let your Friend Elizabeth Bathurst know that I am praying for her well-being, too. I found this blog through a comment she left on Richard's blog, and have been touched by her writing here as well.

-- Chris M.

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