Easter reflections

Sometimes, it's hard for me to distinguish between different types of liberal friends. The majority of stuff I hear about FGC makes me roll my eyes. The tendency of certain active and well-known members in the large meeting I now attend to stand up and rebuke any ministry that is given about Christ is upsetting to me. The practice of combative "ministry," the aggressive dislike of Christianity, and the tendency to give membership to people who perhaps need a little more seasoning in order to truly believe in Quaker process and methods of worship make me long for more Conservative-style worship.

I am aware that there are many reasons to be uncomfortable with Christianity: aggressive evangelism, historical and contemporary persecution in Jesus' name, etc. I'm also aware that the "SPICE" testimonies which FGC friends tend to be so fond of are based in a cohesive and flexible interpretation of scripture. My own mother finds her feminism often conflicts with the New Testament, which is understandable given how much her Catholic upbringing/education chafed against her ideas about women and equality. It was when I announced when I was about two years old that I wanted to be a priest that my parents finally left the Catholic Church for Princeton Friends Meeting.

Over the weekend, I had the chance to worship with Princeton Friends for Easter. Princeton, like my local meeting, is an unprogrammed dual-affiliated (FGC/FUM) meeting in a college town. Unlike my local meeting, Princeton is a small meeting in a semi-rural setting on the outskirts of town. And there I found that several members were lead to speak of the crucifixion story and were not rebuked during worship by someone who identifies as a non-theist or pagan or Jewish Friend. I am certain these elements are present in the meeting, especially given the items and wishes that I was asked to pass on to family members, but they weren't combative, at least not on Easter Sunday.

I am trying to think of what I might be able to do to help heal the wounds that cause so much of the anti-Christian sentiment where I worship. I will continue to faithfully give the messages I am given, which are so often about comfort, sin, obedience, redemption, forgiveness and Christ's love. I will continue to spread the gospel as I am asked, although I feel my voice is largely unwelcomed. I don't feel that every Quaker needs to be fully Christian, but I simply can't understand how one can be virulently anti-Christian and still be a Quaker. Why can't one of the paths up the mountain be hand in hand with Christ Jesus?

I know that whatever I do, it will only be so far as I am led. In thinking about this issue, the only thing that is clear to me is that I need to continue to be fully honest about my faith. Honest about my universalism and it's limits. Honest about the power of Christian Salvation in my life. Honest about my struggles with theology and scripture. And perhaps most importantly, honest about how uncomfortable I feel expressing my Christianity in the Big Urban Meeting I attend.


My Struggles; Isolation

I find myself trying to establish a social network --again. This is the fourth time in six years, 1) after college returning to Minnesota, 2) moving back to North Carolina after 3 years in Minnesota, 3)moving to Maryland to start graduate school, and now 4) the transition from graduate school to professional life and finding friends with a similar schedules...

I have found that more often than not my life consists of work...with very little social outlet. I have a weekly "date" with a F/friend, who I first met at a NYM (Northern Yearly Meeting) youth retreat when I was 16. She and I ended up in Baltimore serendipitously about the same time. I am thankful for our weekly dinners, however, as our lives go in various directions we are braking the date more and more frequently.

I have two friends from school I see semi-regularly when our schedules permit. I am certainly not complaining that I only have a few friends in the area...but it can get lonely, living in a big city and doing most things solo...

I told God that my only resolution for 2007 was to go to meeting more often. But that he was responsible for getting my up in time. Which is perhaps not fair, but part of being faithful is being lead. Going to meeting frequently would not only be good for the obvious spiritual reasons...and lord knows I need to spend more time being devote and working on being centered. But it would also provide me with a healthy social outlet. The community of corporate worship would be good. However, even when I am up on Sunday mornings I don't always get to meeting.

I have had several instances of impending panic attacks on my way to meeting. Sometimes this has to do with parking, sometimes this has to do with which meeting I am trying to go to, and sometimes it is the thought of having to face so many new people all alone. When I get the feeling that I am working my way toward a panic attack or feel my blood pressure rising...I usually abort my mission. It seems to be counter-productive to get that worked up in an attempt to stave off my spiritual malnutrition to center myself to deal with the week ahead. When I have managed to get myself to meeting without any problems, it has been a very rewarding experience. So why do I make it so difficult on myself to attend regularly?


My Struggles; youthful idealism

y'all really don't know my life
y'all really don't know my struggles
or how much liquor I guzzle
y'all really don't know my fears
and how many years to get here

Missy Elliott, My Struggles

I always wondered how the idealism of the '60's morphed into the greed and me-first attitudes of the Yuppies in the '80's. And for the same reasons why do so many people scoff at the "idealism of youth." But I am starting to understand the connection. It is the same reason that there is a saying about Quakers that says, "Quakers came to the new world to do good --instead they did well."

Recently, I have found myself putting income ahead of passion. I want to earn enough money to make rent and have an apartment to myself. However, things are never that simple. It's a selfish decision that will cost a lot even it it appears to be imbued with simplicity on the outside. I have debts. I don't have any furniture. And right now I don't have money for a deposit. Much less rent for this month. I don't want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore. I looking for work and if I resign myself to a boring bureaucratic life I can easily stop having to worry about finances within a year.

How nice it would be to not have to lie awake at night thinking about the shell game of my finances. The pages of lists and spread sheets of my personal budget are imprinted on my eyelids. Or having to open the file of my excel spread sheet budget "My Financial Goatfuck" every pay day and see my paycheck evaporate and only pay down the list of "I owe" by a hundred dollars, even though I paid much more than that--gotta love interest.

I have spent the last few months reading pulp sci-fi. It keeps me occupied enough to not be tempted to spend money. I go to work, come home sometimes have dinner and then read for 4 hours and go to bed. I have virtually stopped drinking and am toying with stopping smoking. At this rate I will be well prepared to become a cog in the bureaucratic machine and a cat lady. Ready to embrace my powerfully mundane existence. A deal with the devil, financial security is yours it will only cost you your personality and humanity.

I think I understand now what happened to the idealism of the '60's...and I am not happy about it.

To be continued...