I started this off with the intention of discussing "Birthright" quakers. I really liked what I had read on the post about birthright quakers from Quaker Street (and I would just like to state that sometimes the best conduct comes from convinced Friends). The post itself and the discussion in the comments was very good. I don't actually know that I can add anything. However, it made me recall some of my first days in big league Quaker circles.
As I have stated in several previous posts I grew up in the middle of no-where-Minnesota. I did not attend Meeting regularly till I was 12. And I choose to go to a Quaker College for the community provided and the opportunity to be surrounded by many other young Friends. I had missed out on going to summer camps and retreats and other such important developmental social functions of young Quakers. I mean yea, I had gone to FGC and yearly meeting and FINALLY got to go to some teen retreats, but I just felt like I was missing something.
However, my midwestern conceptual framework of Quakers was challenged when I arrived at college. The scholarship program I had somehow gotten into seemed to be filled with super-Quakers with connections to big names in Quaker circles, related to influential historical figures, and who had grown up Quaker --filled with camps, social circles, and friendships. While it was annoying that some of the people I was meeting in the program had to express that they new this person and that one...the really annoying part was when they would point out how they were related to insert famous name here. And how they were birthright and that their family had been Quaker for ions. It made me feel small, insignificant, and unworldly. I didn't think Quakers would be like that. I didn't know if I was related to famous Quakers, though my mother's side of the family has been Quaker for ions. It wasn't something that was important to my family...we are more of the live your life, let it speak for you kind of family. Not the speak to make your life more important kind. Which is often what happens with Quakers who feel the need to make you constantly aware of their lineage and relative importance (by way of birthrightness and who they are related to). Now, since I am pointing fingers it should probably be said that I consider Birthright to mean that you are born into the care of a meeting...technically, I was. My mother was a member of a meeting and I was born into the care of the meeting...I still have yet to attend said meeting. But I do consider myself Birthright...I don't care if the Society considers me to be one or not. At 16, I had a clearness committee to become a member of my home meeting. So I am Quaker and that is what matters.
Now, what does this have to do with Intellectual Quakerism. Sometimes it appears to me, that convinced friends (or fellow travelers who attend and don't commit) often love the intellectual aspects of what Friends say in our testimonies and other publications and discussions. In fact, they spend time devouring the writings and practices but have difficulty really getting into the practice and Spiritual practices. The theoretical ideals of Quakers are only a layer of the whole. What are Quakers? Are we a sect? A cult? That is sorta what we were considered early on...but we are a Christian sect...take away Christ and we are just a Peculiar People...which may be more like a cult...with no Charismatic leader...Now before, you start to think I am intolerant of those who do not love themselves some Christ...that is hardly the case...but at the peculiar Quaker College...I somehow learned to be a Christian...Perhaps I should start hyphenating my Quakerness as a Christian-Quaker.
But in truth I want to introduce a concept. Ethnically Quaker.
The term is not my own. A friend first used this in my presence at the retreat in Burlington. We used it to discuss how as individuals who come from Quaker stock, have a tendency as young adults we tend to drift away but cannot imagine being anything else. The ethnic Quaker is a term which to me has a softer tone than Birthright...because you are what you are, imbued with certain attributes based on how you were raised. I also don't see the type of person who loves to shove every one's noses in their birthrightness as using the term ethnically Quaker very often. However, I do think that us ethnic Quakers have an ingrained feel of Quakerism. We know when its right or wrong even if we can't tell you what that is. Sometimes I worry that convinced Friends rely too much on the theoretical ideal of Quakerism making it too cerebral when the theoretical underpinnings of Quakerism are only a fraction of the whole. I am not entirely convinced you can know Quakerism until you have truly felt the stirrings of the Spirit of the living God. Because being a minister (as we all are in Quakerism) means feeling the touch of God. The Nudge. The Stirring. The Calling. The Test. But it is a connection to the Spirit of Life, that of God in you and the experiential--unless you get a little mystical, unless you let God in--regardless of what you call it, you won't get Quakerism. It is not purely theoretical.