9/15/2007

I really suck at online dating...

I've recently signed up for an online dating account and have mentioned Quakerism. This is bringing all sorts of people who were raised Quaker out of the woodwork and has lead to some interesting conversations...

I think that talking about early Quaker theology is incredibly practical. Far too many Friends have forgotten that the peace testimony is a practical application of a cohesive interpretation of Scripture. On one end of the spectrum, my First Day School kids don't know that Jesus appears towards the end of the Bible despite being in junior high. On the other end of the spectrum are Friends who still talk about Jesus all the time, but have almost completely abandoned Quaker theology over the years, primarily to water it down to attract more members. But then again, I actually believe in all that early silliness about Christ coming to teach his people himself. In my many years of doing things with non-conservative friends of both kinds, I find that the lack of theological understanding terminally weakens their understanding of Quaker practices. They have to compensate with enthusiasm, which can draw them ever further from the Source. Their silences are shallower on the whole. Theology is the core of our faith, of any faith really, and continuing revelation is not the same thing as making it up as we go along.
I suppose by "conversations" I mean rants, but whatever. I sent this in an email to someone, but decided that it needed to also be posted here. I imagine that I'll get a better conversation out of the blogging community then out of a stranger who is looking for a date.

Love,
Elizabeth Bathurst

12 comments:

RichardM said...

let me be the first to say "Amen." Somebody raised you right. Must have been your mother.

Of course conversation is preferable to a rant. But conversation requires people to listen to each other and when people don't listen then conversation gets replaced by mutual ranting. I think there is a connection between being able to listn to God and being able to listen to other people.

Elizabeth Bathurst said...

Love you too, Daddy.

MartinK said...

Ah-ha, so to uncover your identity we have to go to the personals? I don't think the wife would quite understand that...

I dabbled in the dating services a bit back before it had all moved online. I remember reading an intriguing ad in the paper and then going to listen to the voicemail the seeker had recorded. She described herself then said she was looking for "someone who wasn't too religious, like a Quaker or something." It was obvious that "Quaker" was some sort of code word for someone who liked spirituality but wasn't very serious about it. I get the same vibe when I now hear non-Quakers describe why they're sending their kid to a Friends school.

So are you actually finding any success talking about Quaker theology in a online dating context? That would have been the dating death knell for me ten years ago ("I'll call you sometime"), even in Philadelphia. Has YAF culture and awareness improved so much that this is part of the social discourse these days?

Robin M. said...

I don't know, I got married early enough that I didn't get into this at all. But I wonder if you aren't upfront about the things you really like to talk about, how can the compatibility algorithms work? Or why date someone who isn't interested in the same stuff?

And I like your analysis of compensating for depth with enthusiasm. Personally, enthusiasm is one of the things I look for, in theologians and (formerly) dates. Depth without enthusiasm is boring. Enthusiasm without depth is more entertaining, but not for long.

Not too long ago, I read somewhere that the root of enthusiasm is en-theos - God within-ism. I like that.

Elizabeth Bathurst said...

I admire dedication, but enthusiasm leaves me cold.

Enthusiasm seems entirely motivated by self-interest. I think I picked up this limited definition while studying the conservative response to holiness friends. To me, enthusiasm is: It's so awesome to be doing this right now. Me me me me me. Look at me! I'm doing this awesome thing! Wouldn't it be awesome if you were doing it too? Then it fades, and they move on to something else and get just as excited about it. This bores me to tears. (My father's dedication to chess also bores me to tears, but I can still respect him for it).

Enthusiastic people get frustrated with Quaker process, even when their hearts are in the right place. I'd also love to see everything fixed right now, but I am as accepting of God's timeline as I am of doing whatever it is that he asks of me. I can't say I'm ever really cheerful about it, but I trust it. I have far more respect for the Quakers I have know who have plodded away, working tirelessly for years on the same project because it is what is asked of them, then of those who jump from committee to committee and project to project trying to get things kick-started with their enthusiasm.

Nancy A said...

Online dating is so weird and so cool. In my time, we had to hang out in bars to meet people (yuck). When I met my husband, he was so tanked he saw two of me, was chain-smoking, and was trying to pick up the bartender.

Trust me, the new way is so way better.

Dating is kind of like a dance. You take a step, the other person steps back, then steps forward, then it's your turn. You can't do the spin until you're able to move in step together, until you can feel the rhythm. Does talking about Quakerism fit into the dance where you are? This is the question to ask INMO.

To find a Quaker-type person through online dating, I'd say you just have to *be* a Quaker. That would mean accepting that of God in the other person, without putting into words as such. It would means seeing worth and value, enjoying that person for who he/she is, reflecting their goodness back, accepting their shortcomings. It means submitting to the will of the Spirit and listening for it in the conversations with this person, rather than shopping for a mate the way you'd shop for a refrigerator.

I think that might be what Martin's voicemail person was on about: being "religious" is about talking about yourself, whereas Quakers have at least some reputation for zipping their lips and living the Light.

I think may be what Robin was referring to as well: the living, not the talking. Enthusiasm for a doctrine leaves me cold, but enthusiasm about others, about life, etc. is quite lovely.

It was only because I was looking for the Light in everyone that I met that I recognized it in my husband when I met him.

Or at least the next day when he had *ahem* dried out.

marym said...

Remember what Lib Parker always said when she quoted Mama Ruth "this baby is God's child". I can't take the credit. Hope there is someone special out there who sees how wonderful you are. (maybe a turkish dentist)

Love you sweety.

RichardM said...

I suspect that not everyone reading this is going to understand what you mean by enthusiasm. Anyone who spent twenty years in the South will get it. They should immediately recognize the behavior pattern of young evangelicals who want to tell you about their "awesome" God. It makes people cringe because while it is partly sincere it is also partly a deliberate act that has been trained into them at "Christian" summer camps and the like. It feels like the fake friendliness of a good retail salesperson and this is no coincidence. This sort of partly deluded, partly contrived and partly sincere love of neighbor can be hard to take. Evangelical Christians of this sort can be vaguely like devotees of other cults like the Moonies or the Hare Krishnas.

It's shallow evangelical Christianity at its worst. But at its best evangelical Christians make a sincere attempt to love their neighbor, play fair, work hard, tell the truth, care for their families, and lots of other nice things. A few who get deeply into it actually discover the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount and really are transformed by the message their preachers try so hard to hide from them. When I talk to evangelicals I try to listen carefully to them to hear if they have ever really heard the Master's voice, or if it is all just brainwashing they picked up at Christian camp.

That was a pretty long rant in itself but the point I'm coming around to is that this fake enthusiasm can be distinguished from real enthusiasm. Real enthusiasm is a kind of childlike joy. Think of your grandfather and his electric trains or his B-24s. Think of your mother and her quilting. This kind of enthusiasm makes me smile rather than cringe.

Elizabeth Bathurst said...

That Southern enthusiasm does turn me off quite a bit. I do find it a mix of contrived, deluded and sincere. But I don't think it's limited to Christian Evangelicals. I see the same sort of behavior from young adult converts to the Society. They are really excited about what they've just figured out that they don't care about what they don't know and really really need to tell you about it.

My mother and grandfather have hobbies, which sometimes they find exciting, but I wouldn't use the word enthusiastic about either of them. They've been at their hobbies too long, and neither of them is deluded into thinking that there is something so inherently awesome about HO scale trains that everybody has to come out to the garage to see them.

To me, enthusiasm is like perkiness. I can tolerate it most of the time, but I just don't like it.

I didn't really mean for this post to be about my attempts at online dating, I just thought I'd written a fairly good representation of my thoughts about the importance of theology as a basis for action.

RichardM said...

OK, so there is a good thing which is in some ways similar to the bad thing you call enthusiasm. My point was that some people will be confused because they use the word "enthusiasm" to refer to that other trait some people have.

Since your point about the importance of theology seems to have been missed why don't you just write another post and say it again?

Tanya said...

You write very well.

Elizabeth Bathurst said...

Thanks, Tanya.