Saturday, November 21, 2009

All in favor

This is, I think, version seven of my response post to the comments on the last post—not because they were hurtful, painful, or otherwise Bad. There was just a lot of there there in those comparatively simple responses, and it's hard to know where to start.

My earlier versions include ruminations on granfalloons and foma, on divine will, and on community. I will probably try these on as separate posts later, but Ingrid and I had a good discussion a little bit ago that got down to what to me is an even more nubby question:

Why is it hard to create a statement endorsing a fact that already exists on the ground?

To wit, our Friends Meeting already includes a number of non-theists, myself included, and has been welcoming to us since I've been around (and I know some of the others have been around for a lot longer). We also have a bunch of other "hyphenated" Quakers in our midst, from Episco-Quakes to Pagan Friends; Buddhists, Jews... we are a very welcoming place. SO (and I know this sounds like a rhetorical question, but it's not): why is it so hard for us to actually say that that is part of what we are, when it is in fact part of what we are?

Similarly, we care for our members. In the case of members with chemical sensitivities, we have agreed as a meeting to bend over backwards to make the recent meetinghouse renovation as clean of volatile compounds as possible. We have a standing statement asking people to not wear fragrance into the meetinghouse. So what is that makes codifying, issuing a minute to this effect, so hard? Seriously.

I have a few ideas.

One is our aversion to codification. Given the Friends' historic problems with credal statements, we feel the need to be really clear, extra super clear, about anything that says, "this is what we are."

Another is personal vs group differences. We are each willing to put forward the effort we feel we can make to support our Friends, to listen to them and accept them on their own merits. But group stuff? That is harder work, because we are submitting then to the will of the group...

And this gets to the heart of several of the comments on the last post: Quakerism is not bound up in submitting to the will of the group. It is bound up in the group submitting to the will of God. And we have a hard enough time getting ourselves around submitting to the will of God as individuals.

We educated liberal moderns deeply deeply distrust anything that puts itself up between us and the Truth. Echoes of Nuremburg rallies, lynch mobs, and blacklists come up when something does. It's like being afraid to swim (I can testify to this): the fear of not being able to find the bottom with your feet. It is a deep and systemic distrust of mediation of any kind. And going from individual care through a group to submission is really really scary, even more than simply submitting oneself to that will.

And I will add that Divine Will is an even harder thing to deal with when some of your membership doesn't believe in a God that possesses "will." I think it's not impossible (yet another upcoming post, sheesh), but definitely challenging.

And when am I going to get back to talking about maps?


Bill said...

You've touched on it. Stating out loud what the group is or is not organized around is a "creed," a statement of belief about the way things are or should be. And if one's creed is to be "non-creedal" the contradiction turns in on itself. That's a hard thing to deal with. Common beliefs energize groups.

And we can spend so much time and energy dealing with individual's needs that we fail to tend to the needs of the group as a whole.

RantWoman said...

Excellent description of the problem

Jeanne said...

My comment was too long, so I posted it on my own blog here.