YOU ARE NOT A QUAKER! (Dramatic Reading & Explanation)

For those of you who don’t know me, here’s a little taste of what it’s actually like to talk to me.  Let’s not forget I’m Philadelphian (aka crude and a straight forward to a fault) and that no one should be taking themselves too seriously here, especially me.

Also, my Elder/friend/housemate encouraged me to cope something I explained to him, which is that when I growled “You are not a Quaker”, both in my writing and in this video, I was playing with a petty internal voice I have that speaks from a place of pain and despair.  This pain formed right before I left Seminary because I felt dejected that I was dedicating my life to a Society that appeared to be without real meaning, or at least where no one would take a stand for it’s value.

Now those wounds are largely healed, and I’m less interested in working with Quakers for the sake of the religion, instead grappling with the question of how a group of terribly privileged people who claim to care about justice (make no mistake, I indict myself) can transition from mostly corroborating systems of oppression to a group that actively and practically undermines them.  As I understand Spirit, it seems that if we are Listening, this transition would happen.  So… I can’t help but think there are things inhibiting our Listening.  This is why my pamphlet exists.   So, if you’re interested, there’ll be more on this later, but now I need to rest up for the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference!

Blessings,

Maggie

Posted in Maggie's Naked Blog | 14 Comments

14 Responses to YOU ARE NOT A QUAKER! (Dramatic Reading & Explanation)

  1. Emily says:

    Maggie,

    It means a lot that you are taking the time to respond to people’s posts and clearly the host of concern, affirmation, questions, pain and joy that this blog inspired! I hope you know that while many folks might disagree with how you went about saying what you did, it has stirred more discussion than I (and it sounds like you) expected.

    I imagine being the lightening rod for others is a hard and perhaps humbling experience, but you are catalyzing important conversations.

  2. oliver danni says:

    I love that you made this post. Both the way you explained it, and that you didn’t apologize. I definitely feel like I understand your message in a deeper way now. The tone (and possibly also the hair) make a huge difference. :)

    I do think one disconnect that may be occurring is that the perspective of someone who grew up in Quakerism is different from someone who came to Quakerism later in life. I often feel this when I’m around groups of young adult Friends; most YAFs were raised Quaker, in my experience. I do think this has a lot to do with what you’re saying — that people are failing to be attracted to Quakerism because it lacks OOMPH, and young adults in particular tend to be attracted to OOMPH. But I also think that it’s a lot easier to say “Quakerism should be like THIS” if you’ve identified as a Quaker since childhood, and I think that’s dangerous because so many of the people who have the OOMPH that we* need don’t have a strongly held Quaker identity and if they* hear “You’re not welcome” they*’re going to go somewhere else, while the oomphless masses will be the ones who stick around and go “Nope, you’re wrong, let’s complain about it (since that’s easier than changing!)”

    I’m not sure that was entirely coherent, but maybe? :)

    *I include myself in both “we” and “they” here.

  3. Thank you for your post, Maggie. I totally relate to what you’re saying. I am not a Quaker, but was recently drawn toward reading the works of George Fox, William Penn and other early Quakers from the http://www.hallvworthington.com site. However, in my seeking conversations and fellowship with many who do call themselves Quakers, I’m finding mostly talk about politics, intellectualism, secular history lessons and local infighting. When I ask about the divine light of Christ as the living Word of God and the perfecting of believers who earnestly seek transformation, I hear mostly the sound of crickets in the background. So don’t know if I will find a meeting place or join any local groups. I will continue to wait on the Lord in silence, read the Bible and the early Quaker writings and hope to meet other like-minded seekers along the path. But they may not call themselves Quakers or affiliate with any man-made organizations.

  4. Daniel says:

    Hey Maggie,
    Thank you for taking the time to respond both to my comment personally, and all the comments in general. I apologize if my criticism was harsh or poorly worded, but I stand by the sentiment of it. I watched your vlog (do you say it “vee-log”, or “vlog”, like blog? I ask, because I’m generally a luddite of sorts. Wait, nevermind…I don’t need to know), and I thought it was interesting. While I share your general concern in ways, I am still unclear on the ‘common premise’ that unites us as Quakers. It is the seeming lack of said premise that you seem to be concerned about, yes? If it’s the vague radical transformation that you speak of, I’m not sure many or even most Quakers are interested in that, which would disqualify it as a common premise. In my experience, a common premise would defeat the purpose of direct, individual, and continuing revelation, though I do share your concerns about a lack of shared vision among many Quakers. Feel free to correct me if I am misunderstanding. Thanks for your time.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      Hey Daniel!

      Sorry it’s been a little while since you posted. Verizon ironically chose this time in my life to totally stop providing internet to my house/neighborhood so I’ve had little opportunity to use the interwwebs. (And three cheers to the luddites amongst us!)
      Anyway, I am a verbal processor and see in your most recent response the way that my particular way of speaking can be misleading in terms of the real seed of my concern.
      My concern doesn’t lie in whether or not we have a shared premise as a faith. I used to think my life was about working on Quakerism, but figured out midway through seminary that this is NOT actually my Call.

      My true central concern is how I and other people of relative privilege (like most U.S. Friends) could possibly feel invited into our own liberation such that we would actually, actively, practically begin to pursue it here and now in our own lives. All my studying of liberation and oppression in our world history has shown me that this process among people of privilege is a fundamental aspect of the liberation of others and perhaps the most that we could ever do for alleviating the disempowerment and dominance of others who were born into social locations of less power/privilege. I.e. We are not going to heal the wounds of this earth by trying to fix the situation of the oppressed, or “feeding the hungry” so to speak (although this kind of band-aid work is *really* helpful in the meantime), but instead by looking at ourselves and the rest of the world’s owning class, addressing why we take so much and consider others so little. How this work looks is up to the individuals’ leading.

      This is *the* central concern because I think it’s what Jesus is talking about. I think it is the vision g-d has for the world and the work that lies before us as co-creators. I can’t imagine that the faith-life would take us down any other road than one that is for the greater wholeness of all. Many would agree with me in theory, and THAT is a problem, that it always seems to stop at theory (true in my own life too).

      Although this work can look a million different ways, and I believe EVERY avenue of undoing oppression is a valid and necessary one, I also believe that there is a necessary transition from being theoretically pro-liberation but outwardly a passive participator in the wide-spread practices and systems of brokenness to instead being a self-aware, committed *agent* or actor, who has found the power to make decisions based on their individual (or ideally, communal and Spirit-lead) vision of Righteousness and wholeness and mutual empowerment and sharing etc etc.

      If we don’t make that transition than we just continue to unconsciously act according to our training, which almost certainly continues/reinforces the systems of oppression.

      The main concern then is (which in my mind floats around in all caps): WHAT THEN INSPIRES THAT INITIAL TRANSITION!??!?! ARGGHHH!?!??!?! (Groan of frustration and sense of impossible ignorance)

      We have seen examples of that switch across the world and across time, in different cultures and different kinds of critical moments, including in many Friends throughout our history, from Eccles or Dyer or Fry to Woolman to Norman Morrison.

      In my understanding, this moment of transformation or transition is related to the earlier understandings of “convincement” experiences and our current lack thereof. I also believe that it is a transition that can be nurtured and made way for, not just left up to fate (!!!!!!!!). This was a Quaker institution (not in the PYM sense, but according to the definition “A custom, practice, relationship, or behavioral pattern of importance in the life of a community or society”). And, it still *is* an intention and practice among many Friends of all stripes and of all faith and practices.
      My intention in my blog was to name that, not because it is important to have something that defines us, but to strengthen our own recognition of this thing that *is* shared amongst many, and (according to my understanding) which helps us on our journeys towards that transition from participating in oppression, to truly living for liberation.

      The only point of having such common ground or “common premise” is that there is more power in doing this together than individually (which is just one example of how many U.S. Friends blindly adopt the wider U.S. paradigm).

      And, quite frankly, the other motivation for my instigating is that I have seen and heard many many many a Friend fervently wish that they were getting some help or support and/or being seen by their community in their own struggles along these lines.
      What the hell is wrong with us that those Friends who are on this path to transformation through their relationship with the Divine have felt out in the cold on their own?

      Pathetic.

      If I wasn’t married to Quakerism, I would have never found it in me to forgive her for this shortcoming… but since I’m committed, I am here to work on these flaws till it kills me, or I’m kicked out. ;D

      Now you see what I was trying to say? Of course I would love to tussle more with you about this if you have more in you to offer.

      Love and Faith and more Hope than I’ve felt in a long time,
      Maggie

      • Daniel says:

        Hello again Maggie,
        Thank you for taking the time to elucidate your argument(s) further. I think I understand your position now, at least more clearly than I did before, and for the most part, I agree with you. I think your original reply to my comment was correct in the medium here getting in the way of the message; the internet, for being excellent at improving the quantity of communication, has yet to provide us with a way to improve the quality.
        Personal and boring anecdote that may or may not be germane to the conversation: I am a newly convinced Quaker. I knew nothing of Quakers before I started researching them, except that two exceptionally awful Presidents were Quakers, and that Quakers were generally pacifists. Being someone who Is/was generally against both Presidents and pacifism, this was not an auspicious start. However, Quakerism was, theoretically, the happy medium of belief between my wife and I, and a Meeting about the only church-type place she expressed any level of comfort in attending. So, I figured we would go, and I would sit through it, and then eventually we would be able to find a ‘real’ church (being raised Catholic, my idea of church was not sitting still for an hour; however, for moral reasons, I couldn’t go back, blah blah blah). Skipping to the end: once I became convinced, I was very happy, but also a bit confused, at least at first. Why did it take me so long to find Quakerism? How is it that I (and most people) knew so little about this? Why was I the only man wearing a button up shirt to my Meeting? Big questions.
        There’s a double edged sword here. In my view, Quakerism’s biggest strength is that it provides a way for G-d to meet people wherever they are (and vice versa) because a lack of formalized creeds, especially in liberal Meetings. This is so important for new folks who may be unsure about religion or G-d in general. The negative side is that so little emphasis is placed on consensus of any sort, at least theologically, that it becomes hard to mobilize any sort of action corporately. Proverbially speaking, to me anyway, it often seems like a lot of babies, with little to no bathwater; in this, it fails newcomers, as it provides precious little for them to define themselves in relation to. If their faith isn’t well-formed or self-directed going in, there is a fair chance that it will never develop at all, making the transition you speak of nearly impossible.
        I can only speak of my experience, and though I love my Meeting and find it to be filled with well-intentioned and kind people, many of them don’t seem interested in a relationship with G-d (or the Divine, or the Light, or whatever euphemism you like). They love the Peace Testimony, they love vegetarian potlucks, and they love bumper stickers. They write letters, and sign petitions, and hold our leaders (such as they are) in the Light. They are concerned, thoughtful, and hopeful folks overall. But like most people, they don’t want to be transformed, mobilized, or even challenged most of the time. Quakerism gives them a place to go that looks like a church, and acts like a church, but isn’t really a church. Maybe that’s just my Meeting, but I suspect not. I think that this can be (and is) a nice thing and a good thing, but it worries me.
        How to inspire the transition that you speak of? How to get others to want the profound transformation you want, that I want? How to overcome the pitfalls of bureaucracy, inertia, and minutia that keep us from the real work of manifesting G-d’s Kingdom here and now, in tiny rooms in front of glowing boxes? I have no idea, but the questions themselves have given me a lot to think about, so for that, and the opportunity to ask them, I thank you. If I come up with anything, I’ll let you know.

        Your friend,
        Daniel

        • Maggie Harrison says:

          Daniel– It is clear to me that you and I are walking together on this path. It is a pleasure to have your company! Now that we know we are not alone in these questions, let us then see what love can do. –Maggie

  5. Abigail Horn says:

    Dear Maggie,
    I got the chance to see you at the Quaker Youth Leadership Confrence. I dont think i posses the words to say how much your and Jon Watt’s words affected me. I’ve always thought of myself as an atheist and that i just happened to go to a Quaker school. But your beautiful point of view has changed the way i view Quakerism at its base. I love the idea of naked spirituality and being able to trust someone and be vulnerable with other humans. The new found faith and love that you have given me is impossible to describe in words. The QYLC and your words have given me the confidence to explore parts of my being Ive always been afraid of. I suppose what im trying to say is thank you thank you thank you.
    -Abby

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      Abigail, this post affirmed that it is worthwhile and GOOD for me to do this work, even if I am earning less that 200$ a month doing it and getting by on barely more than a prayer. I always want to believe the promise of the Sermon on the Mount that if we just act in faith, it’ll all work out, but sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s worthwhile. Your post helps me keep on. Thank you so much.

      Matthew 6:25-34
      “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
      27Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
      28″So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
      31″Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  6. Kelly says:

    Please continue to blog. You have an important voicethat the Quaker community needs right now. I’m guessing you have gotten some criticism from “you are not a Quaker”. Just know that you also have supporters. I’m a new Quaker. Was drawn to Friends based on studying and reading about the Society of Friends. My local Meeing is small, liberal, and….safe/bland. I had hoped that once I officially “joined” I’d be let in to some secret, transformational element of the group. But that wasn’t the case.
    I’m not going to leave because I believe in “getting naked” even though I find it incredibly intimidating. Even though my meeting doesn’t appear to care about getting naked I can try on my own and I can stay tuned in to Quakers like you, who want the same thing.
    So thank you. Please keep blogging/talking/teaching/writhing. Do not be discouraged. you are being led. The world needs you, me, and others like us. Together we can shine the light and undermine the systems of oppression.
    Peace to you!

  7. mer says:

    My experience is like Daniel’s. We are not in the same meeting but we might as well be. The only difference is I started the memebrship process and ended it last night. I have a heavy heart. I have had a few long cries. there will be more. I am spiritually homeless. I have two suggestions.
    1. I cannot find a donate button on your blog/website. I think people would want to contribute to what you are trying to do. Atleast help with your travel expenses and getting the word out. But it might not be what you want.
    2. Would you be interested in going to meetings that under PYM (would be closer to you) as a Adult First Day Class? I think what used to be my meeting would benefit from having you. I will be suggesting this to them but I do not see any contact info for you.

    Please keep going. No matter what.

  8. Sarah Southwell says:

    Yes yes yes !!!!!! Hello my freind :D I get ya!!! Big love … Keep up the good work !! Xxx

  9. Nik says:

    Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou! You are so right! I have considered having nothing further to do with Quakers because the wishywashy new age humanist crowd have taken away any meaning from it, so that it no longer represent anything solid. Things like this make me think maybe it’s worth staying on board! Peace x

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