A Friend After 50 Years

A record of one journey into a peculiar type of Quaker Christianity, and a bit of silliness to boot.

Name:
Location: Arkansas

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You Might be a Slaker if....

Friends, I'm throwing in the towel. “Uncle,” I cry. Its time for me to admit I’ve made a mistake and to take appropriate action. What mistake did I make? I attached myself to a Religious Society in which it is either a) terribly unclear what it means to be a member or b) it is clear, but many of us, myself included, don’t share in that clarity. And one thing I crave is clarity, as hard as it is to come by.

So my solution is to simply admit that I cannot with any integrity claim to be one of those critters that goes by the appellation of “Quaker.” (And as you’ll soon find out “integrity” is one of those things I want to hang on to) There’s a lot to like about the way Quakers do things, but there is so much disagreement about the proper outer boundaries of inclusiveness that I think it best to simply stake out my own boundaries and invite others of like mind to join. I don't want to turn the Quakers into the Unitarians (see below for heart wrenching details). Howard Brinton once wrote that the world may need a “Quaker-like religion.” Don’t press me for the source, but I’m sure I read it somewhere. I am now ready to found such a religion. What I propose will share many of the characteristics of Quakerism, mostly in the “practice” department.

Now I’m not really proposing a schism here. Its just that I do have a decent respect for the opinions (as Tom Jefferson might have said) of those who want to preserve Quakerism As They Understand It. Whether that is truly possible or not is for them to work out. I can’t figure it out and my brain hurts from trying. So this isn’t a new branch of Quakerism. It’s a new religion altogether.

So welcome to the formational meeting of the Religious Society of Blends. We are also commonly known as the “Slakers.” The latter term refers to our desire and willingness to slake our spiritual thirst, and our belief that our practices can help us do that. We believe that if we show up and do the practices, God (or divine energy or the Tao) will take care of the rest. Some wags may wish to point out the similarity to the term “Slackers.” That's fine, as we are proudly slack in our devotion to theology. Oh, we may dabble in it, and perhaps even discuss – or when we are feeling particularly bold -- debate it! But we do so only in a spirit of fun, enjoying the many possible variations and points of view, much like jazz musicians seeking yet another possible improvisational riff.

You may have any sort of religious or non-religious point of view, although we do ask that you don’t take yourself too seriously. (You may take your religion as seriously as you like, its yourSELF we’re asking you not to get overly prepossessed with). Be prepared to respect others’ outlook. We are a religion, by the way, and if you can’t abide anyone using religious language, we understand, but perhaps you’d be happier in another society, the Spakers, perhaps...

What we do request is that you adhere to our practices as faithfully as possible (though we understand we will all often fall short, which will be an occasion for good-natured laughter). These practices are ones which we have borrowed from “the Quakers” (and a grateful nod of appreciation to them!) They include silent worship, meetings for business, and the like.

We do have a loosely defined notion about spiritual guidance. We ask that you not speak unless you feel led by something more exalted than your everyday chattering mind. We think you know what we mean by that, and as you progress in our society your understanding will grow deeper and you’ll get it even more. You can call that “something” whatever you like, as long as you understand that others may call it something else.

We also have testimonies, and they are the SPICE testimonies, dag nabbit. That’s right the SPICE testimonies. SPICE. Got that? (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality). We like acronyms. We borrowed this one from some Quakers, although not all....oh, never mind!

Now, as open-minded and tolerant as all of the foregoing may seem, we have some definite proscriptions. The following rules (yes, rules!) Must Be Observed among the Religious Society of Blends:

1. Wednesday is “Plain Dress Day.” This means you must forego wearing T-shirts bearing messages of any kind (particularly political ones) from sunup to sundown. Hey, one day isn’t gonna kill you!

2. Bumper stickers: you may have 2 on any one bumper. No more. Why? Because its just good to have a few boundaries, that’s all.

3. Thou shalt not string colored yarn formlessly about trees and bushes. Or anywhere else for that matter.

4. And you shall surely refrain from calling it a “tapestry” much less a “blessed” one. In fact, don’t ever even say the word “tapestry.” I believe it was the Unitarians that started this, or maybe the Wiccans – at any rate, it wasn’t us and we don’t wish to be guilty of cultural appropriation (except from Quakers!). (If you’re wondering what’s in my bonnet, I’m a recovering Unitarian, you see, and I have a lot of pain around this -- for reasons that are mostly inexplicable). You may use the word "blessed" however.

5. Violators of any of the foregoing rules shall be gleefully pelted with silken tofu.

Ah there, I’ve now established a religion for me -- just the way I like it. I’m ready for new members to come flooding in. Helloo? Anyone there? Hello?



No? OK, then, I’m willing to compromise a little. The yarn people can join. OK, OK, three bumper stickers and plain dress day ends at noon -- but that’s my final offer....

11 Comments:

Blogger Laurel said...

i'm proud to say i've down to one bumper sticker on my car. it says, "let me show you how we do it in the trailor park." how neutral! i'm proud of myself. i'm a quaker by birth, but i think i can sign up for a couple of days as a slaker. i really really truely hate silken tofu. i can't imagine a worser fate.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Welcome Laurel. See Friends, how our numbers have doubled! Even if only for a few days....

8:51 AM  
Blogger earthfreak said...

I was totally with you until you got to the colored yarn thing.

On the other hand, I don't even have a car, let alone bumperstickers! I want a religion for people with no cars (I'm only mostly kidding about that one, actually!)

Your posts (usually) make me smile

Pam

11:32 AM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Yes, got a little cranky there, didn't I? I'm a bit of an aesthetic snob, I admit. A friend studying chaos theory said beauty occurs at the border of order and chaos. The yarn thing at FGC was just too much of the latter for my tastes. But hey, if you'll note I relented in the end!

11:59 AM  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Oh, I didn't actually see the thing at FCG, I thought it was all theoretical! I just like bright colors, and any restriction on them could be problematic!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

As a Quaker (of sorts) I'm here to straighten you out about the meaning of the word:

No Society has a corner on the word.

There may be an irreducible minimum of doctrine or values: I include"
that of God in everyone
love peace rather than war
answer the question: "what dost thou say?"

Re organizations? Strictly optional.

I try to be a Quaker in the above sense, and perhaps a few others do. George F may have made a close approach. I like to stick closely to him.

Don't ever let anyone tell you whether you are a Quaker or not.

Thanks for trying to provide support for poor ole Lorcom.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Larry,

Thanks for straightening me out. Its about time someone did.

I went a bit over the edge there. It was a discussion on another blog about Why Christianity is Better Than ____ that sent me over. Thats a button-pusher for me, I must say.

And, I'm ashamed to admit, there was also a piece in that discussion about true followers of Christ putting themselve in harms way by challenging the powers. I admit, I'm a punk when it comes to that. It really has gotten me thinking though about whether I'm walking the walk.

Much easier to just build a religion that ends at my current comfort zone! I'm sure I didn't invent that idea, though.

As for Lor, hope he gets out and enjoys the sun for awhile, if there's any to be had his way.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Pam,

Yeah, that would be a silly, poor gospel, to coin a phrase!

David

1:17 PM  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Just had to let you know that I worked with middle schoolers at my yearly meeting this year, and the leader had the idea to wrap string around trees, but couldnt' find a suitable tree, so we wrapped the tallest middle schooler, and a great time was had by all.

Just gotta be flexible..

:)

Pam

2:23 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Pam,

But you didn't call it a "Blessed Tapestry" did you? If so, I'll have to notify the Silken Tofu Committee.

David

7:23 PM  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Naw, what did we call him? the "tree of trust" and we did it right before the kids report to the larger meeting and brought him in that way, but failed to really come up with any sort of explanation as to why we did it, so we just presented him and left, leaving the rest of the adults deciding between amusement and bafflement, I think. It was all great fun. (and hopefully not worrying any of the parents! I love young teenagers!)

Our theme was blessed community something. I'm not so into themes. My first Gathering we sang this "peace I ask of thee, oh river" song over and over and over again because the "motto" was a line from the song. I'd never heard the song before, and after a week, I never wanted to hear it again (it's been almost ten years and I still don't) though I think had it not been so very overdone I would have liked it fine.

Pam

8:13 PM  

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