Thursday, June 10, 2010

Query to the Faithful

Do pardon this brief post. I'd like to return once more to the recent Young Adult Friends gathering I attended in Kansas by sharing a particularly pertinent anecdote. While in a small group one day, a Friend, as was her wont, told a compelling story. I've mentioned her once before and will yet again use one of her anecdotes to base this post. She, as you may recall, is part of a small minority of Quakers who still keep plain dress. She was also heavily involved in getting the gathering together and making sure everything ran smoothly.

As part of her role in supervising the preparation of meals, she awoke early one morning and entered the kitchen. Much to her dismay, she discovered that the gathering was low on cereal for breakfast. Unless a last-minute grocery store run was undertaken, there would not be enough food to feed those in attendance. So, she and another Friend thus quickly headed to the closest supermarket.

While there, she noticed German Brethren and Mennonites, two groups with members who dress plainly in their own particular fashion for religious reasons. Rather ironically, she instantly placed them and recognized who they were, yet they were unable to do the same. While telling the story, she stressed how one woman kept staring and staring at her, trying desperately to determine to whom she belonged. After a while, the woman gave up, conceding that she was a huge mystery. I found this story fascinating on all sorts of levels. This, to a very large extent, is to me a useful metaphor that shows how others perceive us, regardless of whether we are Quakers or liberal/progressive people of faith.

For my fellow Friends, I pose a query. Most of us may not keep plain dress anymore, but what in particular about that which we display externally to others allows others to know we are Friends? For those who are people of faith, regardless of allegiance, I ask the same question in a slightly different way. In our daily lives, what that we show to the world shows the depths and the plain proof of our belief? We seem to be good at spiritually enriching ourselves internally, but we are often much more private about how we seem in front of others.

I think part of taking a greater role in shaping religious/spiritual discourse requires us to be more open with that which we believe. This starts with us being unafraid to show physical proof to all, not as a means of necessarily seeking to separate ourselves, but certainly not having reservations about how we may or may not be perceived in public. Though some might seek to shame us, we cannot let the fear of being somehow rejected or misunderstood paint us into a corner.

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