Friday, August 08, 2014

A Word of Thanks

My Daily Kos post of yesterday received nearly 300 comments. Before I get started, I want to thank a couple of people on the boards who came to my aid in the midst of many sarcastic, short-sighted, and skeptical comments. I also want to thank Birmingham Friends Meeting, who provided me moral support when I was trying to put out about eight fires simultaneously. I love you deeply and miss you tremendously.

If I were a first generation Quaker, I'd know immediately that I'd be living a hard life, one where I'd be on trial often and in jail frequently. Systems were in place to supervise children whose parents were in jail. Having stated the history, I pray for the courage and the peace of mind to respond to those who have their own issues with organized religion. If I am to be faithful to the courageous Friends who came before me, I know that I must speak my mind in the face of criticism.

This is my responsibility. The founder of Quakerism, George Fox, deliberately interrupted Anglican church services, convinced that his way was the best and most accurate. Unlike Fox, I happen to believe that no faith or lack of faith is any better or any more superior. But, I take great pride in what I believe. It forms the basis of my identity. Should I share it with others, the intent is never to win converts. Suspicion and fear take us in directions that are not healthy. If all a person knows to do is start punching or criticizing, this leaves no room for mutual understanding.

To some, it seems tough and empowering to flex muscles and fight fire with fire. I'm not out to judge, but what I will say is that no one really ever took the opportunity to make the connection that I was seeking. If it had been up to me, we'd have discussed the link between our very religious First Wave feminists, and the skepticism of organized religion that exists among many today. But being that no one even gave me the opportunity, everyone started projecting their own fears instead. I don't think many of them really understand religion at all, aside from it being some Bogeyman.

The criticism I have received since then is pretty tone-deaf. Some want to pin a transgression or two upon me that isn't accurate. I have no inclination to have a war of words with people who aren't listening anyway. If they ever could look outside of their insular worldview, a dialogue could be opened. But instead, they want to be right. Diplomacy isn't about right or wrong.

Feministe is barely functioning as it is. Sometimes it goes a whole week before being updated. Their approach to me is hardly an insult, but it is a wasted opportunity. Let's really talk. Let's not return fire. I don't think certain people are really capable of being anything more than attack dogs.


semiMennonite said...

Sometimes weeds must be cleared before the ground can be planted.

I think you did well in opening up space for discussion and dialogue in your DKos diary. I mean usually when people attempt to open discussion on a topic with heartfelt precommittments the potential for all out pie fights is extremely high. Fortunately, that did not occur. In my experience, there are not many topics with stronger heartfelt precommitments than religion and feminism.

People often wind up or start out trying to shout down each other on each one of these topics, yet you went for the golden ring in the stars. It's not wrong to shoot high, but it can take some time to get there!

Having said that, I'd be very interested in discussing how religion, the Quaker experience in particular, promotes feminism. My ears are open-- so there's that.

Comrade Kevin said...

I will certainly try my best before I depart for Worship.

Quakerism was very controversial for its time for actively engaging women as part of Meeting for Worship. A critic named Samuel Johnson noted, sarcastically, that seeing a woman preach was like seeing a dog balancing on its hindlegs. It was not done well, but one marveled that it could be done at all.

The founder of Quakerism was a man named George Fox. He married a strong feminist named Margaret Fell. Fell was quite wealthy and owned an estate called Swarthmore Hall. She essentially bankrolled the new Quaker movement and provided guidance.

First Wave feminists like Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony were also deeply feminist in orientation.

The only time men and women were separated was out of consideration for Quaker women. They felt uncomfortable speaking with such honesty around their husband or boyfriends.

When I was a child, the very thought of a female minister could start a controversy. Since I've been a Friend, this has never been a problem. In fact, a majority of those in leadership positions and even in attendance are women.

semiMennonite said...

So, historically, Quakers have been instrumental in promoting women to equal status in their congregations and in society? That is a plus.

I only know Quaker history from my general knowledge of religious history, which leaves me as an outsider peering in (like a religious voyeur? eeewww! lol) at the Quaker experience. I have some knowledge of-- what Quaker doctrine? or the Quaker approach? I don't know which is the appropriate terminology-- from historical accounts of quietism. But it is an "I-it" relationship, not an "I-thou" relationship, which I would like to attain, if possible, before I attempt any evaluative conclusions. In some ways I recognize that may not be possible as your mystical experience seems very personal, perhaps ineffable. So I'm limited in my attempt to enter into your world by seeing with your eyes, or hearing with your ears, or thinking your thoughts with you on this journey. So you have to be my guide for understanding the Quaker side of how the Quaker experience relates to feminism.

Also there is the question of what is "feminism". Since I am male, and so are you (I believe) that becomes problematic. I am shut out by gender limitations from any experiential understanding of what it means to be so tied to earthy experience through hormonal fluctuations, or the nine month process in birth giving, or limited role expectations, or income pressures merely due to gender, to name a few. There is also the question of how one experiences oneself--the self evaluative process (what is the feminist view of being a "good" woman, or is their even one as every woman should decide for themselves? But how does one even begin the process, what is the evaluative basis for each individual to decide?). There is the possibility of anarchy (maybe not so bad?)or even total confusion with complete freedom. There is also the possibility of "Feminist fadism" where people get led around by the nose by what is preferred by the feminist groups they belong too, thus while proclaiming freedom they are really enslaved by social pressure. How does the Quaker experience relate to these issues? Perhaps we would need females with this experience to know?

I must break for now, and I don't want to overwhelm you. But I wish the feminists on Dkos and elsewhere would explore these questions as it would be helpful and enlightening.