Monday, November 03, 2014

The Quaker Points Game

This article, "The Quaker Points Game", is part of the recently published November 2014 edition of Friends Journal. Its author is Richard House. I've posted it here to show my non-religious readers that Liberal Unprogrammed Quakers are not as dissimilar to them as they may think. Though designed for a Friendly audience, I think those of liberal sentiment can see similarities to their own lives. I have abbreviated this article considerably.

The Quaker Points Game

Most of us play it out loud. We think to ourselves, She drives a Prius; that is good, and we give her some positive points in our head. He came to work day, and that is really good—give him two points. A wonderful, rich, homemade chocolate cake for potluck: extra good, and we give her five extra points for that because we really love that chocolate cake and hope she brings it every week! 

Here are some more examples of what will earn you points in what I call the Quaker Points Game:

  • You serve on more than one committee in your meeting.
  • You live simply and drive an old car (or a hybrid). 
  • You have gone to one or more protests in the last year.
  • As a man, you wear a beard.
  • You compost and keep a garden.
Check, check, check! In this game, we give out and collect points for these things, keeping a mental tally in order to determine who is a “good Quaker.” Some believe that you are a really good Quaker if you satisfy any of the following:

  • You have solar panels on your roof.
  • You are a vegetarian.
  • You are a clerk or are willing to teach First-Day School (huge points for either activity).
  • You keep chickens.
I’ve noticed among the Quakers I know that we generally agree on what behaviors or activities make someone a good Quaker or really good Quaker. These positive-point-earning items tend to be fairly easy to see and to check off on a list in our head. There are good Quakers and there are...uh oh, what do we call the others besides “bad”? Maybe “not-good-yet”? How about “still-evolving” or “questionable” Quakers? 

If we’re awarding positive points, then we must be giving out negative points as well—ouch! But we don’t want to go there. We really do not like to look at our own dark sides or to acknowledge how making such general judgments may marginalize members of our faith community. But what if we did examine some of the stereotypes of what makes someone a “bad Quaker”?

  • You smoke cigarettes. It’s bad for your health, the environment, kids, and the world—negative five points.
  • You drive a fancy car. Definitely minus points for this; it’s not in following with the simplicity testimony. 
Maybe the Quaker Points Game is pointless. Why judge a person—explicitly or implicitly—by the job he has or the car she drives? Sometimes we turn good people away with our generalized negative judgments of what we think is bad. The Light is found in even the strangest of places, and we need to be open to it in everyone.

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