Because I’m focusing on NaNoWriMo and writing 50,000 words of fiction this month, I thought I’d pull up a few posts from the archives. This particular post was written about 3.5 years ago and was part of my OC Pilgrimage series, where I attended various churches and visited religious sites in Orange County and reported on them. I’m reposting this to reflect on my current association with the OC Friends Meeting as CatGirl and I prepare to be its representatives in DC.
Liberal Quakerism is in many ways the antithesis of modern Mormonism, which is probably why I like to escape to the local Meeting on occasion. Jana shares some of my sentiments–she’s said many times that if she weren’t born into the LDS Church she’d be a Quaker. If I have a second church home, it’s the Orange County Friends Meeting.
I have to make a distinction between liberal and other types of Quakerism here. There are various flavors within the greater Society of Friends, such as the Evangelical Friends who have structured (“programmed”) meetings, permanent ministers and basic creeds concerning Jesus’ divinity. The Meeting I visited is of the “unprogrammed” variety within the Liberal Quaker tradition. There are no creeds, no ministers, and no real structure to worship.
The OC Meeting meets in downtown Santa Ana, on the 2nd floor of a run-down office building. They could meet in a non-descript suburban strip mall or office park, but they’ve chosen to situate themselves in an urban environment. They support programs for at-risk youth within the same community. Most of the meeting for worship takes place in a small room, on inexpensive but comfortable chairs arranged in a circle.
So what do you do at a liberal Quaker meeting? Simple! You sit.
Well, you also listen. And sometimes, when lead by the Spirit, you speak.
But mostly you just sit and listen.
Over the space of about an hour (I got there a bit late), I counted:
7 people who looked under 40.
One woman over 90 (but didn’t look it).
A dozen hideous feedback screeches from the two hearing aids in her coat pocket.
6-7 cars blaring Latin music (with accordions).
6-7 cars blaring hip hop music (with deep bass).
Male Quaker voices: four.
Female Quaker voices: six.
There was an abundance of speaking because towards the end of the meeting, attendees responded to the “queries” read by the Meeting’s clerk (a woman). The queries consisted of soul-searching questions, in this case regarding seeking and following the Spirit.
The quiet sitting is one of the things I find appealing about the Society of Friends. For all of my affinity to and study of Buddhism, I have a hard time meditating in the Eastern Zen or transcendental ways. Even though liberal Quakers are reluctant to espouse any creeds (and you’ll find them coming from Christian, Jewish and atheist backgrounds), the tradition is rooted in 17th Century English Protestantism. I’ve found that I love meditating in the Christian tradition.
In my mind, Quakerism has a wonderful blend of accessible Christian mysticism–a focus on the experience of “that of God” within every human–and then acting within the world on the revealed light and truth received. This is the tradition, though it has been relatively small in numbers throughout history, that produced William Penn and his great political experiment, suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, prison and social reformers like Jane Adams and Elizabeth Fry, early U.S. patriots like Thomas Paine and Dolley Madison, and countless abolitionists and pacifists. Also Dave Matthews. And Walt Whitman. Note the number of famous female Quakers! This cutting-edge progressivism and powerful activism is the other side of the silent, mystic Quaker coin.
So, to wrap up my Mormon-Quaker comparison:
Where Mormon men wear white shirts and dark suits and women are required to wear skirts or dresses, Quakers dress comfortably in jeans and corduroy and a few pairs of Birkenstocks. This is part of a long tradition of being “plain” in appearance.
Where Mormonism has a strong vertical hierarchy, Quakerism is about the flattest, most egalitarian of religions I know. Everything is run by committee and from what I’ve heard and read, sometimes it’s a miracle that things get accomplished.
Where Mormonism has well-defined gender roles, there is no visible difference between men and women in Quakerism.
Where U.S. Mormon culture can be heavily jingoistic, Quakers deplore war and emphasize the humanity of individuals before their citizenship.
Where modern Mormonism tends to preserve social fossils like second-class status for men of African descent (until 1978) and women (still going strong), Quakerism is sometimes decades (or even centuries) ahead of their time.
You can tell that I’m just a wee bit biased towards the Quakers. Why am I not a Quaker then? Because Mormonism is family.
But I’m not adverse to calling myself a Quakerish-Mormon. A Quaking-Mormon? A QuakMon? I’ll have to puzzle this out…
One of the things I love about MoF is that we’re a pretty small community and don’t attract a lot of trolls. This is not to say we never attract trolls, but when we do, it’s a surprise. There are many sites whose comments I simply don’t read because I don’t want to deal with the douchebaggery that goes on. One of my favorite podcasts, This Week in Law (iTunes link) had an interesting discussion of the reasons why it’s easy to flame people when you don’t see them in person. It’s a long podcast, but I think it’s a good discussion of the many factors. And that may be why MoF is different: most of us, even if we don’t know each other in person, know each other on other sites: I know you from your own blog, from twitter, maybe we IM each other, maybe we’re in the same flickr group. And somehow, that manages to make us more congenial toward each other’s opinions. Or maybe we’re just nicer people than the intarwebs at large.
This vid is NSFW and ROTFL funny.
Late to the party on this one, I know, sorry. It turns out that conservative (read: religious) states have the highest porn rates in the country. Probably because they’re not allowed to have deviant (read: fun) sex at home.
Meanwhile, people living in enlightened areas of the country have other outlets for their sexual urges, since sex is not dirty and can be discussed rationally with one’s partner(s).
This is absolutely priceless. A comic & blog post about Cheney (who, incidentally, “is as ancient as he is evil and he is large amounts of both.”).
dunno how long this will be up, but right now, you can Google stuff in 2001: it’s like a window to the past (most of the links are dead, so you’re really searching Google’s cache, but still fun
So here you go: “Orson Scott Card Wants YOU (To Rise Up Against The Gay Menace). Including such gems as
To those to of you who haven’t read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott card, warning: two spoilers follow.
Spoiler 1: Your childhood was incomplete.
You’ve spent your life imagining diverse races and cultures, and doing a hell of a good job. Yet your inability to imagine true love manifesting between two members of the same sex almost classifies you as retarded in my mind. It’s not even a moral issue. You’re just an idiot to me.
A vid take on MoF’s Sparks:
First up, Stuart Shepard, who I’d not heard of before today but is apparently a member of Focus on the Family’s activism arm, is encouraging everyone to encourage his God to rain on Obama’s acceptance speech. Which seems to me to be incredibly petty: pray for peace? pray for a cure for AIDS? pray for the inconvenience of a guy you’ve never met? Oh, the last one, please.
Next, a funny/geeky break from your morning drear. Carmensita, starring Natalie Portman (who is entertaining, but really you should watch it for the awesome lip-syncing and the incredible translations). Best to watch at full screen to fully appreciate the subtitles. Wonderful in the way that only Internet vids can be: not quite laugh-out-loud funny, but can’t tear your eyes away and must send it to everyone you know funny.
And, back to your regularly scheduled politics (wasn’t that awesome, tho?), This Lawn is Your Lawn, a plea to the next pres to plant a Victory Garden (and to get more citizens to do the same). I just finished planting herbs on my balcony, so this one’s close to my heart.
Sorry I’ve been AWOL recently, I’m in the process of moving. I now have internet (yay!1!) but now need to unpack all the boxes of stuff. Then, I promise, real posts.
it’s silly, i know, but in my attempts to attain the heavenly bliss of nirvana and non-attachment, apple is the tether that keeps me bound to this world, worshipping at adam smith’s altar. curse the ipod mini. in green. only $250::
new year’s resolutions:
i am constantly making lists of unattainable self-improvement goals, but there is something significant in my mind about the new year. perhaps posting these to mindonfire will empower me in their ultimate attainment.
1. family: i will spend more time with my family this year–more date nights with jana, more walks and storytime with my children.
2. spirituality: i will end this year with a daily yoga and meditation habit.
3. health: a) i will walk/jog/run about 30 miles each week (i get to build up to this).
b) i will lose ten more pounds and maintain (i lost almost twenty last year).
c) i will be mostly vegetarian (with occasional exceptions, and with seafood always being okay).
4. economy: i will keep to a strict budget this year.
5. academic: a) i will complete my jerusalem research paper!!! b) i will then turn my focus back to the history of japanese and mormon ancestral rites (and become something of an expert in the development of both). c) i will immerse myself in the study of new testament critical studies. there are several categories of critical scholarship (form, textual, literary, historical, etc.), and i’d like to be conversant in each and be in a position to select one in which to immerse myself in the following year. d) i need to get cracking gaining a better understanding of ritual theory, methodology and theory in the study of religion, and the history of japanese religions. i will create a reading list and stick to it throughout the year.
6. language: a) i will become fairly fluent in french this year. b) i will be able to read the new testament in the (almost) original greek (with some help from a dictionary) by the end of the year. c) i will greatly increase my japanese reading abilities: i will know all 1800+ joyo kanji characters, i will review my classical japanese grammar rules, and i will be able to read the more basic handwritten documents from japan’s edo period.
7. writing: a) i will submit at least five new short stories to at least ten different contests or publications. b) i will also write the rough draft of my first novel. c) i will read at least ten great literary works.
8. mindonfire: a) i will write more often. i’ve decided to write shorter and less thoughtful posts, so the quality may suffer, but an occasional carefully-written post on some personal or social issue will inevitably surface. b) i will move the site from its microsoft back-end to a cheaper php and mysql-based system. c) i will redesign the site (probably during the summer). d) i would like to rss-enable this blog.
9. hobby: i’d like to try my hand at bookbinding and manuscript illumination. i may have to learn some painting and calligraphy along the way.
10. service: i want to volunteer at a library as well as in hospice services. i’m still trying to work this out, but i’m hoping to have some exposure to each. most of the organizations i’ve worked with in the past are more focused on people half-way around the world, and while this is valuable, i would like to work directly with the people i am serving.
so there it is–my list for 2004. i will continue to revise it (it is a snapshot of a list of goals that is ever-changing). here’s a motivational quote to wrap-up this post:
until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. a whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. i learned a deep respect for one of goethe’s couplets:
“whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
from w. h. murray in the scottish himalaya expedition, 1951.
happy new year!::