When I finally had half a minute to talk with Robin in Boston about her experience at FWCC's Section of the America's gathering in Providence, Rhode Island earlier this month, something she said took a hold of me:
Friends are continuing to ask about, or assume that, Convergent Friends is an internet phenomenon; and there is a concern that the cyber-era of blogs will restrict others who are not connected to the blogosphere from engaging in the conversation.With three hours of time to whittle away in the airport between flights on my own way home from Boston, I found myself scribbling some thoughts about myths that are already floating out there about Convergent Friends and what, if anything, I have to say about them.
One thing I have come to understand about myths, though, is that more often than not, there is a kernel of truth in even our grossest "myth-perceptions." I hope to root out some of that truth and unravel a myth or two along the way, while also demystifying what it is about Convergent Friends that has some of us confused.
Myth 1: Convergent Friends are only on the internet.
TRUTH 1: The passion for Quaker renewal, around which Friends from across the branches are... converging..., has in fact gotten a big boost from cyberspace and the internet. There's no denying that fact. The internet has helped many of us participate in and be witnesses to a phenomenon that is out there among us.
UNRAVELING THE MYTH: The phenomenon and the miracle of transcending the schisms that we have in our history is taking place because of the people in our meetings, not because of the computers in our living rooms.
Friends in our worship groups, in our monthly meetings, in our yearly meetings, and in our institutions are carrying the concern and are helping advance the conversation about deepening our understanding of our shared Quaker heritage.
Maybe the word "convergent" isn't attached to these particular conversations, but when we lay aside the words, we may recognize the movement of the Spirit, blowing across the branches and across our differences, blowing in the same direction... to paraphrase Robin M.
Myth 2: Convergent Friends is a new thing.
TRUTH 2: The word "convergent" is in fact new to most Friends.
UNRAVELING THE MYTH: The passion and the concern to transcend our differences existed before the word "convergent" ever made its appearance in the Quakersphere.
We may need to look at and learn more about organizations, institutions, gatherings, and print materials that have been pursuing this work or have been otherwised engaged in it before the internet became such a hot phenomenon. For example:
Friends World Committee on Consultation, any number of Quaker colleges in the U.S., Earlham School of Religion, Pendle Hill, Woodbrooke, Quaker Books, the World Gathering of Young Friends, the Quaker Women's Theology Conference (written about in this Pendle Hill pamphlet), Friends Journal (of note is the October 2006 special issue focused on "What Are Friends Called To Today?")
the Pendle Hill pamphlet series.
Myth 3: Convergent Friends want to purge Quakerism of nontheists.
TRUTH 3A: Some of what some Friends are wrestling with might be less difficult if all Friends shared a belief in the Divine, but that is not the same as saying nontheists Friends don't or shouldn't have a place at the table.
TRUTH 3B: I myself believe in a Divine Principle, and it is hard for me to engage in certain threads of the conversation with Friends who are nontheist or polytheist. Maybe the reverse is true. There certainly are times when I don't "get" nontheist Quakers. There is a difference, though, between not seeking someone out for counsel and "purging" them from the community.QUESTION: As Convergent Friends dig more deeply into our Quaker heritage and Christian/Spirit-oriented roots, we frequently turn to one other to wrestle with or grapple with ideas that seem to run counter to our current understanding. Do nontheists not feel included in the wrestling...?UNRAVELING THE MYTH: Not all Convergent Friends on the internet or in our meetings believe in (one) God, and some of these Friends may not see themselves as Convergent but are contributing greatly to the conversation. A few examples:By the nature of these posts and the number of comments in response to them, it appears to me that nontheist Friends, Quaker Pagans, and others are indeed part of the body.
SPLICE?, in which Pam wonders if Love is a testimony; Christian language and Tolstoy's onion, by Peter; and The place of the past in the Quaker present, by Zach.
Myth 4: Convergent Friends is a Quaker melting pot.
TRUTH 4. There is indeed a form of "coming together" among Friends from the different branches who are finding tTruth in what we are sharing.
UNRAVELING THE MYTH: My experience has been that we are encouraging Friends to participate faithfully and fully in their own tradition, to retain it for as long as there is Life in it, whether that tradition be programmed, semi-programmed, or unprogrammed; Evangelical, Conservative, or Liberal; Christ-centered or universalist.
I continue to believe that the more firmly rooted we are in our own tradition and belief, the less threatened we will be by those who practice and believe differently from ourselves, and the more open we will be to learn from one another without fear of being assimilated, converted, or imposed upon.
Myth 5: Convergent Friends must be Christian.
TRUTH 5: Many of us are Christian, some of us are not. I've written about my own wrestling with this myth-perception previously.
UNRAVELING THE MYTH: All of us who have been seeking to delve more deeply into Quakerism and share our faith more fully seem to care for the condition of the Religious Society of Friends and how Quakerism is expressed within in our tradition, in our own monthly meetings, and across the schisms. Whether or not we are Christian does not seem to impact our desire to be faithful to how we are called.
Myth 6: Because these myths are out there, that's a problem for Convergent Friends to address.
TRUTH 6: If Friends still carry the perception that Convergent Friends is an internet-only phenomenon, that you have to be Christian to be part of the Convergent Friends movement (if that's what this is), that there's no place for nontheist Friends, etc., then it IS our problem.Thanks, as always, for reading me.
Those of us who share our concerns primarily via the internet need to help carry the message away from the internet so more Friends may have access to it.
UNRAVELING THE MYTH: And those of us who are not on the internet as much as others need to broaden our own field of vision and consider that our personal experience may not in fact mesh with the intention of those who are actively engaged in the conversation.
RELATED POSTS and MATERIALS:
(as if there weren't enough links scattered throughout the post already!)