I'm one of those people who believe that I should not ask a question that I myself would not answer; I should not ask others to do a thing I myself would not do.
In light of the interview I conducted with Brent Bill recently, I thought I'd have a go at interviewing myself, using the same questions that I asked Brent.
And no, I didn't know I was going to write this post at the time that I sent my questions to Brent.
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1. What was my first experience when I began to have an inkling about having an inner compass?
I would say I was in 5th or 6th grade, maybe even a year or two younger. I remember that the girls I hung out with on the playground often wanted me to tell them if I liked their dress, if I liked their jewelry, if I liked their new shoes. And because we were all eager to be friends, they would add, "It's okay, you can tell me the truth."
Let's just say that those girls on the playground and I had very different ideas of what "pretty" was. Even though I somehow knew that it would be bad if I answered their questions truthfully (as opposed to tactfully, but what do little girls know about tact?!), I also knew that I didn't want to lie; that somehow lying went against something very deep within me, something without words.
I had very few friends growing up, as you might imagine.
2. What trends have I noticed among contemporary Friends, either towards or away from the understanding of an Inward Teacher? Is there something that seems to move Friends toward a clearer understanding? away from it?
As regular readers of The Good Raised Up know, I am best versed in Liberal Friends and somewhat versed in Conservative Friends. When I think of "contemporary Friends," it's these two groups I consider and speak of.
I've noticed two trends. One is a renewed interest among some Friends, regardless of age or length of time connected with Quakerism, to understand more fully the depth and breadth of our faith tradition.
I have observed Friends asking one another what certain traditional words or phrases mean, everything from "What's a leading?" to "What does 'obedience' mean?" I've also seen a few more Friends begin wrestling within meeting when things get dicey, rather than just disappearing and going elsewhere. I think some of the blogs have lent themselves to this renewal, curiosity, and hunger as well. And a good deal of these Friends seem to able to "fall into worship" and wait for movement of the Spirit if they are having difficulty.
The other trend is towards "More of the same," which includes giving more weight to individual preferences and "good thoughts" as compared to giving more weight to Spirit-led, corporate discernment.
I encounter this attitude among many long-time Liberal Friends who seem to have unknowingly, unintentionally attached their personal sense of who they are as Friends to some institution, committee, or event. If someone younger or newer to the meeting or to Quakerism feels a prompt and suggests that things may be done differently, a number of these older Friends dig in their heels or shake their heads and say, "This isn't how we've done it; I don't think we should do things differently now," almost as if some are saying, "I've been a Quaker for so-many-years, and new openings or leadings have no place here without my consent"; or this: "We've never looked to Quaker history to help us in the past, so why should we start now? Early Quakerism is dead, so how could it help us, the living?"
Being complacent about spiritual growth and turning our backs on our history creates a barrier between us and the Inward Teacher. Being loving and compassionate towards one another, and affirming that each of us has the ability to shed new Light on a situation invites the Inward Teacher in, and we demonstrate a greater willingness to be Taught.
3. What is one thing I am afraid or hesitant to tell other Quakers about myself?
Right now, I would say that one of the things I'm hesitant to tell my meeting about myself is how sad I feel that those who seem to know me best are not Friends at the monthly meeting, with whom I worship once a week, but rather fellow bloggers--Friends who I don't worship with in any regular way and who I don't see but once a year, if that.
Contrary to what some non-blogging Friends may believe, there have been many heartfelt, authentic, deep, and respectful exchanges online that have in turn led to rich and lasting friendships.
I cannot quite put my finger on why I feel known by many Quaker bloggers, particularly the earliest ones, and why I feel less known by Friends in my monthly and yearly meeting. Some of it has to do with feeling as though I am being received with joy, or at least curiosity, when I write a post or when I show up at a gathering of some sort. Some of it has to do with a feeling of mutuality: that I feel as though I know the other person as well as she or he seems to know me.
I think a large part of it, though, has to do with having a shared understanding of what a vigorous and vibrant Quakerism is and then a willingness to engage in it, inviting one another to do the same.
...Why is it that bloggers seem less afraid of words like discipline, obedience, faithfulness, eldering, and minister than do the Friends with whom I worship?
4. Given how much the secular world has crept into our Quaker faith--attending to busy schedules; watching the clock towards the "end" of Meeting for Worship; individualism; etc.--what two or three things of Quakerism might I wish would creep into the secular world?
Sometimes I wish that more of our political leaders and more "everyday Americans" would be comfortable with paradox... or at least be more willing to be in the creative tension of paradox for a little while longer than we currently are. Maybe that would make us more slow to take up arms; more hesitant to leave our partners when times get dicey; more deliberate in slowing ourselves down when our impulses start to "drive the bus."
I also wonder what our society would be like if we spent less time talking, persuading, berating, dictating, indoctrinating... and spent more time listening, observing, tending, nurturing...
5. I was raised in a Jewish household and am only recently beginning to appreciate Scripture and its place in contemporary Quakerism.
Recently I've begun wondering if there are certain stories or passages in the Torah, the "first five books," that Quakers draw on for teachings--aside from "Love thy neighbor" and "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength..." (Deuteronomy 6:5)
It seems as if Quakers don't draw on the Old Testament in anywhere near the same proportion as we do with the New Testament, yet Jesus was Jewish. I'm finding I want to hear from Quakers who are better versed than I in Scripture as to what elements of the Old Testament do Friends look to for guidance; and is there a reason we don't hear many Friends quote these [Hebrew] texts? (...or am I just worshiping in the wrong meeting?)
Now this is a question I truly can't answer fully! For one thing, it's such a new question for myself that I've hardly had time to consider it.
Off the top of my head then, I might conjecture a few things:
1. Is it easier for us, as pacifists, to find a good many more teachings about nonviolence in the life of Jesus and in the Gospels than it is to find similar teachings in the Hebrew texts?
2. Is it that the Hebrew texts, which are three to four times as long as the Christian ones, are harder to plow through because of their length? Also, do the details of who begat whom and the 613 commandments distract us from the meaty stories of Noah, Moses, and Esther?
3. Is it that the many worshipers who find their way to Quakerism come from a Christian background and in their own religious upbringing, were exposed primarily to the New Testament...?
So my question remains:
If Jesus was Jewish, and if two of the primary commandments of Christianity--"Love the Lord your God..." and "Love your neighbor as yourself"--come from the Jewish texts, why do Quakers seem to pay so little attention to the much larger portion of Scripture, the Scripture that Jesus himself presumably drew on?Blessings,