June 20, 2010

An impermeable seal

For the past few weeks, I've been reading Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship, a few pages a day.

One of the things that struck me from the first two chapters was that, for the most part, during the time of slavery, American Quakers of European descent were not that different from their non-Quaker American counterparts. Just a handful of individual Quakers, it turns out, were the ones who were taking radical steps to draw attention to the evil and harm of enslaving other human beings. Most Quakers back then had the privilege to "look the other way" or could say they were against slavery but wouldn't necessarily take action that reflected what they professed.

I am also struck by how there are sufferings in the world today--injustices to GLBTQ people, to people of color, to people who live in poverty--and how few Quakers (and non-Quakers) are taking radical steps to draw attention to these injustices.

And I, a person of privilege because of the color of my skin, my education, and my financial status, also have the privilege to look the other way--because the situation is overwhelming, because the situation is "over there," because because because.

. . . . . . . . .

The other day, Jeanne and I began seam-sealing the new tent we got, since the first new tent we just got leaked during the rain we had while camping recently. I'm amazed by how the seam-sealer works: it creates a rubberized, impermeable seal. It reminds me of the yellow slickers that we had as kids...

I've been thinking that in some ways, having the privilege that I have is like having an impermeable seal around me--so impermeable that it keeps God out too. So today I've been particularly grateful for the worship community I'm a part of because somehow, when I'm with them and we are worshiping, the Light of God seems to be able to sear through that otherwise impermeable coating, and I feel like I can take on a bit of what would likely be for me "inconvenient" radical activity.

O God, how I need your help to burn away the seam sealer.



Anonymous said...


99% of the seed bearing plants that God gave us have not been tested for medicinal properties. But, the one percent that has been tested resulted in over 40% of the medicines we use today.

but waaaaayyyyy back in Genesis is states clearly that we are to know all seed bearing plants and their properties. God wants us to heal ourselves, but we refuse. (how many people have suffered horribly and died because of our ignorance??)

this is one example of the price of our sins. Liz, you aptly point out other costs in this post.

Instead of loving creation and knowing the gifts of God, we remain ignorant of these gifts, while we hide from our failings (in a metaphorical tent, if you will.)

the tree of life is not available to us any longer. there is no making up for that. But, as you point out, we should not put aside injustice, but rather confront it, as Friends have in the past with slavery, etc. A few good hearts working together can change the world. (but, as with our knowing seed bearing plants, it seems it is taking too long,at great cost.)

Mary Ellen said...

Liz, I like the metaphor you use of the impermeable seal helping us stay oblivious to the sufferings around us - though right now, in the midst of what is starting to feel like unending rain, I would hate to be out in the elements without some protection. I hope your talk went well yesterday evening.