Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Anger as Emotional Terrorism in Quaker Meetings

I have seen any number of Friends over the years use anger and anger "justified" by fear in order to control others in Quaker meetings and even control the meeting itself. The response of the meeting, should, I would think, be to gently remind Friends that in order to build a community that does not use inner weapons against each other... that a safe environment to get over fears should be provided through Quaker process. But, more often than not, I have seen meetings simply accept the fears as the cornerstone for relationships between those Friends and the meeting community. Once someone plays the trump card of fear, sensible folks seem to cave and all hope of rational process seems to go out the window.

I dont think Friends who use fear in this way are always aware that they do this... they DO feel the fear, and alow themselves to feel it, because it has worked in the past to get people to do what the person wants them to do. Friends may concider helping each other to be self aware of the use of fear to control others. It is the same with people who have been beaten as children to the point that they are taught to use self destructive behavior to control others, to end controversy and pain, when such a person can't stop the other person from hurting them - they hurt themselves... it isn't the way to go. Friends in conflict should be open, present and above all talk, and if they can't the meeting should help them do that, so Friends don't feel they must be hurt again and again or leave a meeting.

We do not facilitate each other in drug or alcohol use, or in other addictions, we should not facilitate each other in manipulating by one's own fear. Courage feels much better, I should think, than irresolvable conflict that pulls others down deeper and deeper into darkness.


At 5:08 AM, Blogger QuaCarol said...

The response of the meeting, should, I would think, be to gently remind Friends that in order to build a community that does not use inner weapons against each other... that a safe environment to get over fears should be provided through Quaker process.

Quaker process is a result of Quaker faith. What is the common faith of the meeting you're describing?

In most meetings today, we have very little agreed-on faith. (See Martin Kelley's "We Are All Ranters Now." See Lloyd Lee Wilson's Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order.)

Add to that lack of shared faith the reality that many of our members were raised by alcoholic parents (how many in your meeting that you know of?) and/or are survivors of physical or sexual child abuse (ditto) and you have a community that is utterly vulnerable to bullying, whose capacity for empathy veers between over-acute and lacking, a community that is conflict-phobic (thus usually paralyzed by conflicts), and ambivalent, if not hysterical, about authority, filled with shame and blame that gets passed around liberally, and distrustful of outside help.

I am not optimistic about the future of liberal Friends.

At 6:30 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Well... dear Friend:

It may be more than just a problem among Liberal Friends... it may be the alienation of Urban Friends, but in fact, in this case, the Friend is not an urban Friend, though the meeting which seems to be using rumor instead of process is urban...

Our meeting is a mix between Liberal, Orthodox, and New Age Friends... but I think that the issues of fear and trust, well I have seen the same issues among so many. It is not the language of faith, but the honesty of faith always at issue.

I think the story of the tower of Babal is that we have to see beyond the language which we try to reach God, and accept God's truth in others. Making peace is not incumbant on speaking each other's language of faith, but being faithful to allowing the Christ in the other to speak to us... I think...

And yes, most Friends I know, many even who grew up in Quaker families, have to deal with a history of alcoholism and abuse. One book I read, a few years back, states that there is as much violent child abuse in Quaker homes as in any other homes... I hope that is not the case, but well, we are human.

But, the sad thing, is that meetings should attempt to transend the individual storries of our lives and be faithful to our processes, that I think is our only hope... and dear Carol, I do struggle to keep faith and hope... I cannot begin here to tell you the struggles of my life and how lately they have seemed to run into the extra mountain of age and exile...

But, I agree, this dark night of the soul is how we find God, and if I have to do this away from my meeting, and as such, more alone in this desert, well, somewhere around here, there still is God...

As Jesus says again and again in the book of Thomas - split things open and look inside. I suppose I have been split open, and have look deeper than I ever have before... and as I do, I get split deeper and more painfully, and hope seems farther away... but faith remains.

Bless you Friend


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