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, December 10, 2007

Are We Still Quakers When... (and where did we come from)

Simply put, there were four great epochs of ownership of the commons which bring us to this place. Once, in England, most was owned commonly. Then, in 1066 William the Bastard arrived with a rowdy bunch and proclaimed that all that was commonly held was now owned by the sovereign, and granted to the commoners be used by that sovereign.

Well, it is not a good thing to vest power in one person, and so eventually those bully boys who made this taking possible said, "We want a part of the action, and Magna Carta was drawn up, recognizing that the sovereign was also made up of peers.
Well, as we began the modern age of industrialization, there arouse economic bully boys, who were the industrial bullies who took over the role of enforcers from the fellows in armor, the old peers. They were as good at taking from the commons as a bloke on a horse with a sword and bad intentions for your land.

Out of those times rose a number of simple commoners who said to the old and new enforcers of the king and corporation, "No, this world is owned by God for the good of the common, and we are all equal under God." Some where called Ranters, some Diggers, and some where called Quakers. We were dedicated to recognise God's dirrect ownership over the universe by our actions, not by some warm and fuzzy liberal notions, but by striving to build lives where we recognised the great democracy of seeking God's guidence together in all things. The process of coming to unity is core to what we are as Quakers.

It is this corporate ownership of the institution and the democracy of God which made us unique. There were a lot of Christian sects which sought plainness of one sort of another. Many of these were deeply vested in the modern move to vest power in the merchant peers. For example, Cromwell and his modern army, whose zeal murdered so many in Ireland. The refugees of his army, the Puritans came to New England and hanged Quakers. Christian and plain is not the unique aspect of our founding, the democracy of God in our dealings as a religious organization is our founding nature.

Well, ... even in this world of change, today, there still exists corporate thieves who would take from the common with the lance of economic power, institutional persuasion, and when all else fails, manipulation of process in order to transfer more and more from the commons to the new sovereign, the institution of wealth.

Without going into details, as I am just too tired to put down the story, it is a long one, (time to write a book?) I have watched over the years the infiltration of my Meeting by corporate thinking, again and again I am told by Friends that Quaker process does not work for the day to day economic exigencies of running a school, or even interaction between the school and the Meeting. So, more and more, the school, the tail of the dog of the Meeting, wags that dog, and not only sets us into kayos, but destroys the spiritual integrity of the Meeting, all the while seeking more and more independence from Quakerism, with fewer and fewer restraints from the Meeting, or ties through membership to that Meeting, while insisting that it is a Quaker school, when in fact, it is destroying the core faith of Quakerism in the Meeting, as well as the Quaker values of both. In short, Quakerism is not just being a liberal institution, it is being a body of Friends who do business as Friends, in every matter big or small.

I sat in Meeting for Business today, I cannot call it a Meeting for worship with an intent for business at all, it was simply a hoax, a manipulation of process to transfer more of the common from the many to the few, and the many bought it. I just don't know if Quakerism can survive the times.

I am reminded of the old Phariseean story about process. First of all, let us remember who the Pharisees were. Saducees were literalists, fundamentalists. The believed in the letter of the law, the rule defines the relationship in society. The Pharisees believed that the relationship defined the rule... "Do nothing to another, which you find abhorrent, that is the Torah and the rest is commentary." And as with true liberals today, that liberal voice in Judea, believed that in order to maintain rule and relationship, one needed to have, no unquestionable law, but unquestionable process. The reason is that in common process which treats the weak by the process as the strong, fairness transcends politics and greed. There were a number of judges needed to decide a case in a Phariseean court. For an economic outcome a majority was needed. But, for a physical punishment one needed a unanimous decision. So, one day a man is being tried for a crime that would bring about a sentence of a beating. The court is not unanimous for guilt, when the voice of God is heard saying, "This man is guilty.""My Lord, You are out of order," says the chief judge."How can I be out of order?" replies God."You created this court and set down the procedure, and so, you are out of order."

What greater statement of faith can there be, then to remind God that we all need to approach God in the same process, not the same outcome. It is never about outcome, it is always about process. What greater betrayal of our founding faith than to manipulate process. We poor poor children, who once called ourselves the children of light.


At 3:05 PM, Blogger David Carl said...

So at the meeting for business, I assume you expressed that you were not in unity with whatever the proposal was? What happened then?

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sad to hear about the Meeting and the tensions amoung Friends. However, I would say that the "school issue" is merely a symptom of the problem, not the root. A return to the Foundation of our Faith is our only hope. Without that Foundation, we have nothing.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Anonymous:
I am a little saddened that Friends don't feel safe to share their names with each other, but, that is a symptom of the times, I suppose, or may be the root! (Not said in a mean spirit, but an understanding one...)
That is an interesting chicken and the egg question. Does having a non-Quaker institution attracting new members effect the culture of the Quaker Meeting, or does the lack of living faith in a Meetings processes not change the institutional culture of the school? This is a question which, in the case of our Meeting and school has been building momentum for over seventy years of our school and Meetings two hundred and some year relationship. It is a vital question, in that the way forward is through faith ... but, I can't say I am sure which is which. As a community becomes more diverse for whatever reason, challenges arise.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger earthfreak (Pam) said...

Lor, this is a beautiful piece.

I am so sorry to hear about this process, and I agree, that while christianity and plainness were significant parts of our corporate identity for a long time, they are not the core.

I, too, am interested to hear more of what transpired at that meeting for business.


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