Sunday, April 27, 2008

Quaker Pagans in the News

A few months ago, I had the chance to speak at length to religion-writer Matthew Streib. The article he wrote, "Pagans Find a Sometimes Uneasy Home Among Quakers", has just appeared on the Modern Reformation website.

Others whose work or interviews contributed to the article include Stasa Morgan-Appel, Carl McColman, and Marshall Massey, all of whom might be familiar to readers of this blog.

For more on the "small but growing movement of Quakers who also identify as pagan," see Streib's article.

15 comments:

dmiley said...

Congrat's Cat. In addition to being an informative article, you've finally been officially declared a bastion!

blessings,
david

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

A bastion. Yeah, I like it...

I think I sound more negative than I feel, though. Ah, well. The article itself seems pretty balanced. And the nuances, about the importance of taking on the corporate practices and disciplines as well as ideas of Quakers... well, that's probably a point that only an audience of Quakers would be interested in.

Fifteen minutes of fame, I guess.

Jason Pitzl-Waters said...

I have blogged this article at The Wild Hunt, here's to extending your fifteen minutes!

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

The article has also been picked up by Christianity Today, who unfortunately thought it was a good idea to add an inflammatory subtitle.

*sigh*

The perils of interfaith. I'm beginning to wish I'd stayed in bed this morning!

Thanks for the link, Jason.

Jason Pitzl-Waters said...

They wouldn't be Christianity Today without the requisite snark aimed at all things they deem heretical.

staśa said...

Christianity Today says "hundreds of [us] call Quakerism home"! Wow! I had no idea, and I thought I would know if there were hundreds of us!

Ah, well. ;-)

I will have to re-read the article today. Yesterday, I admit, all the little inaccuracies irritated me. But I was also a stress bunny yesterday, so I will re-read it before I become more decided about what I think.

Cat, thanks for all your work on this.

It's really interesting to see what Matt pulled, and didn't, from his hours (and hours, and hours) of interviews.

staśa said...

Blessed Goddess, it's today's lead story on Religion News Service.

Eeep!

Okay, must go re-read so I can talk intelligently about it...

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Carl McColman also noted the article in his blog, Anamchara: The Website of Unknowing. And he's found a few new ideas percolating in response to it.

Carl writes, "Paganism and Christianity make for two very interesting spiritual cultures. In some ways they are practically mirror images of one another, in other ways they are so different from each other that they are like night and day. But what night and day and mirror images have in common is that each is somehow linked to the other..."

He goes on to compare the rise of Paganism in the current era with the Reformation in an earlier age, complete with the hearkening back to "earlier" models.

It's an interesting post, and if it's a thread that catches your attention, you can follow it here.

I find myself thinking of some thoughts that Christian Druid poet Ali explored a few months ago, in a post entitled Is Christ Special? over at Meadowsweet and Myrrh. The idea of world religions developing and growing, in part, through dialog with one another, is one that interests me a fair amount.

Matt Stone said...

Hi, found you through the article on Christianity Today. I am a Christian with holistic leanings and some knowledge of Paganism. Have put up a blog post on http://mattstone.blogs.com for discussion. Would be interested in your input.

Allison said...

Interesting.

I consider myself a Taoist Quaker, but also a Christian Quaker because none of the teachings of Taoism actually go against Jesus' teachings. I wish more people had an integral approach, that it is a both/and situation, not an either/or one.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Reactions to the article have begun to appear. Albert Mohler,President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes that the "threat of a pagan invasion has always been real and present," and asks, "what is to prevent your church from being next in line to be paganized?"

More (somewhat predictable) dire warnings about "Pagan infiltrators" (not to mention that pernicious Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light, the root of the whole problem) can be heard on his radio show, if you enjoy that kind of thing...

The Evening Palaver doesn't have very complimentary things to say, either, though I suppose it's something for Quakers to be proud of, by some lights, that the author says he doesn't "really know which is more mainstream; it's certainly up to debate." Sadly, the You Tube ritual clip he features to illustrate what Paganism is all about is of the "The Gods are Deaf" School of ritual design, where participants shout all invocations, just to be on the safe side.

Hey, it's an aesthetic choice, I guess... though, as you might guess, not one that will appeal to someone whose customary form of ritual is silence. (Even back in the day when I led large rituals, I tended more toward ritual minimalism. What can I say?)

Matt Stone, whose comment appears above, takes a more disinterested look at the article, wondering about "the differences between religious syncretism, cultural imperialism and critical contextualization." Alas, no discussion as yet.

On the other hand, a fairly thoughtful and informed discussion (from both a Pagan and a Quaker point of view) seems to be going on at the QuakerInfo Forum. Though the posters are Friends, rather than Pagans, several have personal knowledge of or experience with Paganism; the general tenor of the discussion is much closer to what most of my experiences with Quakers have been like.

Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I suppose, depends on your point of view. *sigh...*

staśa said...

Well, I'm glad you got up yesterday. :)

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

After an exchange of emails, CH of The Evening Palaver reveals a more thoughtful (and definitely gracious) side in his post, The Pagan Quakers, 2.0.

Worth reading, if only for the really moving Vonnegut quote. Not one I'd ever heard before.

And no, I won't post it here--I want you to go read the exchange he posted along with the quote. :)

Matt Stone said...

Yes, still no interest on my site. Wasn't being controversial enough I suppose. Are you aware of Morwics (Mormon Wiccans)? Wonder if you saw any affinities between you and them.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hey Allison, Hey, Matt.

I can easily see how Taoism and Quaker practice could go together. Taoism, like Buddhism and (to a lesser extent, perhaps, since we're a product of this culture) is a religion that is rooted in practice, rather than creed.

The idea of integrating or syncretizing religious practices as not a problem is one that's foreign to the West, since Christianity as it has been viewed for most of the past 2,000 years is creedal, centered on orthodoxy--"right" belief. So can Christianity co-exist with another belief system? That depends. For those of us practicing non-creedal traditions, the answer is yes, from our side. From the Christian perspective, it depends on how the Christian group in question views the question of orthodoxy. Quaker Christians, particularly from the liberal branch of the RSoF, put less weight on orthodoxy than do other branches of Christianity. (It's exactly this that, according to the Christianity Today commenters, will lead to our doom and destruction. Of course, I see it differently.)

That's not to say that all Christian Friends would agree...but I think a lot of Liberal Christian Quakers would see no conflict in being Taoist and Christian. I don't see it as inherently dissonant, myself... but I do consider myself one of the leading non-experts on Christianity, so my opinion's probably not worth a lot...

As for Mor-Wics... ah, yes. I have met a few. It's not quite as daft as it might look at first glance. Both Mormons and Wiccans owe a lot of their liturgical structure to Masonic ritual, whether or not we like to admit it. And the idea of the male householder as the family "priest" is in some ways similar to the idea that all Wiccans are clergy.

That said, there are a lot of points of discord I see between the two groups. Mormonism is quite hierarchical, and even the most staidly traditionalist Wiccan groups, though having a strong hierarchical structure, have one that does not extend much beyond the individual small group. Wiccans may occasionally try to "excommunicate" one another from their traditions, but it really just makes them look silly.

And then there's the whole distinction in how women and the feminine are viewed, let alone the positive value on sexual expression.

Beyond that, though, the biggest difference I see is that Mormons seem to me to be much more notional--in the head--in how they approach religion. I am probably biased; I do seek out other Pagans who place a high value on lived experience of the sacred. But I see this as a point of real difference between Mormons and Wiccans: Wiccans expect their gods to show up when they are invited to the circle. Mormons, as far as I can tell, don't--or at least, not in the same visceral and immediate way.

So I would think that a Mor-Wic would have an uneasy time of it. But I'll freely admit that my knowledge of Mormonism is superficial, and that individual mileage may vary. I will say that I don't see them as in any way as complementary practices as I do see Quaker practice and Paganism when it's more broadly defined.

There was an error in this gadget