Evangelical Quaker Bruce Butler's blog post A Firm and Loving "No" is probably the best example of what I mean. Cause, I gotta say, while I'm hearing the Friend's "firm," I'm not really feelin' the "love."
I think I harbored some secret, painful wishes that, however heretical and perhaps flat-out wrong I might seem to the more conservative branches of Quakers, I would still be seen as a member of the family tree. Maybe in the place of the crazy elderly aunt or second-cousin who has too many cats, but still, part of the family.
I mean, maybe I even knew better, but I could not help but hope. Having lived my entire life in a Christian culture that disowned me, I've found more acceptance and welcome among Friends than I'd ever imagined possible. And, you know, I'm a family-centered kind of a gal. I really like not feeling like an outsider every minute of every day.
Too bad for me.
Yes, it was predictable that Quakers from Evangelical Friends International would want to make it clear that Pagans would not be welcome in their branch of Friends. Even among more liberal groups of Quakers, my presence and my identification as a Quaker is controversial. I know that. Really, I do.
Still, the heaviness that has been with me all week has been hard to shake off. My shoulders are inclined to slump, and I do feel cast down.
I've also had a recurring thought this week, that what I am feeling now is just the shadow of what my GLBT friends have long felt, even among Liberal Quakers. What I am finding so hard to bear is just a ghost of what it is to be queer in Quaker culture: to know that, however often Spirit touches you, however faithful is your ministry, however clearly your life speaks, there will be those among us who will
..............to hear you.
They will not look up, from the dead pages of a Book, to see the Light of God if it shines out through your eyes.
Pardon me. I've been wrestling with how to say this all week. I'm sure I'm offending Christ-centered Friends whose use of the Bible is not dead, and I am sorry for it. I have learned to trust my Christian Friends who are guided by that book, and that a Spirit of Love and Peace can indeed speak through its pages.
But who can deny that, too often, it is not God who speaks, but all-too human prejudices, fears, and superstitions? How can anyone deny that hate, not love, turns the pages of that book in far too many hands?
To be clear: I'm not accusing Pastor Butler of doing that. I don't know Pastor Butler; I have no idea how the Spirit may work through his life, nor guide his reading of scripture.
I am, however, quite unable to read some of the comments on the article in Christianity Today in any other way. The most hostile--clearly, not from a Quaker, of any stripe--reads, "I can't believe the Quakers are allowing these Pagan dogs to commune with them... Throw these Heathen dogs out on the street! We should never allow these servants of the devil to come into our church to bring in all sorts of ghastly doctrines from the pit of hell." (Do you kiss your mama with that mouth, friend?)
It is hard for me to escape the similarities in content, though, if not in tone, between those comments and the minute Butler quotes from his yearly meeting. And I think it is no coincidence that the minute condemns both Friends who accept gays and lesbians and those who tolerate non-Christians:
There are two particular issues which have occasioned this minute: the affirmation and encouragement of non-Christian religious beliefs and practices; and the affirmation and encouragement of homosexual and extramarital sexual activity....Now, I'm really not sure what to do with the fact that who I am at my core--a Pagan, a woman who hears and honors the voice of the life within the woods, the rocks, the sky, and the tides of her own body--is flat out unacceptable to some Friends. I'd guess that gay and lesbian Quakers have similar feelings. Here are these people who would be family to us... if we were anyone but who we are. They are willing to disown our entire branch of our family tree, in fact, if that branch does not disown us--because it's so clear to them that who we are is evil and corrupting.
... To our sorrow, we find idolatry revived and encouraged today under various names, including goddess worship, "New Age" practices, Wicca and neo-paganism. We reject and disown all non-Christian practices and spiritualities as contrary to true Christianity. We urge everyone, and particularly any who profess the name of Friends, to avoid with absolute vigilance any form of idolatry, no matter how subtle or innocent it may be made to appear.
We declare that our sexuality is God's gift, and that sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed, as the Scriptures teach, only within the marriage of one man and one woman. We reject and utterly oppose homosexual activity, especially the "blessing" of same sex unions, as sinful and displeasing to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Right reason, Holy Scripture and the Spirit of Christ within us unitedly testify that homosexual practice is contrary to God's will. We also observe that homosexual practice is portrayed in the Scriptures as one of the awful consequences of humanity's pursuit of idolatry. (Romans 1:18-32)
I'm drawn to the words Pam Marguerite wrote, in a comment on a post at the Nontheist Friends blog two years ago:
I am frustrated and baffled when I hear people saying (whether or not it’s what they said, or meant to say) that we can achieve that unity, that depth of experience by focusing our spirit life around the word “christ”
Mostly I am hurt because it excludes me. To me it pretty much directly translates into “I can have a moving, deep spiritual experience without you, and I can’t with you;” it is pretty much the antithesis of responding to that of god in me.
(Am I a Christian? I give no allegiance to the name "Jesus." But I am increasingly clear that the Light which other Friends call by that name, and the Light which touches me, are the same. I seek to follow it faithfully, as do they. If your Christ is indeed the Spirit of Peace, how is it that you do not know Him when he speaks through me, Friend?)
But more than this: I know with every fiber of my being, as deeply as I know that I love, as deeply as I know anything at all, that gays and lesbians are simply people, and that no God of Love would ever condemn them for loving one another. And I know that any leading, wherever it purports to come from, that rejects gays and lesbians who engage in loving sexual relationships is false, is not of God, is not just, is not right.
I can't convince Bruce Butler of this, because, as a non-Christian, I have no voice that he will hear. That I must leave to Christian Quakers, I think.
But in the meantime, if you are looking for me, I'll be right here, waiting on the steps, waiting in the street, with the rest of the excommunicates, Heathens, and dogs. Come to think of it, if the gays and the lesbians are to be tossed out the meeting house door, there's no place I'd rather be.