To the many Pagans who said supportive things about my last post--thank you. Your kindness was much appreciated. That said, this one is going to be a pretty Quaker-centric post--I don't want you to think your support wasn't important, though, so I'm mentioning it first.
If, to strain a metaphor I used in my last post, the Quaker family had put me out on the street, it would be difficult to explain the many supportive comments I received.
I wrote that last post, "Theologically Queer," feeling braced against rejection by the Quaker community.
But almost as soon as the post went up, folks began trickling out of the house and sitting down next to me on the curb. Really kind, lovable folks. And nobody called me names, or even pointed out how silly I was being. Nope. They just came out to see how I was, and to wait patiently with me until I felt a bit better.
Peggy Senger Parsons--a woman I consider to be one of the spiritual grown-ups of the world--came out and sat next to me on the curb. Then Anj sat down next to me and held my hand. Haven reminded me of the lively interconnections between Quakers of different branches within the convergent Friends movement. Kent not only told me he was unhappy I was hurting, but let me know that my queer and heretical writing has sometimes moved and affected him despite our differences. And Friends whose views are evangelical also brought empathy for the experience of rejection, and affirmed that they could, as Quakerboy/Craig put it "still see the Light in...Pagan friends" whether believing we're mistaken in our beliefs or not.
Friends circled around. There were hugs. I think there may have been group hugs. I may have heard someone singing "Kumbaya." And if I extend the metaphor of being on the curb outside my (Quaker) family home, I think I'd have to say that the family meal was brought outside and passed around the crowd, picnic style. It was reassuring and warm, and a good reminder of why I care so much about this particular spiritual family.
This has been a good image to sit with this week.
At the same time, I believe that the issue of how Quakers hear or refuse to hear the voice of Spirit coming from those we see as Other is a true concern. We have not figured this one out yet. I'm a pretty brassy dame, and if I feel shouldered aside, then I do wonder, what voices may have left the meeting house already, silenced before they could begin to speak?
One voice that is silenced too often, I am told, is that of Christian Friends in liberal meetings. I have heard stories that concern me very much. I know that I will do what I can to prevent this, in any meeting I attend, and in my company, at least, universalist will not mean "anti-Christian."
Another sometimes marginalized voice among us--though, gratefully, not always or everywhere among Quakers--is that of gays and lesbians. And while not all Christian or evangelical Friends reject gays and lesbians as members of the family, some do. They base that rejection on the Bible; and so a concern over how Quakers use that book seems merited to me.
I'm tempted to try to refute Biblical authority for condemning homosexuality on Biblical terms: to point out that the eating of shrimp or the wearing of mixed-fiber garments is likewise condemned, and yet I don't see picketers outside of Red Lobster... And Yada yada ya.
It's not just that I'm not much of a Bible scholar, but more importantly, I know that the Bible is, to me, a closed book--and ought to remain so, rather than be used in a dry, dead way. I might play games with logic and reason, but that has nothing to do with waiting on Truth. As Fox asked, speaking of the apostles, "What had any to do with the scriptures but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth?" I've seen Friends draw living Spirit from the pages of that book, and I know the difference between that and rhetoric. Without a living connection to those passages, I know they are not mine to read.
So I'll leave the examination of Bible passages to those who can read them in the Light of Spirit-- to handle those serpents without harm, to quote my friend David Miley on that same topic.
But it seems to me that far too many of us are thieves, as Margaret Fell once put it, reading the Bible without waiting for the "Spirit that gave them forth." I strongly suspect that it is not Spirit-led scriptural authority that leads some Friends to condemn gays and lesbians. I strongly suspect that only those who know a love as strong as rivers for our GLBT friends, sons, sisters, brothers and daughters can wrestle properly with a true discernment around those passages. Perhaps the only Quakers who can hear God in those passages will be GLBT Friends themselves.
Likewise, I suspect that whatever is inspired by the Spirit I know from living among Friends will not seek to turn us away from one another over our differences of theology and belief. While we are waiting patiently on that Spirit, I do not think I need to be too worried about being kicked to the curb. And if there are those who are deaf to me or to the ways that I find help, well, so am I deaf to some of the sources of Light that others know. Happily, what limits us does not limit God.
I will trust that the Spirit that speaks to me speaks also to those whose theology is vastly different than my own, and that, when we are all united with that Spirit, we "will know one another though the divers liveries [we] wear here make [us] strangers."