Monday, May 26, 2008

Rooted in Experience

My last two posts were a personal reflection on some of the ways that trying to live my spiritual life true to the experiences I've had over the past seven years may have changed who I am in very basic ways.

When I began writing them, I didn't yet see the ways these posts dovetailed with the topic of my guest blog at The Wild Hunt. Now, though, they seem intimately connected: when we approach our spiritual lives as lived experiences, we necessarily open ourselves to the possibility of radical change--change at the root. That's unnerving, of course. But if we rise to the challenge, and allow our understandings to change in response to our experiences of God/the gods, I believe we will find ourselves living as we were meant to live, and growing as we were meant to grow.

If we have the courage to be willing to let go of what we believe our religious life ought to be about, and instead, accept it on our own terms, we might just learn a thing or two.

If you are interested in reading my plea for more Pagan writing that is rooted in experience rather than in the "merely notional", you might want to visit The Wild Hunt today. (And many thanks to Jason Pitzl-Waters for the chance to share what I had to say with a wider audience.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Is There Still a Pagan in Quaker Pagan Reflections? Part 2 of 2

(Continued from Part 1 of 2)

So, from the moment I felt the first stirrings of the Spirit of Peace within me, my easygoing relationship to polytheism was under threat.

It would all, from a Pagan point of view, have been so much easier if I had only been called by, say, Pugsley the Peace God. No problems accepting a Quaker Pagan whose god was one among the many! But it is not Pugsley I follow, and that does complicate matters.

There are, after all, Pagan gods whose interests are those of the warrior, and many Pagans have personal codes which more closely resemble Bushido than the peace testimony. One of my favorite Pagan scholars and writers, the courteous and peace loving Brendan Cathbad Myers, has just written a book, The Other Side of Virtue. I'm looking forward to reading it; I have listened to the chapter he read aloud at Deo's Shadow, and I found it fascinating how he drew the connections he did between heroic cultures, their literature and history, and a possibly system of honor and ethics for modern Pagans.

I also found it chilling and depressing, and frequently had to shut off the audio and set it aside to recover my equilibrium, because, lovely and well-worked as it is, Myers' ethics are those of a warrior culture.

I don't care a lick for Christian teachings of heaven or hell. I have no use for salvation, I cannot see nature as "fallen" (though I'm not too wild about influenza, old age, and death, to be honest) and I've got no understanding of "sin," whatever that is.

But I know that there is that within me that can no longer bear to settle for the ethics of the warrior, however honorable. And I think that holding up and glorifying these myths is a mistake, and a dangerous mistake at that. I don't know what to do with that painful sense of wrongness about this lovely book by a writer I admire. I suspect that I'd better listen very, very closely to the Light, and not go haring off on a crusade, outrunning my leadings in response to my personal sense of pain.

But I am clear that my relationship with the Light, and with the peace testimony that has come out of that relationship, has already set me in opposition to at least one important cultural and ethical current in the Pagan world.

This is highly inconvenient. I would really hate to begin to define myself as not-Pagan, after all these years.

Well, why?

Because all of my oldest friends are Pagan. Because I identify so strongly with my Paganism. And because so much of how I see the world, from the form of a hillside against the sky to the history of our species, has been shaped by my Pagan sensibilities. I feel part of something larger than myself, larger than the group of Pagan friends and family I see from day to day... something that feels meaningful and important to me.

Pagans are my people. If I could no longer call myself Pagan, I would feel homeless inside myself.

But is that enough of a reason to consider myself a Pagan? We've all known those who like hanging out with Pagans--like the drumming, maybe, or are in love with a Pagan--but aren't Pagans themselves. "Symps," I remember calling them, for Pagan Sympathizers. At one time in my life it seemed like I knew a great many such people--folks who didn't know a horned god from a Hershey bar, but who floated around the edges of any community event. New Agers who showed up at Pagan events to market a book, or to give Tibetan flower essence massages, or what-have-you. Paganism Lite.

By saying that one of the primary things that makes me consider myself a Pagan is the draw I feel to my Pagan people, am I saying that I'm a Symp, or that mine is now Paganism Lite?

No. Not only is my knowledge base deeper than the New Age dabblers who sometimes float along within the Pagan community, but so is my commitment to my people as a people.

Peter and I once spent a fair amount of time discussing what the difference was between the New Age movement and Paganism. I think it was Oberon Zell who once said, "a decimal point," meaning that an event or a service that would cost $50 from the Pagans would sell for $500 from the New Agers... and that's part of it. But it's the reason for the decimal point that's telling. The New Age movement is about marketing spiritual experiences; the Pagan movement is about being a people who have spiritual experiences with one another. There are things that you give away, or sell at cost, because you're providing them to your community. The emphasis on building up a community, on relating to one another as a people, as a tribe... to me, that's a defining element of Paganism. Not that our techniques for building and maintaining community couldn't stand work... but the aim, that we will be a people who belong to one another as we belong to our gods, that is a good and worthy aim.

And I still share it. I am a Pagan because Pagan people are my people. We are not a religion of the book--we are a tribal religion, a word-of-mouth religion, and a religion of shared experience. This is the Pagan community I belong to: many of us, holding hands, sitting together at a shared hearth-fire. I'm still Pagan because I still feel and feed that communal hearth.

I'm also still Pagan because of what I know of the nature of that hearth: it rises from the spirit of the landscape and the earth. It's more than an intellectual appreciation for bio-diversity that motivates me; it's that hills and trees and rivers are a kind of people to me. The soul of nature is just that--a soul, a spirit, and, at the risk of sounding like a total nutter, I believe it speaks to me. I hear it in an inner voice: deep baritone rumblings of mountains; warm, catlike purrings of contented maple trees; the sudden, breathtaking trumpet of a herd of deer glimpsed at twilight. These things have a mana, a numen to them, that I treasure the way I treasure my husband or my child. And there exists a language with which I can speak to them and hear them reply--the language of European mythology.

It is in the faery stories of the Celtic and Germanic world that I hear what a Native American medicine person might hear in the stories of his people. It's in the Arthurian mythos, and in Appalachian ghost stories that the spirits of the natural world speak to me, and in the fragments of Greek, Norse, and Finnish mythology that have made their way down to me, through the strata of Victorian romanticizers, and into the layers of Wiccan and Druidic teachings that have drawn from them. My dreams and my subconscious are products of my Western culture and upbringing; I am not culturally fluent in Siberian or Meso-American or Asian mythology and archetype. But I am in European-American, and it is in this language that, for years and years, the holy spirits of this world have reached out to me. This is how I know them.

(Can one know these beings, and love the land and its spirits this deeply, from a Christian or Jewish tradition? I would simply have dismissed the idea once. Now, all I can say for certain is that I do not know them in that way. Hills and rocks do not speak to me in Hebrew or in New Testament Greek, and I do not think they ever will.)

I may not know what, exactly, a "god" is; I have more than a little sympathy for the non-theistic, animistic Paganism of Andras Corben Arthen, for I suspect that my need to filter my encounters with the divine in nature through the medium of gods and god-stories limits me. But however confusing the idea of a "god" might be, the stories of European mythology touch me in places that are deep enough that I can feel the movement of spirit from them. It is a great gift, and I cannot imagine repudiating it.

Every now and then, I look up into the eyes of the universe, to discover that a god I know is looking back, loving and recognizing me as I am loving and recognizing them. It's a joyful surprise, every time.

I might be a monist, but I'm no monotheist. I might be a Quaker, but I find I cannot be satisfied by a god who lived once, over a short enough span to be fully described in the pages of a single book. God, to me, is too big to fit into the Christian package, and too hard to understand to love without the aid of the myths and stories that, somehow, got woven into my RNA when I was still very, very young.
Certain hills painted our feet
Colors of growing, colors of birth.
Certain springs drank us into them,
Watered our children and made them strong.
Certain rivers asked us questions
We answered according to season.
Certain seasons taught us the songs
We sang to our little ones
Bare-painted by the hills at our feet.

--------Penny Novack

Is There Still a Pagan in Quaker Pagan Reflections? Part 1 of 2

Sometimes, as I'm posting yet another reflection on yet another interaction with the world of Quakers, I'll ask myself, "What's so Pagan about Quaker Pagan Reflections?" Once or twice, doing some completely unrelated thing--folding my socks, for instance, or making soup--I'll hear a tiny voice saying, "You're a Quaker." As in, unhyphenated, plain ol', stop-being-so-bloody-precious-about-it, Quaker-style Quaker.

Regular readers may have noticed that I drop the "G" word around here with some regularity. God--as a word, at least, capitalized and used as a singular proper noun--makes regular appearances in my writing. My weekly and even monthly routines revolve around my Quaker meeting, to an extent that they no longer do around the local Pagan community. I no longer run a coven, teach classes on Paganism, or even write about it, as something separate from my Quaker life, all that much. I may very well attend no Pagan gatherings beyond a local Beltane in the Backyard this year; I've severed my last ties with Cherry Hill Seminary; and I feel no need to introduce ritual or formal Paganism into any Quaker settings where I worship.

So it becomes a reasonable question--What is it makes me think there's even a "Pagan" left in Quaker Pagan Reflections any more? I'm clear that I'm Quaker. What makes me think that I'm Pagan, too?

Let's play devil's advocate for a minute. What bad reasons might I have for continuing to style myself a Pagan?

Well, duh. There's the one my mama accused me of, when I first told her I was Pagan: shock value. And though my Paganism was never the rebellious phase my mother hoped it was, there may be some truth here. Oh, not in the adolescent, Craft-watchin', goth-stylin' way of some Teen Witches out there. I am a bit more grown up than that.

But if I were to drop the "Pagan" from the title of this blog, who would be interested in reading it? Who would be interested in a "Quaker Reflections" blog?

Not only would I immediately lose the Pagan portion of my readership, but I bet I'd lose a little cachet among Quakers, too. I'm not a weighty Friend, and I'm aware that some of what draws readers to this blog is the novelty of it. Or, to put it a bit less diplomatically, the wierdness factor of our offbeat theology.

Of course, Real Quakers don't worry about things like that. We're all about ministry and God, and have no secret, deep dark desires to be famous or the center of attention... If I were a good, Quakerly sort of Quaker, the fact that my hyphenated identity makes me stand out in a crowd would be a matter of perfect indifference to me.

I'll admit it.

I'm not that good a Quaker.

Damn
, I like the fact that Friends I think are really cool know who I am because of this blog! Damn, I like the sense of specialness that comes from standing out in a crowd!

And it's interesting--this is one of the places where Quakers and Pagans are quite different. I do not think that any Pagan would think less of me for wanting to stand out and be taken seriously in myself. But, while Quakers certainly do have writers who are more authoritative than others, more recognized and even famous than others, there is a very different mindset about it all. Weightiness really is supposed to derive more from a track record of following clear and specific leadings from God, and less from personal charisma or, um, marketability.

In all honesty, part of the attraction of continuing to style myself Pagan is that it has proven to be--and I am blushing as I say it--a very marketable brand name.

This is not a good reason to call myself Pagan. To the extent that I do so in order to draw attention to myself, I'm doing something rather venal. (Dammit.)

OK. So acknowledging that the unworthy is mixed in with whatever other motivations I've got going on, why do I still feel that it is important to continue to call myself a Pagan? What is, and what is not, still Pagan about me?

What is not Pagan? I'm a Quaker. What's more (and worse, from a Pagan perspective) I'm able to speak about a single spiritual source of all things, and call it God. And in some lights, I'm beginning to look a lot like a monotheist. And whatever else Pagans may be, we're not monotheists.

What's a nice girl like me doing in a religious twilight zone like this? I started out as a polytheist. Honest.

Well, never as a "hard polytheist." You could never sell me on the idea that Thunor is not the same deity as Thor. And though I never thought that Zeus was the same God as Thor because all thunderers are the same, neither did I believe that either Zeus or Thor had distinct and separate identities the way two chairs--or even two people--do. I always had a sense that there was a oneness that underlay all the different names we give to the spiritual beings we interact with... And that our understandings of those beings have always been imperfect. Though there are clear cut ways that Zeus and Thor were understood and worshipped in their historical contexts, I never thought that the human definitions and understandings defined them. Or rather, I always saw the Pagan gods as interactions of natural and spiritual forces with our human understandings of and traditions about them. Not as archetypes--never as simply human projections onto the formless face of nature. It is not that they aren't there without humans to be in relationship with them--but that the forms they take come from our relationships with them.

Try saying that in the midst of an invocation. It's just not very catchy, you know?

So my polytheism has always had an emanationist edge: I was a kind of quiet Neoplatonist. I saw the gods--and humans, animals, and nature--as emanating from a far off, unifying source, and thought that the closer a spirit is to that unifying source, the harder to understand or define it would be. None of which was very threatening to anybody's polytheism, since there have been polytheist Neoplatonists since they invented the term. It was fodder for campfire discussions--nothing more.

And then came the peace testimony.

Quakers say that the testimonies are the result of waiting upon Spirit; that they are a compilation of leadings of Spirit that have risen for many Friends over many generations of patient listening and discernment. They aren't a creed--they're the natural result of minding the Light.

In my case, the peace testimony was my first clear, undeniable experience of the Light. I've written of that recently, so I won't go into more detail here. But I will say that the moment I was convicted of that testimony was the moment of my convincement as a Friend, though I'm still sorting out all the ramifications. And there were a lot of reasons why I immediately was drawn to worship with Quakers--one of which was the practical one, that there weren't enough Pagans in my area who also held something like a peace testimony to meet with regularly.

However, a deeper reason, that it was a long time before I was able to put into words at all, was this: I did not experience the Spirit that sent me the peace testimony as simply a god among many gods. I have since come to believe that that Spirit of Peace is not yet another of the many Pagan gods, but is the source from which both we and the gods derive. I believe, in other words, that the Light of Friends is either the Source of Neoplatonic thought, or is close enough to it as to make no practical difference. I believe that it is set over the Pagan gods, in fact: that the Pagan gods hold parts of deep spiritual truth, but that the Light is the Truth.

This kind of thinking makes me not much fun at parties.

Historically, polytheists have managed to get along very well with one another. There are remarkably fewer bitter theological disputes among polytheists, in comparison with monotheists, given the wild diversity of deities and practices we embrace; the bitterest disputes are nearly always the result of misplaced nationalism rather than religious differences, per se.

And one of the ways we get along so well is our ability to shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, I certainly don't worship a three-headed goddess of chaos and microprocessors. But if that's how you interact with the world of spirit, more power to you!" Unfortunately, by coming to believe that my god--the Light of Friends--is more complete or in a greater authority than other people's gods--the traditional polytheistic gods of Paganism--I throw the whole system out of balance. What is there to keep religious animosity from breaking out?

The fact that mine is a God of Peace and Love? Please. Pagans have heard that kind of talk before. It's remarkably ineffective at heading off pogroms.

The only defense, in fact, against the Light of Friends being yet another Inquisitionist's inspiration is if I (by implication, if Friends) really mean it about there being no Way to Peace, but about Peace being the Way. Only by minding the Light, listening to it carefully, and practicing the disciplines that allow us not to outrun our leadings can we avoid being yet another form of religious zealotry, casting down other people's temples in order to erect our own.

That is not the way of the God of Friends. But it is the way that, historically, many Christians--including Quakers--have advanced what they saw as the interests of that God, and it is the way many Christians advance it still. Only real faithfulness to the Light will prevent it.

A lived peace testimony may be compatible with membership in a community of polytheists; one to which I give lip service may not be, at least for me.

(To Be Continued.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thoughts from the Curb

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."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Theologically Queer

I have mixed feelings about the article Are the Quakers Going Pagan? that recently ran online. I've especially been challenged by the discussion which has followed the article, especially among Friends.

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

...simply

........refuse

..............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....

... 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)
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.

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.

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