Number 8…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

8. Pride in our peculiarities

While we often give lip service to our frustration at being a marginalized minority, we can also take a quixotic pride in our uniqueness. We seem to like being different a little too much. Our distinctives become our definition, which sometimes means we turn the original purpose of our peculiarities upside down. The Quaker distinctives of peacemaking, equality, social justice, and simplicity (to name a few) are just branches. Leafy, fruit-bearing branches organically sprung from the Jesus-trunk, rooted in God’s ever-speaking Holy Spirit. We need to stop lopping off branches and planting them in the ground as our center. Branches belong on the trunk.

11 thoughts on “Number 8…

  1. So I’m still waiting for the controversial part… I’ll be gone for the weekend, but I’ll look forward to more of the list when I get back.

    Ben Lomond Quaker Center is holding a workshop at the end of March about how the testimonies are the fruit of our God-led transformation, not the definition of being a Friend. Two wonderful Friends from the Bay Area are leading it. You may know some folks who would like it.


  2. My goodness, you are hard to offend. 🙂 Maybe I’m just around easily irritated people. I’m so glad to hear of the workshop you mentioned, and this journey seems to just prove that God is so much at work all over the place.

    Laurie, thanks for your comments and for participating in the conversation!


  3. This may be an aside, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to adapt one of our peculiarities to city life while being true to the original intent. Generally I call all people by their first names and have taught my white children to do the same. They go to a Quaker school where this is the norm in adult/child interactions. But I’ve come to realize that this practice is offensive to some of our black neighbors. I think black Americans started calling each other “Miss” and “Mr” for the same reasons Quakers gave up titles, to confer the same respect for all people–they were just approaching the problem from a different social position. So I’ve begun having my children call people whatever they prefer being called, though that now means that they call most white adults by their first names and at least some of the black adults they know “Mr Will” etc. It seems awkward on the one hand because we are calling different people differently, but it seems more true to the intent of the Quaker practice, which is to show everyone equal respect in recognition of our equality in God’s eyes. Has anyone else struggled with this?


  4. This is a very motivating list, Gregg. Taking pride in peculiarities begs the question: Could distinctives become our extinctives? I have been saying to Quaker leaders for some time now that ships do well in the harbor, but that’s not what they are made to do. Our Friends history and distinctives should be a rudder to guide us in the fiture not an anchor to hold us in the harbor.

    Your post number eight begs us to pull anchor.


  5. Eileen, I sympathise with you. I think in situations such as these we should not be afraid to be outwardly different from the Quaker custom, but instead try to do what we are truly led to do.


  6. I posted this in the wrong number slot last night. Here we go..Some wise person said that ” Pride is the root of all evil.” Darn, who was that? The topic of this post was pride… I think it is all to easy for Friends to fall prey to “distinction” and differentiation when politics or social justice issues come up in our discourse with others. It is simply too easy to be ‘correct’ in these areas because there is so much material to work with; so much that isn’t right. However, I think Gregg hits the nail on the head– we need to focus more on what makes us spiritually unique. The Quaker’s profound history and spiritual practice — awareness of the Spirit through experience, via quiet introspection, prayer, meditation. Whatever you label the practice it is experiencing God in the present. When one hears the still small voice that can only be a very humbling experience.


  7. No Gregg, thank YOU. Your website just told me I was identified in your spam filter. Would you like eggs with this post, too? 🙂

    Hello Eileen,

    I think what you are experiencing is not neccessarily racial, but geographical. Many African-American families have a southern background, where the use of appropriated titles is common. It is a part of southern culture to teach this type of “respect” to their children, and though a black family may have left the south 100 years back, the use of titles it still a part of their shared vocabulary.

    My husband and I are white. Our daughters are black. We became a family through adoption while living in Texas. While working within the foster system, we observed that children who do not address adults by Mr, Ms, Sir, or M’am, are seen as disrespectful. It is just part of the custom. We never followed that because we are Yankees (ha!). I always try to remember that they are just customs, religious or not. Maybe have your child ask what the adult would like to be addressed as?


  8. I realized I never commented on Dave’s post. I guess I want to be clear that I’m not advocating abandoning our distinctives, not in the least. I want us to have them in the proper place, flowing out of a living relationship with Jesus, willing to let them take new shape or even be pruned by Jesus. They can’t become our center or our definition.


  9. Gregg,

    The image of lopping off the branches, stuffing them into the ground, and pointing to them as our root is one of the best ways I’ve come across to describe my concern of how we have strayed…

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

    P.S. On 2 February, I couldn’t access your blog at all. Not sure why that happened, since today (3 Feb.) all seems to be well.


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