Policing the boundaries

Haakon VII av Asta NørregaardS resigned her membership of Quakers, but I was wrong to say she had left the Society. How hard it is to avoid assumptions! I had seen no difference, but she wanted to continue attending, and was angry when I suggested there was a difference between an ordinary attender, who was approaching us, or a long term attender who just did not want to go through the membership procedure, and someone who had resigned membership. This got it clearer in my own mind.

There is the community of people: you become one of us. There are those keeping the practice alive- the crew of the ship- and the passengers. And membership shows commitment to the Ideal of Quakerism. Resigning feels like a step back. We accept that many do not clearly fit any category, and we have individual relationships. S feels at the moment she will continue to attend the Quaker meeting. Since we would generally assume that resignation means leaving, S has to make it clear that it does not.

She might cease attending at any time. I would like my community to have continuity. It remains a pain when it does not.

M came to Charney Manor after attending only three Quaker meetings. On the Friday night we sat in the Solar and I heard from him how once he is in touch with The Real, which is inside him, questions of “acceptance” of reality or “forgiveness” fall away. Fair enough, I suppose. A bit dogmatic. Then on the Saturday morning in silent worship he said “Should we not use the true name of God, which is Allah?”

Over lunch, I confronted him. “Al Lah” means “The God”. It adds nothing to understanding, and why should we use Arabic? We got heated. I told him his views were worthless, and he insisted he had uttered a question rather than an opinion. I asked if he knew what a double question was, and he said “No”. He said my utterances were meaningless, I asked if he was Logical Positivist, he said No. “I’ve never seen Quakers argue before,” said Tia.

Later, he said to me “I’m sorry if you were upset by my opinions, but I am entitled to say what I think.” So I asked him a question: “What makes you imagine I was upset by your opinions?” He answered a different question, saying he could hear it in my voice, though I repeated the question, saying, “What makes you imagine I was upset –by—Your—Opinions?” I was upset, by childhood trauma, the complete inability to communicate.

We manage to contain widely differing views in the Society by giving primacy to the Practice of stillness, being careful how we describe it and far more how we explain it. A church where all are expected to accept Substitutionary Atonement has different pressures, but we show respect to each other’s views, and come to share them rather than to teach others. In sharing, we gain understanding. In teaching, we gain only a form of words.

5 thoughts on “Policing the boundaries

  1. Sometimes, Clare, I simply want to go live in a villa above Lake Geneva, think of charities to assist, and let the rest of the world go away. I would like a housekeeper/cook, whom I would pay a king’s ransom and provide her with an en suite. Ah. Dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

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