A couple of months ago, I sought counsel from a woman Friend who has done extensive hospice work. I wanted guidance on how to help my parents through these last months or years of my father's life. My Friend had much to offer: practical advice, reassurance, and a calm acceptance of death.
As I was thanking her for her generous support, we got to talking about Meeting dynamics. She made a comment about the increased Christian ministry in Meeting and how it seems to speak to many new attenders.
I heard hesitancy in her voice, so I asked, "And does it speak to you?"
She looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm a woman."
Her words shifted something in me. I thought of my long struggle to make peace with the Christianity in Quakerism. I had even come to identify myself as Christian. I thought of how often someone on the Quaker blogosphere proclaims the need for more Christianity in Quakerism, and how uneasy that makes me feel. I imagine Quakers becoming so evangelical that they declaim homosexuality and insist that I cover my head, muffle my voice, and submit to my husband.
About a week after that, I ran across my copy of Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing. I read Starhawk's inscription to me and remembered our time in jail together after being arrested at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. I thought of all I had laid down in the process of becoming a Quaker. Perhaps it is time to pick it up again.
My thoughts simmered until my women's prayer group. l shared that I was uncomfortable with calls to make Quakerism more Christian, unless being more Christian means that we try to love one another better.
In worship, I can usually hear Friends' messages, whatever the language they use. The language of the Bible, however, does not speak to me directly. The Bible was written by men, from a male perspective. The Bible does not present either a rich or positive view of women and female spirituality. Women can learn to overlook and filter the negative, but we cannot find female voices in a medium in which they don't exist.
At our Meeting retreat, we broke into small groups and did an exercise to identify one another's spiritual gifts. One woman observed that I have a deep connection with the Earth, that I have learned to live in harmony with nature instead of in opposition to it.
Another puzzle piece snapped sharply into place for me. What we need in Quakerism is greater universalism, more connection with the Earth, more connection with the world's peoples, more connection with our bodies, and deeper attention to how we can live in harmony with one another and with the rest of creation. We need to spend more time listening to trees and watching banana slugs. We need to spend more time listening to those with different viewpoints and less time consolidating our own. We need to be more present in our bodies and spend less time abstracting away from our physical existence.
This I know experimentally: the Earth is sacred. The Goddess is immanent in creation. Every living thing on this planet is an embodiment of the Divine. Our salvation is right here, in these bodies, on this planet. How we treat one another matters. How we treat the Earth matters.
If Biblical language moves your soul, I rejoice for you. I just ask that you let the trees get a word in edgewise now and then, that you listen to the thrum of the living Earth, that you sink deep into your body and recognize that you too are an animal in the biosphere.
We are at a crossroads. The future of the Earth and all the living creatures on the Earth may very well depend on how we act in the next few years. Let's not waste our time squabbling about terminology. Let's go deeper, Friends, and do the work we are called to do.