Thursday, March 13, 2008

Quaker class diversity

"...if our Meetings become more class-diverse, we, as individuals, will grow close to God's ideal for ourselves. As Tai from the Friends of Color blog said:
I find truth in opposites. I believe that when we are faced with someone who is culturally "opposite" from us, we learn. And it's not the kind of Barney purple dinosaur learn, it's the, this fucking hurts because I'm growing learning.
And if our Meetings become more class-diverse, our Meetings might grow. Martin, quoting statistics about a decline in both Liberal and Evangelical Friends' Meetings except where the Yearly Meeting is dually affiliated with both FGC and FUM, recently said on his blog:
Could it be that serious theological wrestling and complicated spiritual identities create healthier religious bodies than monocultural groupings?
What Quaker doesn't want their Meeting to grow and doesn't want to grow personally?

Jeanne, at (this came across as a link this morning from Martin Kelly's Quaker Ranter) makes an argument for greater class diversity in Quaker meetings. What do you think of this? It caught my eye because often in my work as a religion reporter I met kind, sincere people who wanted me to write about the "diversity" of their group. However, the group in question was seldom more than superficially diverse ... the skin colors and ethnicities might be different, and the group might include the representative Muslim, Jew, Buddhist ... but everyone in it looked at life through the same educated, liberal lens. People would feel good about their "diversity," and they were good, kind people, but their groups only underscored that the diversity paradigm has shifted from race, ethnicity and religion to class and worldview. My experience has been that embracing people who are truly different increases my compassion and self-awareness. Listening carefully to people with different perspectives has shown me flaws or gaps in my own thinking and also revealed to me where I have prejudged (shown prejudice) against a group. But what are some things that block us from doing this more often? What is the downside?


Anonymous said...

Great post. What exactly do we mean by 'diversity' anyway? Would a Meeting that includes white Christian Quakers and white Univeralist Quakers be considered 'diverse' or does it only count if race is involved?

I think the issue is not one of diversity -- in my Meeting, we may mostly be the same color, but we definitely do not all think alike -- but of a willingness to engage each other, and to be genuinely open to the Light. It is, in other words, a matter of spiritual formation.

This is hard work, and it's not surprising that people shy away from it and form their own groups with people they feel comfortable with. But while it may be natural for such groups to form, they shoulf be resisted, because they undermine the spiritual progress of the Meeting as a whole.

Bill Samuel said...

Christ prayed for unity in the body of his followers. This was not a superficial but a deep unity. His followers included people of different social classes and different backgrounds at least akin to ethnic differences.

I think when disciples of Jesus of different social and ethnic backgrounds come together and truly listen to one another, something powerful happens. I heard testimony of that at the Everything Must Change Tour event last week from those involved in the Spiritual Support Groups which are a ministry of Church of the Saviour, and which are deliberately constituted to cross those lines.

This is diversity and unity within the church. There is also value in dialogue with those who don't share your spiritual basis, but that is a different thing from the diversity within the church. There is something very special in the bond of the unity in the Eternal when in the things of this world you are very different.