I initially posted this on Facebook and then my blog that no one reads (ha). I thought I'd share it here.
When I tell people I'm a Quaker, some of my friends ask me "What's Quaker?" The tendency is to go into history. We were colonizers who had a different but still problematic relationship with the Natives and who sought to establish a different, tolerant colony in the New World. I could point to how we differed on the holding of slaves but eventually came to unity on the evil of slavery and some were abolitionists. I could talk about how we were racist to the core against black membership but now work to be anti-racist. I could emphasize how the sexes were taught equally in school, and that set our women up to be leaders in the Suffrage and Abolitionist movements.
Based on all that, we are like any other American religion. We have a stained, complicated past. We've done good, but we've done wrong. We have experienced schism, each faction of our faith holding on to what they like and pushing off the rest, giving up the parts that make us uncomfortable, that challenge us.
But that's not what people are asking either. There is something within Quaker Way that pushes us to examine ourselves, hold ourselves up to the Light, and see where we are walking out of the Light. There is a message of hope. A solution that leads to living in integrity and love.
So I tell them something like this: Quakers are a people who believe that every person, no matter what they look like, no matter their politics, no matter their position on issues, no matter their life experiences has within them a measure of that radically loving Spirit that can serve as a guide and teacher. We find that in this busy, sometimes chaotic world, that our duty is to stop what we are doing. Be still. Sink down into that which is pure within us, surrender, yield or give ourselves over to this Spirit, and see how to act. WE come together to do this corporately, and we do this individually. Many Quakers world wide are Christian, but the Quakers I worship with do not put emphasis on theology. We know from experience that there is a Light that shines into or within us. It is what shows us our addictions and attachments, and also shows us a solution to be free of them. We don't argue the nature of this Light (is it God, is it Divine, is it from the Cosmos?). We have all experienced it and that's enough for us.
Quakerism is about surrender, but it's also about healing and transformation, then action. When we give up control, when we stop manipulating, when we release our resentments, anger, fear, desires, wants and turn them over to the Light, to the Spirit, peace comes. That peace comes from living up to the Light that we have and acting as it leads.
It's a simple thing, not always easy to do, and we are there with each other doing it.