Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's more than just oatmeal, people

I confess: In the past, "Quaker" never meant much more to me than oatmeal. The big hat, the grandfatherly gaze, Wilford Brimley... It's all so very comforting in a hot-filling-breakfast on a chilly-fall-morning sort of way.

And then Google came into my life, and I would never, ever be the same.

A few months ago I stumbled across a mention of a "Clearness Committee" on another guy's blog. There wasn't really an explanation of it so off to Google I went. At first I was a little uncomfortable with what I was reading: an "inner teacher" and "focus person" and "mirroring" and all that silence... I wondered when the crystals were going to come out and what kind of special brownies were going to be served up in the name of all this "clarity." But as I am learning to do, I opted not to discard it out of hand just because it was outside my box. I kept reading. And much to my surprise? I was a bit smitten.

Now, I'm not going to go into all that I learned about Clearness Committees. I'm sure my knowledge is barely rudimentary, so if you want to learn more you can read up on it here or here. Or Google your brains out -- you'll be at it for days, I'm sure.

What has happened, of course, is that my curiosity about Quakerism (also knows as The Religious Society of Friends) is piqued. This time I turned to my new best friend Wikipedia, where I learned about the Friends' beginnings in England, their strong presence in Africa (where I left my long-standing image of the Quaker Oats man at the curb), and some comtemporary movements maneuvering to take Christ out of the equation altogether. It's fascinating to me, really.

I don't know... the crux of the whole thing seems to be simplicity and yet - silly, silly me - I find that notion to be so complex. Like there certainly MUST be a catch, right? Right?

But then I read about these concepts -- to "hold in the light," to "proceed as the way opens", "leading," "that of God in everyone," and yes, "clearness" -- and they are so lovely to me, so cozy and familiar. It's as though I'm hearing some of my own beliefs, thoughts that I'd never really had words for, in a lexicon that's existed for hundreds of years. How very strange and wonderful.

My friend Amy commented in my last post that she thinks our little church community is more Quaker than we realize, and I think she's right. Certainly not in practice (because us, sitting for more than even 2 minutes in silence - really?), but I think perhaps in spirit. And I suspect that very few of us ever would have thought about it because, you know -- Quakers are all about the oatmeal. Right?

So here I am living with this whole new framework for "Quaker*" and it's the craziest thing: It's just as comforting as it was before, only I've traded in the whole grain goodness for Christ-centered promise.


*An interesting, if not exactly ironic aside? Type "Quaker" into Google and the first thing that comes up is... you guessed it: Quaker Oats.

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