Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 41 - U for Unquakerly

I have a problem with the word 'unquakerly'. It derives from the word 'quakerly' or 'quakerlike' - looking or behaving like a Quaker - but what does a Quaker look like today and how does a Quaker behave? Does it hark back to Whittier's 'Quaker of the olden time' and is 'being quakerly' the same for everyone?

One of the things that makes me uncomfortable about the word 'unquakerly' is that it is always used as a criticism. The person using it assumes that they know what 'quakerly' is and what it is not. Over the years many different things have been called 'unquakerly' - violence, conflict or disagreement of any sort, anger - colourful clothes, make-up, jewellery - drinking, gambling - dancing, singing, learning to play an instrument - programmed worship, Quaker pastors - paying taxes, not paying taxes. The list is endless and endlessly contradictory.

Most Quakers try their best to follow their leadings, to be guided by their Inward Teacher and their community. This endeavour is helped by mutual encouragement, not by criticism and by being divided into 'quakerly' and 'unquakerly'. For me the use of the word 'unquakerly' about someone else is where our famous Quaker tolerance breaks down.

Of course each of us is aware of our own lapses and failings and we can use the word 'unquakerly' defensively against ourselves, jumping in to criticise ourselves before others can do it. But rather than being negative there is a debate to be had about those positive quakerly qualities that we have in common.
I have another blog dedicated to the crafty things I make and perhaps some of them are rather unquakerly. On the one hand I am recycling material and making things rather than buying them, but on the other hand my beading is very sparkly and over the top and I enjoy it so much! For myself I think that the word 'unquakerly' is a bit like the word 'feminist.' It makes me want to say "This is what an unquakerly Quaker looks like - let's explore what that means!"

1 comment:

Margot Lunnon said...

I used the word unQuakerly recently in anticipation of a possible course of action by a Q committee. I said it was unQuakerly to think that one Q body, not a grant giving body, would NOT fund a banner promoting another Q body with which the first is closely related. How do you feel about that example?!