Friday, January 16, 2009
Indulge Me, Please
It seems I'm always hanging around the wrong people. My grandmother worried that I did that too much when I was a teenager. If she were still alive, I doubt that she'd be pleased that I am still hanging around the wrong people.
By wrong, she meant people who were prone to getting into trouble, didn't share the exact same faith as we did (the TRUE Evangelical Quaker faith -- not the more LIBERAL Evangelical Quaker faith as practiced in Oregon or Kansas or other places), and were, well, smart-asses.
Now few of my friends ever got into *real* trouble, but some held different beliefs (Catholics, fer instance), and a great many were smart-asses. Which I found one of their more endearing qualities.
"How will you ever be a minister with that smart-aleck bent you have?" she'd ask. I mostly murmured or mumbled an answer, but if I'd had a bit more chutzpah, I'd have suggested that a little bit of smart-assness helps the pastoral life go down. And that it was really needed if once was going to succeed as a pastor -- especially in the mixed up Quaker pastoral system, which is neither fish nor fowl, dairy or meat. It just ain't kosher. (But that's a whole 'nother blog. To see some of my thoughts on that, check out http://friendsinfellowship.blogspot.com/2007/10/neither-ceo-nor-slave-paradox-of-quaker.html)
But back to hanging around the wrong people. I recently returned from northern California where I got to spend some time with Gretta and Jacob Stone, directors of Quaker Center in Ben Lomond. Now they're the right kind of people in my book, but Grandmother Bill would probably see it different. For one, they believe much differently than I do (which in her book would make them "wrong"). And Jacob especially has this wacky humourous side that edges on smart-assness. Which meant we got along famously.
One night he was sharing one of his fundraising ideas. After all, many Friends groups are struggling for funds, so perhaps it was time for something new -- tithes and offerings and appeal letters don't seem to be working. How about, he suggested, the selling of Quaker indulgences?
Here's how it could work (with apologies, somewhat to Jacob for stealing his idea and going completely wild with it). Let's say you're like me -- a bad Quaker. I don't mean evil, I just mean, not very good at it. And as a bad Quaker someone has really ticked you off and you'd just love to smack some sense into them. Under the Quaker Indulgences Plan, you could donate $500 (in addition to your regular giving) to your favorite Friendly organization and in return they would issue you an one day indulgence from the Peace Testimony. Then you could skip calling your Lutheran brother-in-law, and just go slap the offender silly yourownself.
Or let's say you need to buy a new car. For $100 you could spend a day not looking at hybrids or 10 year old Volvos with millions of miles on them and head directly to the Audi dealer and try out a new S8 -- all 10 cylinders of it. A day off from the Simplicity testimony.
Maybe for $50 you could get an indulgence from taking oaths -- like, say, if you got called for jury duty. "Do you swear" -- and everybody else says "Yes" and you stand there silently while everybody wonders what kind of doofus you are for not raising your right hand and swearing along with the rest of them. The embarrassment saving factor is worth $50.
Well, I could go on -- but I hear Grandmother tsk, tsking in my inner ear. Or was that the Inner Light? They couldn't be in cahoots, could they?