Sunday, March 08, 2009
The Association of Bad Friends
"So you're a Quaker?" I get that question a lot since I travel a good bit schlepping my books. People always seem a bit intrigued -- as if surprised any of us still exist. I usually answer, "Yes, a bad Quaker." Eyebrows generally raise at that. Then I go on to explain that, though I have been a member of the Religious Society of Friends all my life, I'm just not very good at being a Quaker. I find that I frequently fail to live up to the ideals of our Religious Society -- I'm not always peaceable, humble, truthful, ... well that's enough confession. While confession might be good for the soul, too much is enough to send a depressive like me into an emotional tailspin. But now you know why I say I am a "bad Quaker."
I have been comforted to find that I'm not the only one. Indeed, there are a number of us out there. Not that I'm going to name any. As I've discovered in my 58 years of Friendship, those who some people consider bad Quakers are often quite good Friends and some quite bad Friends are considered good Quakers.
So, other than obvious exceptions (like John Dillinger above), I think "bad Quaker" needs to be a form of self-nomination. One has to name one's-own-self a bad Quaker -- no one else can do it for thee.
I was thinking about this for lots of reasons (for one, there's a good deal of talk around these parts of Indiana about who's a good Quaker -- as defined by a certain Yearly Meeting's book of Faith and Practice -- and who's not), but mostly because one of my favorite self-named "bad Quakers" by the name of Jacob Stone sent me an email containing the following questions -- "Should we form the Association of Bad Friends??? Or Rogue Quakers of America???"
Whilst RQA has a certain ring to it (and slightly parallels the RSF), I think I'd go with the Association of Bad Friends (ABF). I've never thought of myself as a rogue -- I do like to heckle the herd from within, not lead it off into a new direction. And I think "of America" is a little too parochial. There are bad Quakers across the globe, aren't there?
So, I am hereby feeling led to begin the first local chapter of the here-to-fore non-existent Association of Bad Friends. You can only self-nominate. If you'd like to join, just reply to this blog or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Non-Friends are eligible to join the Friends of the Association of Bad Friends (FABF) -- so long as they would consider themselves bad Friends were they actually Quakers.
I'll be designing membership cards shortly.
P.S. As Jacob also noted -- "When I think about being a recalcitrant Quaker I am always reminded of a line from Rumi's poetry: 'Your sweet blasphemy is the truest devotion.'" Indeed.