Friday, July 21, 2006

Building Walls and Drawing Lines

It seems like a good percentage of the Quaker-blogosphere has been dedicated in one way or another to the issue of building walls - who is a Quaker, who isn't, do you have to believe this or that. The words "inclusive", "exclusive" and "tribal" seem to get thrown around a bit. This is often a very painful subject for people, and I think one of the driving issues is that people fear that a wall is being built, and that they will be left outside it. That is not my intention here.

Often in these discussions, people talk of building a wall, or drawing a line - those on one side are "in" and those on the other are "out". The thing is, there is a difference between walls and lines. Walls keep people out, lines do not. What lines frequently do is help you know where you are and what to expect. When you're driving down the highway, the lines give you guidance as to the direction you are going, and also where to expect other cars to be. I don't even want to think about what rush hour in Atlanta would be like if we erased all the lines on I-285.

What I would hope we have within the global Quaker community is more like a highway with different lanes. There are lanes for Christ-oriented people, some who prefer having a minister, some who prefer the older tradition, and lanes for people who may or may not be Christ-oriented but want a diverse, even eclectic community. We are all (hopefully) heading in the same direction, but we take different ways to get there. We look over at the other lanes and see how things are going there, sometimes we even decide to change lanes.

My hope is that we can all find a lane where we can get to where we are all going without giving other drivers the finger.


  1. Mark, this is a GREAT metaphor.

    I may prefer certain language and practices; my Friend prefers other language and practices. But we are all moving in the same general direction. What matters is to keep moving on, to keep deepening, deepening in our own particular disciplines, practices...

  2. I too like the metaphor. Lines however can also set up barriers. A solid line suggests impassability: A double solid line definately, a perforated
    line beside a solid line, depends on which side is the solid line to permit passing. A closed solid line in a circle suggests a closed organization or committee.The perforated line does connote permiability, and more flexibility in relating to views that are different from my own, and we can move in and out and around in true dialogue and learn from each other and by doing so build unity in community with diversity allowed.

  3. Dear dear dear dear Mark:
    I hope thee does not see this as giving thee the finger. I am at a loss sometimes, as Friends say one needs to put Christ at the center of the Society of Friends or leave, and Friends HAVE said that, that for some, that is giving more than the finger, it is giving the back of the hand!
    It is often put in terms of joining, by folks who have joined the society of Friends, as though they joined in order to define for others what is or is not a Friend, and those who are raised in a living Quaker tradition don't understand our faith that they joined.
    Now, in this, I am only pointing out that they are convinced in latter life, as they put it in terms of don't join if... and some of us are rather dyed in the wool!

    Dearly thine
    and in the light