Joseph McLendon, State of Formation, Mar.29
Quakers are an interesting bunch in that our religious practice is precisely that: practice. Surrounding this word, minds like de Certeau and Jackson are summoned. Perhaps no greater, however, comes to the forefront than the [in]famous Pierre Bourdieu. Known most contentiously for his theory of habitus (which he spent the bulk of his life defending), I believe the true gem of his work is nestled deeper in his theory of practice (which, ironically, is what he titled his initial, seminal text, and which very few remember him for). It is in his theory of practice that I feel I can best represent my religious community.
It is common vernacular, in Quaker circles, that Quaker-ism is less about ortho-doxy and more about ortho-praxy; it is less about correct-belief, and more about correct-action. Our semi-canonic text, even, is titled ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ (emphasis mine). The smaller, portable, text is the first two sections of that text, known as ‘Advices and Queries’, implying no certainty, merely ‘more conversation needed’.
Many Meetings (the equivalent of a synagogue, temple, or church service) vary greatly in terms of what each member believes. I remember one of my first Meetings. We worship in the ‘traditional’ Quaker fashion: the Unprogrammed Meeting. In these, Friends gather, sit in concentric circles, and meditate/ruminate in silence. If any one Friend feels prompted to speak, they stand and do so.
In this particular Meeting, a woman spoke on God’s love, and the Quaker concept that this love is a light all persons have within them. After a period of silent reflection, an elderly man stood and stated: ‘The only problem with ‘god’, is that it’s missing an ‘o’ [good].’
This dialogue solidified my desire to be a part of this community intentionally. I do not present this in an attempt to glibly gloss over the inherently theological nature of Quaker faith and practice. Nor do I present this account as an apology, nor certainly an advert, for Quakers. Rather, I do so to note how encouraging of internal differences of doxa they are, whilst holding to a strict doxa of praxis. The confines of Quaker doxa are that all members are encouraged to actively participate. This Meeting practiced their faiths with each other. They created a third entity, one of intersubjectivity, where lives could be shared in auto/biography.