When I was in Paris, France, this past summer, in the Church of Mary Magdalene in the Opera district, I walked in and began to dance. It was Bastille Day, only I didn’t realize that until later. The energy of freedom was in the air, and when I heard the organ, there was nothing I could do put take off my shoes and move.
I have never danced like that before.
The religious tradition I’m a part of is the Quaker tradition, a group that started in the 17th century with the feeling that they were reviving early Christianity, Christianity at its roots. They acknowledged that many ministers or leaders in the mainstream Christian church were just phoning it in, did not know how to live lives of devotion and faith, but simply memorized Scripture and went through the motions. The Quaker brand of worship was sitting in silence, waiting until Spirit moved through them to speak, to offer a message that would hit people at their cores. They were about being open to divine guidance, about being led. When Spirit moved them to speak, their bodies would shake, and that’s how they adopted the term “quakers,” a far stretch from the original, “friend.” And at the time, Quakers were led to do some pretty radical things. They disobeyed typical practices of the day, hierarchies in speech and dress. They were persecuted, tortured, even killed when they practiced religious freedom. But they held fast to integrity, to justice, to the movements of spirit in their lives that would force them to continue to grow and change. And they gained a pretty good reputation, although now, centuries later, Quakerism is uh, sort of, dead.
No one knows who we are. We’ve lost something. Something big.
All religious institutions struggle with the institutional nature of existing: with hierarchies, with politics, with outdated practices. People begin to worship the framework rather than loving those who exist presently within that framework. People worship hierarchy and status quo rather than worshiping God. It happens in all religions, and it sucks. Sometimes, the people really following the message of the divine—simplicity, humility, and love—are the people who’ve eschewed church altogether. People who develop an independent internal practice outside of a community.
But I love my community, and I want it to grow. I think Quakers have a powerful message to offer from inherent beginnings in openness, in flexibility, in thinking outside the box. In trusting in their inner wisdom, rather than just following everyone else. In having a solid, personal foundation of faith. And Quaker communities can be a place where people heal from the pain of faith communities where they were not accepted. Because silence is beautiful.
But our bodies are beautiful, too. And a big problem with Christianity today is that the spirit is cut off from the body. We have been taught that our bodies are bad, that our bodies are wrong, that our bodies are full of sin. And so we lack comfort and peace within the physical home we’ve been given, the home that is our birthright, the place where Spirit dwells. We hide our bodies, we’re ashamed of them, we pretend they don’t matter. We batter our bodies in myriad ways. We think that our bodies are ugly and imperfect, things that need to be changed. We treat our bodies like crap.
But times are changing.
And they’re changing through women.
Women who are tired of being told we’re inferior, that we know less, that the wisdom we hold within us is useless. Because we see this world suffering, and we have the power and success now to take action, to do things differently. We go to yoga classes, we go to African dance. We nurse our young in public. We let our bodies grow large. We run marathons. We remove our bras. And we connect with others, holding hands to make a new world, where harmony and community is at the center. We recognize that does not always happen in the boardroom.
Harmony? Community? Sounds a lot like Jesus’s message.
Not greed, anger, war, domination, or corruption, which appear to be the mainstays of the day.
All the puzzle pieces are here for a movement to begin, something powerful that will effect radical, monumental change. We just need to be brave. We need to learn to trust ourselves, to trust in the goodness in us and in other people. We need to embrace our own leadings and stop shutting ourselves up, stopping before we start. We need to do this from a foundation of deep meditation and contemplation, not irrationally acting out. And when we take this time to be silent, to uncover, we’ll begin to recognize our own divine nature, to step into it, to grow into it, to become.
And this is all going to happen through celebrating and moving joyously in our glorious, beautiful, God-given bodies.
Do you want to come?