I didn’t intend to be a church-goer. A solid decade since I took on the name “non-believer,” my re-acquaintance with church came via my daughter, who expressed an interest. Not wanting to repeat my parents’ insistence on homogenous ideas, I played along, finding a church that would allow her to explore her theistic ideas, without instilling the bigotry and dreary doctrines of my youth. West Hills Friends offered a community of love and acceptance, without a faith requirement, or a focus on sin, hell, or discrimination. My daughter made friends, and my wife and I found a place to deal with religious ideas in a friendly setting.
For me, showing up at church is already well off the map. I stare at a cross I don’t believe holds any power, listen to people sing songs about events I don’t believe occurred, and read verses from a book most often used as a weapon. And yet, there is “light” here. By light, I mean a place of healing. This community embraces people while they struggle with the absurd, the cruel, and the unbelievable. While a general faith is shared by most, what is shared by all is an insistence on equality. It is simply unacceptable to treat others as less. Decent human beings don’t operate that way, and if God is anything, she is more kind and more loving than a human being.
I’m having trouble synthesizing my experience at West Hills against the backdrop of Quaker history, as I understand it. While the historical associations aren’t all that important to me personally, it is upsetting and baffling to think this community is being singled out for being TOO loving, and TOO accepting. My understanding is that Quakers were loving when other religions were not; that they were color blind when others were not; that they were peaceful when others were not. But now, some Quakers seem to be drawing a boundary around their love and acceptance of gays that they didn’t historically draw around people of color or people who supported war.
Watching is painful because it seems like people at WHF are being eaten by their own. I don’t have to share their faith to appreciate what their faith means to them. I think LGBT acceptance is important to them because of their faith, not in spite of it. More important, evidently, than being included in their Yearly Meeting. And now, NWYM has started disciplinary action against West Hills, and I wonder: How can a yearly meeting within a denomination that is supposedly “non-creedal” be torn about whether or not this much love can be allowed to continue under its mantle?
If there is light to be spoken of, I see it at West Hills. I think that for non-believers like me, if there is to be reconciliation with faith, or healing from the doctrines of our youth, it will happen in places like this, where “too much love” is not a phrase that makes sense. I feel strongly that, Yearly Meeting or not, the light will shine in this place, even if it’s the only light still shining.