As you may know, I am currently at work on a book on Quakerism. It’s a mess. I mean, I’ll fix it, but right now – whew. Have mercy. There are days I want to pack up my taxidermy and take to the open road.
I have noticed, however, that I am asked the SAME questions by people who find out I am a lifelong Quaker, particularly when they find out I’m writing a book on the subject. A look passes over the person’s face as if I had said I am writing a book about fine-wire mesh, or the history of pipes. I shall attempt to answer those questions now, and save many of you a good deal of time.
Q: Didn’t the Quakers become extinct 100 years ago?
A: Those of us who survived were nursed by a domestic housecat who had just given birth and took pity on us.
Q: Where would one find a real Quaker?
A: There are very very few Quakers left in America, and indeed an extinction date for British Quakerism has been given by Pink Dandelion. (2023.) American Quakers are found primarily in Pennsylvania, the East Coast, Indiana, and North Carolina. There are various sects all over the world practicing something they allude to Friends’ Worship, but it is unrecognizably so, if one knows the history of the Religious Society of Friends. In that way, there is no real Quaker, as there is no such thing as a pit bull. We recognize certain tendencies in a dog and say, “It has tremendous jaw strength, tenacity, heart. Its musculature is dense and it is deep-chested. Because of these characteristics, it is a Quaker.”
Q: Are the Quakers the same as the Amish?
A: Although the Amish were founded by a Dutch Anabaptist during the Protestant Reformation, Jakob Ammann, and thus were considered an order of the Swiss Mennonites; and although they speak German (or Pennsylvania Dutch); and although they keep themselves entirely separate from the ‘world,’ or the apostate; have no electricity or phones, and drive horse-drawn buggies on the open road, and the Quakers were founded by George Fox and Margaret Fell during the English Reformation, and spoke English; and although Quakers take it as a directive to change the world through acts of philanthropy and social justice, such as The American Friends Service Committee (which won the Nobel Peace Prize); and although we drive cars and I am typing this on a laptop plugged into a surge protector in an electrical outlet, YES, we are the same as the Amish. We are, essentially, the Amish.
Q: Do Quakers really have no ministers, and do they really worship in silence?
A: Real ones do. (Don’t you EVEN come after me, you Evangelicals and Programmed Friends. You know very well I carry a whip in my buggy and I am not afraid to use it, and this includes YOU, Mom.*)
Q: Did the Quakers invent oatmeal, and is that a real Quaker on the box?
A: Yes, Quakers invented the oat, and that is a real Quaker on the box. You can tell by his wig and his Amish hat.**
Q: Do you still wear bonnets and dresses that cover every part of your body?
A: Yes, I do. I am wearing a bonnet now.
Q: Are Quakers allowed to wear makeup or jewelry or listen to secular music or dance or read fiction or keep a blog?
A: No, we are not allowed to do any of those things.
Q: Are there restrictions for men, as well?
A: Yes, everyone is bonneted for safe-keeping.
* I would never flog my mother, who is a Quaker minister.
**My friend Dean says that the man on the oatmeal box is actually his grandmother, who was Jewish.