So I’m out and about Thursday, trying to be a Christian (Matthew 25:36 variety), by visiting a friend who’s got some issues.
And when I arrive at the door to his place, there’s this notice on the door. Seems they’ve got a dress code:
Uh-oh. I wasn’t expecting this.
Well, this called for a closer look.
So I stepped up behind these two weird-looking guys who were already checking it out . . . .
Well, I knew I was in trouble, because I’m a male, and I was wearing shorts. (A Christian in shorts? Hey — it was nearly ninety degrees out there.)
But they were kinda long, cargo type. And instead of a problem, they turned into another indication that I’m approaching the age where we’re mostly invisible to younger folks, because nobody hassled me when I went in. I visited with my friend and walked out, bold as brass with my bare knees hanging out, and still nobody said anything.
But where was this place?
Of course it wasn’t a Wichita YAF preview; and yeah, I made up the part about Batman.
But the list was just as shown, and it did have an eerie sense of familiarity to it.
Here’s where it really was:
“Detention Center”; that’s JAIL to more plain-speaking folk.
I said the fellow I was visiting had issues. They’re with the sheriff and some ridiculous state laws.
The details are for another forum. But the apparel parallels here, once I tuned into them, were just plain unnerving.
(Of course, there are differences too: unlike Wichita, my homies will evidently let me, as a male, do my next visit in pajamas. Not sure why it’s a no-no for the “ladies.” Must be something from Paul’s epistles.)
What’s that verse from Mark? — 4:9, I think: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And her too.
That’s the first code mentioned in the heading. As to the second one, as has been said here before (more than once), the point about the Wichita YAF dress code and other expectations is not that they’re rules, but about whether they’re appropriate rules, wise rules, the right kind for adult Quakers. (And the answer here has been: they need some work. Seriously.)
But what would better rules look like? Here’s a positive example that deserves careful consideration.
Its from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
At EMU they have a very fine Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, which is a classy outfit, la creme of its field — BTW way ahead of any Quaker college peace studies program I’ve ever seen; college presidents take note.
Anyway, one of the annual programs of this Center is its Summer Peacebuilding Institute, two week-long sessions that bring together serious peace professionals from many countries and religions.
Since peacebuilding often takes place in locations ravaged by wars, it can happen that participants bring with them the marks of violent trauma, just as many US soldiers return from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan marked by PTSD. So all might not always be peace and light among them.
Hence, the Institute has a set of Expectations for participants designed to cope with such stresses, and it is worth a close look. Here it is:
Our objective at SPI is to provide a structured environment where people can share ideas and experiences in order to learn. Some of these ideas may be new to us, or may contradict cherished beliefs. Some of the experiences may be challenging to articulate or to listen to. In public sessions and in classes, everyone at SPI commits to do their best to listen respectfully to others and to engage in learning activities.
Our fields of work and study expose many of us to difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences. We try to establish an environment which is conducive to learning for every person. SPI has also arranged with a local counseling service to assist anyone who feels they need counseling. Nonetheless, if an individual is unable to adjust to the learning environment and thereby threatens the learning or safety of that individual or the group, SPI reserves the right to intervene, to outline behaviors that are required in order to participate, to make available counseling and mediation services, and, if necessary, to ask the individual not to return to class.
These feel both solid and respectful to me; also appropriately minimalist: if there’s trouble, they can handle it; otherwise, the participants are expected to hang on and enjoy what may be a roller-coaster ride of diverse experiences, convictions, cultures and responses, working out kinks as they go along.
EMU adds a few more housekeeping no-nos: no booze or illegal drugs; keep your room neat; and no pets.
(No PETS??!!??) [Kidding.]
This is a fine model for what a better alternative to the current Wichita rules could look like.
Friend John Stephens on his “Quaking” blog, has linked to some additional examples of less legalistic but still workable models, in Quaker settings.
It’s not really so hard.
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