[saymaListserv] Quaker Sweat Lodge Reflections by Chuck Fager

Kit Potter listener at bellsouth.net
Sun Oct 3 22:27:07 JEST 2004

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your concerns, your caring for our fellow Friends, and your
seeking Truth.

To me, the key for us is to insist on respectful and full Quaker process in
the Spirit. The work, of necessity at this point, will continue for some
time. Also of necessity, it will not involve most of us directly except in
one way:

Friends of SAYMA, I call upon all of you to hold this situation and process
in the Light. Daily, if possible.

I also respectfully request that we:

1) Cease to speak authoritatively of that which we do not have in the full
story - let us not risk increase of harm or negativity

2) Release all pre-conceived perceptions, and, while sending love energy to
all who are involved, do our best to remain open to the sharing which is
sure to come from those who are actively involved and care very, very
deeply -- deeply enough to spend hours and days in prayer and seeking in
order to wrestle with this concern.

3) Discern whether we may have a strong personal leading and concern about
this, and if so, seek the support and connection necessary in order to
participate actively in the work of discernment and healing.

4) Expect accountability to the wider Friends community (as stated above.)

There has been injury done - that much is clear.

It is time to use the central discipline of our faith tradition in the
service of healing and love, moving forward and more deeply into the Truth
and the Light as a society. Your prayers and love will make all the

Thank you,

Kit Potter

[Kit Potter]  -----Original Message-----
From: sayma-bounces at kitenet.net [mailto:sayma-bounces at kitenet.net]On Behalf
Of free polazzo
Sent: Saturday, October 02, 2004 9:53 AM
To: Atlanta Friends Meeting; sayma at kitenet.net
Subject: [saymaListserv] Quaker Sweat Lodge Reflections by Chuck Fager

  Dear Friends,

  The quaker sweat lodge was well attended at SAYMA's yearly meeting, the
year we invited George Price to lead it at Warren Wilson College 9 years ago
in June of 1995.    George had been leading a workshop on the Quaker Sweat
Lodge since 1989 and it has been very well attended every year he did.
Over 1,000 Quaker teens and a few hundred Quaker adults participated to rave
reviews.   Some Native American people attended a few of the sweats we held
at Boone, NC.

  Last year some Friends have decided to turn this well attended work
workshop into a cause celebre, calling it "cultural appropriation".   Chuck
Fager, who we know from Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC, has written about
this concern.   While a long piece, there are many key concerns discussed
and I recommend it to you.

  I pray that out of this heat will come the Light of the Spirit to show us
the way forward.



    From: CHUCKFAGER at aol.com
    Date: Thu Sep 30, 2004  2:05:30  PM America/Chicago
    To: qpr at quaker.org
    Subject: The Quaker Sweat Lodge Issue-Some Thoughts

    Dear Friends,

            Here are some personal thoughts on the cancellation of the
Quaker sweat lodge at the 2004 FGC Gathering. I commend them to your
attention, and feel free to share them if you are so moved.

    Chuck Fager
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    The Quaker Sweat Lodge: Some Reflections

    Chuck Fager

    “Cultural appropriation”? This phrase was new to me; I guess I don’t get
out enough. But with some surfing and much reading, I began to get a sense
of it.

    Quakers know about “cultural appropriation.” At least we should. On a
shelf near the desk where I am writing is an empty bottle, the label of
which proclaims that it was once filled with “Old Quaker” whiskey. Back in
the early 1900s Indiana Yearly Meeting regularly petitioned the state
legislature to ban such misuse of their name; to no avail.

    Then of course there’s Quaker Oats, a multinational never owned or
operated by Friends. In the Eighties, they tried an oatmeal promotion
featuring “Popeye the Quaker Man,” in which Popeye eschewed eating spinach
for oatmeal, and then knocked the stuffing out of various “evildoers.”
Rather clever, really; but it could not withstand the protests of several
First Day School classes, who had better luck than Indiana Yearly Meeting.
Of course, Quaker Oats goes on.

    Then there’s Quaker State motor oil; and up in Buffalo you can get
Quaker Bonnet ice cream. Wilmington College dubs its sports teams the
“Fighting Quakers.”

    My personal favorite in this line is based in Pittsburgh: “Quaker Steak
and Lube,” a growing chain which styles itself as “America’s #1
motorsports-themed family restaurant.” (Makes me wonder which is #2 –
Presbyterian Steak & Lube?)

    We can smile at many of these; at least I can. But some others aren’t so
amusing. What of the secular groups that purport to operate on “Quaker
consensus” and mangle it at every turn? And haven’t many of us, on meeting
Friends from other branches, said (or thought, or better yet, overheard),
“They’re not REAL Quakers”? Ah, yes.

    Or take some other public images. In the movie “High Noon,” (picked as
one of the 25 “greatest" American films by the Library of Congress), Grace
Kelly as the Quaker heroine is portrayed as a fool and a coward who only
wants to run away from evil and conflict – until she “redeems” herself by
picking up a gun and shooting the bad guy, in the back. I find this deeply
offensive, and there are other such cinematic portrayals of pacifists as

    How do Friends cope with all this unauthorized use of our name, image,
and practices? Mostly we ignore it; sometimes we wring our hands. But it’s
fair to say that all in all, we’re surviving it.

    All this was in the back of my mind as I tried to make sense of the
great Sweat Lodge flap of 2004. Having missed the earlier meetings that
agonized over it, I’ve been studying hard to get up to speed. And the more I
learn, the more I wonder: What on earth has gotten into us?

    Here’s how it looks: for 13 years or so a ritual called a “Quaker sweat
lodge” had been presented at the Gathering, mainly involving high school
Friends. There were numerous testimonies (among them from my own son) that
this experience was spiritually important, even life-changing for many of
them. This is not, by the way, true for me; somewhere (not at the Gathering,
I think), I was invited into a sweat, but found it much too hot and stayed
only a few minutes. It may be wonderful for some, but it wasn’t my cup of

    At any rate, a sweat had been approved for the 2004 Gathering; but last
March, a letter came in from Alice Lopez, a member of the Mashpee
Wampanoags, denouncing the sweat lodge as “a flagrant example of racism,”
and Bang! Panic and pandemonium, with the workshop’s abrupt cancellation
being only one piece of the fallout.

    What was it that made the sweat so horrible, in the complainant’s eyes?
It was “cultural appropriation.” I’ll call this CA for short.

    Now, if the accusations had been of, say, bank robbery or stock fraud, a
couple of important processes would have thereby been triggered: First, the
organizers would be entitled to a fair trial; and second, they would be
presumed innocent until proven guilty. And a key preliminary of such due
process would be, “to be informed of the nature and cause of the
 accusation,” in the language of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

    If we can expect this in worldly courts, can’t we expect at least as
much among Friends? After all, Quaker books of Discipline for two centuries
have insisted that we take great care with Friends’ reputations. At stake
here, first of all, are the reputations of the organizers, George Price,
Breeze Luetke-Stahlman and Cullen Carns-Hilliker. They are not strangers
among us; together they have well over thirty years of attendance and work
at the Gathering; add in their other family members’ attendance, and the
attendance total easily doubles.

    But that is not all. Also on the block are the validity of 13 years of
committee discernment, the stacks of glowing reports by participants, and,
not coincidentally, the credibility of FGC in its dealings with its own,
especially the best of the rising generation.

    With so much in play, what have we seen in the way of being informed of
“the nature and cause of the accusation”?

    Well, among all the material sent me in this matter, no such explanation
has appeared, nor any sign of actual investigation and considered verdict as
to whether the organizers and their workshop were indeed guilty thereof.
Simply saying the words “Racism” and “cultural appropriation” appears to
have been sufficient.

    Indeed, the minutes of the LRCP from 4th Month 2004, record the
Committee for Ministry on Racism as declaring, “When someone is so strongly
offended by our behavior we must take heed, no matter what our intentions.”
Thus, to convict the organizers of “flagrant racism” and “cultural
appropriation,” merely making the accusation seems to have been enough.

    It is not enough for me. The committee “procedure” as described offends
every meaning of “due process” and good order that I know of, in or outside
Quakerism. Reference has been made to the secular court system. It is worth
noting here that organizations like FGC have been successfully sued for
defamation over episodes like these; and they deserved it. I hang my head in
shame when I read the accounts of what happened and am humiliated to recall
that my name is on that committee’s membership list.

    But my feelings are not the point here. To repeat the query: what are
these alleged infractions, exactly? And what evidence is there that the FGC
sweat lodge was a culpable example thereof? And on what ground can
disregarding the task of dealing with these fundamental questions of
fairness be justified?

    Since the concept of “cultural appropriation,” at least as some kind of
actionable offense, was new to me, I’ve worked hard to figure out exactly
what it is, how to identify it, and what can be done about it.

    In this effort, there have been problems. Definitions, for one thing.
Finding them was not the issue; I found many. [Ten such definitions are
included in the Appendix.] But none are the same, none seems definitive, and
there are no agreed-upon criteria for establishing it. Nevertheless, overall
they indicate that the phenomenon takes different forms, of which at least
three can be distinguished:

    First, the taking of actual artifacts and other tangible property.
Second, stereotypical, demeaning images and portrayal by one culture of
another, as in sports team names and mascots. And third, use or mimicry by
one culture of the rituals, beliefs, or symbols of another.

    The first kind of cultural appropriation is the easiest to identify. It
has been addressed by various laws, and is not involved in the FGC
situation. Nor, to my knowledge, is the second. The complaints about the
sweat lodge evidently come out of the third level. And at this point, as
Julie Deichmann, writing on “The Cultural Appropriation Debate,” put it,
this level of  “‘Cultural appropriation’ however, is a much more nebulous
concept.” This especially the case when one seeks criteria for positively
identifying it.

    You wouldn’t know this from reading the louder critics of CA; they
insist that any cross-cultural mimicry, use, or adaptation of other people’s
spiritual practices is obviously and unarguably a crime, indeed it’s
genocide. Consider Russell Means: “We are resisting this because
spirituality is the basis of our culture. If our culture is dissolved,
Indian people as such will cease to exist. By definition, the causing of any
culture to cease to exist is genocide.”

    What is the remedy for this? As Lynna Landstreet wrote, “some native
activists have explicitly told people of European ancestry to start working
with their own ancestral religions instead of pirating native beliefs.”

    Ward Churchill is one of the most vocal of this school. Landstreet
quotes Churchill as telling European “wanna-bes”[a common phrase]:

    “We are not unique in being indigenous. Everyone is indigenous
somewhere. You are not necessarily part of the colonizing, predatory reality
called ‘Europe.’ You are not even necessarily ‘Germans,’ with all that
implies. You are, or can be, who your ancestors were and who the
faith-keepers of your cultures remain: Angles, Saxons, Huns, Goths,
Visigoths. The choice is yours, but in order for it to have meaning, you
must meet the responsibilities that come with it.”

    (It intrigues me that Churchill would preach thus to a German audience.
Didn’t many in that culture undertake to reconnect with their primordial
indigenous roots back in the 1930s? As I recall, that effort didn’t turn out
so well, for them or for the world. But let that go.)

    One part of me strongly resonates with this appeal: knowing our
religious roots is a good idea; that’s largely why I offered workshops on
Bible study at the Gathering for ten years. I also agree that dilettantish
spiritual consumerism is as unappealing as any other kind.

    And yet, if this advice were made into a rule, a big problem immediately
leaps from the page: where would it leave me–and the half of Quakers today
who are likewise convinced members? For my part, I’d be stuck in Mel Gibson
Catholicism, a personal fate too awful to contemplate.

    And where, Friend, would that leave thee?

    Not to mention all the rearranging of cultural furniture it would
require across the board: are we really ready to banish the Christmas trees,
Easter baskets, Halloween costumes, and all the other stuff that our culture
imported (stole?) from other traditions, some we can’t even remember? The
sternly plain Quakers or 200 years ago would have said “Yes, Indeed” to this
query. (And I wouldn’t miss Easter baskets much.) But that was then.

    Speaking of Christmas trees brings up another key point: reading through
the literature, I discovered that “cultural appropriation” was only one name
for interchange between cultures, at least in the voluminous learned
discussions thereof.

    It seems there is also such a thing as “hybridity,” where two (or more)
cultures somehow blend, at least in part, to form a new cultural practice.
It happens in art – jazz, for instance. It certainly happens in religion
too, where it tends to be termed “syncretism,” sometimes approvingly,
sometimes not. And “hybridity” seems to be regarded as more or less okay by
those who are passing judgment, though this sentiment is not universal. I
will have more to say about this. Then there’s “appropriate cultural
 sharing”; the Unitarians like that one. Google even turned up a description
of a major scholarly project on the Ethics of Cultural Appropriation. Sounds
illuminating –– but it’s just getting started; no results yet.

    All this was intriguing, but it was easy to see more tough issues ahead:
how do we distinguish presumably legitimate “hybridity” or “appropriate”
cultural sharing from nasty old CA? For that matter, is all CA truly as evil
as some say? (Do I REALLY have to go back to being a Catholic??) If not, how
do we tell which is which?

    And then there’s the CA-is-“genocide” matter. This is a daunting charge,
one that might put an end to any discussion –– except that, fortunately, the
facts don’t bear it out. Certainly the Euro-American treatment of the
natives has included efforts at genocide, some of them gruesomely
successful. But during the last twenty years, the American Indian population
and their cultures have been burgeoning, not disappearing. The 2000 census
reported a 26 per cent increase in their numbers in only ten years. And as
scholar critical of CA acknowledges,

    “Native Americans have rebounded from the population low point during
the first half of the twentieth century (Nagel 1996). At that time, many
officials believed that because of the tumultuous history Indians had faced,
they would disappear as a separate race. This has changed and Indian culture
is growing stronger, and has even taken root in the mainstream population.
Part of this upswing has its roots in a political and cultural rebirth that
has fueled community pride and political struggle (Cornell 1988; Nagel
     – Gibbons, “New Age Cowboys and Indian Religion: Boundary Maintenance
and Religious Inter-Cultural Borrowing.”

    All this burgeoning happened, however, in the same years that saw the
proliferation of “Indian”-influenced workshops, seminars, souvenirs, etc.,
etc. So if these are an attempt at “genocide,” cultural or otherwise, they
have been a miserable failure – and thank goodness for that! Rather, it
seems to me the vigor of the native protests against the “New Age”
vulgarization and commercialization of some versions of native practices is
if anything a reflection of this renewing vitality. This, plus the peoples’
underlying ability to vent their feelings, and then get on with their
individual and communal lives.

    And here too, maybe a word of caution is in order: a practice that looks
to me like a cheesy ripoff of some spiritual tradition, may be for many
participants a profound and life-changing spiritual experience. Who,
exactly, is to make this judgment? And how? (And what was it our indigenous
spiritual teacher Jesus said about judging?)What about (re)learning to live
and let live, especially in these “nebulous” areas? And are these really new

    This point reminds me of early Friends history: there is a fat book in
the larger Quaker libraries, “Bibliotheca Anti-Quakeriana,” published in
1873, filled with the titles of thousands of anti-Quaker books and tracts
from the first generations. Most were variations on a common theme: that
Quakerism was a spiritual fraud, a rip-off, a corrupted, perverted
counterfeit, masquerading as “authentic” Christianity. The chorus was quite
loud, and the song of vituperation went on for a long time.

    So Friends, have been down this road before? Were we supposed to just
fold out tents in the face of this opposition? What have we learned from
this? What have we forgotten?

    And so it is in the Native American world. Yes, there are loud voices
denouncing anything that resembles the various versions of “cultural
appropriation”; but theirs are not the only voices. There are also native
teachers who have worked quietly with devoted non-natives to find ways to
share what is good in their traditions, because they think the underlying
spirituality could be of benefit, even to us whites.

    Which brings me back to George Price and the Quaker sweat lodge.

    The Lopez letter dismisses all this talk of work with native tahers and
mentors, declaring that the Quaker sweat lodge “is predicated on an
assumption that an almost exclusively white non-Native group has the right
to usurp any spiritual practice it finds meaningful.”

    But have the Quaker sweat lodges in fact been predicated on such an
assumption? What is the evidence for this assertion? The only “evidence”
cited in the Lopez letter is the sixty-one word workshop description in the
2004 Gathering Advance Program. Let’s review that:

     “Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience: Since 1989 young Friends have
participated in a sweat lodge at the Gathering, evolving in into an
experience deeply meaningful to many. This workshop offers participants an
opportunity to build the lodge, sweat, and discuss the history, Quaker
presence, and spiritual nature of the sweat lodge experience. Led by George
Price, Cullen Carns-Hilliker, and Breeze Luetke Stahlman. ”

    In any fair, Friendly, or competent inquiry, this brief description
would be the beginning, not the end. And even here, note that it does not
mention Native American spirituality or ceremonies. The organizers state
that this is not an accident; they assert that the experience has become
distinctively Quaker, not imitation anything. They are not the
much-condemned “wanna-bes.”

    Now let us imagine that a proper inquiry had been made into these
competing statements. One of the first items it would have discovered is
George Price’s article in the February 2002 Friends Journal, which explains
how his Native American teachers led the early sweats at the Gathering, and
then instructed him to continue them

    By his own account, George has spent many years studying and working
with such native teachers. These studies have been both formal and informal,
leading to academic degrees as well as life changes. But they have not been
limited to Native American rituals. He has found and studied parallel
rituals in European and Asian cultures too, and intentionally put the Quaker
sweat in a “universalist” context.

    (In this whole process, by the way, Price has been acting on a central
aspect of the traditional FGC ethos, namely an openness to truth from
wherever it may be found. Pages of quotes from books of Faith & Practice
could be quoted in support of this. To be sure, such cross-cultural seeking
should be done with sensitivity and care; but the record shows that’s what
he has displayed.)

    The inquiry would then have turned to the other leaders. Take Breeze
Luetke-Stahlman. It might be worth noting that though not yet 26, she has,
among other achievements, studied at the only all-native university in the
US, visited and worked on the Pine Ridge reservation, and even served as the
national lobbyist for the “Free Leonard Peltier” campaign. (How sweet, how
bitter the irony that the Lopez letter denouncing her “flagrant racism”
arrived on “Free Leonard Peltier” letterhead.)

    None of this, of course, gives her a “free pass” from being examined for
bias and CA. But it should give pause to any who thinks her work with the
Quaker sweat was that of an insensitive dilettante or a disrespectful New
Age dabbler. (I have not yet interviewed Cullen Carns-Hilliker.)

    Breeze told me, however, that while FGC sent someone from Philadelphia
to Mashpee to consult extensively with Lopez, no one even telephoned her to
find out about her perspective on the matter, never mind her background or
training. What accounts for this? Her youth? Ethnicity? Lack of hyperbolic
and overheated rhetoric?

    Price explained further in a response to the Lopez Letter that:

    “…… We do not pretend to be Native Americans and we make it clear at all
lodges that what we are doing is not a Native American sweat. We do not use
a pipe. We do not use prayer ties nor prayer flags. We do not sing Native
American songs…….We have researched non-Native American sources of the
sweat, the Celts of Ireland, the Finnish sauna, the Russian bannia, the Edo
sweats of Japan, and we have found inspiration and a sense of the
universality of the sweat lodge.”

    These statements do not seem at all congruent with an “assumption that
an almost exclusively white non-Native group has the right to usurp any
spiritual practice it finds meaningful.” Rather, it sounds peainstakingly
respectful. And once they are actually examined, the track records of the
organizers and the character of the workshop show a great deal of awareness
and sensitivity to the cultural issues involved, long predating the
criticism. Moreover, the Lopez letter presents no evidence that Price or
Breeze or Cullen are speaking falsely or disingenuously about this. Was any
other such contrary evidence sought out or presented? If not, why were the
charges of “flagrant racism” and “cultural appropriation” accepted without

    Instead, the Lopez letter attempted to pre-empt and prevent any such
inquiry by insisting that, “No matter who gave who permission, trained the
leader, etc. for Friends to use a sweat lodge is a violation and desecration
of one of the most private and sacred aspects of native spiritual practice.”

    But there are serious problems with this assertion. For starters, if
heeded it would prevent any hearing of the workshop leaders and their side.
This is patently unfair, though it is essentially what happened.

    For another, what standing does Lopez have to denigrate and dismiss the
witness of other Native leaders and teachers, especially without hearing
them either? How respectful is that?Among them, as Price also testified, was
Clyde Bellacourt of the American Indian Movement. Bellacourt also encouraged
Price to continue the sweats, when Bellacourt visited the Gathering in 1989.
If we are not calling Price a liar, such encouraging statements are as valid
as the Lopez criticism; and coming from persons who actually came to the
Gathering and dealt with Price, they have more credibility with me. So why
is FGC to privilege the Lopez statements and not theirs?

    Moreover, exactly how is a Quaker sweat lodge a “violation and
desecration” of Native practice?

    It is possible to gauge the harm in actual practice. That’s because the
Gathering was held in Amherst once before, in 1994. The record indicates
that there was a Quaker sweat lodge there. At that time, there were (and
are) no less than twelve Native American bands, tribes or nations in the
same region, among them Abenaki, Nipmucs, Ponkapoag, and Pequot, all nearer
to Amherst than the Mashpee, who are a hundred miles away on Cape Cod.

    What do we know about the 1994 experience? The Gathering came and went,
the sweat happened. And when it was done, these dozen native groups in the
region still had all their land; none of their cultural and ritual objects
had been stolen; none of their members had been subjected to public displays
of demeaning or stereotyped images; none of their ceremonies had been
usurped, spied upon, or copied; none of the groups, one suspects, even knew
the Quaker sweat had happened.

    As “desecration” and “cultural genocide”goes, this was a rather mild,
even innocuous example. If it was in fact wrong, which is by no means clear,
it was hardly an emergency requiring the discarding of any semblance of due
process or fair-minded, careful seeking.

    There are two final questions that have nagged me increasingly as I
consider this whole episode.

    The first is: what kind of precedent is being set here for FGC? Are we
now to submit our seventy-plus workshops to a new round of reviews by
self-appointed outsiders, persons and groups with no involvement in FGC, no
presence at the Gathering, because they might take exception to some of what
is on our program? Having offered many workshops at the Gathering myself,
this is not a hypothetical question for me.

    After all, Friends, let us recall that there are many aspects of the
Gathering that unquestionably are offensive to some, or many, in the outside
culture. Does anyone else remember 1981 at Berea, when we were threatened
with a mass march of outraged fundamentalists said to be coming to cleanse
the campus of the abomination of gays and lesbians were open and affirmed
among us?

    Now we are advised that the LRCP clerk has been contacting selected
native-related persons in Virginia about the advisability of having a sweat
at the 2005 Gathering in Blacksburg. If this is deemed good practice, how
can we properly limit it to that topic?

    Should we not also interview prominent Southern Baptist ministers around
Blacksburg, Virginia about women in leadership roles, nontheistic workshops,
FLGC meetings, sessions on past lives, and women’s rituals at our Gathering?
We could start with Jerry Falwell, who is just about the same distance away
as the Wampanoags were from Amherst. What if he didn’t like those ideas, as
one strongly suspects he would not?

    Or how about the area’s Catholic bishops? Let’s see: reproductive
rights, same sex, disdain for hierarchies–don’t get me started on all that!

    Then there’s the Virginia legislature. We already know what it thinks of
our welcoming same sex married couples – they’re attempting to outlaw them.
Should we defer to that? We’re supposedly a law-abiding bunch, on the whole.

    But it appears in these cases we are prepared to trust our own judgment
and discernment, which seems to me the wisest course.

    And this much can be said on behalf of the Virginia Baptists and their
homophobic legislators: chances are good that if we keep our dangerous
notions on the campus, they will go about their business and ignore us,
leaving us to the judgment of the God Whom we are both sure is on our side.
I wonder why some feel a need to go looking for trouble on this particular
score? Haven’t we had enough?

    So again: is this a wise precedent? I believe it is more like a can of
worms – no, a can of snakes, that bite.

    The second question gets more personal, because its effects reach to my
own family, which among ourselves has at least fifty person-years of
Gathering attendance: Breeze tells me their sweat lodge has had more than
300 participants, among them many of the most active young adult Friends in
the FGC orbit. The feedback from many of them, and some of their parents,
about FGC’s treatment of her and the sweat lodge has been angry and
alienated, and has not subsided.

    How dangerous is that? Let me put it this way: if I was hired by some
enemy of FGC to undermine the future of the Gathering, I could not have
hatched a better scheme than this for making it happen. Karl Rove would be

    Listen well, Friends: As this generation comes to understand that their
most cherished part of the Gathering can be summarily dumped, and its
respected leaders defamed as “flagrant racists,” based on a single
unsubstantiated complaint from someone who has never been at the Gathering,
has no presence in FGC, and knows no more about it than a sixty-one-word
blurb – such an understanding will ultimately be ruinous to FGC and the
Gathering. Ruinous. I may not know a lot; but I know that much. It is not
rocket science.

    And I can be more personal still: Since 2000, I have been bringing my
granddaughter Amber to the Gathering. Amber is multi-racial. Her
ethnic-cultural heritage includes African, native, and European strains.
Religiously, it takes in black Baptist, Gurdjieff-Jungian astrological
mysticism, Quakerism and humanism, all in addition to the more removed
background of Catholicism.

    What do we call this? If Amber is not a living, breathing embodiment of
“hybridity” and “syncretism,” who or what is? Right now it is natural to
her. No one has yet told her it is “cultural appropriation” and all wrong.
But when she gets old enough, in just a few years, to begin conscious
spiritual explorations to find her own way, how much of this heritage will
be fenced off from the FGC context, to prevent her giving any possible
offense to unknown and unidentified persons or groups? Will FGC be feeding
her pious absurdities about finding and sticking to somebody else’s notion
of her “indigenous” roots?

    Go ahead. But remember: with Amber’s “hybridity” comes awareness of
options. Watch how quickly she'll dump FGC and seek another spiritual home
where she will be free to do the work she needs to do. And she would not
leave by herself.

    To sum up: Friends, the sweat lodge controversy is on the brink of
becoming a major train wreck for FGC, one largely self-inflicted. I think –
I hope, the damage can be controlled.

    How? Here is my recipe:

    First, Breeze, George and Cullen deserve an apology from FGC for the
unconscionable way they have been treated.

    Next, have the LRCP and Central Committee minutes formally record a
withdrawal and repudiation of any and all charges, allegations, and
insinuations of racism associated with them or their work. At the very
least, such charges are completely unproven. My own view is that they are
false, defamatory and bring deep disgrace on the body.

    Third, include these three, and experienced Quaker sweat lodge alumni,
as full partners in all negotiations, internal and external, aimed at
finding a way to re-incorporate the sweat lodge experience into the
Gathering, especially for youth, in some mutually agreeable form. And make
that re-incorporation a goal, one worth bearing witness for as much as we
bear witness to our welcoming LGBT Friends.

    And fourth, admonish those who are carrying concerns for “racism” or
“cultural appropriation” within FGC to follow good order and show scrupulous
care for the reputation of Friends involved, taking pains to avoid
“talebearing and detraction” in pursuing their efforts. In particular, any
such allegations are to be dealt with by careful, full, and fair inquiry,
with the presumption of innocence. Our expectation for Quaker “due process”
is that it will be more equitable than that of the secular world, not less.

     And by the way: none of what has been said here is meant to imply that
FGC in its history and culture has somehow been free of racism. I’ve studied
FGC history more deeply than most, and sadly know the truth is otherwise.
Given my family’s multi-racial character, this is an item high on my agenda.
I particularly affirm and appreciate the work being done by Donna McDaniel
and Vanessa Julye to fill in and bring to us the details of this humbling
and painful story. If I thought the Quaker sweat lodge was a current example
of this racist taint, I would say so.

    NOTE: The Landstreet & Churchill quotes are from:
    The Soul of Nature: The Meaning of Ecological Spirituality, by Lynna

    Julie Deichmann, “The Cultural Appropriations Debate,”

     APPENDIX: Cultural Appropriation: Ten Definitions

    “Cultural Appropriation - refers to the process by which members of
relatively privileged groups “raid” the culture of less powerful or
marginalized groups, and removing [sic] cultural practices or artifacts from
historically or culturally specific contexts.”

     ­  From the Glossary of the Municipal Cultural Planning Project
(Canada) http://www.culturalplanning.ca/mcpp/ib_glossary.html#c

    Q. “What is cultural appropriation?

    A. The textbook definition of cultural appropriation is the ‘taking
[a.k.a. appropriating] from a culture that is not one’s own of...cultural
expressions or artifacts [or] history.’ Many people hold that cultural
appropriation is wrong because by stealing an element from someone’s culture
and then representing it in a different (and often shallow) context, you
both damage and dishonor the culture you have taken the ritual from.”

     ­ Body Modification Ezine FAQs
     [Note: The “textbook” in question was not identified.]

    The [Unitarian] Reverend Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley defines cultural
appropriation as consciously or unconsciously seeking to emulate concepts,
beliefs, or rituals that are foreign to a particular framework, individual,
or collective. It is incorporating language, cultural expressions, forms,
lifestyles, rituals, or practices about which there is little basis for
direct knowledge, experience, or authenticity into one’s being. It is also
the superficial appreciation of a culture without regard to its deeper

     ­ Jacqui Jame, Anti-Oppression Programs and Resource Director,
Unitarian-Universalist Assn., “Reckless Borrowing or Appropriate Cultural

    “ . . .the unspeakable indignity of having our most precious Lakota
ceremonies and spiritual practices desecrated, mocked and abused by
non-Indian "wannabes," hucksters, cultists, commercial profiteers and
self-styled "New Age shamans" and their followers . . . .”

     ­ Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality, 1993

    “The task of defining “cultural appropriation” is a more difficult
endeavor than defining “cultural property”. With property we have something
concrete such as bones or artifacts which indigenous communities are now
requesting that many museums around the world “repatriate”. Laws have been
enacted such as the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act .
. . . “Cultural appropriation” however, is a much more nebulous concept.

    Cultural appropriation, the borrowing of cultural elements, is a
consistent fact of the twentieth century.”

     ­ Julie Deichmann, “The Cultural Appropriations Debate,”

    “At its core, appropriation is nothing more than a dressed-up word for
stealing. In fact, many victims of cultural appropriation have denounced the
phrase, claiming that is de-emphasizes the true nature of what they consider
a crime. Appropriation occurs when one party takes upon itself to uncover
and absorb the practices of another culture without proper understanding,
training, respect or permission.”

     ­ “Interfaith Exchange and the Western Overculture”

    “Cultural appropriation is the theft of rituals, aesthetic standards and
behavior from one culture by another, generally by a ‘modern’ culture from a
‘primitive’ culture ­ often this involves the conversion of religion and
spirituality into ‘meaningless’ pop-culture.”

     ­ [From: http://encyc.bmezine.com/?Cultural_Appropriation]

    “Cultural appropriation is usually considered to be a majority group
(usually Whites or otherwise Eurocentric folks) mining a minority culture
for the jewels of its heritage for their own pleasure or benefit while the
voices of that culture remain silent or silenced.”

     ­ [From: http://www.mothersmagic.net/theology/CA.html]

    “[The authors] first offer a working definition of cultural
appropriation as ‘the taking - from a culture that is not one’s own - of
intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways
of knowing’. . . . .”

     ­ Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation. Bruce Ziff and
Pratima V. Rao. Rutgers University Press.

    “[C]ultural appropriation ­ that is, those practices involving the
non-consensual apprehension and/or misuse of cultural knowledge outside of
its local and traditional contexts.”

     ­ Description, “Ethics of Cultural Appropriation” Research project,
University of Victoria, British Columbia.

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