Have you noticed the growing number of comparisons between religion and environmentalism? This analogy seems to have sprouted legs, and is scampering its way across the punditsphere. For a definitive and perhaps seminal read on the subject, check out Michael Crichton’s 2003 speech to the Commonwealth Club, in which he elaborates with astonishing clarity the similarity of going green to going to church.
Although I have no conversion plans, I admit that I am intrigued by the notion of adding April 23 to the calendar of saints and feasts. I also believe that this new religion might be just the ticket to revive the moribund sect known as the Shakers, and I am all for that.
Shakers as you know broke off from the Quakers and found their way to upstate New York and New England. They lived simply, in harmony with the land: they ate what they grew, built furniture to last, and believed in the virtue of thrift. Yes it is true that they expressed their faith by sometimes speaking in tongues and by a rather prescient form of modern dance, but even the most spiritual among us needs a hobby.
Shakers were also decidedly ahead of their time in their attitudes about gender and divinity, seeing in the body of the lord both male and female characteristics. For this reason, among others, Shakerism (the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, actually), was organized around a matriarchal hierarchy. Mother Church, Gaia Hypothesis…the Shakers were definitely on to something!
It is also true that Shakers believed that as God’s chosen people they were singled out for being, well, single. Celibate, they grew their ranks through adoption and conversion. Imagine if you can (I cannot) a world in which single women were not only the norm, they were in charge! Imagine if you can (I cannot) a world in which marrieds were the second-class citizens, accepted by the group but looked at askance and ineligible for the top jobs. Talk about heaven on earth!
Heaven on earth is of course an oxymoron. If earth were heaven, I suppose we would have no religions at all. We wouldn’t need them. So I suppose it is too much to hope that today’s neo-Shakers, the members of the AGW Church, incorporate the tenet of single supremacy into their religion. Pity. If they just made this one sensible change to their dogma, they’d win a new convert.