I’m a Believer


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.

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5 thoughts on “I’m a Believer

  1. Unfortunately your adoration of the Shakers is based on a few factual inaccuracies. First, the Shakers were not a matriarchal organization. They professed equality between the sexes (i.e., neither sex dominating the other) but in reality most of the leaders were men, including that the women had to rise each morning at 4:30 a.m. to put on a huge breakfast spread for the men, who, according to one female elder, “worked a full day before breakfast and deserved a substantial meal as breakfast, including that we prepared homemade apple pie every morning.” OMG if that doesn’t sound like classic conservative “keep the women in the kitchen cooking hearty meals for us men-folk,” I don’t know what does.

    Second, the Shakers produced high-quality work for the same reasons Egyptian slaves produced high-quality pyramids: according to the Shakers’ religious belief (which was actually a form of possession, which I will describe in a moment), their entire lives were sacrificed to work. They were allowed only 30 minutes a day to be alone with themselves (from 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., the half hour before dinner) and even then they were not supposed to use this 30 minutes as personal ‘downtime’: they were supposed to be meditating in their rooms. They were required to meet with everyone in the community every evening, and individual friendships were discouraged . . . just like Jim Jones’ San Francisco cult which eventually committed mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in the late 1970’s.

    At least three times a week the community spent their evenings in spiritual meetings which were essentially seances: they prayed to the ghost of Ann Lee, their founder, who declared before her death that she was the return of Christ and who supposedly ‘appeared’ spiritually to the Shakers regularly after her death during their spiritual meetings (through the mediumship of individual Shakers). (You must remember that ‘spiritualism’ was a huge fad at the time in many parts of the world, not just within the Shaker communities. That does not justify their actions, but does contribute towards the explanation).

    The ‘shaking’ which gave the organization its name originated as a derogatory slur back in Great Britain, where the group originated. The shaking was actually a form of possession or loss-of-conscious-bodily control, much like the state the Sufi ‘whirling dervishes’ put themselves into by whirling themselves into altered states. There is nothing divine about this activity: my two year old daughter used to throw tantrums so violent that after awhile the level of adrenaline she had created through this activity caused her to lose control over herself for 30-40 minutes at a time. It was a result which freaked her out and caused her to realize that she didn’t REALLY want to ‘go there,’ such that with a little assistance from myself and our pediatrician, she eventually learned how to stop herself and slowly ‘de-tox’ her emotions before they took her to this place she didn’t want to go.

    The problem with the Shakers is that they somehow believed that ‘going to that out-of-control place’ was an indicator of divinity, or the presence of the divine. My response: NOT! Especially since there is credible documentation that when you give up conscious control of your own body and thoughts, you basically give inferior spiritual elements in the Universe permission to step in and fill that vacuum. Hence the ‘mediumship’ and appearance of spirits within the Shaker spiritual meetings.

    Anyway. I think it is dangerous to misunderstand and ignorantly laud deluded groups like the Shakers, so I had to make this comment.

    Thanks for listening.

    Sincerely,

    Diane E. Stranz

    • Diane: Thank you for the facts; my discussion of the Shakers was not meant as scholarly discourse but rather as the jumping off point for a satirical take on the religion of global warming. I am happy to stand corrected!

  2. There might be global warming or cooling but the important issue is whether we, as a human race, can do anything about it.

    There are a host of porkies and not very much truth barraging us everyday so its difficult to know what to believe.

    I think I have simplified the issue in an entertaining way on my blog which includes some issues connected with climategate and “embarrassing” evidence.

    In the pipeline is an analysis of the economic effects of the proposed emission reductions. Watch this space or should I say Blog

    http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

    Please feel welcome to visit and leave a comment.

    Cheers

    Roger

    PS The term “porky” is listed in the Australian Dictionary of Slang.( So I’m told.)

  3. callmemiss,

    I checked out your site. Looks good and I will refer it to my lovely wife who has an impressive culinary site on facebook.
    You wont be able to read it unfortunately but the pictures, all taken in our kitchen, will be of great interest to you.

    Please visit my site and leave a comment because I am interested in everyone’s opinion.

    Cheers

    Roger

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