Hypothetically speaking, if I were somehow unavoidably compelled to select a particular religion from my heritage, it would be the Society of Friends.
Society of Friends? Ummmm. New phone, who dis?
Society of Friends = Quakers. So much more than oatmeal and round flat-top hats.
Friends believe that men and women equally have souls; that both sexes ought to be able to preach; that marriage ought to be a civil matter between two consenting adults; that personal experience with God (any aspect of God: Father, Mother, Son, Holy Ghost because the Trinity is a deeply flawed human concept) is more important than scripture or dogmatic practice; that an “Inner Light” exists in everyone and so everyone can be saved without anything more than living by their conscience; that tithing robs from the poor and lines the pockets of the rich and is therefore immoral; that church houses are vanity, especially when Nature is the greatest cathedral of all.
Quakers also established the practice of clearly labeling items with a set price in groceries and merchantiles to do away with haggling, which is inherently time-consuming and usually unfair.
Basically, Quakers were the hippies of the 17th century.
I even have some Quaker foremothers named Freelove, although it has nothing to do with loose sexuality. To the Friends, it would have meant “the eternal and absolute grace of God to save the human soul” or some such beautiful notion.
So I raise a glass to my 5th great-grandmother Bathsheba Elton. She was born in 1742 in Norristown, Montgomery, Pennsylvania and married into my Porter line, but no one seems to know her exact birthday or the name of either her mother or father. (Such is the life of a female for most of human history.) I choose to imagine her like this woman. Cheers, grandma!
FYI: “Quakers” is a deragotory term, applied by those who maligned and executed them.
The horrible irony of the Puritans (who are not the same as the Pilgrims, BTW) is that they colonized America ostensibly for religious freedom, but offered no religious freedom to the Quakers. They would cut off their ears, or strip them down to the waist (male and female alike) and whip them until they bled, banish them, disenfranchise them, and hang them if they persisted.
We all have our martyrs, I suppose.
My parents, my brothers and their wives and their children, they have their martyrs.
All of them men.
Not that generally speaking I recommend being a martyr. But if I were a woman from the 1600s and my choices were 1) marry a man who may or may not beat me, 2) have babies until I died in childbirth or I lost all my teeth and the emphysema took me or 3) die a quick death at the gallows…
Ummm, yeah, I think I will take option #3, like Mary Dyer, one of the Boston martyrs of 1659. (Although, the concept of being a “martyr” doesn’t directly translate into Quakerism. They probably saw themselves as witnesses instead.)
I am not directly related to Mary Dyer, anymore than I am directly related to Abraham Lincoln.
My eighth great grandfather is John “The Immigrant” Colvin/Calvin, Sr. who was born in Devonshire England in November 1654. He arrived in the Colonies as a stow-away/indentured servant in 1670 and eventually settled in Bristol County, Massachussetts where in 1677 he married Dorothy Allen, a Quakeress of fine Friend heritage, who is also my eight great grandmother. Hello, grandma!
Look at the name of the first author below, and you will get a sense of what I mean about the Allens.
Beginning with this first interweave, various generations of Colvins married into the Society of Friends and migrated into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as well as Monmouth County, New Jersey and all throughout Rhode Island. In particular, John Colvin Jr. married into the Dyer family with both his second and third consecutive wives. That makes Mary Dyer a very distant cousin.
Still, cousins is cousins.
And at least I know her name and what she did, unlike so many other female cousins in my family tree.
Where I am going with this? I have been thinking a lot lately about October 27. It happens to be my mom’s birthday, but beyond that, it is International Religious Freedom Day.
I know that right now, for some people, including the utterly unworthy Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, religious freedom means not having to deal with other people’s beliefs when you are out and about on in America. But this is so ass-backwards it makes me want to spit. True freedom comes when you are so comfortable with your own beliefs that you have no need to judge anyone else for theirs. Love and let love be.
Yes, I know that this is a hippie concept, and so I will end with a hippie song which I am sure my Quaker ancestors would approve of:
“Reach out your hand if your cup be empty. If your cup is full, may it be again. Let it be known there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men.”