Chasing the Shakers

Sometimes it is the toes that are most succulent of all. Fungi blossoming upon yellowed nails, and those tangy cheese nuggets like hidden truffles to the connoisseur. Then of course that deep spiritual gratification of pursing one’s lips in perfect harmony with the arc of a foot as it crashes into the side of your face…simply exquisite. I began pondering these simple pleasures upon reading a Pew report on how American religious groups feel about themselves and each other. Rather than adding more of my own verbal ornamentation, see what piques your interest:

religionsSome interesting findings:

*  The most profound antipathy is that held mutually between atheists and evangelicals.  Though blacks also shun atheists just as white evangelicals do muslims.

* Atheists and agnostics very much like Buddhists.

* The greatest love of all, is happening to jews

* And jews are not alone in their philo-semitism. They are the only group that enjoys positive feelings from all other groups. This despite how shabbily they have been portrayed for years within the media.

* Evangelical adoration for jews is quite unrequited. Jewish sentiment toward evangelical christians is very negative and represents easily the most significant asymmetry of opinion between two groups.  Strikingly, jews are more pleasantly disposed to muslims.

Other than the strange atheist infatuation with Buddha, the last bullet point is obviously the most relevant. And though my opening preamble was a harsh mockery, it cant be overstated how unhealthy is any relationship featuring such diverging sentiment. Unhealthy primarily for the party whose affection is returned with contempt. It is unsustainable. Either postures will shift over time into alignment or the delusional lover will eventually come to ruin.

And in this instance delusion is not my preferred description. I know some evangelicals and they are honest, thoughtful, and worthy people. Their positions seem largely premised on good-faith interpretations of biblical doctrine. Good faith interpretation of biblical doctrine. That reminds me of another honest, thoughtful, and worthy people. The Shakers.

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers, is a religious sect founded in the 18th century in England, having branched off from a Quaker community. They were known as “Shaking Quakers” because of their ecstatic behavior during worship services. In 1747 women assumed leadership roles within the sect, notably Jane Wardley and Mother Ann Lee. Shakers settled in colonial America, with initial settlements in New Lebanon, New York [then Mount Lebanon] and what is now Watervliet.

Shakers today are mostly known for their celibate and communal lifestyle, pacifism, and their model of equality of the sexes, which they institutionalized in their society in the 1780s. They are also known for their simple living, architecture and furniture.

During the mid 19th century, an Era of Manifestations resulted in a period of dances, gift drawings and gift songs inspired by spiritual revelations. At its peak in the mid 19th century, there were 6,000 Shaker believers.

Shakers were celibate; procreation was forbidden after they joined the society (except for women who were already pregnant at admission). Children were added to their communities through indenture, adoption, or conversion.

By 1920, there were only 12 Shaker communities remaining. There is only one active Shaker village, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, which is located in Maine. Due to their belief in celibacy, which resulted in the thinning of the Shaker community, many of the other Shaker settlements are now village museums, like Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts.

The Shakers embraced perhaps nature’s most fundamentally maladaptive behavior. They embraced it in good-faith and out of duty and love for their God. And now the Shakers are no more.

Obviously current Christian inclinations are not quite so stark. Though any people who offer aid, affection, support, and even their lives on the battlefield to a group that thanks them with spittle is traveling a more oblique path toward the same destination.

The actors are all incidental. Christians, atheists, jews, buddhists, the lesson applies to any who care to learn it. Align your people’s beliefs with their interests. Or join the Shakers.

3 thoughts on “Chasing the Shakers

  1. it can’t be overstated how unhealthy is any relationship featuring such diverging sentiment. Unhealthy primarily for the party whose affection is returned with contempt.

    Perhaps the contempt is justified if you can keep the despised party from even noticing it is reviled.

    At some point, basic survival instincts necessitate reconciling what you are told with what you can see.

  2. I wonder if Glenn Beck has heard that his precious Zionists view both Mormons and Evangelicals with contempt. I am sure he will throttle back his support of Israel momentarily.

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