Now I live in a part of the country where a different conception of the ministry exists. Around here, there is little sense that Friends speak from a divine unction or inward motion of Christ Jesus. In fact, around here the idea that Jesus directs people to speak in worship is mostly considered to be a minority opinion rather than a critical element of testing a leading. There are many exceptions, to be sure.Oddly, the Quakers at my Meeting are very vocally angry about things: the current government, the red/blue state divide, anyone that doesn't believe as they do about going green, Darfur, in other words, the panoply of Current Liberal Causes. Are these messages really "led" or are they given because we are (supposedly) an accepting, agreeing audience?
Recently I attended a meeting in which I was very uneasy with what one person stated during the worship. I have grown accustomed to people in liberal meetings outlining their own opinions or using worship time for autobiography or trying to figure out whether there really is a divine Creator. Any of these types of messages is acceptable around here but not in Ohio. One might question: if it takes a divine leading to speak in meeting, how can one speak on the topic of why (s)he has not decided yet if God exists?
This also ties in to conversations I've had with two teachers at MPOW. They teach a course called Practicing History, and part of that is decoding paintings that are part of an era. Of course, you can't do that without going into religious art - it's such a huge part of Western Culture. The problem is that today, more and more children are being raised in secular homes without being exposed to "basic" concepts (like, who Mary is, or how important Abraham was). So much of their teaching is, in a sense, remedial. Usually I'm not one to agree with the whole Cultural Literacy idea, but in some cases it just seems critical.
People of faith - any faith - are not necessarily evil or weird. That seems to be the East Coast idea however, and over expressions of that faith are to be avoided (oddly enough, even in a Meeting). Perhaps more eldering, and education, is needed for everyone.