PROPOSITION: Inside every man and woman there's a rebel trying to break out
PROOF: The Quaker bombshell on SEX
by Cyril Aynsley
There are only 21,000 Quakers in Britain. In terms of religious membership this is infinitesimal. Their real strength in the mind of the public at large rested in an image. Now that has been demolished.
They have unleashed a furious national controversy by publishing a 73-page booklet challenging many of the accepted ideas about sex in Christian countries.
And bang goes that image of a pious, diffident community shut off from the world outside. An image stretching over three centuries, but develop in recent times by a picture on a packet of porridge. By the cinema. By novels.
It is a picture of people dressed in long cloaks and a hat with a curious brim. Addressing each other as thee and thou. Meek people.
In fact, it is a false image. For the Quakers are the very people to challenge the status quo.
They have been rebels in the past--and their current sex bombshell carries on the tradition.
It is rebellion against what they consider hypocritical, falsely traditional, oppressive and out of date.
When they addressed themselves as thee and thou it was rebellion against the fact that in those days men addressed servants and lower castes as thee and thou and talked with equals as you.
"Concern is our great by-word," a spokesman at Friends House, just opposite Euston Station, told me yesterday.
"This is the basis of the heart of Quaker understanding of life."
The very fact that they have no hierarchy made it possible yesterday for Miss Anna Bidder, zoology lecturer at Cambridge University and one of the signatories of the pamphlet, to say to me: "Please make it clear that this is not an official publication of the Society of Friends."
Yet it is signed by 11 eminent Quakers and published by the Friends Home Service Committee at the society's headquarters.
But whatever the wrongs or rights of this controversy there is no doubting the compassion or sincerity which prompted it.
Miss Bidder, a 59-year-old spinster, and her 10 other Friends spent six years investigating the complexities of pre-marital chastity, the eternal triangle in marriage, homosexuality, and sex in every aspect.
I suggested to her that their condonation of infidelity in some circumstances might mean a revision of the Church of England marriage promises.
Miss Bidder said there was no condonation. Only an understanding that it could happen. If it did happen there could be a reunion which would enrich the experience of all three in the eternal triangle.
And if you read this book carefully you quickly realise it is not a licence for loose living or, as Miss Bidder bluntly put it, "an excuse for men and women jumping in and out of bed with each other."
It is a searching for the most rounded and wholesome solution of a not uncommon and perplexing situation.
This is the way they work in their worship. Go into a Friends Meeting House and you may find long periods of silence. Then someone will speak.
"Each meeting," I was told yesterday, "is an adventure. Our attitude is always experimental. The two words are concern and experiment."
I feel if this present sex-pamphlet, which has become something of a storm centre, is read in the context of the two words--concern and experiment--it will be better understood.
If, through its bluntness, it has demolished the old porridge-packet image of the Quaker, that might be a good thing for the Friends.
For they are gentle. But they are no fuddy-duddies.