Spotlight: The Shakers

Netflix’s impending rise in cost has me pondering what my television viewing options are going to be next month. It’s only an additional $9, but its the principle…the principle! I don’t know if I  will cancel my Netflix subscription, as it is still a very reasonable price for unlimited instant viewing. I might drop my cable instead. We’ll see. Luckily, I won’t have to worry about it for a month as I’ve already been charged for July. I decided I should probably try and get the most out of my Netflix account while I still could, so I scoured the “Watch Instantly” menu for a religious documentary.

If you know me, you know that I LOVE to study different religions. East, West, Earth-Based, etc…I love them all. Unfortunately for me, There simply doesn’t seem to be a plethora of documentaries that match my taste. I don’t want to watch a liberal documentary bashing evangelicals (can you do something else with your time? Putting others down doesn’t seem to be accomplishing much). I also don’t want to watch an evangelical’s view on religion. So…I settled on a PBS documentary on the Shakers.

I think we all know about their gorgeous and simple furniture, but they accomplished so much more! Did you know they invented the clothes pin, flat broom and circular saw? They were a passionate group who traveled from Europe to America for religious freedom. They worshiped God in the way they felt called to, and were labeled “Shakers” due to their elaborate worship services with both choreographed and freestyle dance. Celibacy was one of their distinct requirements that most outsiders frowned upon and didn’t understand. The Shakers believed that abstinence brought them closer to God and allowed their minds to focus on more heavenly tasks. Some have speculated that their abstinence was the leading cause of their ability to produce such quality workmanship and invent so many products still used today. This speculation immediately reminded me of the Seinfeld episode “Abstinence”. It is probably one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. If you haven’t seen it. Here is a quick breakdown:

All funny business aside, what really interests me, is how we as humans continue to judge other’s religious beliefs. The Shakers were very strict in their beliefs but felt their bodies could be used to worship God. How cool! No sex, but plenty of dancing!

Growing up in Christianity, when I was in high-school (evangelical) I was forced to sign a document that I WOULDN’T dance. Its interesting where people draw the lines. Marital Sex? YES! Dancing…NO!  I remember visiting my Grandma once when she had one of her Laestadian relatives from Minnesota staying with her. We were listening to some Golden Oldies and I started grooving my little 4 year old body. The Laestadian immediately started to spank me. “NO DANCING! NO DANCING!” I was shocked. That was circa 1985, so I don’t think I was bumping and grinding. I was allowed to shake my body at home so I was very confused, and being such a sensitive child I ran off crying and praying that God wouldn’t send me to hell.

It has taken me many years to overcome dogma and try to find True Spirituality. Where I feel true to “God”, true to myself and true to those around me. Its a fight worth fighting. Its the reason the Shakers crossed the Atlantic. Religious Freedom. We all deserve it. We are all on the same journey. Our paths are many. If you start judging other’s personal convictions you might just be inviting judgment on your own convictions.

Lets all play nice.


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