“We have both had some pretty frustrating, difficult, painful experiences among Friends and we’re still Quakers,” Lucia Kalinosky says when asked why they co-founded the Instagram account “Meme-istry and Counsel” with Sally Wiedenbeck. “This is our spiritual home and we didn’t want to leave it, but we also needed to criticize it in a pretty robust way.”
Sally and Lucia elaborate on how they use humorous memes to raise issues Friends are sometimes reluctant to confront, such as police and prison abolition, racism, and gender discrimination (especially trans and non-binary issues). “These are struggles that we need to talk about,” Sally says, “so that we can try and find a way to include them and try and recognize that we have these common struggles…There’s power in that.”
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Sally Wiedenbeck: Obviously humor can be a release, and laughter can be a huge release of tension, and we were in a place where we were tense around Quakers and needed that release, and I remember that we just started going back and forth saying– describing memes about Quakerism to each other and like, from that we had like ten, fifteen?
Lucia Kalinosky: Yeah
Sally: And we were like, we could do something with this. We could share these.
Memes and Humor as Ministry
I’m Sally Wiedenbeck. I use she or they pronouns. I live in Minneapolis, MN, and I attend Laughing Waters Preparatory Meeting.
My name is Lucia Kalinosky. I use they/them pronouns. I also live in Minneapolis. I attend Laughing Waters, I’m a member of Bear Creek Monthly Meeting in Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative, and we are the co-clerks of the Meme-istry and Counsel Committee, which is on Instagram as @rsofshitposting.
Lucia: The memes page came out of frustration and like, needing a place to vent. We have both had some pretty frustrating, difficult, painful experiences among Friends and we’re still Quakers: this is our spiritual home and we didn’t want to leave it, but we also needed to, like, criticize it in a pretty robust way.
Sally: So it’s been really incredible to see how many people relate and that’s been, I think, really powerful, at least for me– I think for both of us– that we have created a community to an extent and that people who see the memes feel less alone, which is really important. And that’s, I think, the power of the internet in general. It’s being able to bring people together who are geographically separated. But it’s also been really powerful for me and sort of validating for me to see that, yes, other young adults are struggling with these same issues in their meetings, and that this is– these are struggles that we need to talk about so that we can try and find a way to include them and try and recognize that we have these common struggles and that there’s power in that.
The Mission of the Meme-istry and Counsel Page
Lucia: Since we’ve been asked, kind of like, what is our mission, what we’ve come up with is talking about things that are taboo amongst Friends and that those thing– so some of the things are: sexual ethics; police and prison abolition, and kind of like a systemic view of violence, which not all Quakers share; race and racism; gender, especially trans and non-binary issues; ableism and access. Those are all a lot of the things that– one of the memes is: “you can’t talk about that, you’ll stir the pot” and then a picture of someone stirring a giant pot, and it is! It feels like the ministry at this point is to talk about stuff that we don’t talk about because that’s what we’re called to do, right? Like, that’s what continuing revelation is, is asking ourselves these questions and discerning how do we speak to the condition of the world?
Sally: One of our earliest memes was the “Is this a pigeon?” meme, which is of somebody holding up their hand looking at a butterfly and going, “is this a pigeon?” and we had it so the person was labeled “Quakers” and the butterfly was labeled “literally any emotion” and they’re asking, “Is this anger?” And I think that speaks to even why we use memes because expressing emotion in a place, especially among Quakers, where quietness and centeredness are valued, that can spill over into devaluing emotion, even though emotion is important and spiritual and creative and godly. But using humor to criticize I think disarms people a little bit, and so they’re more willing to go, “Oh that was funny!” and then maybe ten minutes, maybe ten days, maybe a month later they think about– somewhere in their brain they’re thinking about why that was funny. And it’s funny because it connected with reality; it connected with something that somebody experienced.
Lucia: I would just say I think that the memes page– I think it’s taken more bravery than I expected, and I don’t say that lightly. I think of myself as kind of like a loud-mouthed, joker man, but like this has definitely pushed me. There’ve been times when I’ve been like, “We’re gonna say what? We’re gonna do what? We have to– Oh, this thing came up and we have to respond to it? Eughhh!” So there’s definitely been like, needing that kind of courage support.
- 1) Is the ministry seen in jokes, humor, and memes valued the same as “serious” vocal ministry? Why or why not?
- 2) Lucia sees “stirring the pot,” as continuing revelation. In what ways do we see continuing revelation at work in serious and non-serious situations?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.