Thursday, November 30, 2006

on pulling the rug out...

I do think that we are "pulling the rug" out from under so called "universalist" Friends by talking about our spiritual experience and how it is consistent with and confirms that of classical Friends faitih and practice. I don't think that telling them about what universalism origiinally meant in the Quaker literature is unfair, however. It's all in how we do it.

People such Friends met in Liberal Quakerism may well have taught them that their modern view of universalism--as opposed to the classical universalism of the Quaker Movement--is what Quakerism is about. That doesn't mean much to me except that we need to keep that in mind as we humbly, compassionately, tell them about our experience, where it has taken us, and how it conforms to and confirms the experience of very many people in very many times and places.

Unlike many Liberal Friends, who seem to think that the purpose of spirituality is to validate them in their own worldly political and ideological values, who are attracted to Liberal Quakerism because it allows them the comfort of believing that the condition in which they washed up on this beach is just fine and that it's the rest of the world needs changing (to recycle, to drive a hybrid car, to vote for John Kerry), my experience is that having the rug pulled out from under me is what's been happening to me through my Quaker faith and practice for years, now. It's also the experience I find in the testimony of Quaker literature, especially the journals.

But I have to remember--we all do--that we don't "convert" or teach anyone. Convincement--which means that one realizes the need to be changed--is the product of the Spirit, not of human evangelists. Christ/The Light (etc) does that. All I can do is testify to the change in my own condition and humbly point the way to others. Fox used to say that all he did was take people to Christ and leave them there.

Many Liberal Friends will resist anything that calls them to change. We are a church, after all, not a sect. The true church, of course, is not visible, and it's not made up of just Friends. And not all who call themselves Friends are members of it. But there are very many more people who will someday be a part of it than are there, now. All of them, along the way, are going to have the rug pulled out from under them more than once.


Robin M. said...

This latest series of comments/posts and today have been wonderful. Each time, I have to stop and think about it for a while, and then I run out of time to leave a substantive comment. But I'm going to one of these days. I jsut wanted to say quickly thank you before it gets any later.

Nancy A said...

Each sect of each religion or denomination has its collection of virtues and vices. It's a kind of yin-yang. Shakespeare taught that our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses -- and vice versa. It's the same with religions.

From within the Liberal tradition, I would see two types of universalism: a deliberate or philosophical universalism, which seems to stem from a philosophical stand, and passive universalism, which is the net result of one's experiences of life. The passive universalists seem very comfortable talking in denominational language (such as Christian talk), but philosophical universalists are less comfortable.

I tend to regard philosophical universalists as "refugees" who have fled more stifling forms of organized religion. They tend to remain refugees for a long time. Like Noah, they hunkered down in their arks to ride out the storm, but they forgot to put in a window so that they'd know when the storm was done.

Yet I have been surprised again and again by the spiritual humility of many universalist Friends, especially regarding other religions and practices. They approach all with humble reverence, listening for that of God and expecting it.

We are always careful to point out within the Liberal tradition that one can be just as much a fundamentalist universalist as a fundamentalist anything-else.

Lorcan said...

Hi fFriend:

I grew up Hicksite, and witnessed the joining of a Wilberite meeting to ours. I am old enough to see the evolution of New Age Quakerism, as I call it, which is oft times mistaken for classic Liberal Quakerism, a term which has so many meanings as to have almost no meaning at all... well... I am rather sure that original intent never was meant to define Quakerism, that there is a core path, but to confine any faith to an original set of conclusions is to deny the history of human thought and much of the human condition.
Our faiths grown, as individuals as well as corporate bodies. I grew up, exclusively rooted in my Quaker faith. In the sixties, our First Day School would visit other communities of faith, for example The Zen Studies Society, but they all seemed foreign to my soul. But, life intervenes. My experiences of being brought jarringly to understand the anti-Semitism leveled at me by reason of my mothers grandmother being Jewish, created in me a serious discomfort in Friends who have expressed to me that the Jewish faith is an unfinished understanding. I have grown to dig deeply into Hebraic philosophy and find that it is more likely that Christianity was born of a poor understanding of Judaism. That the single great change, that of personal redemption through the sacrifice of a God born on earth, removes that huge responsibility to atone and forgive, to walk gently with each other in order to walk with righteousness before our God. If my Quaker faith restricted this evolution in my heart, I would have long ago had to leave or feel a secret betrayal of my God.
Now, the advantage of growing up Hicksite, is that I am quite unbothered that certain Friends find the need to cling to the objectification of one of my landsmen in order to see the light. However, I do bristle when Christocentric Friends seek to define our faith in terms of that fundamental. If their movement had been without constant falling outs over definition of their own orthodoxy, it might be easier to accept as a fundamental of the Quaker faith. But, any community of faith, which begins with a narrow ethnic community, which grows into a more multicultural community will either bend towards each other's differences or shatter (as we did in 1828). It might be remembered that the Hicksite tradition did not shatter after 1828, but the orthodoxy split into numerous factions ...
I am rather disturbed of late, by attempts to return to battle over which tradition is original Quakerism. Short of finding some deserted island where we might replicate the rural west of England in the 1620s, there is little hope of recapturing "original" Quakerism - and to seek to isolate our faith in a past may be a very good way of turning our back on the continuing revelation of God.
I suppose.
Thine in the light