Sunday, April 15, 2007

When I read a non-theist blogger say that he would be sad if Christian Friends left Liberal "Quakerism" I wonder what in the world he could be talking about.

North Pacific Yearly Meeting is both independent and inclusive, accepting and validating--at least for the moment half of Joel and Hannah Bean's legacy survives, here.

It challenges me to hear non-theist Friends from far away telling me that there will always be a place for me by the fire of the Liberal domain of the Friends Movement. I wonder if they realize how patronizing that sounds, how marginalized that pat on the head makes me feel. No doubt they have felt equal marginaliztion at the hands of people who have said that only "Christians" can be Friends. I would hope they would learned from the pain inflicted upon themselves about not inflicting it on others. Perhaps those who have not will.

I am a universalist Christian whose has close f/Friends who are all over the "left wing" map of the Movement. We get along fine, out here in the upper left hand corner of the map.

But, in some places it appears that I am just humored, now. Tolerated. Laughed at behind my back because of the "need" I have for the "crutch" of belief in a power beyond myself and my own "reason."

I am certain that Non-theism and syncretic styles have moved in and taken over, as revivalistic "evangelism" took over Iowa Yearly in the late 19th Century and made Joel and Hanna Bean unwelcome. I will follow their example and remain in my own spiritual tradition, regardless of how the furniture gets changed around by people who have moved in and taken to remodeling the place to suit the image of themselves that they think they see in the faith and practice of Friends. I wonder about the replacement of Truth with "your truth and my truth" and "The Great Perhaps" but I am confident that it won't last.

But, as it is written, after all: Acts 5:38

As it is also written: "Question: But if I do not presently see that service in a thing that the rest of my brethren [sic] agree in? In this case what is my duty, and theirs?

"Answer. It is thy duty to wait upon God in silence and in patience, and as thou abide in the simplicity of Truth thou wilt receive an understanding with the rest of they brethren [sic] about the thing doubted. And it is their duty, whilst thou behavest thyself in meekness, to bear with thee, and carry themselves tenderly and lovingly towards thee."

"True Spiritual Liberty," William Penn, 1681
(condensed by Lewis Benson), Tract Association of Friends

2 comments:

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

A few thoughts that flicker through my head each time I re-read this essay:

You write, "It challenges me to hear non-theist Friends from far away telling me that there will always be a place for me by the fire of the Liberal domain of the Friends Movement. I wonder if they realize how patronizing that sounds, how marginalized that pat on the head makes me feel."

You know, dear friend, that I have no personal attraction to, or sympathy for, the "nontheist Friend" point of view. But I doubt they mean to sound patronizing or to make you feel marginalized. And if they don't mean it, then why not set these feelings aside? This is not a rhetorical question; if you have reasons for not setting these feelings aside, I am genuinely interested in learning what they are.

You also write that "...in some places it appears that I am just humored, now. Tolerated. Laughed at behind my back because of the 'need' I have for the 'crutch' of belief in a power beyond myself and my own 'reason.'"

If this is happening behind your back, dear friend, then how do you know it is happening at all? Is there a possibility it is just your own imagination? And again, if it is only in your imagination, then why not set these feelings aside? This too is not a merely rhetorical question.

I share your distaste for "the replacement of Truth with 'your truth and my truth'"! But I lack your confidence than you that it won't last.

And I am curious as to what you mean by referencing Acts 6:8. It's a fine verse, but it doesn't seem to me to fit the context in which you reference it.

The quotation from Penn is apt, and splendid!

Zach A said...

Timothy,
I may be wrong, but it sounds like you're referring to my post "Four ways to make your meeting Christian." I wish I had seen this post sooner.

I'm a little unsure why hearing someone say that Christian Friends should be *included* in liberal Quakerism -- and not in the spirit of "I grant you permission" but "Just want to make sure you didn't think I was saying they shouldn't" -- should make you feel marginalized. I suppose that since your vision of Quakerism involves the outward profession of Christianity being at the center, outward Christians being reduced to the status of one among many may feel like marginalization. But "you're included on equal terms with others" isn't really marginalization compared to "you're included on lesser terms" or "you should leave," as non-Christian and nontheist Friends often hear.

I would affirm Marshall's suggestion that it may be unwise to assume anyone is laughing behind your back. I've seen honest, sincere opposition, of most any Quaker point of view, in private and in public, but I don't think I've ever seen a Friend laugh at or mock Christian Friends, or any other subgroup for that matter, and if I did I'd be the first to consider eldering them.

I note that you haven't included the rest of the Gamaliel's pronouncement: "Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." We talked about this once on the list, and you thanked me for the message in which I said how I read this passage (though I don't know if you were referring to that or to something else). I am curious if you can affirm both halves of the statement. Like Gamaliel, are you willing to remain open to the possibility that we might in fact be right? Here I'm simply referring to nontheism -- I don't mean to suggest that easy syncretism or relativism are right (though I suppose that's possible to), as I think they actually aren't, and that those are phases liberal Friends may come to grow out of.