[Still thinking about some random topics while working on larger, more difficult posts. The following is a reflection that arose during meditation. Funny, the term “threshing” came up in another Quaker blog, in another context, just a day or two ago. Synchronicity.]
I believe that there will be a threshing-out that will take place in the Religious Society of Friends. The current situation is untenable. We can’t be all things to all people. Those who have found shelter with us for a while, because we pose no creedal tests, will find at some point that they are imposing upon our hospitality.
Quakerism is within the Christian tradition. We allow a lot of latitude on what that means. I’m rather a latitudinarian myself. That doesn’t mean anything goes. We are not an ethical society that meditates together once a week. We are not syncretists. We are not, for heaven’s sake, Unitarian Universalists who actually shut up every so often.
That doesn’t mean all the non-Christians should leave, or will. The threshing-out that I foresee will be that those who cannot stand to hear a Christian message, or work within a Christian framework, however broadly defined, will realize that they are abusing our good nature.
They won’t be thrown out. This is important:
They will leave, as cherished guests do, because the time has come to move on.
Not today, and probably not tomorrow; in the fullness of time.
10 thoughts on “Threshing”
I believe that Christianity itself is undergoing changes that will result over then long haul in it becoming nearly unrecognizable to those Christians who cling to outdated orthodoxies. As an ex-Christian nontheist Quaker, I don’t look at the influx of non-Christians as something Quakerism is losing, i.e. Christianity, but as something it is gaining, a post-sectarian embrace of all of humanity.
“For G-d so loved the world” admits of no exceptions. Jesus didn’t consider himself G-d, that’s a fact. In fact what the word “God” has come to mean today has little connection with the ancient Jewish view that Jesus held. G-d is the unknowable mystery at the heart of all things, that can lead us to find the highest good. This divine Light isn’t limited to any human tradition. Universalism is the way forward for all religions that don’t want to just die as lifeless sects.
I find very few things in this day and age are “facts”. There are a lot of opinions that people come to based on things they have read but not too many based on personal experiences. George Fox claimed that only an “experiential” encounter with Jesus could solve his own personal search for spiritual peace. I am a quaker because I believe people should not be forced to believe things they have not actually the “experiential faith” to walk in – the reason so many well intentioned christians can’t or don’t walk the talk – but I don’t believe people who have not experienced what others have should summarily dismiss a faith/journey that has changed countless lives over the past 2000 years. An encounter with Jesus transforms self-indulgent souls into servants of humanity. Does this happen outside of Christianity? I believe so, but that doesn’t diminish what the orthodox Christian faith has accomplished, and I’m not talking about the Christian churches but the living servants of a living personal God and it doesn’t mean that it would happen if Jesus didn’t become a living lamb. To one it’s an opinion, to another it’s faith. I’m willing to let others have their opionion, all I ask is that they allow me to live my live based on my faith. As to Jesus considering himself God, I have come to accept that the times he allowed people to bow down to Him was some evidence, in my mind, that He thought He was God in addition to His prayer in John 17 and other verses. But that’s a question of faith and I don’t think it should be accepted by anyone without an inner witness of the Spirit.
What does it mean to be a Christian? Does it mean we must accept the virgin birth, that Jesus died for our sins, and that salvation is through him. Because I do not believe that and neither do most members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Are Jesus and Christ 2 different ideas? I beleive in the holy ghost and I beleive in the pre-.Easter Jesus, minus the miracles I beleive he was a mystic and a social revolutionary who championed the disenfranchised and wanted to turn the social structures upside down.
I am not leaving and I object to the notion that there is some sort of Christian litmus test in order for me to stay. I have been a Quaker for 40 years. I love the Society of Friends and have served it faithfully. I am staying right where I am even if I cannot join the NC Conservatives
You might want to read my essay on “Why I Call Myself a Christian” to see just how much latitude I’m talking about. 🙂
A lot of people didn’t think that sounded very “Christian”, but they don’t get to decide that for me.
And, please read “Threshing” carefully. I’m not saying anyone will be thrown out. To the contrary.
Since I don’t know much about Quakerism, I count on you for straight talk on the subject, or any subject for that matter. Thanks for the bits of info.
I agree that both Christianity in general, but especially “mainline” Protestant Christians, and Quakerism will change; the question is in what direction? Since the Second Great Awakening and revivalism and then holiness/fundamentalism took over a large portion of the Gurneyites in the late 19th C., fewer and fewer “Quakers” have actually belonged to the religious movement that the first Quakers started. Hicksites and Conservatives preserved a large part of the tradition, but both of them have evolved away from the religion of the pietist/quietist period. Was that the only Quakerism? Was Rufus Jones’s intellectual mysticism the “true faith”?
As far as i’m concerned, after the 6th World Conference of Friends recently concluded in Kenya, i would have rathered those who left the Quaker line but kept our name had not done so –either leave basic Quaker distinctive or kept our name. And especially i can do without their judgemental assumption that their evangelical religion is the true Christianity and thus the true Quakerism. In the 1600’s many “good Christians” –those who firmly and wholeheartedly and sincerely held to the tenets of the Apostles’ Creed– were convinced that Quakerism was not Christianity, or even Primitive Christianity revived… it wasn’t the faith of that creed… but did they still know what Jesus or the first Christians really taught after the great Apostasy of 1400 years? I don’t think so and neither did Margaret Fell, Geo. ffox or Robt. Barclay. And none of today’s branches of the Family of Friends has the same faith and practice of those originals.
Most FGC and Beanite Friends today and all Conservatives (i believe) hold that they are practicing a Quaker faith that evolved through continuous revelation from the main, core, unchanged experiential religion of the Valiant SIxty. And that faith is variously mystical, social gospel, universalist, alternatively Christian, and congregationally defined — mostly by avoiding talking about it. Our acceptance of various expressions of religious devotion, our tolerance (if you will) of diverse theological expression alongside somewhat generic Christian God-talk, the prevalence of “worldly” values of entertainment, consumption, comfort, bourgeois social norms, wooly thinking and avoidance of conflict or rejection of difficult aspects of the Light that reveals our faults, like sin, produces a warm-fuzzy religiosity that cannot stand in the long run. Already many people use Quaker meetings as way stations en route out of Christian or Jewish backgrounds; but others use them as way stations homeward from Hindu, Zen, New Age, shamanic or other religious explorations. And our meetings are enriched by the practices and sharing they bring ~ and we fail to explain that the Quaker Way is also a full traditional path to the Divine with certain basics, not up for vote or for neglect just because “the majority” are newcomers who don’t understand the discipline and rebel against the word, let alone the concept. If we even try to teach them our Faith & Practice.
I’m quite sure, Friend Arnold, that in the 22nd C. the majority of congregations using the name Friends will be evangelical churches in the global South ~ as they are even today. I am quite sure there will still be an amorphous liberal Quakerism that is even less connected to the Creed’s Trinitarian, sacrificial Paschal Christ and sin/Hell focussed religion. It may have morphed into something even more universalist than it is or it may have found a better balance among the (viz. the Tabers) divergent forces pulling it in multiple directions at once. I pray for the latter: balance in the spiritual, intellectual and emotional realms, pragmatic mysticism living in the World Here and Now, knowing its divinity in the Inward Light and celebrating the blessings of the material body and life, that is the faith of the Religious Society of Friends that i love and expect to die within. If it helps some of those fellow travellers en route to finding their Inward Teacher, their Inner Christ, their Whatever-It-Is-What-Really-Is-That-It’s-Always-Been-Becoming in whose image they live and have their being, i’ll be happy. And if we are not able to let our lives preach well enough for them to benefit from it and they move on, i shall have still been faithful. That’s what we’re asked to do.
Friend speaks my mind
“Already many people use Quaker meetings as way stations en route out of Christian or Jewish backgrounds; but others use them as way stations homeward from Hindu, Zen, New Age, shamanic or other religious explorations. And our meetings are enriched by the practices and sharing they bring ~ and we fail to explain that the Quaker Way is also a full traditional path to the Divine with certain basics, not up for vote or for neglect just because “the majority” are newcomers who don’t understand the discipline and rebel against the word, let alone the concept. If we even try to teach them our Faith & Practice.”
This is very congruent with the point I am making. People come into Meetings who are not taught what it means to be a Quaker. It really does mean something, and not just any old thing someone thinks it might mean.
Amen. (re-reading old files and agreeing more than ever)
Here is my concern Patricia comments “Does it mean we must accept the virgin birth, that Jesus died for our sins, and that salvation is through him. Because I do not believe that and neither do most members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. ”
How does one member speak on behalf of most members of PYM?
A blanket statment like that on the internet concerns me, especially for someone interested in the RSOF. I believe & it has been my experience all are welcome in my liberal unprogrammed meeting, yes even us Christ centered Quakers.
Being a member of a meeting under PYM I will say that for me & others in my meeting we do believe in the virgin birth, that Jesus died for our sins, and that salvation is through him.Others in my meeting do not. I do not believe my beliefs are a requirement for membership. I think tolerance is important.
Our diversity is a good thing. Arthur M. Larrabee What Do Quakers Believe? Is a fantastic read. Our first day school just reviewed his writing over a series of Sundays.
This is my first response on the internet in reference to Quaker blogs and all the differences. My focus is on working together & excluding no one. That being said I agree that it does mean something to be Quaker and our meeting house is delving deeper into that in our next first day school series.
I am forturante to belong to a meeting that has elders who are experienced with spiritaul disclipne, Quaker history, etc. They also value teaching and welcoming new members.
Thank you Dr. Bruce Arnold I enjoy reading your blog although I this is my first comment.