What do Friends have to teach me about how to deal with people at Quaker gatherings who are openly hostile to christians? I've encountered some of it in the most liberal Quaker gatherings I've been to. It's not ok. I know that some liberal Friends groups in their lack of openness attract some people who are really spiritually wounded.
How do we make such people welcome and address their fears whilst at the same time not tolerating hatred of Christ or people who follow him? It's not a loving favour to indulge the spiritually wounded. Our indulgence of each other is spiritually dangerous and I believe I have seen it pretty much kill the spirit of a Meeting. How do we challenge wounded people to heal?
I care about this because it's not just about sucking up the persecution. It's about whether liberal Quakers get to keep a whole load of smart committed highly motivated christian young folks who may already be bored to tears with boomer wooliness. This is a key issue for people in liberal meeting to address. I think lack of toleration for open hostility to Christ needs to be the very least we can expect, otherwise what on earth are we doing?
Hence "con vergent" A look at what was best about early understandings and how they can and should be applied today. Yes, much of "emergent" seems to be focussed on how the love of Jesus is worked out in our lives. I have no quarrel with anyone who moves to a community that expresses those perceptions, and I think that's why Martin expressed the idea that we don't so much care about "Quaker" as the perceptions. If I had your choice, I honestly don't know what I would do, but I DO know I would maintain my connection with the Society I love as you do.
Put yourself in the liberals' shoes. For a long time now, ever since Reagan, and then reaching a loud crescendo during Bush II, liberals have been accused by many Christians of being: immoral, baby killers, unpatriotic, cowards, Godless, dishonest, evil, vile, sexually suspect, crypto-communists, fascists, and one person even wrote a book blaming 9/11 on Liberals (Dinesh D'Souza). In other words liberals have been pummeled year in and year out, day after day, on T.V., in newspapers, and books, often by Christian spokesmen. It is, therefore, not surprising to me that many liberals would be suspicious, or have an "allergic" reaction when Christianity comes up. Liberals would, quite naturally, be on their guard. If you had been treated that way, wouldn't you? In other words, I'm suggesting that the primary reason is social and political, rather than autobiographical.
I thnk the solution is simply to be true to one's witness even in difficult circumstances. There is a wonderful story in one of Philip Gulley's books (I forget which one; it's either "If God is Love" or "If Grace is True"). He describes how a strongly committed atheist came to his congregation and proclaimed to the congregation that he didn't believe in Christianity or the Bible. No one complained or argued. They accepted his presence. After years of acceptance his position slowly changed. Of course Gulley's congregation isn't an explicitly Liberal Quaker group, but I would still suggest that the basic strategy should be the same. Accept that the individual has their view, and remain true to one's understanding in a non-argumentative, non-confrontative way.
Thank you Jim..what you said makes a great deal of sense to me. The context in which I find myself is a highly international one and now that I reflect on this further, I can see the social and political reasons being quite dominent.
I feel a bit more hopeful after reading your post as it basically is my stance, but perhaps I needed to hear another example in order to press on. Christianity needs to be more than a faith, but a way of life and the only way forward I see is to fully embrace, love and accept others views without compromising one's own.
That's true, and that's the way it is in our church. But there coming into an environment that is totally based on Jesus Christ, which is very different from an environment where there really isn't an agreed upon faith center.
Jim, I think you are misusing the term "liberal" in this discussion, in that you are taking the distinction of liberal vs. Christian in Quakerism (which isn't necessarily a clear distinction), and applying it to liberal vs. conservative in politics. There are plenty of Christians who are politically liberal and undergo the same persecution, not to mention the flak we get for being Christians.
I will listen to Thee lovingly (respectfully, positively) and I am a Christian Friend :), who was raised catholic, abondoned Rome for Buddha for a while, then was convinced by writings and examples of Society :) No problem for me, if Thou art non-christian. I would only think it might be a wound in us both if Thou wherest, as Thou sayest, broad-brushing all that is christian with the sign of "minus", "not-OK". Christianity itself, even Catholic church as a whole bunch of people claiming to belong to it, is much more too diverse to be discounted, minimised. I agree with Thee that is the Christ's example, not his name or images are being followed, in the best sense of what is Christianity :)
Mark, I agree, but nevertheless I think the point I made is a part of the picture. A certain version of Christianity has dominated public discourse for many years and for many people this public discourse now defines Christianity. The puts the Liberal Christian in a doubly difficult situation, as you noted. For example, I think it might surprise non-liberal Quakers to discover that regular Bible study is often an important part of the Liberal Quaker's life; at least that is what I have observed.
The more one looks at this, the more complicated it gets!
A key question is whether we all are, in fact, getting to the same place. Some just assume that's the case, and to others it doesn't look like it. In the end, I concluded out of my experience with liberal Quakers that we weren't getting to the same place at all, and there didn't seem to be any meaningful prospects of getting there.
Jim, Friends have always offered a different version or understanding of Christianity - one that has always been different from mainstream Christianity. We were different from mainstream Christianity long before the current brand of American Evangelicalism became more prominent in the media, so it shouldn't really be a change for us. I think we make the situation worse by trying to shove Christian language under the rug, because people don't get the opportunity to hear that alternate understanding.
Also, when you start assuming that the political version of "liberal" and the Quaker version of "liberal" are interchangeable, I think you really introduce some confusion. For instance, does that imply that conservative Friends (members of the three remaining conservative yearly meetings) are politically conservative? Is there no place for someone who is politically conservative in liberal Friends meetings? (they would probably be miserable, considering all the snide remarks they would hear)
Would it surprise you to know that originally the Hicksite Quakers refused to join political parties? I read this in Hick's journal: "I had full opportunity to relieve my mind, being, through gracious assistance, led in the clear openings of the divine light, to set forth the great danger of mixing in with the spirit of the world, which leads to strife and contention, and the promotion of parties and party animosities in civil governments;" While at SAYMA this year, I asked Larry Ingle about it, since he did a book about the Hicksite-Orthodox split and he told me that was a common attitude among Hicksites at that time. I think it is something we should keep in mind, because political affiliations do stir up a contentious spirit, because politics is essentially a fight for power.
I prayerfully considered my words previously posted here and am sorry if I have caused offence. I believe you to have misunderstood my heart.
I am not here to identify the community, but rather wish to glean more ways to promote unity and love amongst all communities in which I journey, but especially the one I helped co-found 2 years ago. It is out of love for my community in total, as a whole that I seek every positive way forward that I can to help moderate and keep that forum continuing. I have great love for my fellow founders or I would not have initiated such a project as I was the only Christian Friend present and I do believe I speak my love for all members often. They are not just Friends to me, but friends as well. I'm very sorry if I've given you the impression that I need to "be loved first." That must feel upsetting to you, but that is a very large misunderstanding on your part.
I am left wondering also if you and I speak of the same community as I do not see you on our member list, but hope that you would continue to feel welcome there, but perhaps you use another "name" there than you do here.
Perhaps this quote from Advice & Queries- Britain Yearly Meeting might be helpful;
Take time to learn about other people's experience of the Light.......As you learn from others, can you in turn give freely from what you have gained? While respecting the experiences and opinions of others, do not be afraid to say what you have found and what you value. Appreciate that doubt and questioning can also lead to spiritual growth and to a greater awareness of the Light that is in us all. No5.
I have always thought this advice & query very wise.
Mark, that is illuminating. But I still would suggest that the point I made is relevant. My basic point is an attempt to illuminate why someone might be reactive to Christian language, explicit Christian teaching in a Quaker context. Not very many people know the nuances of how similar terms are used in different contexts, so I think it is natural for people to assume that there would be overlap.
I am speaking from the perspective of the convinced rather than those raised in Quaker culture. I honestly believe that over the last twenty years a certain strand of Evangelicalism has had a large impact in creating expectations as to what Christianity means for many people. I think this creates a significant barrier, but not an insurmountable one, and the height of the barrier will be different for different people.
Nevertheless, I think your points are valid and will take them into account in any future postings.
Finally, I am very interested in learning more about this particular Hicksite perspective as I find it congenial. Where can one locate the relevant material?
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