In person gathering - Friends of the Light7th mo. 22, 2023 all day
Friends of the Light - Online worship6th mo. 4, 2023 from 7pm to 8pm
Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
“He know when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good”
These are familiar words from the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town. On Christmas day I was thinking about the legend of Santa Claus which is based on Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a real person. He was the Bishop of Myra in Greece, in the year 300. Because of the many miracles attributed to his him he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. He reportedly also had a penchant for secret gift giving and his legend grew over the next 1700 years.
Discerning whether you are bad or good and bestowing gifts accordingly are what Santa Claus, the modern version of Saint Nicholas, does. The type of omniscience about behavior attributed to him is usually attributed to another figure; God. The difference between them is that with God, gifts are given regardless whether you are bad or good, it is called grace, a spontaneous gift from God, undeserved and unexpected.
If you are giving gifts this Christmas time, the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus, are you giving them in the spirit of God or the modern Santa Claus? Are your gifts given without expectation and judgement? So Be good for Godness sake…
Whereas Roger discerns and cogently sketches a sharp contrast twixt Santa's reward-based giving and Divine Grace, my reading of history suggests that many temporal authorities, including parents, would prefer that people internalize what we call a "conscience" that supervises and monitors obedience to the laws (the ruler's rules).
To that end, we're given to believe that "naughty versus nice" detecting criteria are applied and the results get recorded at least somewhere in the hierarchy. Ideally, people will have such a strong conscience that they'll come forward, without much prompting, and confess their sins, making police and detective work so much easier and more convenient.
Belief in supernatural or at least high technology means of surveillance is certainly encouraged in some corners, helping believers bolster their sense of being watched at all times, thereby deterring unauthorized and/or verboten behaviors. Trying to cover it up, whatever "it" is, just makes it worse.
Whereas Divine Grace is more like "luck" in providing benefits even to the undeserving (which ultimately we all are per the "original sin" doctrine -- see below), we also have the Judgement Day notion hanging over our heads at the Sistine Chapel.
The idea that God is all-knowing, and keeping score in some ledger-book, is never far beneath the surface it seems, although some flavor of polytheism may enter in at this point, with "Satan" the arch villain and all around bad guy. Many have remarked on how "Santa" is but a rearrangement of those same letters, an enciphered Qabbalistic truth?
Lets remember that our discerning good from evil, "playing God" so to speak (against God's better judgement), led to all kinds of problems in Eden. In becoming moralizing and judgemental, we increased our distance from God, whose laws, unlike ours, seem more exceptionless and automatic, more like physics and/or karma (but here way stray into Oriental philosophy, somewhat far afield from Santa's stereotypical delivery route).
Thanks for the insights Kirby. As a Friend I have in the back of my mind that "conscience" is the Spirit. Whether we listen or not is up to us.
I notice Keith Saylor seems to use "consciousness" and "conscience" somewhat interchangeably. I'm intrigued by this practice, as I find their dictionary meanings rather different from one another ("awareness of otherness" and "a moral sense" respectively).
However I do see how these could be closely connected e.g. in the proposition "those seeking higher consciousness must, if serious about their project, cultivate their moral and aesthetic sensibilities as a means to that end."
I'm thinking of diplomacy in particular and the demands it makes on one. Friends have an involved history through their participation in diplomacy, since their beginning, I'd suggest precisely because their "conscience" (moral sense) is sometimes ahead of its time (anticipatory, prophetic).
I think the point is -- not so much "Grace" for The Undeserving -- but unlimited love and no condemnation.
However, there are plenty of cautionary tales about people receiving gifts not suitable for their character, & thus coming to considerable grief.
For obvious reasons, we'd expect God to limit occasions like that, except when the recipient -- or those in their impact zone -- somehow needed to suffer a bit. Needed why? -- That would of course vary; all I can say is that the verse in Lamentations:
that God "does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men"
is one of those intuitive no-brainers I've at least found true in my own case...
There was a time when (17th century and before) the word conscience not only carried the moral sense it carries today but also the awareness sense of consciousor consciousness. So that when many of the first and early Quakers spoke and wrote of the conscience as the Throne of God or Christ or of the "mystery of a conscience anchored in the inshining Light" they were giving testimony to a witness of a way of being wherein not only their moral sense comes from the Light itself but also the Light become the very source of there awareness or conscious. That is, there conscious or identity or awareness is not founded upon a relationship with or participation in outward things, institutions, traditions, virtues, etc.,as is the old way.
To highlight this and bring forward the former dynamic sense of the word conscience I have begun writing and speaking of "a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by the inshining Light itself in itself. By using these words together in this way, it is hoped a deeper sense of the first and early Quaker testimony to their witness is gleaned.
Here is a link to the original post I made on this matter two years ago:
Hi Keith, I appreciate the clarification of this very important distinction. Language is always changing and it is important to understanding the intent of the author. Thank you.