Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
We are living in a time of profound spiritual and social ferment. Many people have realized their lack of connectedness to others. I suspect that they are (or will) realize that they need to find a much deeper relationship with God. Right now, it may be difficult to pursue either social connectedness or a deeper spiritual life. But when the crisis subsides, these are going to become more pressing issues than they were before the "virus crisis" came on.
What resources can your group of Friends bring to this quest for a more meaningful church fellowship when this becomes a priority for many seeking people, as it surely will. Do we have anything unique to offer to those seeking a more profound church experience? When I write "unique", I am not thinking of what any or all Christian churches can offer.
I sense that an immense evangelistic opportunity will soon come upon us if we survive the ravages of the virus. What is that opportunity and what are we doing to prepare for it???
Forrest: I am not sure where this discussion is going! How did we get from the impact of the Virus crisis on Friends and our witness to Enlightenment a la Japanese Buddhism?
A few years back I was talking with the Rector of Anne's church about the situation among Friends, and he was bringing up a similar dynamic going on in his own church and among the congregations of Rabbis he sometimes worked with.
The spirit of this age is overwhelmingly secular. Hence, those Japanese Buddhists were encountering young Japanese who thought of Buddhism as totally uninteresting, a temple religion only good for performing funerals, at a time when eager young American Buddhists, ignorant of and indifferent to Christianity, were coming to their zendos to learn.
Yes, we have people searching for religious answers to the precarity, turmoil, and suffering of their lives -- and when they turn to the conventional religious institutions around them, they find personnel satisfied with the surface practices of the tradition they know. Seeking a fresh take on life, people are more able to find it in religions they haven't already dismissed as stale, implausible & sterile.
I don't find an irreconcilable gap between Christianity and Buddhism; rather than conflict there's a disconnect between the different aspects of life they're focused on. Buddhist psychology tends to complement Christianity, in the sense that it addresses a universal need to deal with mental 'afflictions' that come between us and God. What does one do with eternal life, if one's mind remains a bubbling stewpot?
It would be good if Quaker institutions were as inviting, appealing and welcoming as Buddhist groups in this country can be. We would like that to be the case, but self-righteousness and reliance on set phrases & habitual approaches to questions are obstacles to this.
It isn't so much a question of thinking: What possible outcome seizes our hopes? -- but of looking to see: What is God doing? If our hopes are being frustrated, for now, what are the trends we deplore accomplishing towards God's purposes?
Hello again, Forrest! It's kind of lonely here with only the two of us in dialogue; where have all of the QQ folks gone?
I note that your recent posts say nothing about the role of Quaker/Christian religious faith in your musings on what can address the current health crisis in our society and the spiritual malaise which is sure to follow. I read some of Terry Wallace's QRT essay on Lewis Benson this morning: Wallace, Terry S. (1987) "Lewis Benson (1906-1986)," Quaker Religious Thought: Vol. 65 Article 6. (Don't get me wrong; I do not swallow Benson hook, line and sinker, but still think he has much to teach us; "He being dead, yet speaketh.")
Wallace wrote: "I was invited to join a dozen or so Friends at a backstreet student apartment in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to hear [Lewis Benson] talk about the mission and message of George Fox... I arrived with no particular expectations, having at 32 left the Methodism of my birth on a quest for Truth that carried me past Unitarianism, Catholicism, Eastern religions, and Anglicanism~a quest that left me with only a sense of their 'profession without possession,' of spiritual claims that personal and institutional life belied."
Is the Quaker faith tradition of no consequence to those restless souls who flee to Buddhist temples in Japan looking for the "Balm of Gilead"? Is it that the Friends meeting is a convenient place to gather, but its spiritual heritage isn't worth investigating???
Is that a rhetorical question? Whatever people you'd want to ask it aren't here.
Within every religion there's a rough division between those followers most concerned with its traditions, and those who say "The Living God may have been at work in these once; but we can't find Her there now."
There are also people like Alan Lew, who returned to his native Judaism after some years of Buddhist practice helped him see the meaning in it.
What is the meaning of "Christianity"? The Quaker faith tradition arose among people who weren't looking for 'a faith tradition to belong to, but who'd been offered a way to embody that meaning under the direct tutelage of God.
Is it possible in these times to gather a church of people living their lives under God's direct guidance? I tend to think you're hoping for something numerous and triumphant; but that doesn't seem to be the way God works.
Forrest wrote: "Is that a rhetorical question? Whatever people you'd want to ask it aren't here." How can we be sure they aren't here?
And again: "Within every religion there's a rough division between those followers most concerned with its traditions, and those who say 'The Living God may have been at work in these once; but we can't find Her there now.'" One won't find God if one doesn't look! Many XXXXXXXX Friends don't even seem to be looking.
And again: "Is it possible in these times to gather a church of people living their lives under God's direct guidance?" I had thought that seeking God's direct guidance is what a meeting for worship is for. Or is the meeting for worship just a time to vent one's opinions?
" I tend to think you're hoping for something numerous and triumphant; but that doesn't seem to be the way God works." He seems to work that way among millions of Pentecostals. Maybe they don't count since they are often poor and less educated.
And finally, since you have implied that you know: what does seem to be the way God works?
"Many ... Friends don't even seem to be looking." Yes, that's why we don't see them eagerly involved in discussions like this either. When people come to our Meetings, then drift off -- It becomes difficult to ask them why they aren't around.
We may be agreed (?) that one factor driving newcomers away is that most Friends, most of the time, are so emphatically satisfied with our Meetings the way they are.... I was horrified by a young psychologist who came to a Meeting, liked it, and said: "I'd like to invite more people to this; but I get the impression you don't want to change the way you are." I would have wanted the 'more people'; but I realized she was right about the rest of us.
We agree that seeking God's guidance is what a Meeting is supposed to be about. I'm afraid, however, that many of us are reluctant to cop to that. I think I've often seen notions of prudence take precedence when Meeting financial issues come up.
How God works? Large crowds follow Jesus into Jerusalem, eager to see him mount his big white horse and drive out the thieving, idolatrous Romans. His enemies finally corner him and have him crucified. A few followers find him alive again afterwards; and much results from that. Meanwhile, most people thereabouts go on about their business.
Forrest, without you, this thread would have gone dead several days ago. I apologize for dissecting your next-to-last comment the way I did. I seem to learn new things every time I get into a discussion with you. Thanks!!!
By the way, I am sure you know (but some readers might not) that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, not a "big white horse!"
I guess it's time to wait for others to make their contributions to this discussion.
Forrest wrote: see Jesus "... mount his big white horse and drive out the thieving, idolatrous Romans." I doubt that the Romans were guilty in this matter. The Temple was off-limits t0 non-Jews at that time, although I guess non-Jews were allowed into the outer courtyard?
I was referring to driving the Romans out of the country, where the extra layer of taxation their demands for tribute imposed on subsistence farmers, coupled with the introduction of Roman commercial practices overwhelming the Torah's safeguards, was driving much of the peasantry off the land into destitution, disgrace, death through prolonged malnutrition.
The Romans did station troops on a fortress overlooking the Temple grounds, from which they occasionally intervened when festival crowds there got out of hand. I doubt this was as much an issue as their very presence in Jerusalem, displaying the standards their legions occasionally sacrificed to.
If stealing a country (even with the support of native factions) isn't 'thieving,' we just haven't been applying the term broadly enough!
And then there'd be whatever direct plundering took place when the Romans did punitive raids against local insurrections, as had happened in Galilee about the time of Jesus' birth.
Whatever sentiment led public calls for "a son of David" to replace Herod and his Roman cronies, I doubt it was a matter of sentimental nationalism. The Romans occupied foreign nations because they profited from doing so. The families and factions who supported them also profited. The bulk of an occupied populace would resent this arrangement bitterly, because the costs fell on their subsistence labor.
This story shows the power of prayer. God is on the throne! I think that the Society of Friends can show others in the spiritual community that we can worship wherever we are. He still and know that I am God.
Forrest Curo said:
Grace can take the form of danger and even disaster. "Apocalypse", after all, does mean "revelation."
What is happening now is an immense wake-up call to anyone who's been inclined "to put our trust in princes." Whether or not that makes for "a more profound church experience" is less important than whether our relationship with God takes us beyond prejudices & habits and frees us to a deeper collaboration with God.
A story from a woman I know: She was on a bus (before any of this started) where a handicapped man with an attendant was making horrible sounds in his misery. All she could think of was to say, internally, "God, comfort that man." The moment she did this he stopped moaning, sat up & started looking around. Was this a coincidence? It was clear to her that it wasn't. Was it something _she_ did? In her capacity as an isolated being, disjunct from God, clearly she couldn't make this happen. But God set this incident up to show that there was a way people can be included in what God intends to happen.
Shouldn't we pray for a working knowledge of what we need for this?