Hi, all, it's Tania, from The Friendly Funnel. I recently took my Buddhist refuge and boddhisattva vows and was wondering about the experiences of other Buddhist Quakers were like. Personally, I've found that Buddhism complements Quakerism, and vice versa. Buddhist practices allow me to be a better Quaker; Quaker practices allow me to be a better Buddhist.

What are particular Buddhist practices you like? There are some aspects of Buddhist theology I'm ambivalent about (such as reincarnation, but I don't focus on what happens after death--I'm a lot more interested in what happens before), but Buddhist practice (the Eightfold Path, meditation, etc.) has really strengthened my ability to be compassionate and respond to that of God in others.

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I sometimes think families exist to bring people together who irritate each other. We wouldn't get together otherwise; and the challenge it presents is basically good.

I like Jesus as we have him saying: "He who isn't against me is for me." I understand why we also have the "He who isn't for me is against me" version-- that if the bland lead the bland they all fall into a lukewarm muddle. But when people with differing doctrines both see the Spirit, they don't need to be territorial about it.
Friend Geoffrey:

I think that observation rings true. I wonder, though; if one looks at the Baptist tradition, it seems to be that Baptists have not diverged as much as the Quaker tradition. There are striking differences among Baptist traditions, but they have maintained a central core of views and traditions so that they are mutually recognizable variations of the same tradition.

I think that one aspect of the Quaker tradition is that the founding Quakers took for granted certain particulars of their culture. I've mentioned this before in other contexts, but I think it is worth repeating, that Britain at the time the Quaker tradition emerged had no minority religious community. All disagreements between groups were disputes within the Christian religious context. There was no Jewish, Islamic, or secular Humanit community to challenge or question basic assumptions. For this reason, Quakers assumed that anyone who wanted to join them would share their basic Christian world view. So this didn't have to be spelled out.

But conditions have changed and today I think it does need to be spelled out, made explicit, for those who want to maintain the Christian basis of the Quaker tradition.

Best wishes,

RE: "here was no Jewish, Islamic, or secular Humanit community to challenge or question basic assumptions."

Your assumption is incorrect. I know of at least one Jewish Humanist movement - their leader died a few years ago. In fact, here is a website for Jewish Humanists http://www.shj.org/ Don't make the assumption that somehow Quakerism runs a different track. I think it is safer to assume there is a humanist/non-theistic movement in all religions. It encompasses people who wish to follow the doctrine and lifestyle, but are not theistic.

Friend Paula:

I think we have misunderstood each other. I am referring to Britian in the mid-1600's. According to Stephen Greenblatt in his book "Will in the World", his biography of Shakespeare, there was no Jewish community in Britain at that time. (In the context of Shakespeare this is relevant because it means that when Shakespeare has a Jewish character in his plays it is not based on any actual interaction, rather on cultural cliches and assumptions.) Sheakspeare died in 1616, so it is possible that there was a change; but everything I've read indicates that the religious situation in the mid-1600's was actually even more constrained and limited than during the life of Shakespeare.

London was a large, cosmopolitan city, but it differed from Paris or Vienna. In both those cities there were substantial religious minorities. England at that time, the time of the appearance of Quakerism, didn't even have a Catholic or Orthodox presence of any size. In other words, the only religious view in England at that time was Protestant and Anglican Christianity. I'm happy to be wrong about this, but as far as I've been able to discover all religious disputes, as varied as they were, existed within the parameters of one sub-set of Christianity.

Again, I am referring to the mid-1600's, and maybe for a hundred years following. And I'm referring to Britian. The situation in the early colonial U.S. was different as there were a number of religious groups, such as Catholics and Jews, who had an early colonial presence that was lacking in Britian.

Sorry to have been unclear in my previous post.

Best wishes,

Yes, I agree with you, Forrest. I also think we are far more connected than appears in our statements of belief. I've been moved by all the Friends who have written in here about how they came to a liberal meeting precisely because they didn't want to have anything to do with Christianity, but then, after reading early Friends, listening in silence, and so on, were brought to faith in Christ. Liberal Meetings could exist for nothing else but that and still have a purpose, but I believe they exist for other reasons, too.

Similarly, I have been fortunate enough to hear David Nyonzima, a Burundian Evangelical Friend, talk about how God spoke to him in the midst of the genocide and directed him to create listening rooms for trauma healing and reconciliation. Burundian Friends don't worship in silence, nor do they have a history of listening projects the way liberal friends do (as far as I know!), and yet that is what he was led to create.

Even if we had nothing in common but our history, that alone appears to be a powerful force. But we also have in common the love God showers on us all.
It seems to me there has already been a major separation among Friends, even to the extent that the different poles" of the separation do find it difficult to talk to each other. In NYYM the separation has been proposed for decades between FUM - FGC where NYYM is dually connected. However, these aren't even he most diverse "poles" of the "Quaker" family tree.
Paula and Jim
It is true that there were officially no Jews in England during Shakespeare's time, as they had been persecuted and expelled in about 1290. Oliver Cromwell removed the ban and invited Jews to live in London, so Jews were present but not part of 'the establishment' during the early Quaker years. (see 'a-short-history-of-the-Jews-in-Britain').

But I'm not sure this is the point. It is clear that early Quakers lived in a Christian culture and followed Christian traditions. The questions is whether, by 'living experimentally' some Quaker traditions and thinking has moved towards liberal world-views, while other Quaker traditions have remained Christ-centered. Even 'Quaker-Quakers' now do not believe exactly the same things as Quakers did 350 years ago, because science, theology and ethics have developed since then, and because out everyday life experience and our 'living experimentally' is so different.
In friendship, Ian
It is sad when different 'poles' find it difficult to talk. I think that dialog among people of different faiths is becoming increasingly important and relevant, and this must start within our Quaker community. How can we hope to see 'that of God' (however we understand this phrase) in others if we are not open to seeing it among our Friends?
In friendship, Ian
Friend Ian:

I want to thank you for your response. It is the kind of response that led me to do a little more reading and has modified my views. That's the best kind of result for online interaction. There is a new book out on Shakespeare called "Contested Will" and in that book he asserts that there was a tiny Jewish community in Britain during Shakespeare's time. It is still probably the case that Shakespeare never met any actual Jewish people, and I suspect the same could be said for the Quaker founders. Still, it's always good to get one's facts right and I, again, appreciate you taking the time to post.

Regarding the 'main point' you bring up: I have recently been reading early Quaker Journals and they are saturated, thoroughly saturated, with Christian centered views. I find it difficult to go for more than a few pages without running into an explicit reference to these views.

Thanks again,


Best wishes,

Just out of interest, there was also a great deal of interaction with Jews and Muslims in the early Quaker period. Indeed, Fox actually made extensive use of the Qur'an when writing to Muslims - in a constructive but Christocentric way. Some early Friends in multicultural London were even born 'Turk' before joining Friends. There was extensive contact and exchange, from very early with Jewish communities on the Continent, especially Holland (Samuel Fisher was clearly a strong influence on Spinoza, who himself translated some of Margaret Fell's work). The cultural knowledge and interactions of Early Friends were far more extensive than we give them credit for - and far more so than most Friends today.

I can get a bit of a bore on this - just finishing a book on Early Quakers and Muslims - but the basic point is that while your general observation is right Jim - there is actually a much more complex story there than most modern Friends realise. Still, can't find any early Quakers knowing about Buddhism ... but, who knows? Maybe another book.
Indeed. Our young meeting, while consisting of Friends who are mostly affiliated with largely liberal yearly meetings (Baltimore and Northern), is a welcoming meeting. We welcome GLBT persons, whites, blacks, native Americans, educated and not, moneyed and not, Evangelicals, Conservatives, agnostics, Buddhists, etc. We do not exclude. That being said, we are a Christian body. CHrist is our Center. Just as we wouldn't define and manage each other's personal relationships, nor do we force theology down each other's throats. Some of us do see Jesus as the Word of God, Savior and even allow him enough authority to truly call him "Lord." Others see him as a great Rabbi who may or may not have something directly to do with the Holy Spirit or Light. Perhaps others see him as just a man, and that the Light was part of him and is part of us. He is still the unifying factor. We come together in his name, trying to follow his Way. We search the scriptures together. We confess our sins to one another. We seek to be transformed by the Power. We pray with and for one another. We share our faith with those who are tender and want to hear it. We hope our faith produces works. No creed. Just a commitment to God, and through Jesus as we know him. We find wisdom in the Gospel Order as understood by Friends, and in following this Order, we find that we are Friends of one another, and in Christ.
Yes. It is possible to have Christ as our centre without that limiting our periphery. We can include Christ without excluding others. It is possible to be Christian without being evangelical or fundamentalist.

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