Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I came across this article from a guy who attended a Quaker Meeting and felt that is wasnt enough Christian for his tastes and felt that Quakers really arent Christian at all. After reading this I feel that this guy doesnt undersome some of the aspects of the Quakers. I want to know how do you fell about how some Christians not understanding Quakerism? And seeing it that Quakerism doesnt compair to what some consider. Christian?
First off, the very first Quakers were frequently accused of being somehow unorthodox-- jailed, tried, sometimes convicted of blasphemy, largely (I would say) because of being misunderstood, & largely (so far as their opponents did understand) because of being understood from narrow (faithless & therefore frightened) perspectives.
& I'd say that keeping close to the Spirit makes that kind of misinterpretation an occupational hazard.
Jesus himself, by the earliest gospel we have, is portrayed as frequently misunderstood by disciples who knew him in the flesh, in person, in intimate conversation.
This was a divine messenger with a message that people (so far) have found very difficult to take in. So far as people do understand him, it tends to be in parts, emphasizing "this message" or "that message" as "His Message" without coming close to containing all that he was saying.
This man was God's cure for The "Knowledge of Good and Evil," a subtle and debilitating malady that has afflicted even the best of us from the earliest of human memory... How could people fail to misunderstand?
How about many Christians not understanding christianity?
In 1991, a friend of mine was initiating some pro-homeless activism, hoping he would be joined in this by some people from our local churches. I suggested the Friends (whom I'd visited in the past, and drifted away from.) I told him, "If there's anyone still practicing Christianity as it's supposed to be..." and then I started crying, realizing that this was something I strongly yearned to do myself. Soon after that I was attending Meeting every week... but I soon enough found a lot I still don't understand about what the Quaker movement has become over the years. (One book I did find helpful, for whatever that's worth, re how we got this way: Ursula Jane O'Shea's Living the Way: Quaker Spirituality and Community)
I have two more questions:
1.Do some Quakers even understand Christianity?
2.Do some Quakers even understand Quakerism?
I think some Friends do lots of stereotyping, and make sweeping generalizations unsupported by evidence. For example, some Quakers identify "orthodox" Christians as fundamentalists, a pejorative label among Friends, without recognizing any distinctions or qualifications at all.
Another common statement is that "Quakers are..." or "Quakers are not..." without recognizing or admitting how heterogeneous Friends are as a group.
Actually, the article in *The Guardian* is rather well done, IMHO.
[responding to Karen Mercer]:
Do you understand someone's meaning better by seeking the best ways to attack what he says? When I catch myself falling into any such mode, I find it pretty embarrassing, myself. Seems to defeat the purpose of talking with other people, at least any purpose I find worthwhile.
There has always been a certain ambiguity about: What was it that Adam & Eve acquired by that unfortunate fruit?... and was "Knowledge of Good & Evil" really an accurate description of the results? The immediate effects, in that story, are that Adam attempts to hide from God, blames God for "that woman You gave me", also blames the woman in question, for the plain fact that he has eaten the fruit. The woman blames the snake.
It looks to me like we're talking about something other than “knowledge”, but rather: a mix of shame, guilt, and finger-pointing.
What Jesus was talking about, with statements like "Don't judge, lest you be judged" is an extremely difficult meaning to get across.
Was he telling us: "Don't see what's right in front of your eyes?" Hardly. We see actions we rightly consider good, and actions we rightly consider evil, that is, destructive in effect and/or intention.
We evaluate other human beings as to what sort of behavior we can reasonably expect from them, given our past experience. And consider courses of action which we hope will prevent recurrences, or worse.
The "judgment" and "condemnation" that Jesus advises us against is something like these practices-- but there's a difference.
What we need to shed, as I understand this, is a whole complex of related delusions: that we are somehow different from the people we judge and condemn. That finding fault in them is a perverse sort of righteousness. That making people suffer for misdeeds (beyond the consequences implied by wrongdoing itself) is good-in-itself. That making people suffer for their misdeeds (which somehow continue to proliferate, remarkably often) is the most effective way to improve them. (Or us.)
If your "eye" (way of seeing) leads you to do harm (and the entire history of humanity seems packed with people doing harm "because he did it first" or "to stop him from doing that" etc)-- We're told to put that "eye" away. To find a way of seeing that doesn't tempt us to wrong ourselves and others. This isn't the tendency we normally start with, but as people learn to trust God more, to fear less, it's the only thing that makes sense.
For the record (I am no longer trying to address Karen Mercer):
The difficulty that most Christians have in understanding the ethical message of Jesus: is that it cuts across people's most strongly-held "common sense" cultural misunderstandings.
It was delivered to the Jews of the First Century, with the many other elements of his overall message, because many of that people were prepared to realize it, and because all of Western Civilization was in need of it, remains in need of it.
The trouble with delivering any message: People will assume you're telling them something already familiar to them. They may agree, may disagree-- but they won't readily see what doesn't fit their previous experience.
What I have come to understand about Jesus is not based on any natural merit of my own; the nature of God is to help people find the insights they are prepared to receive, when circumstances have so prepared them.
I don't want to argue it, against determined hostility; it's there for anyone who makes the effort to search. With a mind open to guidance. (Which is available whenever you are so open: not because of the kind of person you are, but because of the kind of Being God is.)
One day I was out in one of my plainer dresses and with a kerchief on. I was approached by an Evangelical who wanted to know if my clothes meant I was a Christian. I told her I'm a Quaker. She said "I know some people who are Quaker, or at least they say they're Quaker, but they're not real Christians." Uh oh. Cue pestering about exactly what I believe about Jesus' nature (she didn't like hearing I think he's a rabbi (teacher), but I don't have a focus on atonement on the cross) ... until she realized the friend I was walking down the sidewalk with was agnostic-leaning-atheist. Cue even longer conversation between immovable objects (hint to those trying to save atheists: when the atheist says "I used to be a Christian, and I rejected it", telling them to read the Bible is unlikely to work. Hell, reading the Bible is what turned one of my previously-Christian friends into an atheist.)
I've mentioned on QQ before that I feel like there's a distinction between Christian as "person who worships Jesus as a deity" and Christian as "person who tries to follow Jesus' teachings." Certainly, some people meet both definitions, but I'm uncomfortable calling myself a Christian as I'm only interested in the latter. I wonder if "follower of Jesus" instead of "Christian" would get that distinction across.
There are definitely Christians who think they need to "save" Quakers from our "heresy." There are also a lot of people who don't realise Evangelical Friends or Conservative (unprogrammed) Friends exist.
My meeting has hymn singing before meeting on the third Sunday of the month. While I don't recall scripture being quoted in meeting, I've seen people stand up and sing a verse from a hymn (probably based on a psalm, so many are) as their vocal ministry. I've made reference to scripture that I couldn't quote but knew the paraphrasing of it that exists in a hymn.
The bit in the article about there not being a cross on the wall got me. I wonder about denominations that reject statues and icons (such as are found in Catholicism and Orthodoxy) as "idolatry" yet have crosses.
The author clearly arrived with some preconceived notions. However, many Quakers aren't Christian, do not identify as such and do not see themselves either as worshipers or followers of Jesus, not even in the broadest conceivable sense. The author's lack of depth of knowledge on the subject aside, he was on to something when he wrote about "the ambiguity of the Quakers' relationship to Christianity." Maybe it's not felt as much in the States, but in Europe it is.
Another thing he mentioned in passing, which I thought was perceptive, was that people in the Meeting he attended were all middle class. I don't think there's a way to escape this - for all the talk of equality, Quakerism does seem to fail to attract or appeal to the lower classes. This is something I've become very concerned about. I'm sure there's a host of historical and sociological explanations for this phenomenon, but I'm not very happy about it.