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?
many spiritual wounds come about because a person feels like "christians" do not see the god in them. they have been left out or openly attacked. people are wounded because others don't seem to value them as children of god. maybe you could ask them, straight up, "do you see that of god in me" ? it seems to me that sometimes meetings are so liberal they don't even know what they are about, are they are about nothing more than a gathering of like minded ( sometimes closed minded ) people. a question like this might do nothing to diffuse hostility toward christian language but it might serve as a reminder of a common quaker goal.
Cat, you bring up a major point for consideration: it is not just "them" who are being or have been hurtful. Quaker Christians, even in liberal settings, still show ideas and attitudes that stem from nearly 2,000 years of mainline doctrine about the exclusivity of Christian faith. Granted that the question was about actual expressed hostility to Christian expression and that is not a problem with you or so many of the Quakers who come from or hold different faith perceptions in our community. I think it is quite a valid question for those concerned about hostility to "the Christian message" whether we are expressing elements of that exclusivity that are hurtful to those who react in hostility. How many times do we wonder about that hostility and never consider whether we have actually slammed the person with whom we are communicating by elements of our "message?"
I'd have to say that the question there is whether one sees "Christian" as the be-all and end all of faith, or whether it is seen as one expression of a larger faith in the Way or the Light that Jesus told us He embodied.
This whole conversation is rather strange. I haven't experienced opposition to Christ in any meetings I've attended. However, I haven't been to Quaker meeting on the east coast since 1967 so maybe things changed after that.
I do think it is very tragic that a movment designed to listen to Christ Jesus in the present would have meetings which deny his presence.
You seem to be saying that the understanding of early Quakers about Jesus Christ must be considered unacceptable by today's Quakers. "The scandal of the Gospel" is viewed as hurtful, and it is therefore objectionable per se to believe the Gospel within a Quaker setting. And this view is promoted in the name of tolerance!!!!!!!!!
I think much of the phenomenon is an unease with spirituality period, Christian being the most common flavor hereabouts.
Several years ago we had groups at yearly meeting, even a whole quarterly meeting, devoted to "mystical experience." Some people had had mystical experiences in meeting, spoken about them, and had other members responding with suggestions for therapy, etc. Most of the efforts to deal with that unease were led by people pushing a "Testimony of Unity With Nature" agenda, because many of them had found spiritual experiences triggered by natural environment settings. I was much encouraged by that quarterly session and the written preparation for it, the quotes and the questions--but observed many of the attenders seemed utterly baffled.
I was surprised at my first early meeting, both by the intensity of the spiritual ambiance--and by finding a few people there implacably hostile to the G-word.
When we do business, when a problem comes up--I do not see people praying for aid or guidance, rather I see people responding automatically in terms of worldly 'wisdom.' (When this comes down to letters to legislators, asking for inadequate measures that "everyone will agree to," it feels like a gross violation of integrity--and like lack of "faith," in many senses of that word. (I was struck recently by something John Ralston Saul wrote, about the way all contemporaries with political aims, not just the right-wing propagandists who would naturally work this way, but also the bulk of liberal partisans, who should know better, think automatically in terms of persuading through manipulation: 'sound bites', 'talking points'--as if, in renouncing "earthly weapons," we'd forgotten all the other earthly means of pushing people around.)
Are Christians, by the way, relying sufficiently on God to help resolve this?
Wow. No, Bill, I am saying that many of the early Quakers understood "the present Christ" as including expressions of "the Light" that were not based on a knowledge of the Jesus we know and love. I am saying that the understanding of Jesus as embodiment of "the Christ" is not exclusive to other perceptions. I am saying that we, as Christians have to be aware of 2,000 years of turning faith in Christ into an exclusive religion of Jesus. I am saying that we may have residual attitudes that express such sentiments even when we are not conscious of them. For instance, take Alice's question: what exactly is it that we need to "reach" those people with, the love Jesus showed, or the religion theoretically founded on His teaching? Look once more at Cat's question and let me rephrase it:; is it Christ that is being followed or his religion?
I appreciate you addressing this topic, Alice, and it is one of the reasons I have joined in here at QQ. I am a Christian Quaker in spirit and while I’ve not encountered this problem as much during physical meeting (I do not attend regularly as I would like due to chronic illness,) I have encountered it on another place online for a good year and a half now and still remain dedicated. It is my concern to meld the branches of Friends and I am reading with great interest.
I don’t know what the answer is. Not at all. I try to let the answer start with me: listening, considering, remaining open and giving generous doses of respect and love. I do this because I am called to and the truth is, I love my liberal fFriends–very very much. But I’m tired and it some times hurts. My goal is not to push my Christ Centered beliefs on to others, rather attempt to speak my experience and truth. Even then, my biblical words are difficult for others, though I attempt to walk a gentle path and do try to use them sparingly, I cannot hide what is my Truth and joy while I walk along my journey and I don’t think I should have to as much as I have. I think Christian Friends would be wise to watch their speech in using terms like “true believers” and such as I’ve seen this hurt my liberal loved ones many a time and I can understand why. In the same respect, I don’t think others should have to squelch their vocal ministry or conversation, including liberals within a forum that disagree with me.
As far as helping the wounded heal, I think we are all wounded in many ways and undeniably Quakers seem to be a haven for the wounded due to the freedoms within. I cannot heal wounds, but can hope that the Spirit in me can at times or at least be a soft place. I have also been quite humbled many a day to have a liberal Friend come along side me and soothe my wounds as well as act in a manner that Jesus would have–a few times much more than my past Christian friends or family have been able to do. God works in mysterious ways. How I love him.
What I think is all Friends need to live the Equality Testimony within their own circle before they can live it in action amongst the world. If Friends cannot love a Christian Friend, I quite frankly do not consider it Quakerly at all, likewise the other way around. We are all people who will always be imperfect and fail one another, I know I have and can only pray that there would be more Christ in me.
I hope this continues as I have much to learn and hope to glean more from conversations such as this one.
As I have pointed out elsewhere, there is a 2,000 year tradition of interpreting that statement as EXclusive; that we have to believe in the name of "Jesus" to have that "Truth." I see the statement as INclusive; that any who "come to the Father" HAVE come in the Way that Jesus taught and embodied. I believe that the latter understanding is an expression of "the Doctrine of the Light" which I also believe to be foundational to Quaker perceptions.
Well, yes, but frankly this is also not the view of the majority at liberal meetings I'm familiar with. It is exclusive in one sense, but not in another. I'm afraid that neither liberal Quakers or conservative evangelicals can grasp the different paradigm that early Quakers had about the way Christ works among people. There are, though, a lot of people outside of Quakerism who hold a similar understanding, which is the predominant view at my church, for example.
By at least some definitions having "the mission, message, and memory of Jesus of Nazareth" at the center of your spiritual life would mean you are a "Christian" notwithstanding that you are also a "Neo-Pagan".
Speaking for myself, it is not so much either the mission, the message, or the memory of Jesus that makes me a Christian: rather it is (a) my conviction that He, though once killed, is now present with us, and (b) my decision to receive him as teacher and friend and prophet and savior.
- - Rich