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?
Jim, I think you are probably correct in your assessment of some people's reasons for their hostility towards Christianity.
It is difficult for me to recommend places to read about the Hicksite perspective on political parties because I didn't ask Larry Ingle for any references. There are other quotes in Elias Hicks' Journal such as "And I believe, nothing contributed more to this, than their becoming parties in the civil government, and taking offices therein; for here, the spirit of contention gets in, and a striving to be uppermost, and fill the principal seats: then party animosities take place, from whence are derived envy and jealousy, one against another; and then reviling, and neighbors speaking evil of each other; hence wars and fightings arise, as from their natural ground." There are a few other similar sentiments in his journal.
This was in the Memoir of Rachel Hicks of New York Yearly Meeting: "Had Friends all lived in the life and power of vital religion, we would have remained a united people, wise in the wisdom which God gives, standing aloof from all parties, and party feelings, giving evidence that we love all men of every nation, without distinction."
There was also this from a letter by Sarah Grubb: "What has a follower of the holy, meek Jesus, to do with political parties , or with the striving one with another, of the potsherds of the earth?"
I found this in WIlliam Hodgson's Society of Friends in the nineteenth century: "The Society in America had carefully avoided commingling their zeal in behalf of their testimony against slavery, with the highly wrought passions of political parties , and had, on that account, and aware also of the manner in which things are often managed in popular assemblages, generally refrained from taking part in public meetings or political demonstrations on the subject; which were felt to be of an entangling nature, and calculated to leaven those thus engaged into worldly and hasty modes of action, to weaken the hold of pure religious feeling, and to draw away the soul, imperceptibly perhaps, from that humble waiting, at every step, for divine direction and help, under which the faithful have always found safety."
This was in the journal of William Evans, who I believe was Orthodox, not Hicksite, but I believe it expresses the same sentiment: "My mind had been under exercise on account of Friends mingling with those political parties and associations, and I revived the ancient testimony; “Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” Whenever they did mix with them, they were caught in their idolatrous practices, lost their strength, and were often overrun and overpowered by them; because they forsook the Lord and his worship. And so it is with us. Those who join the political assemblies, lose their spiritual strength; become impregnated with their spirit; and, if they continue, become like fruitless branches, cut off from the vine; they are dead, as to the Divine life, and the men of this world gather them into their fellowships, and they are burned or destroyed, as to any life or virtue."
I personally don't equate non-belief in Jesus with hostility to Jesus or to Christians. I do find that among Friends these two distinct attitudes are sometimes found in the same person. That said, I don't think we Christian Friends should focus unduly on the "hostility" we rightly or wrongly perceive around us. I think we should focus on our own efforts to be faithful Christians, which would include being open and honest and loving to those with whom we might disagree.
I have wondered how BYM was able to escape the divisiveness and splits evidenced by American Quakers.
I am a liberal Quaker, but I have always considered myself a Christian of a Christian Universalist flavor. As such, the writings of Phillip Gurney and James Mulholland have moved me. Looking from the outside as an FGC Quaker, I am troubled by the treatment of Phillip Gurney (see the new blog post on Western Yearly Meeting).
It's a myth that Britain YM escaped it all. While there was no major split (there were smaller ones, with the Conservative one lasting quite a long time), the differences were there as well as in America. They did deal with it somewhat differently - with compromises of principle, etc.
While many think that there never was an issue of manner of worship in BYM, that's not really the case. The compromise was to allow semi-programmed worship, but not allow it to be called meeting for worship and to generally require that the time for it not be Sunday morning. There were numerous meetings with much larger evening gatherings with a prepared message and hymns than the official meeting for worship. Numbers of these declined over the years, but I visited one 11 years ago where that was very much the pattern. See Quaker Tour of England - Hartshill Meeting.
Another was to allow people converted through evangelistic efforts to join Friends, but only with a sort of second class of membership called associate membership.
Thanks for filling in some of the details of British Quaker history. But it seems to me that your post confirms that the British reaction to the stresses of diverse interpretations was, as you put it, to "compromise". For some reason, and it's unclear to me why, Americans were not willing to compromise on either side. From just reading your post it feels to me that the British created a way to accomodate the diverse practices which, while not ideal for either side, made it possible for all involved to remain within an extended community. It strikes me that there is some wisdom in this approach.
I suspect the US divisions were in fact larger. I used to notice, in discussions on the old Quaker-l, that some vehement Quakers were coming from a position of orthodox Protestantism. After awhile, these went off and formed their own "Christian" mailing list.
Another thing about it... the availability of sites like this may have done much to pull people away from that sort of strictly-linear form of discussion; but even before that, the separation of the two positions left both of them sterile. (The "Ain't no point in talking to me; it's just like talking to you!" phenomenon. )
You were an example of what I meant about some disagreement being necessary. I often disagreed (and agreed in ways you didn't appreciate) with you, but felt you provided an essential nutrient to a soup that was sometimes near-tasteless with shallow versions of Liberalism.
Unity, the way I understand it, requires valuing each other despite disagreements, and working to mutually dig into the depths that transcend those disagreements.
Trying to do this via constructing some statement that doesn't offend anyone because it fails to say anything... That, I agree, constitutes a violation.
One of the things I much appreciated about visiting the synagogue in Philadelphia--was the way they could disagree, argue about it, find unity in that!
How so? This is an honest inquiry, not a challenge. In a situation where people have to compromise, it seems to me, from a certain perspective it will look dishonest, or in some way underhanded. But if one values the sense of being part of an extended community, then these kinds of compromises are seen as a way to maintain a higher value. It somewhat resembles families that compromise on certain kinds of behavior with each other (say dietary differences) because they value being part of the same family.
You know more about British Quaker history than I, so there's probably some background that I'm not taking into consideration. I look forward to your response.
This atheist Friend stands firmly in support of any Christian Friend who is treated disrespectfully or with hostility because of their faith, or who is told that their Christianity makes them less of a Quaker. There's no call for that sort of thing, which can only hurt our religious community. I've heard some other "theologically queer" Friends express similar solidarity with Christian Quakers in this thread, and in many other conversations.
That said, I want to add a little perspective. While I do acknowledge with regret that Christian Friends have at times been treated badly for their faith, I have personally never seen or heard it in my monthly meeting, and only a very few times on the internet. (Let me make a distinction here—expressing views contrary to another’s faith, or noting the obvious fact that institutional Christianity has been used to many wicked ends, is not in and of itself disrespectful or intolerant of Christians, any more than expressing Christian views is in and of itself disrespectful of non-Christians.)
On the other hand, I have heard the legitimacy of nontheist and non-Christian Friends questioned and even flat-out denied, dozens of times in comments and articles on this web site and many other Quaker web sites and blogs. This is not a rarity but a significant public thread in online Quaker conversation, right up there with the more noble aspects of “convergence”.
I also should say that I have heard a larger number of Christian and theist Friends speaking with openness, love and tolerance toward nontheist and non-Christian Friends, and I am deeply grateful for that support.