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?
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.
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