I attended a large Meeting today, surrounded by good people talking a lot about "Love" but saying nothing about "God."

And later a committee meeting, in which people talked about "being effective" but again couldn't bring the "G word" to their lips-- and when I brought that up, several people there there were eager to shut me up and render me more 'peaceful'-- but some responses got me wondering...

Later, at home reading a Ram Dass book, a couple of things struck me. One was a story about a time when he'd been really disturbed about people not meeting his expectations-- which he was also having trouble meeting.

And then there was this, apropos my own spiritual life lately...

"What, in fact, is the point of any of these practices, if we already are [Brahma]? They're to get rid of whatever in us prevents us from knowing who we are at this moment. See, from a practical point of view, we're faced with an interesting paradox. At one level of our intellectual understanding, we know that we already have all the riches-- we know that we are the atman, that we are the Buddha, that we are free. We know all that. But if we look inside, we'll notice that although we know it, we somehow don't believe it. ... All of [these practices], by one route or another, are designed to get around that roadblock between our knowing and our believing."

At least this points up, for me, much of the difficulty of talking about God.

I used to think that "knowing" God was obviously better than "believing in" God, because it does mean direct experience rather than "pretending to believe something you really don't."

But confronted with people who have been socially conditioned to avoid God-talk, knowing they're violating the accepted consensus view of Rationality&Reasonableness if they allow it any credence, it sometimes feels a lot safer not to risk "offering pearls to the poor hungry swine." Even for me.

It may be that I'm just a bit more "out" about "Theism-- the love that dares not speak its name" [these days] than some people...

We all have to struggle between our initial "common sense" and recognition of God at work in, around, & through us... and while Friends are supposed to embody a certain consistency, some of the more fruitful influences may just need to work covertly within our inconsistencies, for now...

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Why do (some) Friends find that talking from God disturbs their peace? I was such a person once and for me, the reason was the hard handling I received from Christians (especially my father), the long history of Christian violence and perfidy, and the apparent emptiness and hypocrisy I thought I saw in those around me who believed in the traditional theistic God—in short, my personal woundedness and my sense of history. Quaker meetings have taken in a lot of refugees like I was and sometimes it's hard to remember that it's real pain we trigger when we talk from God.

This calls for more care in clearness for membership. Not that we should turn the refugees away, but that we should first, find out if they carry this kind of charge, and second, if they do, ask them—no, require them—to take responsibility for it. To make it clear that we do not try to redirect or refashion other Friends' religious experience, just as we promise not to try to redefine theirs. And then gently remind them of their agreement when, inevitably, their wounds get bumped.

This introduces discipline right at the beginning of the relationship between the meeting and its members and a lot more Friends are allergic to discipline than are nervous about God talk. Most of our meetings are unable to embrace such a covenantal approach to meeting life. They come to meeting for comfort and renewal (so don't make me uncomfortable talking about stuff that makes me uncomfortable), rather than to be transformed and perfected in the Spirit.
It is not easy to be a believer when one has to contend with so much skepticism. I find myself automatically put on the defensive if I say that I'm a Christian. And even when I am accepted, I find myself only reaching tolerance after I qualify in a thousand different ways what I am not. Being Truthful eventually wins me the ability to state my opinion without being blindsided by someone else's negative religious experience. but all I have really accomplished then is the ability to have a seat at the table, not to have what I believe potentially adopted by a spiritual seeker.
I agree.
I'm curious Forrest, were you expressing yourself by using the word "God," or critiquing them for not using it? When you say they "couldn't bring the 'G word' to their lips" it sounds as though you may have had an expectation that they "ought" to use the word and were letting them know they were in error for not doing so. If that's the case, it sounds to me as though their reaction, whether or not "justifiable," was at least the sort of thing one might expect. I too am a theist, but lets be real -- there's an awful lot of touchiness around this subject these days. Its quite possible to have a conversation about this with our nontheist Friends, but it takes a great deal of care, respect and sensitivity. That's been a real challenge for me as I've moved from non-to-theist in my liberal meeting, but I've found its exactly the kind of thing that gives me the chance to live my faith. I hope to grow in the ability to "invite" others --in a truly inviting fashion -- to walk this path without creating "tripwires" that will turn them away.

Of course, I wasn't there, and you may not deserve this lecture at all -- but the foregoing is what your post raised in my heart.

In Friendship,

David
I was there for a peace & social goodstuff committee meeting, re how their Meeting and mine could best address the myriad outrages that people all around are suffering...

I'm seeing the basic cause behind this condition-- in the fact that humanity overall (as well as the sample within our Meetings) is out of step with God and falling over our collective (how many billion X 2 ?) feet.

There are heavy social factors impairing many Friends' responses to our universal social/political/ecological/economic crisis... Two of us are actively engaged with helping people they actually meet as human beings, might even know as 'like me.' This is a whole different perspective on what one is doing, a whole different feel for the urgency of it, than to be sending aid to some place that doesn't quite seem real to us... One of my Friends at the meeting was really disappointed that contemporary Friends in general just don't get the difference, this recognition of "our own flesh" as one of the prophets put it.

It isn't that you need to be 'theist' to see that problem. But I think that people are particularly likely to fall into blind-alley ruts when they aren't consciously connected to the spiritual foundation of all those interlocking problems... People need that connection; and when they don't get it, their compensatory activities can get really irrational!

Meanwhile we're expecting ourselves-- because we're in "a Friends Meeting"-- to be somehow able to dash out there and Save The World with the same power our predecessors sometimes exemplified, but without knowing the same spiritual Power to inspire, guide and support our efforts-- It's like expecting our car to work after the gasoline runs out.

So, yes-- I don't know what 'lecture' I did-or-didn't 'deserve' from thee, but certainly I was critiquing their spiritual reticence. I think it's the key problem they need to address; it would have been quite remiss of me to sit through the entire meeting without mentioning it. & their semi-hostile reaction was 'the sort of thing' I did expect.

What I didn't expect was for one of their older members to explain that "We've been waiting to feel some leading from God for several months now. There may be something someone has said during these meetings that we really need to look at more deeply." Whereupon the group fell into a brief, but really intense interval of worship... and came out of it much as we'd been.

The Friend I'd been having the most intense 'argument' with was the guy who've given me the ride there. I agree with him on most of his disagreements with the rest of the bunch; he thinks we 'disagree on tactics' while I think it's more than that, but we argued happily all the way home.
I'm at work so this will be brief for now.

Lots of good thoughts there, Forrest. I'm moving to a new city and thus a new meeting and some of these issues have been on my mind as I contemplate the change. I've spent the last nine years coming to Friends, trying to learn what a "Quaker" is and how its done, and then on top of that becoming a Christian and working out how that all works out. I've had a few fellow travelers in my former meeting, which has been a blessing, and a few more challenging exchanges as well. At any rate I'd like to come back to your answer here and contemplate it further as time allows.

Hope my "lecture" comment wasn't too offensive, I meant it solely as a poke at my own pedantry. May your arguments continue happily.
I wonder if part of the reason is that individual Friend's God-understanding is highly personal? I ask because on one of my long meditative walks with my dog the other morning it occurred to me that my politics were libertarian, my social outlook liberal, but my religion conservative (I dress Plain and am challenged to maintain various practices such as Peace, Integrity, etc). From the outside that may seem very confused, but it is very clear in my mind. Suddenly I understood the Muslim term Jihad (personal struggle). My Plain motivations, my Quaker motivations are my jihad. So I'm thinking that trying to speak that to someone who may not understand it cheapens in somehow (not really, but I would see how someone would find this to be the case) so that perhaps these Friends' reluctance to speak of God comes from a private place that warrants no or few public declarations?
I do not feel comfortable telling just everyone about my faith because the fact of the matter is that some people treat you badly if they know that you are a Christian. You get all kinds of prejudice, that I would anti a lot of things I am actually for and that I cannot take a joke or take someone swearing within ear's reach of me. That is why it is comforting to be around people with a similar faith (I say similar because I do not believe we can have the same faith). I have no quakers around me in my town but I have contact with a 'regular' church and I do get the opportunity to pray and talk about god without feeling like someone would judge me and that is great, I would not know what to do if I did not have that.
where ever two or more are gathered in His name He is present among them.
When my wife and I started attending a local Quaker meeting we didn't share during the meeting but used the fellowship time afterward to let the members know who we were, our struggles and our strong christian beliefs. When we did start sharing during meetings the other members understood we were sharing our lives and not preaching at them. Even though we eventually left that meeting I believe we made good friends there and we left with a mutual respect for each others' beliefs.
I know that many people come to Quakerism from a hurt past, and that the wounds may have been experienced in a Christian institution or by an individual themselves. It's disheartening, but a true that many have gotten scathed. I'm deeply sorry about that. And so some where along the way, these terms 'God' and 'Christian' are difficult or perhaps may not be part of one's Quaker path. I've experienced some of that as a Christian myself since childhood, but am still willing to take the name Christian Quaker and speak of my deep love of God.
We have widened the cirlcle ever so broad to include any walk of life and even atheists within Friends. What a great place for them to be, no? I have no problem with that and wish that we would be able to find what we do have in common. All of us are on a pilgrimage, but if Quakers soon do not freely allow the literal Christ followers to express their faith in God as well, I believe we will continue to dwindle in numbers. I know I have seen various writings such as G-d and G** rather than take the risk to insult a Friend in our writings. This is incredible to me.
I think it is time that we stand and let our Lights shine. Equality, love and respect need to flow in both directions and when they do within the RSoF, perhaps our good being raised up in the larger world will take root better.

In Friendship and Love,
Jan Lyn
Jan,

Some people, and Jews in particular, do not write out the full name of God for reverential reasons. There's a discussion of that here: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_Jewish_people_use_the_word_G-d_instea...

Blessings,

David

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