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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Dear Pen,

I believe that Forrest clarifies his statement about not having "time" after the semi-colon and in the following sentence. He wrote:

"I don't have time to wait for anyone to mistake me for a good person; I need to tell the truth when and how I can. But only as led."

We are all called upon to tell the truth when and how we can, but ONLY as we are led. Sometimes that means we will say things that will hurt some feelings, no matter how gentle we are, but if we are true to our leadings this might be part of the Plan.

Following as we are Called...

You bring up an important point about how we can move people, and your words about gentleness speak directly to my understanding of what I am called to do. Therefore, when I was led to speak in meeting for worship about a problem, I resisted because I was "sure," in my human need to be kind, that I shouldn't say it. It took much wrestling with God before I succumbed and gave the message--out of my own pain, knowing that I might be hurting others.

God didn't promise it would be easy. :)

Yours in the Light, Paula

 

My lovely name is from my father, a military buff who admired Nathan Bedford Forrest for being so very good at wholesale homicide. He didn't really believe the connection between NBF & the Klan... but I wouldn't be surprised; ie the guy was accused of some pretty ugly practices during the war, what would have been justly called "war crimes" in my father's day.

 

What's important, of course, is the "seeing," but that generally implies being willing to look. If people imagine they're being told to look for a fat man in a red suit, that is a misconception, and can definitely incline them to dismiss the whole exercise.

 

I don't get to know 'what will be of use to the person,' but I do find the view is better with my eyes open, and I hope people will try that before we talk about "views"!

Yes, isn't it interesting that "you" are the one expected to change. Does this requirement not say something about the religion of the person who demands we be the change? It's self-righteousnous, not humility. We all wear rose-tinted glasses to a degree, but the problem comes not from the glasses, but from being smug about the view we see, and accepting no other view as having validity.

 

One of my favorite lines from a secular source addresses this phenomenon. In Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "The Mikado," the mikado is singing about the social "nuisances" he would sentence to death if he ever felt required to execute someone. On his "little list" is:

 

The idiot who praises in enthusiastic tones

Every century but this

And every country but his own.

 

Being something of a snob myself (maybe no more so than anyone else, though), I have carried that line with me for decades as a reminder to be humble. And yes, I realize there's a whiff of snobbishness about quoting something worldly like Gilbert & Sullivan--that's NOT plain speaking. I'm working on that too, but the line certainly gets my point across.

 

Following God means listening to others--that "love your neighbor as yourself" language that we all have such trouble with. Oh, how wonderful if we can talk about God together! Is the problem that those who have trouble with overtly religious (i.e., Western religious) language do not recognize that "love thy neighbor" is the crux of what we are called to do, because it was Jesus who instructed us, and they threw out all western teachings, including that one?  If so, they don't understand our RSoF, for that is what is required of us, too: answering that of God in everyone. How much more specific can it be??

 

Yours in the Light, Paula

If you want to drop a G-bomb into conversations try adding “God willing” to the end of sentences about the future, e.g. “The bus will arrive in five minutes, God willing”. You might even get “Isn’t that what Muslims say, 'Inshallah'?" to which you can counter “Oh No, I was meaning ‘Deo volente’.” and you can then launch into a discussion on comparative religion and the potential for divine intervention while waiting for the bus.

I personally do not find the history of the RSOF embarrassing (in fact I am trying to set up a reading group on early Quaker texts at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/E_Qua_Te , please join if you want). I do not see early Quakers as ostentatious but rather decrying ostentation in others (e.g. Fox’s bare-foot trip in the snow into Lichfield prompted by the sight of its three spires). However these were revolutionary times – a King claiming the divine right to rule had been decapitated and many believed that the end really was nigh. In these circumstances worldly possessions must have seemed to be of very limited worth – like a collapsing currency.

Back to the topic of language, I think the verbal medium cannot fully explain the divine experience any more than it can explain a painting or a symphony. Consequently we see a pattern of inspired individuals, who attract followers through charismatic verbal and non-verbal contact; the leader of followers then need to set down for posterity what was experienced in words for after the leader has departed. These then form a basis for a canon for a religious society.

The words are better than nothing but still no substitute for experience. For the majority who will not experience an epiphany, then perhaps the answer is practice rather than verbalization. This practice can take the form of service as well as introspection, with the benefit to others as well as self.

Perhaps this is what Fox meant by “walk cheerfully over the World, answering that of God in every one”. For Fox, the World, was corrupt and “walking cheerfully over” was treading it underfoot. Furthermore “answering that of God” was not a verbal exercise but rather a challenge to everyone for that of God (as opposed to the World) to emerge.

Rupert

The traditional response of agreement to a minute in BYM appears to be "One hopes so", which I see as very similar to Inshallah.

When I was in Egypt earlier this year (please hold those in Egypt with the current crisis in the Light), I realised that both Christians and Muslims used the concept of "Godwillingness" in all future acts.

Friend Pen--

Let me say I enjoy thy blog a great deal. When I get a moment or two to peruse the web, it is one place I go.

But it appears we may disagree on this, and since I respect thy insight, I would like to share . . .

I use "Lord willing" all the time, because as I progressed as a Christian it began to feel truly arrogant (and imprecise) to say I know I will be somewhere or something in particular will happen, when it often happens to not work out. Particularly with a toddler, I have become unable to meet a frightening number of the obligations I try to make. At the time I hadn't ever heard (or noticed) anyone else use the phrase, and none of the Christians I have spent time with use it.


Thee seems to be implying, Pen, that I should not use such a phrase, as it is somehow automatically unloving, but I am not sure why I should not use a phrase that has relieved me of pretending I know the future when I don't. When whatever doesn't work out, I don't feel the same sense of distress I once did about having failed to meet the theoretical obligation of saying "I will be there" when I then wasn't. It used to feel like I had lied, and failed to be precisely honest in my communications.


I came across this practice on my own, not at all aware of it having any history with Quakers or other Christians. No one has anyone indicated to me that my use of the phrase disturbed their ability to live at peace in the world.


That some Christians might have used it automatically just to wear their religion on their sleeve and press their sense of their own righteousness upon others is not my concern at this time . . . just as the Lord has given me no responsibility for others who might find that phrase troubling. Is it troubling because they suspect me of being an ugly Christian, one who professes what they do not profess, one who lives none of the love of Christ in this world? Or is it troubling because the Lord is trying to reach them, and this poke and prod is one way he has to remind them of his loving guidance? I do wonder, now that thee has had such a strong reaction to it, if it has a broader purpose than simply giving me some peace of mind.

Friend Karen -

I didn't know that "Christians are actually specifically instructed to add 'God willing' to statements in the future . . . what is the source for that? I can only imagine the Bible, but it isn't ringing any bells for me . . . or is it only in certain denominations of Christians?

Isabel

Friend Pen, you speak my mind.

I love a good joke, and my sense of humor has often been called "dry." I see the ironic and absurd everywhere I go. But I use no humor when listening. To do other than listen is a violation of trust.

I can see a need for "bomb-dropping" if one has a trusting relationship, one based on real care for each other, and if it is clear to you that your friend is in dangerous denial. In such a case the bomb is a form of intervention (think of intervention for an alcoholic). But that is not going to be a spur-of-the-moment decision to show off one's talent for wit. Otherwise I see no need for shaking things up. One must at all times keep true to that of God in others--and that means listening and loving beyond your ego.

Jokes and wit have an important place in life, but one must be fine-tuned and sensitive and "know thy audience."

I love God!

Kenneth

Thanks for your brevity and reminding me of the thread. Paradoxically it prompted a recall of the superfluity of the Names of God. Apparently Judaism has 72 and Islam aims higher with 99 (I do not know what all these are except I am certain none is rude), though the early Hebrews were more economical, making do with seven

My favourite detail is that the first mention of God in the Hebrew Old Testament is a plural noun, Elohim, though some insist that it is single for this occasion (but no other).

Rupert

1 John 4:8. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love

The word 'God' carries with it a LOT of baggage. The intolerance of fundamentalists, the perfidy of wars committed in God's name, inquisitions, crusades, hatred and more. Sometimes it is easier to talk of love and of acceptance than it is to use such a loaded word.

 

Myself I talk about the 'Really Real', the 'Founder of the firm' and the Ground of our being but rarely about God per se.

It is not a reason to cede control of the word but it is a reason to be careful in it's use. Far too many people use the word to make what they do acceptable. After all if we do something in God's name does it not seem unassailable?

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