Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Quakerism in ILYM will die in our generation, unless we as a Society stop saying, “Ain’t it awful.” It’s time to wake up and, in Joan Pine’s words at a recent Ministry and Advancement committee meeting, “Pray til the power of the Lord comes down.”
There’s a problem with prayer. The trouble with praying for the power of the Lord is that often the Lord says, “You need to work, and work hard. You need to change your ways. Change is the hardest work there is. I’ll help with the leadings, and Way will Open, but only if you put your back into the work of changing yourself—your priorities, your choices.” The reward of praying for the power of the Lord to come down is that lives can change for the better, and the future of our Society can change for the better, when we work hard, not only at listening for divine guidance, but in actually doing what the Lord doth require of us.
When I was a leader of my 12 Step group for mental sufferers I noticed that every group member worked very hard. Some of us worked hard at changing ourselves, and we were rewarded far beyond our wildest dreams; often in a very short time. We said of one another, “You’re a walking miracle.” Other group members, also truly lovely souls, worked just as hard—at not changing. They attended meetings and enjoyed the positivity. They complained about how rough being a mental patient was, but when someone gently suggested the least little thing they could do to work on themselves, their eyes glazed over. They hung up the phone—often literally. Those of us who got better got lots better. Those who didn’t… most of those friends are dead, long before their time, and the remaining two are vegging in nursing homes. Waiting to die. Waiting for the next bingo game to distract them from their pain. The life-lesson I draw from this experience is that being willing to change is the hardest work there is—and absolutely the most rewarding. And, changing is highly correlated to living longer, living better. Joy is the Fountain of Youth. Joy comes from discovering true efficaciousness lies in working on oneself.
How many of those old-time prophets cried, “Repent”? All they really were saying was, “Change your ways. Choose life.” If we are to live—to survive as a Religious Society of Friends—we have to give up our comfortableness about our Quaker ways of talking only to one another, our habits of substituting middle class nice guyism for what is Real spiritually, our Quaker jargon as a substitute for the Truth it once represented, our “Ain’t it awful” as a substitute for changing ourselves. We have to give up, and wake up. We have to get real—with ourselves first of all, and by that means, re-discover what is real in Quakerism. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” Jesus said. Are our meetings offering those hungry sheep the Quaker equivalent of junk food?
All any of us in the Religious Society of Friends have to offer is ourselves—our gifts, our experiences, our passion for the Real, our gut-hunger to feed hungry sheep real food—soul food. Or not. Self-satisfied religions die. Let us choose life.