Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Daniel 13 –A note tells us that this is where the Hebrew text ends and the Greek additions begin. That means the story is not in Protestant versions of the Bible. It is a pretty well-known story. It is quite a change of direction.
The story of Susanna and the elders. Two elders and judges of the people who meet at Joakim and Susanna’s house, develop a passion for Susanna. “They suppressed their consciences; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments” (13:9). The conscience, God’s inward presence, His heaven within them would have judged their passion and brought them back to the right way, but they refused to listen or to look. Instead, they plot to violate Susanna.
When no one is around, they approach her and threaten to lie about her unless she lies with them. She resolves, “it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord” (13:23). When she screams, they carry through on their threat. Susanna, however, unlike them “looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly” (13:42).
The assembly believes the elders and she is sentenced to die; again she calls upon God who knows her innocence. God acts through Daniel, a young boy at the time of this story. He defends her, and the elders respond to God’s spirit in him. They reassemble and retry the case. Daniel examines each elder privately and finds them guilty of perjury, so they receive the sentence of death they would have inflicted on the innocent Susanna.
From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
Here I am going to skip over quite a lot of autobiographical detail to get back to the point when religion reenters my life.
My last two years in college, I became very involved with the anti-war movement, tried to start a chapter of Students for a Democratic Society at my school in Virginia, and became increasingly radicalized. By the time I graduated I was fed up with things in my country and decided to leave, go to Europe, become an ex-pat and find a life on the left-bank of Paris – a little romantic in my hopes for that!
I ended up spending a year in Germany instead, working as an au pair and then as an assistant teacher of English in a Mädchengymnasium [girls’ high school] outside of Hamburg. When I came back in June of 1968, things were in melt-down. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed in April and a day or so after I arrived in June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. The Democratic Convention in Chicago was coming soon and it would be historically chaotic.
After a few months, I found my way to graduate school at UNC – Chapel Hill and there are just two things I shall mention about this move. The first is that it was here when I first came in January of 1969, browsing through the student bookstore, that I felt myself drawn to a beautiful Bible; it was the New Jerusalem bible. I bought it and have worn it out over the past forty years. And, it was in Chapel Hill too that I met the man who was to be my first husband and father of my first two children.
Marriage took my mind off of politics to some extent, but it’s clear when I reflect on these years that I still saw myself as very much the radical. In Winston-Salem I made contact with the Black Panther Party, had a long conversation with one of their leaders about the need for revolutionary change, donated a typewriter, and even rented a car for them a time or two. When we returned to Raleigh and I was pregnant, I worked on the McGovern Campaign. It was there I made the acquaintance of the next Quaker who would influence me. I told her of my old interest in Friends, and she told me I should try to come to Meeting sometime. I didn’t feel led just then but soon would remember her invitation.
By the time our baby—a son—was born, my husband and I had decided that I should go to law school. Becoming a lawyer would take the economic pressure off of him and give the family a degree of security—at least that was the thought. How being a lawyer would fit with my own need to be a mother to my son or other children that might come along was something to which we gave little thought.
I started classes at the law school in Chapel Hill in 1973 when my son was ten months old, but law school only brought more stresses. I started feeling an intense dissatisfaction with the relationship I was in and a strong desire to leave. I also came down with a terrible case of hives and undoubtedly related to stress. Sometime that first year, I broached the idea of separating, but my husband told me bluntly that if I even thought of leaving, he would take the baby and disappear forever. I backed off. It tried to resign myself to the situation. I thought of all the billions of women in history who had lived their lives with men they hadn’t chosen or men with whom they hadn’t been happy, and I resigned myself to the fact that I would be one of them.
The hives tormented me. They came every night, all over my body, itching and swelling as they blossomed. In the morning they started to recede, so that by late morning only smooth reddish blotches remained. They would be gone by afternoon. At night it would start again—every night, every day for a year. I tried to take medication, but the narcotic effect made studying and driving to school impossible. I tried hypnotism, but I couldn’t be hypnotized. One doctor tried a kind of guided meditation that he said had worked with other people. He had me close my eyes and imagine myself in a comfortable, nice place, someplace I had really been, someplace I loved. The place I thought of was the shore at Ocean Isle, North Carolina, where we went during the summers. He asked me to imagine myself walking there, going somewhere where it was very quiet and peaceful. He asked me where it was. It was the beach. He led me along, asking me to describe the place, to feel myself there, to feel the sun and hear the water breaking on the shore, to feel the warmth of the sand, the warmth of the sun above me. Then he suggested I imagine someone coming down the beach toward me, someone I felt comfortable with, someone who loved me. He suggested I imagine the face coming closer and closer, recognizing me, reacting to my approach. He asked me to concentrate on the person’s face. Then he asked me who it was. It was Jesus, I told him.