When people ask me what made me consider Quakerism two years ago, I tell them that I followed G-d to the Meetinghouse near my home in nothern Illinois. And with that straightforward response, people nod and smile appreciatively.  Of course, the complete story is significantly more complicated than “G-d told me to”. I have since tried to think of a more visual way to illustrate just how complex my journey with G-d has been. Consider this:

Imagine yourself sitting in a massive room alone. You’re waiting for…something. As a matter of fact, you’re not even aware that you’re waiting for that something. That’s just how lost and oblivious you really are. Suddenly, you notice a trail of crumbs of your favorite dessert leading out of the massive room and around a mysterious corner. Realizing just how starved you really were, you collect (and quickly devour) these crumbs as you follow this bizarre trail. As you turn the corner, you enter another room and are greeted with more of this delicious dessert and a group of people warmly smiling and welcoming you.

That is how I found Quakerism. I’m still working on the imagery but it’s a start. And yet, I’m not completely satisfied with this seemingly happy ending. Quakerism has been much more to me than a room full of yummy food and the people I love. I am in the process of becoming a member of a Religious Society that is struggling with how to define itself. As a result, I must question how I view myself. As I’ve fallen even deeper in love with G-d, I find myself unable to really describe what it means for me to be a Quaker. Does Quaker imply Christian? What would that even mean? I’m in the process of finishing up a semester of one of my favorite undergraduate classes on the New Testament. One of the most beautiful and frustrating aspects of Christianity that I learned in the class is that it is a living religion with a long history of diverse strands of thought pertaining to the nature of Christ. Such is the dilemma before me. Who is Christ to me? If my most intimate interactions with the Divine involve this Spirit which I call G-d then how does Christ factor in? Is there a difference between Christ and G-d? Finally, if all of these questions revolve around petty struggles with man-made schemas and terminology to describe Something as Transcendent and Beautiful as the Divine, then why all of the discussion around the “dangers of universalism”?

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Comment by Paula Deming on 5th mo. 6, 2011 at 10:22am

Good morning, Jess,

Everything you say resonates with me.

I embraced the term "Convergent Friend" the moment I read Robin Mohr's definition, which included the following sentence:

"[The word 'convergent'] includes folks who aren’t sure what they believe about Jesus and Christ, but who aren’t afraid to wrestle with this question."

To me, being a Quaker means being wholly engaged in wrestling with our faith. What are we called to do? Waiting on God. I have not figured out the meaning of Christ or our Christian roots, which has become more important to me as I follow the leading towards primitive Christianity. But that's OK as long as I focus on what God wants for me.

I don't understand the discussion about universalism, either.

Blessings, Paula

Comment by marv ostberg on 5th mo. 7, 2011 at 11:06pm

Thank you.  I am back after an absense.  While I am not a Quaker, I am also not a not a Quaker.  By that I mean that I have been seeking what I call intersections of fundamental values to be found in other faiths or non-faith systems.  This is more difficult than I had thought it might be.  I have been reading Confucious and am about 2 thirds of the way through the Koran.  And I am getting smatterings of others.  Thus, I may not live long enough to do this.

  One common value I think I am finding so far is some idea of brotherhood and sisterhood.  The thought would be that doing onto others as you would like them to do unto you seems to be fairly common, especially when we mean trying to respect others as worthwhile as I hope they do the same for me.  Unfortunately, another common value seems to be giving favored status to one's own particular religious views.  And I find that prevalent not just in conservative fundamentalists where it is so obvious as to be no longer worth noting, but also with "progressives" who respect most those with their own particular sets of not only rights and wrongs, but also personal demons who are their favorite ideas or persons they love to hate or make fun of.  So, in any case, I am still working on finding the commonalities of values, especially when they are empathetic rather than self-righteous.  I look forward to thoughts on this from anyone - including Quakers.


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