Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Part of my responsibilities as clerk of Ministry and Worship are to compile an annual report. In it, my Monthly Meeting seeks to attain the Spiritual State of the Meeting. The past several years, we’ve relied upon an online survey to gather information from members and regular attenders. It has encouraged greater participation and honesty. The anonymity of the internet produces strongly felt opinions one would not ordinarily hear in day-to-day conversation.
Our challenges are not uncommon to many urban Meetings. Though small by orthodox Christian standards, the Meeting is one of the ten largest in the North America, if not the world. Perhaps unavoidably, a wide divergence of opinion fragments the Meeting into factions. Here, the Christian sits uneasily on benches beside the damaged-by-Christianity. The adamant theist speaks into the same silence as the agnostic seeker. In theory, each of these sub-groups is made stronger by the presence of the other. In practice, the effect is often more isolating than unifying.
I have to say I've never believed in all of the ideals of conventional liberalism. It is important, I agree, to provide Friends an avenue to personal expression and communion with God. Yet, I must also concede that we now live in an increasingly Post-Christian world. Our grandparents memorized certain scriptural passages, spent many Sundays at church, and were thoroughly familiar with Christian language and biblical stories. Now, I fear we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
One could make a case that, even then, many people went through the motions, without much conviction toward God or any belief in a higher power. But in any case, it is true that much of my generation has been raised to not see much value in religion. Generations that follow me are even more skeptical, more inclined to see religion as a destructive force that stifles individual liberty. Right-wing Christianity is said to speak for all of Christendom, which is simply untrue.
Centuries of helpful Christian spiritual tools and modes of belief are simply not available to people who are too busy running away from Christianity. What bothers me most are those who have cut themselves off from a potential loving source of great Spiritual contentment. I am afraid that liberal Friends are becoming a group of people who think that Quakerism has no firm and fixed beliefs. In this way of thinking, as long as one does no overt harm, he or she is okay in this world.
The hectic pace of a workaholic city, if not a workaholic culture provides us little time to discern a spiritual infrastructure. Ego and unbelief is destroying us, because some of us have opted to choose God on our terms instead of seeking the Light of the Divine. The Light will reveal itself beyond our human, imperfect requirements of what God must be. We must fight the impulse to think that God must be tangible and provable, despite the fact that the mystery of Divinity is central to our faith.
In effect, it is not Light we are seeking, but instead the hope and desire that we will not have to see the Light. If we live in darkness, we are off the hook. And should we keep this attitude, we will be utterly blind to any sort of Divine impact in our lives. Any human concept of God is, at best, an approximation and an Idol. Doctrine and Absolutism is idolatry. God can only be found in mystical experience, though we must first search for him.