Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I love the Quaker Way. Though perhaps love is not the right word - I 'm not sure we should ever "love" a created thing, and for all its depth and beauty, Quakerism is a created thing. What I mean to say is that in my understanding of Quaker life I have - somehow, someway, to some extent - come to find God. One day in early September 1987 I had a mystical experience. In a state of depression and hopelessness I sat alone in a small woods when suddenly what I can only describe as a Divine Light wordlessly gave me an overwelming sense that "everything is alright" and there is a Spirit at work in the world and in my life. In trying to find a way to interpret or understand this experience, I walked into the nearby Quaker Meetinghouse and stayed, sensing that this was the path that might show me the meaning of that experience. This was perhaps the only time I felt I was truly led. And perhaps this was because I have not always walked in that Light, sometimes I believe not at all, and there have been times, sometimes long times, when I turned away from that Light. But whenever I hunger again for that Spirit, it is in reflecting on that first experience, and its leading me to Friends, that brings me back. It was also through Friends, both present and historical, that I came to Christianity and an awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ. Quakerism has then, for some reason I am still not totally sure of, become the Christian path for me.
But there are times when I feel that Quakerism can sometimes have a parochial sense about it. I have heard the word Quaker used (as I have just used it) as though it were a clearly defined "thing", something we can follow as if it were holy, or something we can use as a source of pride, like "I am a Quaker!" If an Episcopalian said they followed "the Episcopalian Way", or if the word Methodism was used that way the word Quakerism is, we might find a little Denominationalism in this. Now I believe there are many paths, and God in His love for human variety has given us an infinate number of ways to follow the Spirit, depending on what best speaks to our condition. But sometimes I think Quakers, perhaps because we have a particular history as a "peculiar people" or more distinctive worship and organizational forms, of for whatever reason, may be prone to a kind of spiritual pride or elitism we would reject if we found it in a fundamentalist or charismatic sect. Have other Friends ever wondered this?
Have other Friends ever wondered if we might not get a little too sectarian sometimes?
Can Quakerism become an idol? I suppose as a created thing, it could become an idol as much as any other created thing if we let it. Can we focus too much attention on the path and lose focus of the destination? (I may know this experientially). Since the Spirit of Christ can be just as truly heard in all churches/sects/creeds - or in none - might it be more in keeping with that Spirit to speak of small 'q' quakerism and not let our path get out ahead of our Guide?