Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
During a recent meeting for worship, I found myself seated across from my least favorite Quaker T-shirt. Yes, there was a Friend in the T-shirt, but this is not about her. It’s about my increasing discomfort with the four words on the perimeter of the design: simplicity, integrity, peace and equality.
Lately I've heard members of my meeting tell newcomers, “we believe in simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and peace.” As the words pour rhythmically off the tongue, I hear echoes from the church liturgy of my childhood - “I believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints.”
When I first joined Friends, testimonies were described as “a life lived in the Spirit” and not a set of beliefs or ideals. They were the witness of our day to day actions, a testimony to how God was leading us.
How did we start using testimonies like a creed?
I began struggling with when and why we've changed our focus to the pointing finger rather than the moon above.
What was given to me is pretty simple. By shrinking the richness of Quaker faith and practice down to SPICE, we can avoid the messiness of talking about the Spirit. No one gets uncomfortable. No controversies. No risk of conflict. Even a four star general will proclaim his desire for peace. SPICE is a nice, safe container that won't scare away or offend.
In a word, it’s bland. Spiritual pablum.
There’s just one problem. God is not bland. God overflows any notion that we build. Opening oneself up to the the work of the Spirit is frightening and exhilarating and changes us into someone else. We never have and never will control how God moves in and through us.
The primary opening of George Fox was “there is even one Christ Jesus who can speak to thy condition.” It’s time come to terms with being the Religious Society of Friends.