Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Hi, Marcie! I first want to echo what Isabel said. There are many streams among Friends, and only Liberal Friends don't corporately confess Jesus as their savior. Liberal Friends represent, worldwide, a small minority of Friends (between 1/10 and 1/8) and many Liberal Friends are Christian. One thing I've noticed is that, even within Meetings where there are many Christians, non-Christians tend to be more vocal about their beliefs. That may be the case here as well, skewing our perception of the faith-landscape of QQ and of the RSoF.
It is problematic that Quakers, taken as a whole, are not a subset of the body of Christ, but rather one circle of a Venn diagram that overlaps substantially but not completely. It means that we don't share a common language with (more or less) fixed referents. There is lots of room for misunderstanding. It is impossible to take for granted that people will at least think seriously about what the Bible says. None of this makes for an easy time. But I do hope that you'll continue to struggle with us. The influence of followers of Jesus in shaping the future of the RSoF depends on our being willing to stay and labor and love and witness joyfully to the saving power of Christ.
And we aren't alone in this situation, as I believe Jeff said. For example, Episcopalians are explicitly, corporately Christian, yet they have bishops who publicly proclaim theirdisagreement with fundamental Christian doctrine - Jesus as the "truth, the way and the life."
I think it is possible to see Evangelical, Conservative, and Liberal Friends as separate-but-related denominations. Lutheran and Evangelical Lutheran are different denominations.
I think also that you'll find that A) Liberal Friends are mostly Christian (or they may prefer to say Christ-centered) and B) the ones who are antsy about calling ourselves those words (hi) are shying away for reasons that aren't necessarily theological, but rather more about words and interpretations.I don't identify as a Christian. A follower of Jesus, yes, but not a Christian. Why? Well, there's the part where if I did I'd be part of the Christian Left, and as far as I can tell, the Christian Right would like to kick the Christian Left out of Christianity anyway. There's also that I'm not fully comfortable with using words for which I was given a very limited definition as a Catholic child (because children and deep philosophy don't tend to get along so well) and applying them to much bigger concepts that I recognize as an adult. For example, "God" to a child is an old man, and if you can grasp "omnipresent" it sounds more like he runs around really fast visiting everyone or something. As an adult, I prefer to say Divine or Universe because they seem to encompass everything-ness better than my childish understanding of "God" does. Most Christians would not accept this though, so as far as they're concerned I'm not Christian, and well if they don't want me, fine.
I think you'll find that a lot of "not Christian" Friends are like me in that regard. Even ones that say they're "non-theist" might just mean they don't feel like the word "God" fits. I called myself non-theist until I learned the word pantheist (I'm told panentheist is a common acceptably-Christian viewpoint, that is: the Universe plus God-outside-the-Universe...I'm still not convinced of a locus of consciousness for the universe though). Actual atheists are probably not too common.
To follow up on what Isabel wrote:
Many Liberals identify as Christian too. Quakers cannot be all lumped together, because we are all hearing God lead us along different paths. Our unifying belief is that God has come to teach each of us experientially, rather than expecting us to learn second-hand through teachers and books. Isabel might believe I am missing something in my language, but I'm writing from my own perspective, sitting on the liberal side of the meetinghouse while looking lovingly and longingly at my cousins across the way.
I hope you will stay, Marcie. This is an important conversation for us to have.
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