On my blog I recently quoted a "welcome leaflet" that I wrote some time ago for Fifteenth Street Meeting. The URL is http://brooklynquaker.blogspot.com/2008/11/my-meetings-welcome-leaf....
As part of a Q&A the leaflet states that "Quakers believe in God, the same God who is recognized by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and is worshipped by billions of people throughout the world." A Friend commented in response to my post, that this statement is "a lie". Granted that some individual Friends are non-theists, I still believe that my statement is a true one about my meeting and most meetings, including liberal meetings. Please read the post, the comment, and my reply. Then tell me what you think.
Rich: As you well know, your accuser is famous for the controversial statements she makes on any internet forum that will have her. More than one forum board has gone down with the rancor she's brought to the discussion. If you want to pick a fight with her on your blog, that's fine, but please don't use QuakerQuaker as a place to enlist allies for a flame war.
I agree with Martin's appeal that there be no "flame war". It was not my intent to invite responses-in-kind to the accusation of lying, but rather to ask for a reality check on whether, in fact, my statement that "Quakers believe in God" is true (speaking generally). Others besides the commenter Martin mentioned have told me that it seems to them liberal Quakers do not believe in God.
Normally I would remove comments on my blog that accuse specific individuals of telling lies. In this case, since the specific individual was me, I decided to let that go, and focus on the underlying issue. Should a "flame war" break out among any of those posting on Brooklyn Quaker I will remove offending posts and consider tightening my moderation. Right now, I don't expect that to happen.
- - Peace and Friendship,
Hi Rich --
The way I understand the Quaker idea of being open to ongoing revelation, and not subscribing to dogma, there is no way your statement could be a lie! In fact, I find the language used by your detractor to be quite "unquakerly" in and of itself. However, this is not the first time I've heard of such a thing happening. I myself have been chastised years ago, when I was a member of an extremely liberal meeting, for using the word God in this context. I understand that Friends who have been convinced come from many varying backgrounds, and we all bring with us the trappings of our past spiritual life. Whenever I hear someone respond with such a strong statement, I use it as a reminder that we are all of us subject to ongoing revelation, and that the great I AM does not always speak in the same language to all of us, nor are we all possessing of the same ears to hear with. This is one of the things that makes being a Friend such a wonderful and difficult thing all in the same breath!
The question I would rather ask is, Does your meeting feel in one accord with this pamphlet? If they are in agreement that it speaks for them, then it is their truth. A possible way to get around statements that might offend the general populous might be to say, "We Friends of ----- Meeting believe...."
I think that some sort of opening statement of what we believe is important in introducing the meeting to new attenders who may have no idea.
Thank you for sharing your meeting's pamphlet and sparking this discussion!
I've changed the name of this discussion from "Was I Lying?" to "Was I Incorrect?" in order to emphasize that the real issue is whether my statements about Quaker belief in God are true, not whether they were honest. I would have done this right after receiving Martin's first response above, except that I was not yet savvy enough on qq to know that discussion names could be changed.
I would agree with Tom above and the response by Nate on the other blog. The only thing that could be in any way taken as controversial about your original statement is 'the same God as...'
Now clearly Quakers must generally believe in some form of God, otherwise it ceases to be a 'religious society'. There may be odd exceptions, but your statement 'Quakers believe in God' is entirely fair.
The bit that could be argued is whether everyone shares the perception of 'the same' God. I would submit people's ideas of God are not the same across Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and (as the discussion has illustrated) not even within the Quaker community itself!
Thats not to say there aren't huge areas of agreement, and for the most part beliefs shared in common will outweigh the differences. But people agreeing with each other does not mean they will have identical beliefs. 'The same' can imply conforming to standard idea, when diversity is one of the characteristics celebrated by Quakers?
Thanks to all who've shared your thoughts.
There are lots of things I want to respond to, but I think I will do it either on a new post at the Brooklyn Quaker blog (http://brooklynquaker.blogspot.com) or in a new discussion here.
I regret initially focussing this discussion on the word "lie" and would like to start over with more emphasis on why, in my opinion, Quaker advancement should advance a message more about God than about us.
Not tonight. But soon (I hope).
In the meantime, I am offically closing this particular discussion.