Why not call yourself a christian, like Lucretia?

I keep being surprised that people are surprised to find that christians are not the "straw man" they seem to be expecting. Jesus is reported as starting the saying after all - "Matthew ch7 v21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." I guess it baffles me that so many people amongst Quakers seem to be in the fellowship of the holy spirit, drawn into this church (Quakers) and yet denying that we are christians.

Yes, we aren't necessarily the same kind of christians as some of those centuries-old creeds appear to think are important, or as the straw man in the head of anyone who hasn't done the spiritual work to get through to the god they can honestly worship. I think it's obvious from George Fox's works to the Gospels that we are living a way which is about the truth and cutting back to what is real. Love really exists; it is manifest every day, people do incredible things to feed their children and to help strangers. Praise God, Love is Real! Why is it hard to admit that is following Jesus? To me it comes across as deceit to deny that the experience of unity with Jesus in scripture is the foundation of our church. We need truth in advertising, we can't pretend that Quakers are not christians, the truth is important.

I don't presume that I know the exact limits of that Love, so I am happy to join with all the millions who praise God and save the conversations about what exactly that means for when we need to do creative conflicting together. I don't understand why some of those of you who seem to be in unity with Friends from the way you hang around, seem to also be convinced that the heart of the faith is something alien to you. Do you really not find Jesus in your heart, a model of a man who lived and was faithful to truth unto death, finding resources to transform and heal? Aren't you united in living in the transforming power of truthful love?

I know I've had a lot of encouragement from other Friends to dig deep and understand that we are united. I have benefited such an amount from other christians showing me how scripture can be read from the persepctive of the oppressed - it only make sense to me that way! So I want to pass on to you encouragement to understand that if you love truth and experience the power of nonviolent love and Quaker's stripped-down way of living with God, you are following the way of Jesus and there's no need to feel you aren't.

I guess I sometimes get the impression it's important to some people that you don't mean the same as someone else does when they use the word God or Jesus. I wonder if that's coming from humility and faithfulness to the truth you experience? Maybe it is - but how on earth do you know that other person means something difference? Why not talk to them, united in the body of God, and find how you can light each other to the glory of God?

Lucretia Mott's words quoted recently by Hystery seem to me to be uncontroversial testimony of following Jesus, I know I'm in the same church as her. It puzzles me that there are so many people amongst Quakers who don't acknowledge that this is a church, part of christianity, and that it's fine to be your kind of christian: what is more important is doing what faith requires - following those promptings of God, building peace, feeding the hungry, teaching the impoverished, and raising up the oppressed. We've been given a toolkit of techniques for christian discipine and a manual of scripture to do that job, the most important thing to me is to live it to the glory of God. Enlighten me?

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Comment by James Riemermann on 6th mo. 9, 2009 at 7:53pm
You could be reading the universe right, Forrest, though obviously I don't think so. But I will say that human beings have evolved an exceptional gift for perceiving patterns, including patterns that aren't there. When our ancestors heard a predator in the woods that wasn't there, no harm done. But when the didn't hear a predator in the woods that was there--well, those folks aren't our ancestors, because they tended to get eaten.

A careful study of statistical theory will show us that one in a million coincidences happen every day. Just not the coincidences we predict.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 6th mo. 9, 2009 at 11:51pm
You could say that I'm following a heuristic that happens to be self-confirming. (You could say much the same about science.)

The reason I insist that there's more to it than that... is as plain as the nose on my face, but if I don't slightly cross my eyes, I don't see that nose! (Much of my life, I live as though that nose weren't even there--but it wouldn't be the same life without it!) I have wished fervently that I could unambiguously specify an analogous procedure for seeing God!

I am also sure that you and I are much alike; that it isn't a matter of not looking but of not knowing where/how to look. ("What? That dark blur? How could that be a pink appendage?--and where are those alleged holes for breathing? I don't see them!")

Most all the time, we folks who took stuff to enhance our pattern-sensitivity knew perfectly well which patterns were noise in our minds and which patterns were real structures. The only people I knew who tried one particular substance, which gave them 360 degree live-in hallucinations, never touched it again!

Another difference between me and people whose lives have been more conventional... There is some optimal range of pattern-recognition sensitivity for functioning in a no-surprises environment, and a different level for tracking down what you need when you're actually hungry, or under some similar urgency. One of the reasons people get a little spacey when they're fasting--is probably a natural mechanism for adjusting that level, to make them a little more sensitive to whatever cues they'll need to catch their next meal. Coincidences get much more meaningful when life gets tight! I haven't exactly been living like a daredevil, but there have been many episodes of poverty, being lost with precarious transportation in unfamiliar places, stuff like that. You don't know what to do in these situations, but there's a sense you get of what directions are likely to work.
Comment by James Riemermann on 6th mo. 10, 2009 at 9:53am
Again, Forrest, I hear you. I spent several formative years in my early to mid-teens on very unstable ground. Family in turmoil, drugs, petty crime, many days and nights on the run, juvenile centers and other institutions. Such a life certainly changes the way one looks at the world. I was an unbeliever long before that, but it did nothing to persuade me that the universe was created with a concern for my salvation. Uncertainty seems to have taught you different lessons.
Comment by Alice Yaxley on 6th mo. 10, 2009 at 4:27pm
1. Take heed, dear Friends,to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.

2. Bring the whole of your life under the ordering of the spirit of Christ. Are you open to the healing power of God's love? Cherish that of God within you, so that this love may grow in you and guide you. Let your worship and your daily life enrich each other. Treasure your experience of God, however it comes to you. Remember that Christianity is not a notion but a way.

Yeah, I don't care what the name is, I am talking about a way of living. Are we then united in the spirit of Christ? Do we all find that there is something within us which cries out against scapegoating and violence, against over-indulgence and greed? Do we study to love our enemies and pray for them? Are we united in love and respect for one another, acknowledging we are one body in God?

I don't have a problem with people understanding "God" as a metaphor, a shortcut word for all that is good and tender, which seeks unity and healing justice. I've described my experience of God as the calculus of Love before now, don't know if that makes sense to anyone else. I think one of the things about being human is, what we put our minds on grows more significant in our consciousness, hence George Fox's reprimanding priests for "preaching up sin" without directing people to the Light that illuminates it, which we know as Christ.

Paul's letter to the Phillipians:
6-7Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

8-9Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Comment by James Riemermann on 6th mo. 10, 2009 at 4:38pm
Well, there are the names again, Alice: Are we united in the spirit of Christ? Do we acknowledge we are one body in God? For my part I'm afraid I have to say no and no. Yes to all the other stuff. It seems you would like for me to accept those names without worrying about them, but if I did that I would be lying. And I don't like to lie. That's part of what we're united in, I think, not lying.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 6th mo. 10, 2009 at 9:05pm
Different ethics apply--or rather, the same ethics can lead to different actions--if we think we are living in a clockwork universe, with mind/emotions/spirit simply an unaccountable decorative pattern--or if we think of ourselves as living in a world created/maintained by mind-&-spirit, a narrative construction where the physical features are simply props.

So finding common ground in 'not lying', and in doing the best, wishing the best we can for each other, we are certainly united--and for the rest, we must continue to disagree!

Some of us will be sitting in meeting as a prayer for guidance & transformation; some will be there for reasons of their own, generally benign. The meaning of the experience will differ; and how people conceive their part in business meeting is likely to differ accordingly: I'd think that the unwritten Testimony of Prudence would loom much larger for someone who doesn't expect God to lead the way and/or help out with consequences. It does sound like a sort of sack race!

Those of us who do believe-in/trust God, well--The logic of our position insists that the presence of these others is no accident. We are intended, for whatever good purpose, to have this awkward interaction & somehow work out our crossed purposes together. Ain't God a joker!
Comment by James Riemermann on 6th mo. 10, 2009 at 10:52pm
I feel we're a bit closer than we've been in the past, Forrest. Disagreeing on some important things, certainly, but I feel a respect growing between us. I hope so.

There's a contradiction in my perspective, certainly. I don't think the universe is "clockwork" exactly, but I do think it is material and cause/effect. It's not that I like that idea--your conception seems more beautiful to me, but mine seems more true to me. Mine sounds cold, but through the inexplicable reality of being alive it becomes warm, alive, rich with meaning and depth. I know this--all of us know this--as intimately as it is possible to know anything.

I don't know that I'm more beholden to prudence than most believers. I've never been a fan of prudence, though I do get caught up in it too often. But hopelessness can lead to a sort of freedom, and freedom to me means freedom to do right, to serve good.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 6th mo. 11, 2009 at 11:43am
I don't believe I ever lacked respect for you or others like you. You do, however, represent a direct obstacle to my notion of how God might use the Society of Friends to fix the world. Evidently that notion is not the same as God's.

It isn't a matter of courage, as you point out--but different courses will recommend themselves, different outcomes will be expected. I would want meetings to stop automatically trying to reason out the strategy most likely to 'succeed', but to make their first step a tacit prayer for guidance (because under all reasonable expectations, this world is screwed!) The leadership of my own meeting seems to consider this way of proceeding a mad indulgence in unrealistic piety.

Yeah, James, I used to wish there'd turn out to be a God, one that made more sense than the churches' descriptions. The one I've found seems to balance a lot of things within the tension of conflicting desirable goods. Unity vs inclusiveness, for example. & the outcomes I'm given are not what I wanted, but things that surprise me!

"Freedom" is another one of those paradoxical things, something you seemingly can't have in a causal universe--while a universe without causal coherence could hardly be called a "universe," nor could I imagine any sort of "freedom" where our intentions or the results were random. "Chaotic" in the mathematical sense? But that would imply that I'd escaped slavery to physical causes, only to become just as tightly confined in a mathematical body. Inexplicability happens!
Comment by Rich Accetta-Evans on 6th mo. 12, 2009 at 2:28pm
Thank you for this post. I feel like calling out "That Friend speaks my mind." I wrote something from a similar point of view some time ago that you might like to read. It was called What Is It With the Quakers and Jesus Christ?". I'd be curious about your reactions to it.
Peace of Christ,
Rich Accetta-Evans the Brooklyn Quaker
Comment by DianeReynolds on 6th mo. 14, 2009 at 11:03am

You write: Saying "Quakers are Christians" is like saying "Christians are Catholics." Wouldn't the correct parallelism be "Saying Quakers are Christians is like saying Catholics are Christians?" If you don't switch the wording, saying Quakers are Christians IS the same as saying Catholics are Christian. As a collective, Catholics ARE Christians. Not every Catholic is a Christian. We know that. But Catholicism is unequivocally a Christian faith by tradition and history.

I've heard Quakers say that if Fox were alive today, he wouldn't call himself a Christian. I'm absolutely not sure of that. I think the Fox I know WOULD call himself a Christian. But he might not call himself a Quaker. I can see him more readily aligning himself with the emerging church or with a Christ-centered home church movement. Or with the Church of the Savior. In any case, the whole project of deciding what historical figures "would be" today seems an exercise in futility.

My question is: Why is it so important to some of us to distance ourselves from our faith tradition? Yes, bad things have been done in the name of Christianity but so have many many good things. From the beginning, urbane, well educated people like Paul knew they looked like fools--very declasse, etc.--for following Christ and believing in miracle and resurrection around him. Yet they were able to transcend ego--they were able to get past their own educations, their own sense of themselves, their own need to be accepted as educated people--and embrace Jesus wholly. I believe that humility is a core part of the spiritual journey. I believe that ability to question everything you thought you knew and to perceive that it might be wrong or skewed is a core part of the spiritual journey of transformation of self. Of rebirth as a more wholly human person.


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