i have been talking to puck about the lack of proselytization with Friends. but then yesterday they mentioned that it was odd i used a quote that talked about the importance of evangelization. i read something this morning from our meeting’s seeker’s packet (d) about evangelizing that i wanted to put here, because it explains it better than i am currently able to.

“What is critical is the personal experience of the divine and that is possible for everyone. It does not matter that people have never heard the word God or the name of Christ… If they have the experience of the divine and respond to it they are part of our fellowship. If they have not had the experience of the divine or have not responded to it, they are still part of the covenant and one with us. This is why Friends are not evangelical in ordinary ways. We have no Truth to bring to others like a product to be handed over. We are called to show that Truth has us and by example demonstrate to others that they too can be found by God within.”

that’s from “Dear Friends: No Creed is Not the Same as No Theology” by Robert Griswold. i am nervous some about the specific use of God (again with the whole “you don’t have to believe in God, and we will respect you, and you will be as right as us, except that you secretly mean God” thing that feels so hypocritical/provincial), but i think i really like what that quote means anyway.

from 10-19, in my paper journal:

“my thought for today is that maybe–
maybe the thing with religion is that– christianity is such a human faith- historical- with this person who Actually Existed. & maybe that’s why it has such a tendency to splinter off & become different sects– because each generation has a new idea of what a human would do. & maybe, in a way unlike other religios maybe, some of its followers believe that it has to continue to be accessible if it ever was to have existed. because why would jesus have been made human if not to be accessible?”

Published in: on 22 November, 2006 at 11:39 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. 1.

    Hi, cubbie!

    Bob Griswold is someone I knew, a little, when I lived in Denver, because he lived there too, and he and I were both active in the same Quaker meeting.

    In the passages you are quoting, Bob is expressing a particular kind of Quakerism, liberal unprogrammed (or “Beanite”) Quakerism. It’s not the only kind of Quakerism. It is, though, the only kind of Quakerism that would say, flatly: “It doesn’t matter if people have never heard the name of God or Christ, and it doesn’t matter if they’ve never had an experience of the divine.”

    When you talk about how the liberal unprogrammed Quaker stance — “you don’t have to believe in God, but you still secretly do”, seems to you “hypocritical/provincial”, I agree with you. It is both provincial and hypocritical.

    The problem arises, I think, out of the fact that Quakerism is a religion built directly around a particular kind of experience of the divine — the experience in the place of conscience — and not around, say, the kind of experience that John of the Cross lived for, or the kind that Bodhidharma lived for, or the kind that Ramakrishna lived for.

    Liberal unprogrammed Friends may imagine that “it doesn’t matter” whether you focus your own life on the Quaker sort of religious experience or some other sort (the Buddhist sort, say, or the Wiccan, or the native American); but — as many of us, both Christian and non-Christian, have found in our own lives — it really does matter: what sort of experience we choose to build our religious lives around, colors each choice we make, and thereby shapes our whole lives.

    Many liberal unprogrammed (”Beanite”) Friends are ideologically committed to “inclusiveness” and “universalism” in their communities, but fail to recognize that you cannot be fully inclusive of people whose lives are built around a different sort of religious practice and experience, while still honoring the practice and experience at the center of your own tradition. One thing or the other has to give.

    I do like liberal unprogrammed Friends a whole lot, but I think this tension between their secular-liberal “inclusiveness” and their religious particularity is a real problem that they don’t do a good job of facing.

    Comment by Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) — November 22, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

    Hi Cubbie,

    Just checking in briefly from far away. Skimmed through your several entries. Wow! Thank you for sharing.

    You wrote about Jesus and how perhaps “..each generation has a new idea of what a human would do.”

    Yep. I’m reading Walter Wink’s The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man. It’s all about the “myth of the human Jesus” (vs. the “myth of the divine Jesus”). Wink is on to something. What other kind of Jesus is there, apart from our own interpretation of Scripture (whether individually or in community) and our experience in our hearts? The orthodox Jesus in one tradition/generation is not “one-to-one and onto” the Jesus of another tradition/generation.

    Comment by Chris M. — November 23, 2006 @ 6:44 pm

    comments! woo-hoo! big chunky, kinda hard to get my head around comments. yay! (and i mean that. those woo-hoos and yays aren’t sarcastic at all.)

    marshall, i’m glad you agree with me, though i’m still not absolutely sure i agree with me. *laughs* i just think there must be more to it than what i’m seeing. because i’m also seeing this depth of understanding and care that doesn’t make sense when jammed up against this other point. i’ve actually talked to a few people at the sf meeting about this, to some degree, and they all recognize the contradiction, but they still hold the two things, and it’s uneasy, but… and they all said things that were really thoughtful and good and made a lot of sense, and i have totally forgotten them.

    i think it’s something that i need to wrestle with, within myself, and i’m of course looking for someone to just tell me the answer, because then i could take a nap or something, instead. it’s like that story of the blind men with the elephant, but right now i feel like it’s like blind man a and blind man b have worked together and are like, “we’ve worked together and figured out that this WHOLE thing is the back half of an elephant!” and blind man c is like, “but this really feels like the ear of an elephant over here.” and a & b are saying, “you’ve got the ear of an elephant” to c, but kind of amongst themselves are saying, “hm… i wonder how something that feels like an elephant ear fits with this back half of an elephant we found.”

    and so i’m wondering if actually you and i are disagreeing, in our tenuous agreement over the thing that i’m still not sure about. because i just keep thinking that the truth is just more than any person or tradition or worship can understand. and i think that the inclusivity of that and honoring that, is more important than my own handle on the truth. EXCEPT that then i wonder if that expansive inclusivity is my handle on the truth (not that i think i understand all handles on the truth… but my deep desire to bridge gaps), and so it’s both simpler and more complex.

    *blink* am i any further to understanding what my own opinion is? maybe…

    (ps. hi, welcome, thanks for stopping by, and commenting.)

    hi, chris! i hope you had a happy day of thanksgiving. i went to the quaker meetinghouse, and that was lovely.

    wow! i am a big sharer. people tell me it’s brave, and sometimes it is, but it’s more just… what i do. i generally find it easier to share because then everybody gets closer and there are less myths about each other.

    i just reread bultmann’s jesus christ and mythology, which is this short swampy text that i read in college. it’s got lots of really good points, but in the kind of way where you have to really hunker down while you’re reading to get it all, and i always miss a lot of it when i read it… but i reread it because i remembered it saying some things about how it doesn’t matter if jesus never existed, because his effect is still the same and stuff… but i wound up really getting into the stuff about how each generation reinvents jesus (and then that means that we shouldn’t worry about the miracles, because we are in a scientific age, and that was written before, and if it was written now, it would be written scientifically. i think. he could also have been talking about what a lovely color hot pink is, but that’s what i got out of it). but my concern (thing i am worried about… not quaker concern) is that this humanness is why people leave. because each generation gets stuck on one kind of humanness and so the next generation is like, “you are wrong! your jesus is wrong! there is no jesus! i’m going to be a buddhist. (jesus was kind of a buddhist. but YOU WOULDN’T KNOW THAT!)” and i’m just interested in how this religion that is in so many ways grounded in human experience– kind of gets unhinged with each generation. and if that’s fixable or actually wrong in the first place.

    Comment by cublet — November 24, 2006 @ 9:30 am

    Hi again, cubbie!

    You wonder whether you and I are actually disagreeing — because you “just keep thinking that the truth is just more than any person or tradition or worship can understand. and i think that the inclusivity of that and honoring that, is more important than my own handle on the truth.”

    Okay, fair enough. May I try to respond as best I can?

    I personally think there is a distinction to be made between the proper rules for secular society and the proper rules for a Religious Society of Friends.

    In secular society, we absolutely need inclusiveness. This is because secular society is something we can’t escape, can’t get away from. We have to live in it and endure life in it. And secular society is a profoundly unpleasant place to be a member of a minority in, if minorities aren’t included as well as protected.

    The Religious Society of Friends, on the other hand, was founded as a religious order. That’s what the word “society” signifies, in our name: a religious order, like the Society of Jesus, a.k.a. the Jesuits. As an order, our Society is something one doesn’t have to be in if one doesn’t want to; anyone can choose not to be a Friend, and have nothing to do with Friends. And the Religious Society of Friends, as a Society, as an order, is dedicated to a disciplined life of a particular sort, just as the Society of Jesus is.

    So the issues for our Society are different from the issues for secular society. Or so it seems to me.

    Our disciplined life, as Friends, centers on two things. First and foremost, it centers on attentiveness and faithfulness and obedience to the Guide in our hearts that shows us what the best and kindest and most loving thing to do is. Secondarily, it also involves attentiveness and faithfulness and obedience to the community of our fellow Friends — because we believe that when we discern what that voice is saying together, we can, with patience and effort, get past our individual prejudices and blind spots, and see the right and good things little more clearly, and this collective seeing should then be allowed to correct and heal our individual minds.

    This is where diversity and inclusiveness begins to be a problem. For if we include a diversity who are not willing to practice this particular discipline, they then disrupt it for everyone else — either refusing to let go of their passions and prejudices in order to rise to the right and good and kind, or else insisting that they must follow their own guides and not work out their disagreements with what the larger community of Friends has discerned. When this happens, then what had been a movement so united in its infancy that it was able to change the whole world, degenerates into a Sunday-morning club for mystics. And this has actually happened in a great many places.

    Beyond that, diversity and inclusiveness can also be a problem if we include those who want to listen to a different thing in their hearts from the Guide that Friends have been historically committed to obey. The problem is that there are so many voices that speak in our hearts! — there’s the voice of our parents, the voice of secular society, the voice of “rationality” as we learned it in our school years, and so forth. The particular Guide that Friends originally united around is the Christ within — the one who says, as the Sermon on the Mount also says, go the second mile even if it does you no good at all; resist no evil even if it gets you killed. Those other voices don’t necessarily say such things, and to the degree that our Society fills up with people who listen to those other voices, it loses its ability to bear a united witness for the Good that originally made our Society famous.

    So the argument that the Society of Friends should not “include everybody” is not an argument that other sorts of people should not be protected and included in secular society, or that other practices have no value or validity, or that we should not be willing to learn and respect other truths. It’s simply an argument that if you’re in a Quaker meeting it should be because you’re there to learn and practice Quakerism — like, if you’re on the football team, it should be because you’re there to learn to play football and then play it well.

    If someone is not willing to learn and practice Quakerism — if she or he is there to do Buddhist meditation, or express her/his paganism, or advocate her/his political position, or argue for her/his rationality, and she/he really doesn’t give a toot about Quaker testimonies and practices that don’t fit her/his own opinions — then, the argument against liberal Quaker inclusiveness says, such a person might be welcomed as a visitor and attender, but should not be considered a member or included in the corporate decision-making.

    The contrary argument — the argument for total inclusivity — may take either of two forms.

    The first form of the argument is that of the person who is drawn to the Quaker community, but really doesn’t want to devote her time and effort there to learning and practicing Quakerism, because she prefers her own way of thinking and her own practices. Such a person says, “Quakerism has changed; we shouldn’t be forced to go back to the past.”

    The second form of the argument for total inclusivity is that of the person who herself does practice Quakerism in a more-or-less traditional manner, but who doesn’t want to enforce anything on others. Such a person says, “Person X may not want to learn and practice Quakerism now, but there is some reason why she keeps coming to our meetings. We should accept her fully, even making her a member, even putting her in key positions like Clerk of the Meeting, trusting in God to make it all come out right.” That sounds like the position you smelled some provincialism and hypocrisy in.

    Both forms of the argument for total inclusivity then also go on to say, “Truth is bigger than Quakerism.” (The argument against total inclusivity counters, “Quakerism is committed to opening itself up to the discovery of a Truth and Love bigger than itself, but people who follow other paths aren’t necessarily equally committed to opening themselves up to it, and that is precisely where the problems arise.”)

    Does this help at all in clearing up the confusion?

    Comment by Marshall Massey — November 25, 2006 @ 6:48 am

    hi, marshall.

    well. i am both less and more confused– you answered a lot of questions i wasn’t consciously asking and didn’t answer the one i was. but, despite the fact that it wasn’t quite what i was looking for, it still managed to answer and settle a lot of things (and open up some new things to ponder). hurray! thank you. (these questions and answers are being worked out in my paper journal and will probably be posted soon.)

    Comment by cublet — November 26, 2006 @ 7:36 am

    I appreciated Marshall’s longer explanation very much. Thanks, Marshall. I would like to think before responding further. — Chris M.

    Comment by Chris M. — November 27, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

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