from 11-11-06 in my paper journal (which i finished today. i’ve been writing in it since june 7, 2005):

“the last two day were exhausting becaue i’ve been working really hard on me & feeling like i’ve got some good tools to make my life so much better, but they take so much work &… that’s exhausting. i also think my theory of the flu shot was correct & added to the exhaustion.

i keep trying to find non-Christian Quaker texts. i want to know about that faith. i know about the redeeming power of Christ. i’m not ready to hunker down into it until i’ve seen my other options. jesus is not the only truth & i’m not certain he is my truth. he is a truth. he is a way & a truth & a light to The Truth, but i do not believe he is solely it. i believe that that belief– that there is only Christ– shrinks our souls, diminishes our connections with thos who have never heard of Christ, those who cannot accept him, thoe whose truths are just as beautiful, just as True. i think it splinters and breaks us to cling to that.

i, who clutch so much, ‘preaching’ against holding onto your god.

i just read an essay about letting go of ourselfs to get God, to be filled by God. i can’t do that yet. i am still learning to like myself. & i do. i love myself.

so frequently, religious leaders talk about how our culture teaches us to value ourselves too much. i don’t think that’s true. i think our culture teaches us to devalue our selves. we are never enough for it. i’d like to believe that we can meet God with our broken complete selves.

and i’m not sure how much we can give to God if we aren’t there.

i think this is because i’ve been contemplating vocal ministry so much. and how each person i’ve heard brings their gifts. and how each person brings their gifts to the world. and i think that’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

and if that’s not God, i think i might think it’s more beautiful than god.

by my definitions, i am pantheistic. God is so much everything. that is why ‘Now I walk in beauty, beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, above & below me’ & ‘all will be well & all will be well & all manner of thing will be well’ are so important to me. they remind me that no matter what is happening, no matter where i am, there is God & that is beautiful & that is well.

this is particularly helpful in the tenderloin.

every moment can’t help but be holy if you are surrounded by God. God is in this paper & this pen & this table & my bones & my cells & my soul. & everyone’s bones & cells & souls. & every awareness of that is worship. & it is easy & it is hard.”

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  1. #

    It’s been a few days since I first came across your blog, and now I can’t remember where I saw the link. Oh well. Maybe over at Chris M? or Kody?

    Anyway, much of what you write here and in your Dec 4 post indicate that you have jumped into Quakerism and are doing what you can to keep swimming! I find the Quaker blogosphere to be a good resource of all sorts of Quakers who have all sorts of experience and all sorts of willingness to engage in the conversation… so I hope the Quaker swimming hole doesn’t get too crowded for you!

    I see you are looking for “non-Christian Quaker texts.” Not sure if there’s a specific subject you are wanting to explore–history? faith and practice? biography?

    I have already written about a few books that have helped me along, many of which I read at a time when I wasn’t ready for Christian language (for different reasons than yours, though).

    Another, more general suggestion I’ll make is for you to speak directly with Lucy at QuakerBooks of FGC, at 1-800-966-4556 (in the U.S.). More than any other staff person, Lucy has been super-knowledgeable and right-on with some recommendations for me when I’ve called with a Big Question in mind. She maybe can help point you to resources that I couldn’t.

    Hope those give you some additional “life preservers” to help you stay afloat. You are asking some very important questions, and no doubt you will find some valuable answers in your seeking.

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

    Comment by Liz Opp — December 6, 2006 @ 4:49 pm
    #

    Hey there, friend! Coupla points –

    First, I don’t personally hold with “non-Christian Quakerism”, I’d call it an oxymoron. But if you’re wanting to find out more about it, its adherents maintain a Web presence at http://www.nontheistfriends.org/ .

    There are also two sites maintained by Quaker universalists: the British-based Quaker Universalist Group is at http://www.qug.org.uk/ , and the North-America-centered Quaker Universalist Fellowship is at
    http://www.universalistfriends.org/ .

    Second, you write, “i believe that that belief– that there is only Christ– shrinks our souls, diminishes our connections with thos who have never heard of Christ, those who cannot accept him….”

    I would like to submit, in response, that there are actually two ways to believe that there is only Christ. One way is exclusive, the other is inclusive. You have written in this post about the exclusive one. But have you considered the inclusive one?

    What if the person who has never heard of Christ, or “cannot accept him”, but who is wholly faithful and obedient to her or his own intuitive sense of what the best and kindest and most loving thing to do is, is actually a true Christian, because that intuitive sense of the best and kindest and most loving thing is actually Christ’s own voice in her or his heart?

    That in fact is the original Christian position (the position of the apostle Paul, for instance, in Romans 2:11-16), and it is a also the traditional Quaker position. It says that there is only Christ, but it is not in the least exclusive.

    “…Those that have the gospel and Christ outwardly preached unto them, are not saved but by the working of the grace and light in their hearts. …[And] by the working and operation of this, many have been, and some may be saved, to whom the gospel hath never been outwardly preached, and who are utterly ignorant of the outward history of Christ.” (Robert Barclay [Quaker theologian], An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, Props. V & VI §24 [1676-78])

    Comment by Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) — December 8, 2006 @ 4:25 am
    #

    marshall–

    uh oh. i think what you are saying is a lot of the stuff that i was thinking of as hypocritical a few entries ago, that you were saying you agreed were hypocritical. (ps. i hope i’m not sounding defensive or grouchy or any kind of angry– just having thoughtful aha moments.) what you are saying is inclusive, i find patronizing and offensive. it’s that “you may not think you are, but you are secretly a christian” thing. how would it feel if a buddhist said that because you were coming from the same authentic place as buddhists, then you are a buddhist? or a nonreligious person saying that since you use reason in your faith, you are not religious– and mean it as a compliment? to me, those are the same, and really really bothersome.

    i wonder if maybe what you are calling “christ” is what i am calling “not christ but something bigger.”

    Comment by cublet — December 8, 2006 @ 12:33 pm
    #

    No, you’re not sounding angry or grouchy or defensive.

    The connection between what we discussed in the former entry, and what we’re discussing now, can’t be clarified in just a few sentences, though. So please forgive me for going on at length about it here.

    What we agreed on a few entries ago was that the position that says “if you follow the divine, you are part of our fellowship”, and “you don’t have to believe in God, but you still secretly do,” is hypocritical & provincial. I still agree with you on that. I would also say that it is a patronizing position, and that it is a sort of cultural imperialism. It repels me, just as it repels you.

    What I am talking about now, in this entry, though, is not a claim that “you are part of our fellowship whether you asked to be, or want to be, or not” or that “you believe whether you say you do or not”. Rather, it is a claim that if you are following your instinct for the best and the kindest, what you are following is Christ. I personally think this is a different sort of claim.

    In fact, let me put a finer point on what I am saying here, because I think it will clarify the difference: What I’m trying to say is that, when you follow your instinct for the kindest, the most nurturing, the most constructive, etc., what you are following is something that we Friends have identified from prolonged and careful study as Christ.

    This prolonged, careful study that we Friends have made of this instinct is a study that has been directly focused on that instinct, as an entity in and of itself; this alone is significant, because most people — even most people who value and trust and follow that instinct — don’t actually focus their attention on it and try to find out what the heck it is.

    This study we Friends have made of it is also one that, at this point, has been the major activity of many thousands of Friends for their whole lives; and it is a study that has been continued by generation after generation of Friends as a community for over 350 years. This is a degree of focused, long-sustained study, and consequent corporate expertise, that I would say deserves a little respect.

    And what we have determined, from this long, focused study, is that the identity of this instinct for the best, for the kindest, for the most nurturing, is quite accurately described as “Christ”. “Christ” is an accurate label for it, because the historical Christ, as he is described in the New Testament and other writings of the early Church, was clearly totally one with this instinct, to such a degree that there was no boundary between the two, no way you could distinguish the one from the other, other than by saying that the historical Christ had a human body all his own during his time on Earth, whereas the instinct within us shares our human bodies with ourselves. “Christ” is also an accurate label for it, because when you make it the one basis for everything you do, refusing to do what other motives prompt you to, it begins to do astonishing things through you, things which are more and more (as time goes on) of a piece with what Christ himself did.

    We say that, because this instinct and Christ are one, it follows that, in following it, you are following him.

    Now, this is no more patronizing, provincial, or hypocritical than a claim by a physician that what you are suffering from, the medical community has identified by studying it at length, and its identity is streptococcus. Or a claim by a native of Los Angeles that, the road you are on, the local community has identified from driving it from one end to the other repeatedly, and it is a road that leads to Santa Monica.

    You may certainly prefer to call streptococcus something other than streptococcus. You may prefer to call Santa Monica something other than Santa Monica. You may prefer to call Christ something other than Christ. Doing so is absolutely your prerogative. But it doesn’t invalidate what the physician, the Angeleno, or the Friend is telling you; it merely shows that there is more than one way of thinking about the germ, the road, the instinct, and you happen to prefer one of the other ways.

    Saying that what you are following is Christ is not equivalent to making you a part of the Friends fellowship — or of the Christian fellowship — whether you want to be or not. There are many true Christians who are not part of either fellowship, and we Friends have always agreed that this is so.

    It is also not equivalent to telling you what you believe. We Friends have always said that being a Christian is not a matter of believing something, but merely of obedience to that right instinct (call it the inward Guide) which is Christ within you. This goes back to Christ’s own statement in John 15:14: “You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.” No expectation of belief in that statement, just a simple expectation that what Christ himself says to you, you will do.

    So what I am saying here, really is something different from what I was agreeing with you about before. I don’t know what you will think of the distinction, but I hope you will at least think carefully about it.

    As for Buddhism, my understanding is that the Buddhist position is clearly stated: you are a Buddhist if you take the Ti-Sarana, the Triple Refuge. That’s a very different sort of definition from the Quaker/first Christian understanding of what makes a person a true Christian.

    Friend cubbie, I would welcome your thoughtful response to all this!

    Comment by Marshall Massey — December 8, 2006 @ 4:27 pm
    #

    liz– thank you for your thoughts and suggestions! i really appreciate it. i’m sorry it took so long to respond, but i wanted to make sure i had time to fully read what you linked to– very useful things. glad i did.

    i’m not totally sure what i’m looking for as far as non-christ-focused quaker texts– i just know that they exist and i want to see what they say, you know? most of the people i’ve talked to and the books i’ve read have a christian focus and i just want to see how other stuff is believed and lived within quakerism. i’ll asked at my meeting’s library, and also try and call that number some time (i’ve got some phone shyness, and ironically, since i use a cell phone, will probably have to pay for it, though it’s an 800 number. which isn’t to say that i don’t appreciate the resource, it just might take me awhil to utilize it).

    marshall– what you are saying makes lots of sense, but i am totally not ready to agree (or really disagree with you yet) as i am just beginning my own “prolonged, careful study” into the “prolonged, careful study” of which you speak. (your use of place names as things to possibly call different names was particularly enlightening, because i’ve seen how that happens, but it also again brings up my worry, because… the oppressors always seem to get the final say in place names.)

    thank you for taking my thoughts seriously. i’m starting to think i might need a break from this particular train of thought/study for awhile, to digest what i’ve been thinking about. that’s not to say that i don’t welcome responses, but just that… if they’re lengthy, i might get overwhelmed.

    Comment by cublet — December 9, 2006 @


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